How to Run a 5K or Half-Marathon.

My Running Tips:

I just completed my first half-marathon and I must admit it was much easier than I thought it would be. I am not a die-hard runner, I don’t count my calories and carbs every day, but I did make an effort to perform some easy steps to help me go from couch to half-marathon in a matter of months.  I have had several people ask me about the methods I used to prepare for my run so I thought I would share those here. I am not a doctor, nor a professional runner, so keep that in mind when you read the following. 

  1. Get your doctor’s approval before you start exerting yourself too much. He will listen to your heart and possibly put you on a treadmill if he feels it is necessary.
  2. You need a realistic goal. I suggest you find a local 5K and make that you first run. Do the math and figure out how much distance you need to add each month to reach that goal.
  3. When I started running, people told me to be nice to my feet. After a year of “serious” running, I prefer to say be nice to your KNEES. Chances are you have owned athletic shoes with thick padding which is even thicker at the heel. You know the shoes I am talking about – they look like spaceships from Star Wars. I suggest you buy some low heel shoes and learn to run in these. These shoes actually flatten your feet when you run instead of striking heel first. This may sound counter intuitive, but it’s better in the long run because it puts less impact on your knee. You will need to train yourself to run like this though. Focus on hitting with the mid part of your foot and taking shorter strides if necessary. If you’ve been running in thicker heeled shoes, you will want to wean yourself off these with your new shoes. Now the thought of running 13.1 miles with my heel first sounds painful. The shoes I bought were called the Adidas Marathon 10. There are many other options available.
  4. To stretch or not to stretch? Personally, I stretch very little before a run. I found that stretching actually fatigued my muscles making the run more difficult. Instead, I prefer a brisk walk before and after the run. This is not a sprint so your muscles are going to naturally loosen up a few minutes into the run.
  5. Consistency is key. Depending on your goals you will want to run at least once per week. If you run less often, you won’t make much progress and runs won’t get easier. Even if you cannot get outside to run, then you should find yourself on a treadmill or elliptical. Don’t worry about the distance that is indicated on the machine, you need to exercise for the same duration as you would if you were running outside. So, if you have been running 30 minutes outside, then you need to spend 30 minutes on the treadmill. You should not run more than three times per week so your body has time to recover.
  6. Cross training will lead to better running and fewer injuries. Cross training is simply doing another type of exercise with your legs instead of running all the time. This could be an elliptical or orbital or weight training.
  7. There is nothing wrong with walking. In the beginning shoot for increasing your time on the track instead of speed. Start your run, if you get tired then walk, but DON’T STOP!! When you regain your breath run again. Eventually, this 30 minutes of run/walking will be heavily weighted on running with less walking. As a result, your distance will increase.
  8. You will have good days and bad days. Don’t get upset when the exact same run is harder than it was the last time.
  9. When you get into a rhythm, alternate short runs with long runs. For example, have short runs on Tuesday and Thursday, with a longer run on Sunday. Your longer runs need to get longer every couple of weeks to reach your distance goals.
  10. Eat and drink well. Don’t have a burrito and diet Coke the day you run. You should be drinking constant amounts of water to keep your muscles hydrated well before your runs starts. If you start drinking one hour before run time, you’re doing it wrong. In my experience I have found that the days I don’t hydrate well are the days I have more difficult runs.
  11. I take vitamins but your opinion may vary. I take a good multi vitamin, E&D for my skin, a B complex for energy, and fish oil for my Omegas. Some people say that fish oil helps lubricate your joints. Like I said before, be nice to your knees.
  12. Find a partner and make a schedule. If you can find someone with your same skill level, then the runs will become much more enjoyable.
  13. Keep positive.  If you are dwelling on negative thoughts then your performance will be impacted by the negative stress. On run day, do your best to avoid negative people and make a point to stay positive.  Conversely, I have also found that a run is a good way to clear my mind.
  14. Remember you’re not training for a RACE you are in a RUN. The only person you need to impress is yourself.

After a year of “serious” running, I prefer to say be nice to your KNEES

Benefits of running:

You often hear about  the typical benefits of running like weight loss, better heart health, etc…  Admittedly, I don’t struggle with weight so these were of little concern to me.  However, one benefit I have noticed is the desire to eat better.  I spend all this time bettering my health by running, the last thing I want to do is un-do something positive by cramming a package of Twinkies down my throat. I also discovered that my back feels better and I sleep better at night. Regardless of your goals, I suggest you check with your doctor and start running.  You will never reach that 5k or marathon if that bag of Doritos is keeping you pined to the couch.