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Conquering your upcoming 5K! Tips to set yourself up for success

Are you gearing up for your first 5k? Are you a seasoned vet running to help St. Jude? Maybe you’re going to bring the whole family out for a family fun run? In any event, being well-prepared is never a bad thing. Setting yourself ( or your family) up for a positive experience will benefit everyone involved and solidify your love for fitness, help you strive for that personal record, or provide your family with a great healthy activity. On the flip side, being ill-prepared will not only produce a negative outcome but could lead to injury. Below are some helpful hints for preparing for your upcoming run, no matter your goal.

  1. Hydrate. This not only applies to race day, but well in advance. if you are thirsty you are already dehydrated. Temperatures can speed up your sweat rate and fluid loss can happen quickly, so plan ahead and drink enough water days in advance. If you are walking/running with your kids stash a water bottle or carry a water backpack with you! As a seasoned vet you may not need to refuel during a shorter run, but if not prepared ahead of time your performance may suffer.

  2. Nutrition. Same rules apply as water. Some experts will tell you to “carb Load” before a big event, which, isn’t wrong, but there is more to it then having pasta the night before. Adding in carbohydrates several for days leading up to the event with help to maximize your stored energy. This is most important if performance is your goal, but also having enough fuel in your tank will make the event more enjoyable then if you crash due to low energy. 

  3. Walk/run the course ahead of time. This really helps to take away some of the unknown anxiety. If you are familiar with the course, that pesky hill won't come and take you down! Even if you aren't running for time, or need to run/walk the 5k, knowing where hills are, or tight turns will help you come up with a strategy of when you might choose to walk or slow down. There is nothing worse then training for a race and then realizing it is 90% uphill on the day of the run. And with kids, this might be a game changer, as you will know if they can even make it that far! 

  4. Don't wear brand new shoes for the race. Although if you buy the right shoe you shouldn’t have to “break them in” however if you haven’t trained in the shoes you may not know how they wear on your feet over that distance, leading to hot shots and blisters. In addition, don’t let your kids run in sandals or crocs, they won’t hold up, and could possibly make the experience miserable for you and your child. 

  5. On the run day try not to get caught up in the excitement and take off too fast. The surge at the beginning can lure you into getting off your pace, stay with a pace you can handle. If you have kids or stroller stay to the back as it can be a chaotic scene at the start.

  6. Whatever your goal is, don't stress. A race is a race, and a fun family outing should be fun. If you worry and stress too much you won't be able to be relaxed and run well. If you do have the jitters, practice this breathing technique, inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, exhale for 4 seconds. Also, you can lay out all your gear and bib number the night before so you are not stressing over that stuff the morning of the run! 

  7. If you plan on making it a family affair, include the kids in your training as well, and make it a game, like “ see who can get to that next tree first.” the kids will run around and have fun and that helps to instill the healthy lifestyle you are modeling for them!

Try these easy tips to make your run a good experience, and at the end of the day remember that it's already a good day if you are out in the world with like-minded folks, or even your family participating in something that's healthy, but also helps to build communities! 

-Pete Townley, MSE, CSCS, USAW

Director of Strength and Conditioning Warner University.


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