Train for your first 5k ever in 21 days!
I exercised for 21 days before a friend egged me to enroll into a fun-run that was coming up in 2 days. The decision to enroll and run was made almost in no time. But with the first run behind me, I can safely say that 21-Days are enough to train for your first 5k ever!
Are you planning on running a 5k for the first time? This article will take you through my personal experience of my first 5k and what to expect on the run.
So Let’s get started.
Why did I decide to get off my ass & join the gym?
After a long hiatus of having a no conscious/regular exercise routine for almost 6 months, I decided to put my body into one (a regular routine), earlier in the August of 2017. This year has been a hectic year. From putting in long work days at office, to pursuing various activities in my personal life, the body had started to feel the stress until July this year.
A bloated stomach or lots of acidity coupled up with an irritated mental frame of mind and a general feeling of tiredness was almost a daily thing. This was the time when I realized the immediate need to work the body out on a regular basis.
Sedentary lifestyle & sitting on computers 8 hours a day gifted me Acidity, A bloated stomach & a constant feeling of irritatedness
Probably this is when I realized that our body is like a machine. Without regular maintenance (exercise and nutrition), each organ pretty much rusts due to lowered circulation of fresh blood & that’s where dis-ease sets in.
So then after a careful evaluation of fitness clubs in the vicinity, I decided to join MultiFit, A cross-functional fitness studio and gym to get into a routine.
Since the gym was just 5 minutes away from my residence, I decided to choose it right away.
If your needs are similar & are wishing to get into a regular fitness routine yourself, it helps immensely to have the gym very close by at least till the point you get addicted to exercise itself.
Talking about cross-functional fitness, it is basically using your own body weight to exercise it. So, an exercise could be a group of 2 different activities that include 15 push-ups & 100 skips using the jump rope. So, while the wide stance push-ups train your chest and arms, the skips help you get mobility to your feet and train your legs.
MultiFit offered instructor led high-intensity interval training (HIIT) batches through the day. While they did have a regular gym too with weights as well, their HIIT batches are a big hit, I realize now.
What is cross-functional / HIIT training & how can it help you?
There is a lot of content about High-Intensity Interval Training programs online. But to quickly describe, in short, it is an intense 45-minute activity which promises to burn almost 10 calories in a minute. Your instructor could take 4 groups of exercises in a 45-minute slot with each group containing 3-4 exercises repeated over three cycles. It is through these cycles that the body is trained to go through high-intensity training. When done right, by the end of a 45-minute cycle, you come out of the fitness studio refreshed & feeling energized.
Here’s an image from Fix.com, that talks about the benefits of HIIT quickly:
However, a word of caution here – It is important to take a critical stock of your own fitness levels. For example – If you have been diagnosed with a hyper tension or ailments of the heart, have come out of a surgery just recently, have painful knees or issues with the back, Cross Functional training should not be done without a doctor’s certificate. The training does involve a few jerky movements which might not be suitable for some of the conditions mentioned above.
So, A decision to join MultiFit basically meant, that I make a mental effort to reach the fitness studio & the trainer’s commands do the rest of the job. It seemed easy to get into a fitness routine again.
My workout spanned over 6 days every week –
Monday was the Legs day
Tuesday was the Butt Kicker
Wednesday was to train the upper body
Thursday was a Tabata (full body/core workout)
Friday was a session of Yoga at the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute in Pune
Saturday was a military training
I worked out for 6 days in a week, with Sunday reserved generally as a rest day or for a long walk or a moderate run on the hills close to my home in Pune.
Should you follow dietary restrictions?
While I did not follow a specific diet chart at all, I was generally conscious about what was being consumed.
To help you take control of nutrition, here are a few quick guidelines –
- Cut the quantity of alcohol by half or as lower as you can.
- Avoid refined sugar in all kinds of preparations.
- Focus on eating more of vegetables and fruits.
- If you work out in the early morning’s, try not to have a lot of food the night before.
- Make sure you get a good 6-7-hour sleep.
Over a period of 3 weeks that I worked out, I felt that the metabolism had revved back up, I was feeling energized & the legs were feeling stronger than before. As I look back now, I realize that the training program was focused on exercises pertaining to the lower body quite a bit. That probably made the legs feel stronger. However, a quick note to self would also be that in the days to come, I need to start training the other muscle groups consciously using weights too.
So then, after a 21-day workout, when my friend egged me to register for a run that was coming up on a Sunday, it was easy to decide that it was worth a shot. I registered for the 5k category & that was about it.
