Training for Your First 5k like a Mother (literally)

Running is the punishment of other sports. I remember in middle school when given the choice of continuing with either soccer or volleyball because we couldn’t afford to do both I chose volleyball because there was less running. Oh, how the times have changed.

I’ve been an avid runner since college and have ran and won a few medals in my day (Note: the winning happened pre-pregnancy, so now I’m just happy to finish races). The first major milestone in anyone’s running journey is to complete the 5k. Three miles of straight running can be intimidating even to the most conditioned athlete. Three miles requires stamina, training, preparation, and persistence. Here are a few tips for beginning your own journey to 5k.

1. Pick a race and set a date

If there is one thing that drives me to actually get my behind out of bed and go for a run during my time off from work in the summer (perks of working for a school system) it is having already paid the $20-$35 for a race. I ain’t wasting money on account of being lazy. Beyond just being frugal, picking a specific race and date gives you a timeline of how you want your training to work and how intense or leisurely you can be in preparation. If you have a few months, you can slowly work from walking/jogging one mile all the way to running three. If you have only a couple of weeks, you should probably make sure you can at least get through jogging one mile within the first few days of training.

Give yourself some time to also research the different types of races in your area. There are color runs, beer runs, wine runs, obstacle courses, trail runs, straight up road runs, I’m sure there are even nude runs (just kidding), etc. Pick a cause or theme that will really motivate you- guaranteeing you will be excited to train and actually show up to the race.

2. Start Training

Begin with what you can do. If you’re going from couch to 5k, begin with intervals- walking a minute, jogging a minute- for 15 minutes with the goal of eventually jogging the whole 15 minutes. Focusing on time is more important than distance at the beginning. Once fifteen minutes becomes comfortable add five or ten minutes. Eventually, you’ll find a pace that allows you to run for an extended period of time and then you can work on distance with your comfortable pace in mind.

If you’re more experienced and want to work for speed, mix in sprints and hills. Sprints will mix in crucial speed work that will help increase your muscle stamina and aid your speed overall. Hills are always great speed work and will work your calves to help with push off.

3. Don’t neglect your rest days

If your motivation for running a 5k is weight loss, a rest day may seem counter intuitive. Mostly because the words “rest day” to me mean sending my baby away with daddy while I lay on my bed with a bag of potato chips and powdered donuts watching reruns of Anthony Bourdain. DON’T DO THIS ON REST DAY. Rest days are built into a good training schedule in order to prevent injuries and allow your muscles time to recover.

Use your rest day to prepare for longer runs or stretch out muscles that you may have discovered in yesterdays workout. Yoga on rest days is highly recommended, but if you want to do something a little more leisurely consider using a foam roller on your thighs and back while you watch some motivational videos or something. My husband likes The Rock, but you don’t have to put that into the schedule.

4. Gear up

It may be tempting to neglect your footwear and athletic wear for your first 5K, because, I mean, who knows- you might hate the entire thing. However, I will err on the side that says you will not only LOVE your race, but will become addicted to all things running. And, if this is the case, you will need excellent running shoes. Don’t skimp. Go to a specialty running store and get your feet fit for comfortable shoes. It may seem like your paying double than what you would at any old shop-o-rama, but your feet  (and knees) will thank you later.

Also, ever notice those $20 socks in the corner of your local sports store that you scoff at saying, “If I’m spending 20 bucks it will be on beer not socks.” Well, those socks have a place in society and running 5Ks and beyond is where they come in handy. Buy the socks to reduce blisters and help your feet cool off during those longer runs. Really, they make a giant difference.

5. Create a bomb running playlist and make time to run

I get it. As a mom, the last thing you want to do when you pick up your munchkin at 5:15 in the evening is lug out the stroller and run a couple of miles. Yet, I don’t get it. I mean, can’t we all agree that kids need more fresh air? That they need to see active lifestyles if we want them to fall in love with activity and get off their dang tablets? Can’t we all agree that we really don’t spend enough time with our kids just enjoying something together?

When I first started taking my daughter running, I hated it. She was angry and would wake up at every little noise and I was so paranoid about her crying that I would stop every couple of minutes to make sure she was alright. I’ve learned quickly that nature is a wonderful pacifier (along with her regular pacifier, of course) and she’s gotten to an age where she either 1) sleeps while I run 2) laughs at the breeze and yells at the birds 3) screams the whole time, at which point I pump up the jams and keep running until she falls asleep. Yes, I’m a bad mom, but that’s not the point. The point is that I want my daughter to love being active because of the enjoyment it’s brought me over the years. The best way I know how to share this with her is to show her now that she can participate and enjoy the activity before she can even fit into her own running shoes.

But, really. Just get running.

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