Of course, we all know how to run. But for those contemplating their first 5K or 10K race this year, or even those who want to take their fitness walking up to the next level, there are a few good tidbits to keep in mind. (Click here for our post on best marathons for beginners.)
1) Running Creates Impact - You will awaken muscles, joints, bones and arteries, that have been under-utilized for years. Your knees, quads, glutes, and especially achilles may be sore and tight during and after run workouts. When I first started running at the age of 25, it was after three years of law school and four years of college with very little athletic activity and no running. I suffered for months through a bout of "shin splints", then painful achilles and soleus (muscle that stretches from behind knee to back of ankle) conditions, then a sore knee. I assumed that I simply had "bad knees" and certain biological conditions that prevented me from running pain free. Wrong! Fortunately, I toughed it out and after a year or so of regular running, all of my problems disappeared. My legs were not permanently deficient in some way to prevent me from running pain free, it just takes a long time for these parts of your body to become conditioned to running. Even more so if you are overweight. This "leg-building" period is one of the reasons why #2 below is VERY important.
2) Be a Tortoise not a Hare - Your running fast days will come sooner if you ease into a regular running regimen. Like good-tasting barbecue, your legs and cardio system need to marinate for a while in this more active lifestyle before they become prize winners. Schedule your run workouts every third day during your first month of training. Then, go every other day for the next month. Then, do 2 days on and 1 day off for another month and you're on your way...
3) Keep it simple - When starting to run, avoid getting lost in the details of specific training workouts, intervals, etc. Just lace up the shoes and go. Your pace should be relaxed, easy, and conversational for the first month because, again, this initial period is more for your legs than your heart. Don't even worry about distance...run according to time. So, for your first run, try to hold a steady pace for 10 minutes. If you cannot, go as long as you can and then walk fast the rest of the time. Next time out do 11 minutes...next time 12, etc. By the end of your first month you should be doing around 20 minutes and ready for the every-other-day workouts.
4) No water nor nutrition needed - Hydration is important, but lately I think people have taken it too far. I've seen runners wearing hydration belts in 5K and 10K races--completely unnecessary, as are water stations in a 5K. Your body does not need fluid replenishment during workouts less than 30 minutes. And, unless, it is ridiculously hot and humid, your body will not need replenishment even for workouts lasting an hour. Drink when you return home and you will be fine.