Thanksgiving is one of the most popular days for 5k's and similar race events all year. It seems like every town and organization has some sort of "Turkey Trot" to raise money for a charity or just to get people out of the house before the big feast. There are literally hundreds of races scheduled for the next two weeks in the SoCal area alone! And why not? Signing up for a Thanksgiving 5k is a great excuse to get a workout in on this foodcentric holiday :)
If you are planning on running your first 5k this Thanksgiving here are some quick training tips to make sure you are prepared... both physically and mentally for your big race!
A 5k is 5 kilometers or 3.1 miles. If you have any running experience you've probably already ran this distance before and just weren't thinking about it ;) The biggest challenge to completing a 5k, or any other race for that matter is getting out there and going for it. There are far more people that sign up for a race that freak themselves out and don't show up than there are people who start and are unable to finish. You won't be running for very long, even a slow finishing time is typically far less than 45 minutes. You can do this!
This guide is structured for someone starting today (Nov. 15) to prep for a race on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 24). If your race is farther out start training early by repeating the steps for Today through Tuesday starting a few weeks out from your race date :)
You are going to start off by running a 5k! Sound backwards? Maybe a little bit, but you need to have something to shoot for. Map out a route of 3.1 miles. You can use your car to gauge the distance or just map out a route on the internet, it can be 1.5 miles out and back or just a big loop. Set your stopwatch and go out at a slow easy pace. The goal with this first run is a) to show yourself that you can manage this distance and b) set a reasonable base time to gauge your progress. If you start feeling too tired... slow down. Try to avoid walking though... even if you feel like it would be the same speed :P
Get your body in running condition. This means going out every day for however long you can fit in... 30 to 45 minutes is what we recommend. You can take a watch to keep track of the time, but don't focus too much on distance or speed. The goal now is to get your body used to the motions and breathing patterns so they are second nature on race day.
By now you should have had four good running days in a row. Time for a break. Take Saturday off and focus on eating clean and staying hydrated. If you still want to workout on this day do some light weight training or yoga.
Go for a long run. Speed and distance aren't important here but try to keep going for an hour. If you start getting tired slow your pace, but try to avoid going all the way down to a walk. The goal with this run is to get yourself used to running much further than you actually will have to go for your race. This will make the 5k distance seem much more manageable and allow you to cover the shorter distance of your race at a faster speed.
Back to a regular day. 30-45 minutes at a comfortable pace.
Run 5k only today. Try to do it quickly at 3/4 race pace. With the run today look back at the first time you recorded for yourself and try to beat it. Don't go too hard though... you don't want to burn yourself out. Since speed wasn't the goal with that first timed run you should be able to beat your time without too much effort. Record the new time from this run to give yourself a new faster pace to shoot for on race day.
The Day Before
Eat plenty of clean carbs in the morning the day before the race. Throughout the day drink plenty of water and eat lean protein to ensure that you are properly hydrated and that your muscles are fueled.
For excercise today do some yoga and go for a light easy jog... 30 minutes max. Stay loose without over doing it.
Get a good nights sleep!
Wake up early and eat some light breakfast with water (no coffee) stretch and go for a walk... nothing to long just a few minutes to get your blood flowing. Make sure you go to the bathroom before you leave for the race. Having extra food and liquid in your system can cause you to cramp and slow you down and there may be long lines or untidy facilities at the race site.
Get to the race early. Showing up late can stress you out and cut into preparation time.
As soon as you get to the location sign in and make sure you know where you are supposed to be right away. There are often crowds and getting the formalities out of the way as soon as possible will make your experience way less complicated and hurried.
Once you've signed in find a clear location off to the side near the starting point and stretch again. Slow your breathing and focus your thoughts.
Keep in mind the time you got on that last 5k run. Your goal with this race should be to beat this time. With lot's of other runner's in the field it's easy to get distracted and burn yourself out too early by trying to keep up with the speed of the pack. If you focus on you and running your best you might just find yourself passing a lot of the fast starters by the end of the race.
Stay as relaxed as possible. You're running... and it is a race, but try to avoid tensing your body up too much. Clenched fists don't help anyone run faster, but they do restrict blood flow and take attention away from the muscles that you really need to be using. The same thing goes for breathing. Try to keep it steady and even as possible. Breathe through your nose instead of your mouth as it uses less energy.
Finish Strong! Whether your going for first place or near the back of the pack find the person in front of you 100 yards out and try to beat them to the finish line. This is the hardest part of the race, but if you catch someone at the end you'll know your training has paid off :)
YOU DID IT!!!!
Document your achievement :) Record the time you get so you have a goal for your next 5k. Take some pictures at the finish line and share them with your Tone It Up Team!!!
What race are you running this Turkey Day? Let us know in the comments.
*Note: This is a beginners guide to running a 5k. If you are an experienced runner or have run distance races before these tips may not be relevant. Stick with what works for you. As with any physical activity we recommend that you consult a physician before competing in or training for a 5k or any other race.
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