A day before the race, I tried to rest my legs by not doing any major work out & before going to bed, I had a carbohydrate heavy meal to help me through the next morning on the run.
What can you expect on the day of the race?
On the day of the race, we assembled at the starting point at around 5:30 AM in the morning. The sun was yet to come up, but the starting point was laced with a few 100 runners in their running attire and their bib pinned to their chest.
The sheer enthusiasm of so many running participants, perhaps made it easy to comprehend that I would be running too.
While the organizers were waiting for more participants to join in, We met up with a few other runners in the group and then I realized quickly that there were many participants who were running a 5k for the first time.
Now each marathon event consists of the following stages –
- Phase-I: Participants assemble for the run at the starting point
- Phase-II: Organizers conduct a Technical Meeting
- Phase-III: The organizers generally conduct a 5-minute warm-up for the participants
- Phase-IV: The race is flagged off
- Phase-V: A presentation ceremony is conducted to celebrate the winners
What is a Technical Meeting?
The Technical Meeting is the part where your organizers will cover on the route map you would be running on, points where their volunteers will be standing with water for you, the RFID tags if you have a timing chip on your bib and do a general check on participant health.
Generally, the 5k runners do not have a timing chip. For 10k and above, your bib will have a timing chip attached to it. This chip picks up your lap timing when you run through a pair of two RFID poles. The timing is important so that when you keep running, you have a point of reference you can keep bettering upon.
You can download the Runkeeper app to keep a track of distance and time
If you are running your first 5k & still want to keep a track of your time, there are many apps you can download on your phone. I generally use the RunKeeper to keep a track.
The organizers conducted the technical meeting for us & within minutes we were on the track, running!
It’s easier to conquer over the run when you divide the maximum distance by the kilometer. So, a 5k is one kilometer over 5 laps.
I could eventually cover the 5k within 41 minutes approximately. Or in other words, I covered a kilometer every 7-10 minutes on an average.
The run itself is not daunting; What makes it challenging is the mind that keeps on chattering about the distance itself. It helps to prepare on how to conquer over this mind.
Use Music to keep a track of time and distance
Since most of the people love to listen in to music, here’s a quick hack – Load your player with songs & remember the songs that play after every 8 minutes. That is how you would be able to track a kilometer. While the music will keep you going, the mind will unconsciously keep a track on the goal and keep egging you further.
Follow the rhythm of your breath to track progress on the race
The other hack is – Once you get into the rhythm of running itself, you may observe your breath. The breath has a rhythm of its own. If you can identify this pattern, the idea is to keep following this pattern and not really worry about the end goal itself.
Do not run your fastest on your first race. Pace yourself well.
A common mistake that runners running their first 5k ever could make – They might decide to run fast right from the word Go! When you run fast, the heart needs to make more effort to pump more blood and since oxygen is rare when you are running, you might tire much earlier than you would have.
So, the goal of running your first 5k ever should be simply to run at a decent pace, which is essentially your pace & target to complete the race itself.
Other experienced runners might breeze past you on the course, but that is fine. The idea is to be completely focused on your running pattern, the breath’s rhythm and the music playing in the ears itself.
The track that was chosen for this 5k run had an elevation of 110 m. While this did not really make too much sense when the organizers called it out during the technical meeting, it struck me like a bolt of lightning when we were running.
About 250 meters into the run, the incline began and rather than being a gradual incline, it was almost a 50-degree incline. We were required to gain that altitude and then run down the hill towards the next station on the way.
If you have an elevation on your 5k route too, I recommend to quickly assess whether the incline is gradual or steep when it begins. On gradual inclines, the strategy should be to go to your lowest running pace. For steep inclines, I recommend you climb up walking briskly than running itself and preserve your energy for later.
The second recommendation is that when you are running downhill, pace your run well. Do not run too fast that you might injure your knees directly.
The essence of completing your first 5k run lies in this quote – “The body achieves what the mind believes”. So, if you can conquer over the mind itself, then training for your first 5k run should be very easy. It’s more about finding your own hacks to conquer the mind while running with an attempt to complete the race than winning.
Completing the run has its own highs! You get a medal for completion of the run itself. This medal can egg you further to train better & achieve even more.
For myself, I have set a target of getting 9 more medals across 5k and 10k categories over this year.
That’s about it! In a nutshell, 21 days are enough to run your first 5k ever. With some training and hacks to conquer the chattering mind, the finish line is closer than you expected. All the best!