Do you have a goal of running a 5k, but aren’t sure just how to start?
If you answered yes, I understand your questions, doubts and possible frustration, so I’d like to give you a few pointers to help get started. As you’ll soon find out, many of the same principles I promote for bodybuilding will, surprisingly, help you get better at running.
In this article, I discuss a few of my favorite strategies for running, so that you’ll not only be able to finish your 5k, but will also perform well.
Take It Slow
With almost every new exercise routine, it’s imperative that you take control of your motivation by ensuring that you introduce yourself into the new routine slowly.
So often, especially with weight lifting, I see many people get motivated to begin working out. Once they actually make it to a gym, they workout as if they’ve had years of experience under the belt.
The result is intense soreness and even potentially an injury, leading most people to assume that exercise is always like that. Unfortunately, this can ultimately even end up with many people completely abandoning their fitness attempts.
The truth is that when you’re first starting out, it’s quite tempting to compare yourself to others and to use it as motivation. While that’s certainly acceptable, it’s also important to recognize your current position and exercise accordingly.
Even with a relatively short 5k race, it’s likely that, in the beginning, things will be difficult. You’ve probably spent years avoiding running, which means you’re probably not in amazing cardiovascular shape, which is actually fine.
You simply need to be honest with yourself and ease yourself into the new plan. That way you can work according to your current ability, while ensuring that you aren’t doing too much to start with.
Bottom Line: Many people jump into an exercise routine as if they had been exercising for years. I suggest easing yourself into a new routine, to avoid major soreness and potentially even injury.
You Have To Run To Get Better At Running
Briefly, I wanted to touch on the idea of training specificity. This concept really gives us an idea that, in order to be successful at a given movement or sport, you’ll need to regularly put yourself under the same conditions as the sport.
Rest assured, just about any cardiovascular-based exercise will do your body good; so, if you’re really hoping to get better at running, you’ll need to be running frequently.
See, apart from the cardiovascular adaptations that come with most cardio-based exercise, you also have to consider the efficiency of the movement.
As you become more trained, you begin to make small adjustments in your form for optimal running posture. As a result, your running economy improves, which can make you an overall better, more efficient and faster runner.
But then consider someone who likes to bike ride, but wants to run long distance. Surely they will have cardiovascular benefits from the cycling, but they won’t have any beneficial adaptations specifically for running.
While their cardio health may be up to snuff, they haven’t had the opportunity to actually improve their body movement, which plays a much bigger deal than most people consider.
If you’re hoping to get better at running, you’ll need to run.
Bottom Line: While other activities, like cycling and swimming, may improve cardiovascular health, if you want to compete in running, you will need to actually run during training.
Use A Linear Approach First
Even with running, we can still use some concepts from bodybuilding and the first that I recommend using is what is known as linear periodization. This is just a big term for saying that you should simply sequentially increase the duration of your runs, as you feel able to.
As a beginner, you shouldn’t bog yourself down with crazy training techniques. If you wish to apply specific run training drills, there will be plenty of time for those, once you have actually become proficient at running.
First off, you simply need to get better at actually running, and then you will be able to slowly increase your running capacity, (or simply how far you can run), and then how fast you can run the distance.
Here’s a brief example of how I mean you should increase duration in a linear fashion:
- Run 1: 0.25 miles [this could take anything from 4 minutes to 2 minutes]
- Run 2: 0.25 miles a little faster
- Run 3: 0.50 miles [again varying durations, depending on fitness, from 8 mins to 4 minutes]
- Run 4: 0.50 miles a little faster
- Run 5: 0.75 miles [time could be anything from 12 mins to 6 minutes]
- Run 6: 0.75 miles a little faster
- Run 7: 1 mile without stopping
While these timings are only guidelines for beginners, and this certainly isn’t a guaranteed route to success, it will allow you to get acclimated to the rigors of running, (beginning with a run that is manageable and slowly increasing the duration), while simultaneously increasing your running capacity.
Within a few short months of using an approach such as this, you’ll find that running 3 miles (5k) isn’t that difficult after all.
Bottom Line: Don’t use crazy training techniques to start. I suggest simply using a linear approach for a few months. Once you become more experienced, then you can start using more advanced approaches.
Move Towards Undulating Periodization
Once you’ve increased your running capacity to at least the duration of your event (being able to run or run/walk a 5k distance) you can then start to really improve your running ability.
Whereas the first phase was geared towards just getting you to complete your target distance, this phase is more for improving your ability, allowing you to run that distance faster and more confidently.
At this point, once again we borrow a technique from bodybuilding known as Daily Undulating Periodization. This is simply just a big term for training by changing the duration and intensity of your workouts from one day to the next.
The benefit of using this method is that you’ll still be running, but you vary the distance and duration. Some days you’ll run more than 3 miles at a slow pace, while other days you’ll run just 1 mile at a fast pace.
Essentially, with this method, you’re trying to not only improve how far you can run, but also how fast you can do it, by improving both cardiovascular health as well as increasing fatigue resistance.
Here’s an example of how you might implement this, if you’ve already reached 5k distances in training:
- Run 1: 3.5 Mile Run at Leisure Pace
- Run 2: 1.5 Mile Run at Race Pace
- Run 3: 0.5 Mile Sprints / 0.5 mile Jog. Repeat For 3 Miles
- Run 4: 2 Mile Leisure Run
- Run 5: 4 Mile Run at Normal Pace
- Run 6: 1 Mile at Race Pace x 2
- Run 7: 3 Mile Run at Race Pace
While this example may not be exact, it paints a picture of what I’m trying to suggest. By manipulating distance and intensity, you’ll ensure that you’re adapting for longer distance runs, while also improving the speed at which you can run them.
Remember to also implement recovery days, especially after days of higher intensity training. Going for a leisurely swim, for example, on a no-running day, is a great way to relax the muscles and allow the body to recover after a hard run session.
Also try to take at least one day off running each week. Then, by the time you get to race day, a 5k run at a normal pace will be a walk in the park.
Bottom Line: After you’ve gotten past your beginner improvements, I suggest attempting to improve your performance by training with a wide variety of distances, durations and intensities.
Give Yourself Time
Lastly, it’s important to give yourself a reasonable amount of time to get race-ready. Realistically, if you’re starting from no running experience at all, I suggest giving yourself at least 3 months to prepare.
In doing so, you’ll have the ability to increase your running duration by 1 mile a month. If you’re a little bit less athletic to begin with, you might need to extend this duration. I simply suggest giving yourself enough time, so as to avoid accidental over-training or overuse injury.
Also by allowing yourself time to build up to your target race, you will have the opportunity to try out what nutrition suits you best for running. Most people prefer to not eat for anything up to 2 hours before a run. However, each individual varies, so experiment with what suits you best.
Bottom Line: Be realistic with the amount of time you set apart to train for your race. Don’t expect to perform well after a month of suboptimal training. Make a program and give yourself the necessary time to progress and days off to recover in between your running days.
5 Tips To Run Your First 5k
While running is quite different from lifting, we can still use some of the very same concepts to ensure progress.
If you’re starting with no experience, I suggest taking it slow and using a linear approach first, and then once you’ve reached your target distance, focus on improving your performance for the race itself.
Just remember to give yourself time, both to train up and to recover between sessions, and to listen to your body. Don’t push it too fast too soon, potentially resulting in just a small injury preventing you from competing three months down the line.