With the harsh winter finally drawing to a close, many people are eager to venture outdoors to begin training for local 5K and half-marathon races this spring. While setting such fitness goals offers significant health and wellness benefits, there are some things you should keep in mind before hitting the pavement.
First, it’s important to visit your primary care doctor prior to training – even if you are just planning to walk your first race. This is recommended especially if you have not exercised regularly or if you’re new to jogging or running. Your doctor may want to do a physical exam and will have some good advice for you, such as how to get started and suggestions to help avoid injury.
Devise a basic training plan. Good programs can be found online, in running magazines or through running clubs and coaches. Be sure to start early enough to properly train for your first event. If you’re participating in a 5K, for example, allow two to three months for training prior to the race.
As you progress through your training plan, remember it’s best not to increase your miles by more than 10 percent a week. Be careful not to over train. Some doctors suggest checking your resting heart rate each morning. If you see a significant spike in morning heart rate – from 60 to 72, for instance – you may be over training, and that’s a sign you should decrease your intensity and let your body recover. To help you stay injury free, combine your training plan with good nutrition and adequate rest.
Weather can still be a factor in March and April, so be mindful of the conditions when walking or running outside. Use common sense and only walk or run on pavement that has good traction and is free of ice and snow.
Even with a good plan, there will be days when you’re unable to train due to work and family commitments. Don’t worry if you miss a day or two. If you stay motivated, you’ll be able to get back on track without jeopardizing your goal.