Running season is in full force — and one of the easiest (and most fun) ways to start is to sign up for a 5K race. They’re nearly everywhere, your registration fees usually go toward a good cause, and having something to train for delivers an extra dose of motivation. Plus, at 3.1 miles, they’re the most accessible of racing distances.
Ready to lace up your running shoes? Zac Marion, multiple ultra-marathon winner and Salt Lake City, Utah-based running coach, shares three keys to successfully train for your first race.
1. RUN REGULARLY
If you’re completely new to running, start by adding a few minutes of jogging to daily 30-minute walks, and add another minute as soon as that starts to feel easy. “The most important thing is to stay consistent,” says Marion. “It’s the key component to improving your endurance and aerobic fitness. Plus, you’ll create a habit, and habits are hard to break.”
If you can only get out for 10–20 minutes on certain days, don’t sweat it. “Running regularly for even short periods each day is more effective than doing twice the mileage every couple days,” Marion says. “It’s about turning running into your lifestyle.”
READ MORE > THE 5K CHEAT SHEET
2. EAT RIGHT
“When you increase your metabolic demand, your body is going to want to compensate,” Marion says. In other words, you’re going to be hungry — and that post-run pint of ice cream might not stand a chance. “You’ll need to manage that desire for more calories by choosing quality foods, otherwise you could see frustrating changes in your body composition,” says Marion.
He recommends consuming a protein-based snack — like an apple smeared with almond butter, a protein shake or even a cup of chocolate milk — immediately following a run. “It will help your muscles recover while also helping you feel satiated enough to keep from going on a marathon eating binge before your next meal,” Marion says.
3. REST UP
“It’s part of training, too,” Marion says. “Getting adequate sleep [7–8 hours for most of us] and building rest days into a training program allows your body to go into recovery mode, so it can repair muscles, making them stronger. It also makes your next workout even better,” Marion explains.
Marion recommends taking one full day off each week, and using that time to focus on the mental side of running. “Put together your training schedule for the week ahead, or strategize your next race,” he says. “By resting, know that you’re allowing your body to catch up, and you’re minimizing the chance for injuries to occur.”
GEAR UP FOR YOUR NEXT RUN