5 Things to Know Before Starting Your Couch to 5K
1. Don’t forget to strength train
Many couch to 5K programs do not emphasize strength training properly. The body requires proper strength training in order to deal with the repetitive forces you will bear during your run. Studies have reported forces up to 7 times your body weight with each step taken during a run. For reference, a person who weighs 150 lbs., will create up to 1,050 lbs. worth of force that the body is required to absorb. Without proper strength training you may be putting your body at risk. We recommend a minimum of 30 minutes of strength training 2-3 days per week when preparing for a 5K.
2. Eat like a champion
You may have heard people call food, “fuel for the body.” This is exactly the case. Proper nutrition is the name of the game when you are training for a 5K. Without the right nutrients your body will not be able to perform at its peak ability. A well balance diet that contains complex carbohydrates, good fats, a lot of protein, and plenty of fruits and vegetables is best. The way to know if you are getting the right amount of carbs, fats, and proteins is to monitor your macros (macronutrients). Macronutrients are the three categories of nutrients you eat most (carb, fat, protein) and will provide you with the most energy. It is recommend to eat 50% carbs, 30% fat, and 20% protein but it’ll be useful to seek a dietitian to see what works best for you. It is also imperative to drink plenty of water while training. On non-training days we recommend ½ ounce of water per pound of body weight. On training days we recommend up to an ounce of water per pound of body weight. With all of the water going in and out of your there is also a potential for lost electrolytes so make sure to replace all of those lost vitamins and minerals with vegetables or a multivitamin. A registered dietitian can come up with a plan that is more specific for you and your goals.
3. Run for time
It’s common for new runners to make their objectives based upon distance. Although this may work out for some, we recommend to our new runners that they use time as their goal marker. Trying to push yourself to complete a certain distance can cause boredom and may cause new runners to push themselves to the point of exhaustion and injury. Thus a better solution is to start with a time goal and progressively build yourself up from there. Distance can be something you focus on later in your training.
4. Cross train
Although repetition is emphasized in any training, this can result in boredom and limitation of knowledge and muscle activation. Cross training is the act of engaging in two or more types of exercise in order to improve fitness and performance in one’s main sport or activity. This type of training can prove its importance when striving to increase your fitness level, activate additional muscles to reduce impact on joints, and stave off boredom from repetition. We recommend that one performs 1-2 low impact, cross training exercises per week such as cycling or swimming.
5. Pace yourself
Some may find themselves in a couch to 5K programs are too fast paced and have continuous progressions of distance and time running. The truth is that many new runners may take way longer to develop good running technique and skills. Sometimes there will even be a regression in your distance or time running. It is important to remember to listen to your body to avoid injury and keep you on pace to complete that 5K.