Most people will learn to run 5 km by using an 8-week or a 10-week program. There are many to choose from to please different needs and personalities. I chose a 10-week plan that ended up taking me a year and half to complete. It was a LONG journey, but I’ve completed it. Finally! Click here and here to read my previous posts retelling my learn-to-run adventures.
Let me share with you what I’ve learned. If something you’ve read here can help make your journey easier, it will make all my difficulties well worth it!
- You need to be flexible. Obviously, if my 10 week plan took way longer than 10 weeks to accomplish, I needed to be very flexible to make it work. Lots of stuff happens to derail your plans. Illnesses, injuries, family events and activities, obligations, etc. You must learn to be ok with having to change your plans every once in a while. You must come up with a plan to work around such obstacles.
- You need to fuel your body right. I learned very quickly than I can run longer with the right pre-run meals. The right foods will keep your energy levels up until the very end of your run so you can finish strong. Take the time to learn what runners typically eat before they run, how long to wait after eating before you head out and tweak it to meet your own body’s needs. Everyone is slightly different with what they can or cannot eat.
- You need the right shoes. When I started, I had what I thought to be the most awesome running shoes. Except that I was very uneducated and had no idea what I was looking for in good quality running shoes. The pair I had were heavy and made my legs feel like they were carrying bricks! You need to speak with a staff at your local athletic shoe store to get you fitted with the correct shoes. This will make a big difference, you’ll see. Now my new shoes are nice and light and I don’t feel like they’re weighing me down anymore.
- You need the right leggings. The colour doesn’t matter. The patterns and design don’t even matter. What matters is the material and the fit. Not all workout bottoms are made the same. I started running while wearing my yoga pants. Don’t do that! Because the bottoms are slightly flared, they flap against each other while running. SO annoying! Invest in proper running gear and make sure they are appropriate for the weather you will be using them in. Some are not very breathable and are too warm for summer days – you will overheat very quickly. Others are extremely breathable and too light for cool Spring runs. Some leggings have seams that irritates your skin. Take your time when selecting your gear. Look at the materials. Do a bit of research. Spontaneous purchases aren’t always a good idea here!
- You need the right apps. While you don’t technically need a phone or any apps to run, it does make things easier. My running app of choice is Runkeeper. I have tried of few others, but Runkeeper has proven to be the most useful, practical and accurate for me. You can track your runs very easily with it. It will let you know your distance, time and pace while you are running. It also has a built-in music player, which I find convenient. Another app I’ve recently started using is Podcast & Radio Addict. Listening to podcasts on this app has helped to cure my treadmill run boredom.
- You need to listen to your body. It’s good to push yourself to gain progress in your running abilities. Although we must do it cautiously. It’s perfectly normal for our bodies to feel fatigue and some muscle soreness while running. You need to learn to push through this discomfort to gain progress. Although, it is NOT normal to feel sharp pain. If this happens, you must stop. You might need to take it easy for a while. I had injured myself to the point I couldn’t walk anymore. I needed to see a physiotherapist for several weeks and stop running completely during this time. Sometimes, you’ll feel pain because your technique needs to be tweaked a bit. Sometimes it’s because you’ve pushed yourself too hard and your body needs rest. Whatever it is, make sure you listen to your body. It will tell you when it’s had enough. Seek professional help when needed.
- You need to take chances. As long as you’re taking good care of your body, and you have clearance from your doctor or therapist when injured, you should push your boundaries from time to time. I read somewhere the other day that you must “feel comfortable being uncomfortable”. We like to stay in our comfort zone and that’s not ideal in athletic training. Sometimes we don’t try something new because we don’t think we can do it. We’ve given up before even trying. How will you ever know what you can do if you don’t push yourself every once in a while? When I started my 10-week plan, I felt scared and intimidated at what will be expected of me during weeks 8, 9 and 10. I could’ve given up before getting there. But instead I chose to simply focus on where I was in the moment. Do the best that I can with today’s run. I’ll be ready for weeks 8, 9 and 10 when I get there! And I was! 🙂
- You need to sign up for a race. Once you’re at least halfway through your learn-to-run plan, register for a race. Make sure you have enough time to complete your plan before the big day though. Training for a race makes everything more serious and official. You will begin to think and behave like an athlete. You will eat like an athlete. You will make sure not to miss any of your workouts. You might even add some cross-training or weight lifting days to your week? Signing up for a race is a great motivation to push you to the end. What are you waiting for?
- You need to be cautious. What I mean by this is please be cautious while running outdoors. Especially at night or in the woods. For night-time running, please make sure you are wearing reflective material and run in well lit areas. You want to be seen by cars and other runners or walkers. If you’re running in the woods, especially by yourself, make sure you are have your cellphone on you. It’s not a bad idea to also have a whistle and/or a small bottle of pepper spray with you. You never know what or who you will meet when you’re alone and far away from the safety of a crowd. Don’t take unnecessary risks with your personal safety.
- You need to be proud of your accomplishments. Sometimes, we make huge progress. Sometimes, we make baby steps towards progress. Whatever the size of your steps, it is still progress. Be proud of what you’ve accomplished. You are working hard. Keep your focus on your achievements. It’s easy to fall prey to negative thinking and let it get you down. Don’t allow such talk as “I can’t do this”, “I’m so slow” or even “I’m not a real runner”. You CAN do this. You may be slow, but at least you’re moving! And of course you’re a runner. You’re running, aren’t you? The title of “runner” isn’t exclusive to the ones who win races. So guard your thoughts because they are important in ensuring your success. Positive thoughts = positive results!