How to Train for Your First 5K

Featured Article,Weight Loss
April 25, 2011

Top tips for beginning runners.

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Spry editor Lisa Delaney is one of the rare souls who know what it’s like to be an “after.” This journalist and author of Secrets of a Former Fat Girl shed 70 pounds—and six dress sizes—and has kept it off for 20 years. She answers your questions here each week.

QUESTION: I am a Former Fat Girl too. Four years, ago, I weighed 321 pounds. Today, I am a very exciting 135 pounds. While I was losing weight, I did not have a regular exercise program, and now I can see why it would have been good for me to have one. I want to run at least one 5K race before the end of this year, but I don’t have the strength in my legs to do it. Right now, a mile on my treadmill totally exhausts me. I know if I can conquer my weight loss, I know there’s a way to do this. Help! — Amy

DEAR AMY: Very exciting indeed! Wow. You’re less than half the woman you used to be! What an amazing accomplishment. And it’s great that you’re continuing to challenge yourself in healthy ways. Running was one of the ways I managed to lose my 70 pounds, and it’s done so much for me mentally and physically that I’m happy to help you love it as much as I do.

Running is a combination of strength and endurance, and I think you need to work on both. A basic strength training program for upper and lower body (because upper body strength does help propel you forward as you’re running) is key. I would do a program that includes leg extensions, calf raises, squats and/or lunges at twice a week. Include a short warmup of 5-10 minutes walking at a moderate pace.

Then, three times a week, try a walk-run program to build your running endurance. I’m a big fan of running coach Jeff Galloway’s method of training (so much so that I’ve mentioned him in this column before!). The linchpin of his program are the “walk breaks” he includes during training runs until you’ve built up enough strength and endurance to run the distance completely. For instance, you may run three minutes/walk 1 minute, for a total of 30 minutes one day. His site, JeffGalloway.com, features training programs for several distances, including a 5K. On the days when you’re not working out, either rest completely or walk leisurely. You obviously have the willpower and persistence to work hard, so I know you can reach your running goal! Go, girl!

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