Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Training for a 5K

Ethan Roberts
     Picture yourself running the National Mall in Washington, D.C. three times or jogging across roughly three-quarters of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Sound intimidating? With perseverance, patience and an end-goal in sight, you too can complete a 5K—which is 3.1 miles. If you’ve never entered a race, now is a good time to try. Mild days and colorful foliage make fall running a treat. But running for 35 to 40 minutes requires some training. Ethan Roberts, physical therapist at Total Rehab Care believes slow and steady really does win the race. Here’s Ethan’s take on transforming yourself from non-runner to 5K- ready.

Ready, set, run—or walk!

     Before you hit the pavement, sign up for a race. By paying the registration fee you’ll be more likely to stick with your goal. Next, adjust your schedule and make time for training. Ethan recommends devoting seven to eight weeks to train for a 5K. For new runners, Ethan suggests an interval approach—a mixture of running, walking and resting. The combination helps reduce the risk of over-use injury and burn-out.

     For example during week one, runners run for 15 seconds, followed by walking for 45 seconds—repeating the cycle for 30 minutes. The intent is to perform intervals of running and walking and gradually increase the running intervals. By week eight, you should be able to run three miles.

   Devote about 30 minutes for each workout day. Some people like to track their distance so you can map out a course and measure the distance by using your car’s odometer or use an app with GPS tracking. Mayoclinic.com and HalHigson.com offer easy-to-follow training schedules as does the iPhone app, Get Running.

Easy does it
     “Don’t try to do too much too soon,” warns Ethan. Muscle sprains and strains are common among people who are impatient and don’t gradually increase their activity. It also takes older and inactive people longer to gear up for a run. “Your mind may think you can go out and run two miles right away, but your body will tell you another thing,” cautions Ethan. “Keep in mind that if you injure yourself, you may lose two weeks or more of training and that really puts you behind the eight ball in an eight-week training program.”

     Runners in training need a day of rest. Ethan suggest interspersing two-to-three days of rest during the week. Here’s more good news: not all training sessions should be hard. Most training experts recommend a 45 minute-to-one hour leisurely stroll on some “rest” days.

Keys to a successful training program
Buy good shoes. Go to a shoe store that specializes in running shoes where experts can evaluate your foot type and recommend the right running shoe.

Warm up your muscles. According to running experts, functional range of motion is more important than flexibility. Ethan likes warming up by using dynamic movements such as heel/toe raises, high knees, leg swings and lunges to prevent injury and improve running performance.

Train with a buddy. Not only will conversation help pass the miles away, but talking during running or walking helps build endurance.

Use good form. Concentrate on landing lightly on your midfoot, followed by a push to the ball of the foot and toes.

Mix it up. Asphalt can be hard on your body’s joints. If possible, find a walking trail free of debris or use a treadmill/incliner to give your bones a break from the pavement.

Stay consistent. Don’t let family, friends and work derail you from accomplishing your goal! Set the stage early and let everyone know how important preparing for the race and completing it means to you.

Be inspired to do more. Running is but one form of exercise. Other forms of exercise, such as strength training and flexibility are also very important as we age. Let this be the springboard to investigating and pursuing overall fitness.

Race day
     For a shorter distance like the 5K, a carb-filled diet isn’t necessary. A good, healthy breakfast should be enough to power you through. Also remember to drink plenty of water during your training, before, and after the race. Sage advice from Ethan: run at a pace which is comfortable for you and don’t compare yourself to other runners. For first-time runners, Ethan encourages a mix of running and walking during the race if necessary. “You lose less time than you think and you’re still getting great exercise.” It’s more important, says Ethan, to stay within your own abilities and avoid injuring yourself. “Think of life as one long, enjoyable run.”

Meritus Health Pumpkin Dash 5K Run/Walk & Family Field Day is a perfect opportunity to jump start your passion for running and overall fitness. The Pumpkin Dash is the 7th annual 5K Run/Walk organized by Total Rehab Care. Mark your calendar for Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013 with registration beginning at 6:30 a.m., followed by the race at 8 a.m.

By: Anne Gill and Ethan Roberts

Sources: Mayoclinic.com, HalHigson.com

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