By Lisa Rhea
Last week we talked a lot about motivation and making improvements to your health – this week, I’m going to give you some ideas to putting that motivation into action. My first suggestion – sign up for a 5k.
There’s one in almost every city nearly every weekend. These 3.1 mile races usually benefit great charities, are a great celebration of active people, and if you didn’t need more motivation – they often serve beer afterwards!
You’re not a runner? Well, maybe not yet, but I promise, barring a severe injury, anyone can BECOME a runner and can complete a 5k. My mom didn’t run her first 5k until she was in her fifties. My sister was in her early thirties when she ran her first race. Me, I was in my mid-twenties when I decided to go for it.
I had always considered myself a terrible runner, but had started becoming more and more active in the gym and decided to give it a go. I signed up for a race. I trained by running around my neighborhood. I doubted myself. But most importantly, I completed it. I may have stopped to walk, but I completed the race. And from that day on, I knew I could be a runner.
Fast forward a decade, and I have ran a number of half marathons and numerous road races and even at 6 months pregnant, just ran a 3.1 mile race. Anyone who went to grade school with me can attest – I’m not a naturally gifted runner. In fact, I was always one of the slowest runners on track and field day. But I transformed myself into a solid runner and feel pretty damn proud of that!
You can do the same. Running is incredibly liberating when you break through the mental barriers. And that’s mostly what holds people back. Your body was built to run – the fact that bears exist is evidence of that.
So it’s not your body shape or your feet or this or that. It’s your mind. Unless your doctor has told you you’re not healthy enough for exercise, there’s no reason you can’t get out there and run a 5k this year. You can do this!
Here’s are some guidelines to getting started:
Take it Slow
Don’t expect to go out the front door and run three miles. Unless you’re already in great condition from other activities, most people need to train up for a race. Start by jogging a minute, then walking a minute. Gradually increase these intervals. Don’t worry about speed, just get out and get moving. Eventually, you’ll be able to jog longer and longer. There are a ton of free training plans online that can help you go from never running to running a full 5k without walking.
Pay Attention to Your Form
Many people find running painful because their form is off. Pay attention to what your body is doing. For me, learning a mid-food strike made a huge difference in my running abilities and preventing injuries. Part of this is learning to keep your abs tight, shifting your body forward to work with momentum, taking smaller steps and instead of landing hard on your heels, landing on your mid-food and rolling forward. Most often, the easiest cue to switch to this form from heel-striking is to think about keeping your abs tight – really pulling the belly button to the spine and shortening your stride.
Cool Down and Stretch
After you go out for a run, make sure you walk some afterwards and take time to stretch. One of the worst things you can do is immediately plop down on the couch afterwards. Take a few minutes to let your body adjust and stretch out those legs. You’ll feel a million times better the next day, I promise.
Get Some Gear
A good pair of shoes and proper workout clothes can make world of difference. I’m not saying you need a pair of $200 Nikes or fancy running gear, but shoes that truly fit (usually you want to buy a 1/2 size bigger for running shoes), shorts or pants that prevent your legs from chaffing and for the ladies, a good sports bra, are essential. On a budget? A few ways I save on these items is by finding shoes that fit well in a store, then actually purchasing them online, where I often find them much cheaper. I also highly recommend stores like TJ Maxx and Marshals for workout clothes.
Recruit Your Friends
Running is a great activity to do with friends and family. All it requires is a little grit and an open road. Find others who will commit to the goal with you. Have fun with it. I love costume races – and there are a ton of themed races and even obstacle course races out there these days. The options are endless! And it’s not just about running – it’s about coming together for cause and being a part of something.
Have you run a race lately? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your pictures and race stories. I’d love to showcase your running story!