Running your first 5km
So, only a few weeks to go before your first 5km race. It can be daunting, the thought of all those people lined up at the start. Surely everyone else is super fit and will be off like Mo Farah? Worried that you are going to get left behind like the guy who decided to crawl the London Marathon?
Well, don’t worry.
Firstly, 5k is pretty achievable for most people with even a basic level of fitness (assuming that you have no health issues stopping you from running). To give you an idea, 5k is about the distance from Finchley Central to Hampstead, or from Edgware to Hendon Central (as the crow flies), which you could probably walk in an hour.
And in fact, that's my first training tip: It’s OK to WALK. Walking is exercise, too. And it’s a perfectly good way to build up to running any distance. So, if the furthest you have ever run is 2 or 3k, then I’m pretty sure you can run/walk your way up to 5k.
My second training tip: Don’t crawl.
Lets break down the key things you need to think about to get you ready for your first 5k:
Warm up / Cool down
Our bodies work better when they are warm (although there is an upper limit to this, so running in 40C heat isn’t advised). Our joints, ligaments and muscles all perform better when they are warm, and we are much less likely to get injured, too.
We also work better when we have gently stretched our those muscles, tendons and ligaments, as well as raised our heart rate – getting the whole system ready for what is coming. However, evidence shows that static stretching (standing still and holding a stretch for a period of time) before exercise can actually increase the chance of picking up an injury, so we recommend what is known as Dynamic Stretching and Mobilisation. Basically this is a series of movements that both warm up our bodies, prime us mentally for exercise, increase our heart rate and stretch our muscles safely.
Similarly, we need to allow our bodies time to cool down after exercise, so our blood vessels return to normal without a shock to our system, and we stretch out those muscles we have been using.