Taking on a running race for the first time can be exciting as well as intimidating. But races are a great way to motivate you to train and improve your running, your overall fitness level and your confidence. Plus, with so many races today of varying distances, along with a multitude of training plans and local running clubs, it’s relatively simple to select an event and begin preparing.
Depending on where you live, summer tends to be the busiest race season, so now is the time to check out what’s available in your area, register and get to work. Unless you are a seasoned runner, it’s best to start with shorter distances, like 5Ks and 10Ks, so that you have sufficient training time and maximize your success. Consider joining a local running club or running the race with a buddy for more motivation.
When training for your first race, consider the following tips:
- Follow a training plan – Even though a 5K may seem like a short distance, don’t just wing it when it comes to training, or you can end up injured or unprepared on race day. Many training plans exist for races of all distances, so search online or ask at your local specialty running store to find your best option. Pick what’s realistic for you in terms of how many weeks until the race and how much time you can realistically dedicate to training. Then block out the time and commit to the workouts.
- Gear up – You don’t have to spend a ton of money, but make sure you have good (new) running shoes and some comfortable, sweat-wicking apparel. You may want to invest in a heart rate monitor as well, which can provide valuable training information.
- Integrate walking with running as necessary – Don’t be ashamed if you run-walk at the beginning of training, as that’s the best way to gradually build up stamina and train your body. As your conditioning improves, you’ll decrease walking intervals and cover greater distances running.
- Listen to your body – Running can be tough and obviously doesn’t always feel good. But there’s a difference between discomfort and chronic pain. Address potential injuries immediately, or it’s likely that they will get worse and sideline you for the race. If you’re not sure if your condition is minor or needs medical attention, talk to other runners and your physician. Don’t continue to run through pain.
- Build in recovery – While you many think that logging more miles equals more progress, the reality is that running breaks down your body. You strengthen it via rest and recovery sessions. So be sure to stretch regularly, use self-massage tools like foam rollers, have massages if you can and get enough sleep. Your performance will be better during training and on the course if you take care of your body.
- Fuel properly – It’s tempting to add some treats to your diet if you’re running more, but you’ll feel better if the majority of your intake consists of healthy choices, such as lean protein, fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and plenty of water. Limit high-fat, high-sugar and high sodium choices, along with soda and alcohol.
- Have fun – While race preparation is hard work, enjoy yourself along the way and celebrate your accomplishments. Don’t beat yourself up if you have a bad run or miss a workout; just try again the next day. Track your progress in terms of time and distance if that helps motivate you.
Remember, it’s just one foot in front of the other until the finish line! Stay Fueled.