Runners at all levels of experience and physical condition can succeed at preparing for and then racing a five kilometer road race. Opportunities to partake in local 5ks are virtually countless; on any given weekend throughout the summer season in Minnesota, chances are good that there is a 5k being staged within a one hour drive of your home! Five kilometers is just a little over three miles and is an excellent first step into the great world of running.
Ideally, the best prep period for a 5k is 12 weeks, especially for a person’s first attempt at racing this distance. However, with a concentrated effort, a reasonably fit person could be fairly well prepared with 8 weeks of focused training. First-timers should pick a race to target for mid-summer and start their training in mid-April.
Beginners who are new to running should focus their efforts on a walk to run program by matching periods of walking and periods of light running 3 to 4 days a week on an every other day basis. The proportion of running vs walking should gradually increase by 10 percent each week up to the point where the athlete is eventually running a full three miles without a break for walking. The athlete should compliment their running workouts with light strength training and non-running cardio workouts on the days that they are not running. A minimum of one full day of rest is also essential!
Once the athlete has their first 5k under their belt, they can begin to fine tune their running workouts focusing on three key areas of running concentration – interval work (for speed), tempo work (for pace) and endurance work (for both cardio and muscular conditioning). Intervals help build oxygen efficiency, Tempo runs help the muscles process and disseminate lactic acid (bad stuff) and Endurance runs help prepare the body for surviving and thriving through long periods of exertion. Three days a week of quality runs focusing on these three focus areas coupled with quality cross-training can add up to some outstanding running race performances!
Beginners should seek the counsel of runners they know and trust to glean knowledge from the experience of these runners. Running Clubs abound in Minnesota and a simple internet search will yield a great deal of information concerning these organizations. Many Health and Fitness centers offer courses or instruction on proper running technique. For someone who is serious about starting a running program and doing it right, I highly recommend seeking the services of a Certified Personal Trainer who specializes in training runners. A few quality sessions with a good trainer can really help get you off on the right foot (so to speak!).
Lastly, remember what running legend, the late Steve Prefontaine once said “You cannot propel yourself forward by patting yourself on the back.” So lace up those running shoes and get busy!
Conrad E. Bostron, Certified Personal Trainer and Accomplished Age-Group Runner