Spoiler alert: I’m not a natural-born runner. My “runs”—which are few and far between—usually consist of a pep talk as I lace up, a good pace for a few blocks, and then, the realization that I am a.) very out of shape, and b.) very bored.
So, when a friend asked if I wanted to join her in running a 5k this year, my initial reaction was a firm no. The truth is that I’m scared of being embarrassed if I don’t finish, with the bigger problem of not knowing where to start so I can finish.
Luckily, people like Danielle Schmieder, owner and personal trainer at The Difference Ltd., make the training process seem so attainable—and yes, even fun. An accomplished runner with more than 10 years of running experience under her belt, Danielle runs 6-8 races a year and finishes within the top six percent for 5ks and the top nine percent for 10ks. Here, she shares some tips on training for a 5k, in addition to some general pre- and post-race advice to make your run one for the books.
Invest in good shoes.
“The last thing someone new to running wants are aches and pains. Simply switching out your 5-year-old shoes could be the remedy,” Danielle says. “They don’t have to be top-of-the-line expensive, but investing in a pair of shoes fit for YOU is so important.”
Find people to train with.
“First, decide what type of runner you want to be. Are you a competitive person that wants to win a 5k, or are you just trying to get into a bit better shape and be able to enjoy the outdoors with fellow runners?” says Danielle. “In either scenario, there are groups for each. A lot of sports and athletic clothing stores have running clubs that meet once a week or you can check in with your local bar. Some sponsor fun runs throughout the week with a little refreshment at the end. If you’re on the competitive track, look into local track clubs for a more intense team atmosphere.”
Don’t over-do it.
“To run and train for a 5k, I would recommend someone run 3-4 times per week,” Danielle suggests. “Making sure you change up your paces, routes, and time throughout the week will make your training efficient and the actual race manageable. It’s also really important to take off days while you’re training. I do not recommend sitting around all day, but just moving is key: walking, cycling, swimming, strength training, and yoga are all great supplemental modalities.”
Remember to warm up.
“Foam rolling and completing an ‘active warm-up’ are great pre-run tools to prevent injury. An active warm up can include leg swings, skipping, high knees, lunges, etc.,” says Danielle. “You want to save your static stretching, like stretching your hamstrings for a few minutes each, until AFTER your run.”
Don’t make drastic lifestyle changes on the day of the race.
“A runner should NOT try to do anything new the day of a race. Eat what you know works for your body, wear clothes that you’ve worn before, and shoes that you’ve been training in,” Danielle recommends. “My ritual includes getting up a few hours before the race, eating oatmeal with a banana and peanut butter, and foam rolling. I get to the race about an hour beforehand to warm up and get all of the jitters out! “
Take care of your body post-race.
“Make sure to cool down by running about a mile and get that foam roller back in action. Roll and stretch out glutes, hamstrings, calves, and quads through ‘static stretching,’ or holding each pose for a few minutes each,” Danielle says. “IT bands are also a great way to ensure you are not super sore the next day, as are ice baths. And if you crossed the finish line, that’s an accomplishment, so be sure to treat yourself!”