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5 Steps to Your First 5k

For many of us the fitness goals we made at the beginning of the year got thrown out the window months ago.  With the vacations, summer camps, and other activities it is difficult to find time for a regular workout routine during the summer.  As the kids go back to school in the fall many people find it easier to stick to a structured schedule.

Autumn is my favorite time of year to run!  It doesn't have the snow and freezing temperatures of winter, the allergies of spring, and the unmerciful heat of summer.  Those fall days when all you need is a long sleeve t-shirt or lightweight jacket are perfect for running!

It's time to plan your first 5k (3.1 miles)!

Scared?  Don't be!  

Here are 5 steps to your first 5k:
  1. Commit yourself.  Find a 5k in your area.  If you are brand new to running, pick one that is about 3-4 months away.  Turkey Trots on Thanksgiving morning are a perfect way to justify all the food you're going to eat that day anyway!  Once you have a solid deadline, and a financial commitment, you're more likely to follow through with your goal.  Besides, entry fees for races usually get higher the closer you get to the race day.
  2. Pick a training plan.  There are a lot of beginning running programs online.  Like here, here, or here.  The day after your long run should be a rest day, so if it shows your long runs on Sunday, shift the whole schedule over one day so your hard runs are on Saturday making Sunday your rest day.  Many people when they first start running start out too fast and too hard and burn out.  Using a training plan will help you stay on track so you don't get injured.
  3. Find a buddy.  Get some friends or family to do it with you.  If you have friends who already run ask them if they want to run the race with you.  The more people around you who are participating in the race the more people you have to talk to and compare war stories about training.  Many races even offer kids races on the same day for your younger kids to enjoy.  After hours of sweating together you'll bond with people in a way you didn't know you were missing!
  4. Get some basic gear.  If you can, spend the money to get a good pair of running shoes.  Remember that a good pair of running shoes will run you about $100, but is much cheaper than paying for an injury.  If you can only buy one piece of equipment THIS IS IT!  Don't just go to your local department store, you want to find a running store.  Somewhere that will watch you run (I know you feel like a dork, I'm sure they've seen worse) and has a 30 day trial/return policy.  Tell them you're new and they are usually more than happy to help you!  It is much more comfortable to run in technical (wicking) fabric than cotton.  Many places like Target or Walmart sell cheap cute stuff, but you can often also find used items at a thrift store.
  5. Be proud of your accomplishment!  When the race is over you're allowed to brag a little bit.  Don't ever say it's "just" a 5k.  You finished something that a lot of people haven't!  Wear that dorky looking race t-shirt for the rest of the day!  Every runner remembers their first 5k and will be thrilled for you.  Post that picture of you suffering mid stride on your blog (trust me, running pictures are never pretty, just get over it now).

Amy Nelson is a running mom with a cycling husband and two boys. I know I have pictures of me suffering mid-stride, but I couldn't find one to share.  So here is a picture of me dreading the suffering that is about to start.  

*Photo via ex_magician on flicker

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