If one of your 2018 goals is to run a 5k race, congrats! It’s great that you have made the commitment to start running. For many people, a 5k is the first race that they try to run. Sometimes, just finishing is the goal while for others, it may be completing the running the race within a certain time. Whatever your goal, remember that staying injury free and your overall health and well being are your primary concerns.

Below are a few tips to help you conquer your first 5k:

Make a Plan

Waking up one day and deciding to run a 5k is not a plan for success. If you are thinking about running a 5K and you have never run or done very little running, you need to allow yourself time to train. There are a number of training programs out there so be sure to choose one that fits your fitness level, goals and needs. Seek out a local running club to help inspire you, provide structure and motivation for you to keep with it.

Invest in a Good Pair of Running Shoes

In 2014, the American College of Sports Medicine issued suggested guidelines for choosing a pair of running shoes. Look closely at the heel to toe drop (the cushion depth from heel to toe), and purchase ones that contribute to the stability of your foot and light weight. Be sure that you have enough room in the shoes. Pay careful attention to the room in your toe box, making sure that it is wide enough, and try buying your shoes toward the end of the day when you foot has swollen and more closely mimics the size of your foot when you run.

Beware of Overtraining

Whenever we get the bug to try something the new, the tendency is to go full speed ahead. However waking up one day and running a 5k the next can be stressful on the body. Try increasing your mileage at a rate of no more than 10% per week, keeping a steady pace (no speed work or hills) until you can complete 30 minutes of continuous running and keeping run/walk intervals in your routine as needed. Taking it slow will ensure that you are on pace to stay healthy.

Include Strength Training

Scientists at theĀ Centre for Sports Science and Human Performance, University of Greenwich in Kent, UK performed a 6 week study of randomly selected individuals to determine if just running or a combined program of strength and conditioning was best. What researchers found was that a strength and conditioning program helped runners increase their 5k performance thereby demonstrating the importance of incorporating strength training to your routine. For those who did include strength training, once they stopped their new strength training regimen, they returned to the baseline performance levels.

Fuel Your Body Properly on Race Day

Eating healthy while training seems like a no brainer but it really is important to get in a balanced diet consisting of carbohydrates, lean proteins and healthy fats. Drink plenty of water before and after the race, eat a small breakfast that is low in fat and fiber so your stomach doesn’t get upset and leave plenty of time for a bathroom break before the race. The key is to stick with your routine. This isn’t the time to try a new recipe for breakfast since you won’t know how your body will react.

Training for a 5k is wonderful goal to set for yourself. Find the program that is right for you. Look for running groups in your area or a friend/family member that can provide motivation and help you achieve this fantastic goal you have set for yourself. Good luck and stay healthy.