On my way to a 5K
I figured that since I just moved into a new condo building complete with a gym—on the same floor and about 10 feet from my front door—now's the time to get serious about getting into shape. And when I mentioned to my editor that I'd like to use the awesome 5K training guide for beginners—"From Exam Room to Starting Line in Just Eight Weeks"— that we posted on the Veterinary Economics Web site in March, we decided to post updates of my progress on the site, too. And I'm hoping that publicly recording my trials and tribulations will give me some accountability. Gulp. If I don't train, I don't have anything to blog about and there goes my job.
So I picked a 5K event to run in about eight weeks, benefiting the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America. (The race is appropriately titled Guts and Glory.) And I consulted with Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Dr. Ernest E. Ward Jr. Here are some things he wants me to think about before I get started (and a recipe for a super-healthy smoothie he shared):
Congratulations on your decision to do a 5K. The only difference between a "jogger" and a "runner" is an entry blank. I'd be more than willing to help you along the way.
Here are a few things to consider when starting:
1. How do you rate your current fitness level? Do you feel winded if you run at a moderate pace for five minutes?
2. Do you have comfortable running shoes, socks, shirt, and shorts? Sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses are also necessary this time of year. These workouts are relatively short so you shouldn't require additional fluids unless you sweat a lot. Make sure your shoes are relatively new—less than six months old with fewer than 300 miles on them. Don't forget a good sports bra.
3. Do you have a safe place to run? The roads outside your house are ideal since accessibility is key. Map out a one- to two-mile loop that you feel comfortable with and note landmarks every half mile or so.
4. Don't forget to warm up. I incorporated this into the workouts but it's a good idea to allow for a few extra minutes before and after for stretching, warming up, and cooling down. I recommend light stretching before and after each activity. Be sure to stretch and hold for no more than 20 seconds (10 to 20 seconds is ideal). Avoid bouncing when you're performing stretches. Focus on your hamstrings, Achilles tendon, and groin and back muscles.
5. Try not to eat 30 to 60 minutes before a workout. These sessions can be performed first thing in the morning before breakfast or before dinner. Be sure to drink water before you work out. Keep a water bottle at your bedside and drink if you wake during the night and when you're getting ready in the mornings. Be sure not to order an extra waffle just because you're hungry after a workout! Many people will gain weight when training for an event because they overestimate their caloric expenditures.
6. When is your 5K and what are the expected conditions? Hot, humid, hilly, flat, crowded, or small?
Day 1: June 17
Treadmill and new running shoes? Check. iPod? Check. Water bottle? Check.
No longer able to delay my training due to a lack of proper running accessories, today's the day. I hopped on the treadmill this morning and followed Dr. Ward's plan to the letter: a five-minute warm-up walk, then alternating 60 seconds of jogging with 90 seconds of brisk walking for 20 minutes. What looked easy on paper is harder than I thought it was going to be.
My body didn't really want to move and felt like it was fighting against me. I felt sluggish and slow. Man, was I out of shape. Day one was a reality check for my body. I pushed through it, though, and finished the workout as planned. The TV stationed in front of the treadmill kept me entertained. And all the well-meaning people in my office constantly asking me, "Have you started running yet?" kept me moving.
I've noticed an increase in my appetite, as Dr. Ward noted would happen. I'm trying to be mindful of it and not eat too much. It's a nice affirmation that I'm working hard and that my body is burning off a lot of energy. On off days when I'm not jogging, I continue to train on the elliptical machine so that I can keep moving. I've also found that I prefer working out in the morning before work. My cat is already nudging me out of bed because she wants breakfast at 6 a.m., so I might as well make those few extra steps to the gym and get the training done first thing. It's also nice to have my evenings free after work.
As week one wraps up, I've noticed the training is becoming easier. Of course, just as it becomes bearable I'm ready to start week two—which turns the training up a notch.