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11 Best 5K Running Tips

Free Running Jogging photo and picture

Running is one of the most popular activities to keep fit. It is accessible and affordable. But it can also be intimidating.

“When you run, you put three times the amount of your weight on your body,” says certified marathon trainer Rashmi Gupta. But the Bengaluru-based Adidas Runners’ coach is confident that anyone, even those that rarely leave the comfort of the couch, can run their first 5k race by following a simple 45-day plan.

1. Start by just walking

As they say, learn to walk before you run. The first step is just putting on your shoes and just moving.

“Anyone can walk one kilometer,” says Adidas Runners’ coach Anil Mahoba, “So we generally try to start off with 2kms. But really we don’t look at the distance, we make it a 30-minute program at the start with the warm-up and cool-down. Then it goes to 45 minutes of walking.”

2. Follow the walk-jog pattern

By the third week, you can start tempering your walks with light jogging.

“Start jogging for a minute, then walk for a minute,” says Gupta. “Jog for another minute and then walk for another minute. That’s how you build it up.”

Mahoba adds: “The walk-jog pattern motivates people to move from covering 2km to 3km, then 4km and 5km. Once the breathing starts coming well, we encourage them to do a 5km loop with the walk-jog. You count the number of breaks you take in that 5km stretch, and the next time you either match it or reduce the breaks.”

After a while, you will be able to jog the entire 5k.

3. Get your breathing pattern correct

Going too fast too soon is one of the biggest problems for beginners. Once the lactic acid builds up and you start panting for air, running becomes more difficult than it needs to be.

“The main problem is with breathing,” says Mahoba, “If you’ve just started running you’ll find that breathing starts to get heavy after 200 metres and you’re not able to run much further. That might dissuade people to think that running is not for them.

“So we always start with a walk-jog pattern. It’s mainly 1 minute walk, 1 minute jog – not run, but jog. You keep repeating that process till you’ve completed about a 2km distance. You should focus on the breathing pattern to form a rhythm and enjoy the jog.”

4. Check your posture

Like in any exercise, form is critical in running.

According to Adidas Runners’ coach Tamilarasan Rajan, the textbook posture is: “mid-foot landing, body upright, breathe in breathe out from your belly, chin up, look forward, do not look down, shoulders relaxed and arms not crossing the bodyline so you don’t lose much energy while running. Core should be lightly tucked in, as if someone is going to punch you. Pull your belly button in. That is called running from the core.”

While it is important to follow those guidelines, every person has a different way of landing naturally: either on the heel, mid-foot or fore-foot. Most people are heel strikers, and as long as it is not leading to injuries, you can continue with that.

“If you don’t usually land on your heel but land on your heel when you run fast, only then do we correct it,” Tamilarasan adds.

5. Just run

Around day 24 of the program, you can undertake the first LSD – long slow distance run. This is running at a low or moderate intensity for greater distances. You can start with a six kilometer run.

With eight days before the race, schedule a time trial over three kilometres. Here you will run at the target time or pace.

Taper the work rate in the final week before the run. You can fall back to jogging or easy runs and concentrate on conditioning with mobility drills, stretches and core work. Get the right nutrition and hydration.
6. Pick up your race packet early

To avoid rushing on the race morning and increase your chances of getting the right size for your race T-shirt, try to collect your race bib, timing chip (if applicable), and swag bag the day before the race.

7. Get your race outfit ready

To prepare for the race, it is advisable to check the weather in order to be aware of what to anticipate and dress appropriately. This includes being prepared for hot, cold, or rainy weather if required. A useful guideline is to dress in clothing suitable for a temperature that is 15 degrees higher than the actual weather.

Once you start running, that’s the amount of warmth you’ll generate. In case of cold weather, you have the option of wearing warmer clothes while you wait for the race to commence. Numerous races provide a gear check service where you can store your bag containing additional clothes for pre and post-race periods.

To avoid scrambling and rushing in the morning, lay out all your items the night before. When it comes to deciding on your attire for the 5K, remember the golden rule: “avoid anything new on race day.” It is not the ideal moment to test out fresh running shoes or wear a trendy outfit. Instead, opt for familiar clothing that you have worn during previous runs to prevent any unforeseen discomfort, chafing, or blisters.

It is advisable to refrain from wearing the complimentary race T-shirt received upon collecting your race bib, as it is typically made of cotton and can become burdensome and uncomfortable when soaked with sweat. Furthermore, certain runners believe that wearing the shirt prior to completing the race brings bad luck.

8. Pin your bib on your shirt

To ensure you’re recognized as a participant, it is important to wear your race bib on the front of your shirt. Use safety pins on all four corners to securely attach it, which can typically be obtained at the bib pick-up area. Wearing the bib on the front demonstrates proper racing etiquette and informs race officials of your involvement.

If there are race photographers present at the course, they will also rely on your bib number to identify your race photos. It is important to ensure that your number is easily visible, particularly at the finish line. Additionally, if there is a B-Tag timing device attached to the back of your race bib, take care to ensure it is not folded or obstructed by clothing or a running belt.

9. Line up properly at the start

When starting a race, you should avoid lining up near the front of the starting line. Experienced runners who are faster than newer runners do not appreciate having to navigate around them at the beginning of the race. Certain races have designated areas or signs indicating different paces for runners. If these are not present, you can inquire about the expected pace of nearby runners. If their anticipated pace is faster than yours, it would be better to position yourself further back.

If you are surrounded by people who run at the same speed as you, it will be simpler for you to find your own rhythm. Although it may seem crowded initially, the spacing will improve as the race begins and you will be able to find your comfortable pace swiftly.

10. Get a good night’s sleep

Feeling nervous before a race is a typical occurrence, even if it is not your first time. In the days leading up to the race, it is advisable to engage in calming activities like reading or watching movies. Additionally, it is crucial to ensure you get sufficient sleep. Despite potential difficulties in falling or staying asleep, it remains essential to rest early.

11. Eat breakfast

When it’s the morning of the race, it’s important to consider your food intake. You should avoid overeating, but also ensure that your stomach isn’t completely empty. Therefore, it is recommended that you carefully select your pre-race food. It is advised to have a snack or a light meal at least one hour before the race begins. Having a full stomach can result in cramps or side stitches while running the race.

When making a choice, opt for something that is rich in carbohydrates but has less fat, fiber, and protein. Avoid consuming foods that are rich in fats, contain excessive fiber, or are high in richness, as they might result in stomach problems.

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