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Fuel Up

"For Your First 5K Run"
By: Jose Maria M. Villarama IIFuel Up

When Jason became the corporate communications head of a reputable company, his task was to showcase the company’s corporate social responsibility endeavors. Caring for the environment is one of the corporation’s main advocacies. That is why on April 22, the Earth Day, he mounted a 5K run to rally support for the company’s cause of planting more trees around the archipelago. 

As a communicator, Jason always practiced what he preached, that’s why he was determined to join the event himself.  The problem was, he has never run a 5K before, let alone a 3K one. With a month to go before the race, Jason made a resolve to prepare himself physically, mentally and emotionally.

No Crash Course Needed

While the general impression to complete a 5K is for one to be a regular runner, a cross-trainer or an athlete trained consistently, fitness trainers say it’s possible to prepare in a month.  However, the mindset for training within a 4-week window should not be about cramming; instead, realistic goals within the limited time frame should be set to achieve maximum results. Here are some things to consider when preparing:

  • Gear up – Running shoes are not created equal and are definitely not just for fashion.  Choosing the right pair of shoes, not just in terms of fit, but how it supports one’s gait and stride is non-negotiable.
  • Start moving – While professional trainers and runners may recommend threshold or race-paced workouts to prepare for long distance runs, beginners need only to get their feet moving progressively each day and make themselves accustomed to running but not to overdo the training. One can start by walking, then jogging, then gradually shift to actual running. Thinking in terms of minutes and not distance helps psych one up too.
  • Prep the muscles – Running not only involves muscles of the legs or feet but all muscle groups in the body. Cross-training through swimming, cycling or other forms of exercise may assist in the conditioning of the muscles. The goal is to keep them moving so as not to be sore at the end of the race.  Factor in regular breathing exercises.

Internal Preparation

Obviously, preparation should not just focus on the muscles but on other aspects of the body. Running should be an effort of the entire body not just the lower extremities. Here are some things to consider as the race draws near.

  • Get enough sleep - Some suggest getting a good night's rest 2 days before the race is enough since it will likely be a restless night before the race. However, it is good to get quality sleep for a week or more as this will attune the body not only for the rigors of the race but for practicing too.
  • Skip alcohol - Alcohol can disrupt normal bodily functions and process, not just sleep.  If one wants to reap the health benefits of running, stay away from alcohol during training (or indefinitely) and ditch tobacco to improve breathing. 
  • Don't exert too much - During race week, one's body needs to rest and store up energy.  While doing short runs is advisable, don't overdo it.  As previously mentioned, the key is to keep the legs active but not to strain them.
  • Eat right - Eat nutritious food that will help build muscles, energy, and endurance. These food items should be high in energy, like oatmeal and fruits, bread and peanut butter, sports bar, etc.  On race day, do not deviate from the breakfast or food plan that one has been eating during training.

On the day

Race day will definitely be emotionally, physically and mentally taxing that is why it’s important to start it off right:

  • Arrive early - Eat breakfast 2 hours before the race starts. Do not forget to hydrate. Go to the race site at least an hour before kickoff.  Don't let oneself be stressed out by concerns like traffic, parking etc.  It would be better to arrange for a drop off at the race site or better yet, spend the night in a place that is within walking distance from the race site.
  • Warm up - Physically prepare about 25 minutes before the race by doing a 10-minute easy jog and slowly accelerating pace for 5 minutes.  Include short runs under 30 seconds at race pace.  Don't forget to stretch before and after warming up.
  • Line up - At the starting line, beginners will likely experience a myriad of emotions. Situating oneself in the middle or back of the assembling group is the safest as most beginners are also in there.
  • Remember to keep pace - Start slowly and gradually increase the pace. Starting too fast expends too much energy and makes the body exert too much effort. It is always wise to aim for a so-called negative split or finishing the second leg of the race faster than the first half. Finish strong by putting in one's best as one approaches the finish line.
  • Remember to breathe- Take a deep breath before the race starts and make sure to inhale and exhale at a controlled pace throughout the race.
  • Stay positive - When fatigue starts to kick in, the body's tendency is to slow down or even give up.  Thinking about the positive aspects of training. The mere fact that one is in the race, or an affirmation like "I can do this" will keep the good energy flowing and hopefully, will enable one to finish the race.
The attitude espoused by first timers or beginners should not be competitive. Unless one is a professional runner, he/she should approach the race in the spirit of fun. Who knows, after the initial experience, one may be enticed to run again in future races and make running a part of a healthy lifestyle. 
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