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The Right Way to 5K

Running a 5K can be an exhilarating challenge, but training properly is crucial. Learn what to eat, what to wear and how to build up your endurance to run those 3.1 miles.

Running isn't a type of physical activity you should just jump into with both feet (you know what I mean). Ambition is good. Dedication is required. But showboating on your first run can lead to injury and burnout.

If you've never been a runner, but have decided completing a 5K (3.1 miles) is your summer goal, there are some easy, straightforward steps to get you circling the track in no time.

Safety First
Before you begin any new exercise routine, it's important to check with your doctor if this kind of training is safe for you. If you have asthma, a heart condition or any other pre-existing medical condition or are taking medication (prescription or over the counter) you need to make sure your body can handle what you want to put it through. When visiting a doctor or trainer, it's also important to discuss previous injuries or surgeries to assess the possible impact of running.

We'll get to some more important safety tips in the following sections, but knowing your body's abilities and limitations (we all have them) is important.

Suit Up
As far as a uniform goes, running doesn't really have one. Nowadays, people run in all types of clothing and footwear. Here are some ideas of what to shop for to help you run better and more comfortably:

  • Running Shoes -- Everyone will have their own favorite brand and pair, and that's the point. Make sure to get fitted for running shoes by a professional at running shop to make sure you get the right support and cushion for your foot. This helps reduce injury and allows you to move more freely.
  • Breathable Clothing -- Choose running clothing that allows air to flow in and out, so you don't overheat, but that will protect you from the elements. The cut and color are totally personal, but make sure you can be seen no matter the conditions. Whether that means black clothing with reflective stripes or neon pink shorts is up to you.
  • Anti-Chafing Sticks -- Chafing can be an unfortunate side effect of running, especially in the folds of the skin. These sticks (which look similar to deodorant) prevent the rough friction that can lead to irritation. Worth using anywhere clothing rubs, too.
  • Eye Protection -- Sunglasses, hats, visors, whichever you choose, being able to see clearly is of obvious importance. You need to see where you're going and who is around you to stay safe.
  • Waterproof Sunscreen -- Running outdoors can be a freeing experience, but it can be hazardous for your skin. Always apply sunscreen, even when it's cloudy or cold, to prevent damage that can lead to skin cancer from UVA and UVB rays. There are countless "sport" formulas now designed to stay put through sweating.

The Runner's Diet
The body needs fuel to perform and running can take a lot out of you. Getting the right balance of carbohydrates, proteins, fats and other nutrients is essential for conditioning your body. Carbohydrates provide energy and will make up the bulk of the diet, but choose them carefully. Adding whole grains and starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes to your diet is a good way to start. Protein also helps provide energy but is necessary to build lean muscle mass and help repair muscles after training. Your protein sources should be lean and can include eggs, fish and poultry. You can also try protein supplements like whey protein. While a runner's diet is typically low in fat, eating healthy fats on a daily basis supports a healthy inflammatory response as well as the heart. Go for avocados, nuts and olive oil.

When choosing the foods for your diet plan, make sure to consider the vitamins and minerals your body needs on a daily basis. For example, calcium and magnesium will keep your bones and joints strong to prevent stress fractures while vitamins A and C will protect the tissues from free radical damage and helps them repair. A multivitamin can help you fill in any gaps in your diet.

Try to avoid eating a heavy meal before taking off for a run, as this can lead to upset stomach or a stitch. However, you shouldn't run on an empty stomach. A whole grain English muffin with almond butter is a great way to nourish your body before a run. After your run, it's important to replenish fluids and electrolytes lost by sweating. Eating a balanced meal after running can help you do this, but if you've run for a very long distance, a sports drink can be beneficial (just make sure to check the label for artificial ingredients and too much sugar).

Training Schedule
Building up to a 5K should be a gradual process and you should be more concerned with how far you can run and for how long rather than how fast. Running experts and physicians often recommend alternating between walking and running at first to build up your stamina. Start with running one minute and walking one minute and gradually increase the amount of time spent running until you're able to go the desired distance without stopping. This type of training also keeps the metabolism heightened and can help you burn more calories at rest.

Adding different types of exercise to your routine is important for your health and for gaining strength. Yoga is great for runners to loosen up those tight muscles and improve flexibility. Strength training with weights is another important component to a well-rounded fitness routine. You don't have to become a heavy lifter or focus on creating mass (unless you want to), just focus on making your muscles stronger to see increased endurance.

Rest days are also important. A rest day also doesn't mean doing an easier workout. Exercise causes tiny tears in the muscle (which is why they get sore) and you need to give the body time to repair them. Get plenty of sleep, eat cleanly and drink lots of water. Some light stretching can help but don't push it too far.

Additional Tips
Every runner has their own arsenal of advice from previous victories and mishaps. Follow these guidelines for safe runs you'll actually enjoy:

  • Be aware of your surroundings and don't get too zoned out listening to music.
  • Run with a friend or group of friends to turn exercise into social time.
  • Have fun by joining themed races or hosting friendly competitions among your friends
  • Run in well-lit areas with plenty of activity.
  • Walk when your body tells you you need to. It's not failure.

The most important tip of all is not to give up on yourself. Running, like any new sport or lifestyle change, is challenging and we're not designed to be perfect right out of the gate. Have patience and you'll meet your goals. eVitamins has what you need to get started!


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