"I can do it!" The Couch to 5K Syndrome

If you're out and about at all this spring, you're seeing more people walking, biking, or even (gasp) running. Many of us sort of veg out in the winter months in Michigan, waiting for the first 45 degree day to step outside and breathe (cough) some fresh air. It may even put us in the mind of more heroic undertakings. 

Every weekend will find a list of road races around the state, from 5K (5,000 meters, or 3.1 miles) to marathons (26.2 miles). There are even fun runs of a quarter mile to a mile for the younger competitors among us. If you're thinking of crawling out from under that Cheetos® bag and "doing" a 5K, first, do yourself a favor and sit back down for just a minute to think about what you're going to ask your body to do. If you're a former runner wanting to get back into it, you already know what's ahead. If you've decided it's time for a new you, here are some caveats and suggestions.

9 suggestions for beginners

  1. See a doctor. You are going to want a baseline of your current health status. Lipid profile, heart health, overall "in shapeness". If you're borderline diabetic, or you haven't run anywhere since the neighbor's dog almost got you that one time, start here.
  2. START SLOWLY! You will not become Roxanne Runner in a week. It took you a while to get into the shape you're in. It will take you some time to improve on that status.
  3. Partner up. Train with friends, but don't make it a competition. You're there to learn and burn some calories, get your muscles used to the new routine, and enjoy the outdoors. There will always those who are faster and slower.
  4. DO NOT RUN THROUGH JOINT PAIN! Minor muscle aches can be handled with over the counter meds, rest, and massage. You can permanently damage joints by over using them and not getting adequate rest between workouts.
  5. Get fitted for a good pair of running shoes. Change them out often depending on the extent of your training distance covered.
  6. There are plenty of sites that actually have reliable sofa to street plans. Careful of the sponsorship and any questionable claims like "never eat this again," or "eat these five foods to give you a flat belly in three days." Bunk is bunk.
  7. Vary your workouts. Run different distances at different intensities (you'll this info online), swim laps a couple days a week, or give your joints a rest and bike 20 miles instead of running the roads.
  8. Set reasonable goals. You will not set any land speed records in six weeks of training. That's why most runners have personal records (PRs), and not Kenyan marathoner stats.
  9. Hydrate. Water is still best, but sometimes you'll need to replace lost electrolytes.  Ask your doctor.

There. Now get out and do something good for yourself. Oh, after day one of training, your leg muscles will ask you to never do something like that again. Ignore them. They'll get with the game soon enough. And so will you. 

Enjoy your new hobby/lifestyle.