Running is fun. But what makes running and many other participation sports
even more fun is competition. It’s easy to find a race, and if you’ve
never done one before, it’s best to start slowly and with a plan.
Here are some tips from Hermosa Beach running coach and personal trainer
Thomas Podell, who’s an ultra-marathoner—someone who runs
upward of 100-mile races—and hopes to compete in the U.S. 24-Hour
Championships later this year.
- Give yourself plenty of time to train. The longer the distance you’re
shooting for, the longer the training period. That said, Podell is encouraging;
“You can train for a decent 5K—which is 3.1 miles—in
about four weeks.”
- Start slow and with short distances. “When it comes to running,”
says Podell, “consistency trumps speed every time.” You’re
not going to run three miles your first time out. Instead, Podell advises
going for a 10-minute session the first day. And do run/walk intervals:
Start bywalkingone minute, then run for one minute, walk for three minutes,
turn around and run for one minute, walk for three minutes, run for the
last minute. And do an out-and-back route. “That way you’ll
be familiar with the territory coming home, which can be reassuring; you
did it once, you know you can do it again,” explains Podell.
- Don’t overdo it—any of it. Don’t run too hard, too long,
too fast or too often. The first week, aim for just two days of training;
the second, bump up to three days; the third week, three to four days;
and the fourth week, four to five days. “Don’t get too excited
and run every day,” Podell cautions. “The days you run are
not the days you’re getting better. You get better on the days you
don’t run; that’s when your body heals and builds the muscle
you need for stamina.” And rest—don’t run for three
days before race day.
- Define your goals. The goal for your first 5K should be to simply finish
it—whether walking, running or both. That’s fine. But training
goals can also include increasing endurance and speed or weight loss.
“If you have the time and want to do longer runs, that’s what
you work for,” Podell says. “If you don’t have time
for long runs you’ll do shorter, faster practices.”
- Eat what’s familiar. Most people are comfortable either eating nothing
before they train or just a little snack and then a bigger meal afterward.
“And forget what you’ve heard about carbo-loading the night
before the race,” Podell warns. “If you’re going to
load up on carbs, do it two or three days before race day. That way your
body truly has time to digest and draw that energy into tissues. The night
before and the day of the race do everything the way you’re used
to doing it. Otherwise you might react to a food negatively—the
oil in pasta, some super-high-fiber bar—and it could mean disaster
out on the course.”
- Familiar goes for clothes too. Vendors at the pre-race expo might sell
some great-looking stuff, but on race day wear clothes (and shoes, of
course) you’re used to; otherwise it can chafe in unexpected, miserable
ways. “It can cause you discomfort and throw you off,” Podell says.
- After the race, cool down. Do some stretching and take off your shoes if
you can. Put your feet in cool water and add ice gradually so the water
gets cold slowly. Ice your legs and hips or wherever it hurts.