Thursday, May 21, 2015

Couch to 5K—Month Three Tips and Tricks

You have made it to month three of your Couch to 5K training, and that is truly something to celebrate! If you are interested in running your first 5K but have never run before, complete month one (Tips for Starting Out) and month two (Your Second Month of Training) before advancing to the plan below. Consult with your primary care physician before beginning any exercise program because your health and safety are the most important elements of any exercise regimen.

In month three of your Couch to 5K preparations, you will focus on more running, more cross-training and how to run in non-flat race situations. You will test your skills to see how far you’ve come, hone in on healthier decisions, hydrate frequently and start to get excited: Your first 5K is only a month away (If you haven’t signed up for the GBMC Father’s Day 5K, register now!).
Tips to help you power through Month 3:

At least once per week, perform some kind of cross-training (for ideas, see Exercises for a Fitter New Year).

Spend time at least twice per week just stretching, helping your muscles release tension, creating lean muscle mass and improving your recovery now that you have increased the amount of running you’re completing.

At least once per week for all of month three, run on a non-flat surface. If you have been running on a treadmill or track up to this point, terrain changes might come as a little bit of a shock. Most 5K courses are not perfectly flat and knowing how to handle the ups and downs of the route will help you enjoy the experience from start to finish.

  • If you need to slow your pace, do so. There is no point in using up all of your energy on a hill in the first mile when you know you still have two miles to go.  
  • Focus on lifting your knees in front of you, high-knee style. While this sounds silly, lifting your knees shifts your body’s center of balance making hill-tackling less energy sapping.
  • Breathe more frequently. Running on hilly paths taxes your cardiovascular system. Take one breath every two to three steps to keep your body oxygenated and moving forward. 
  • Take smaller steps. In addition to keeping your knees up and in front of you, decrease the length of your stride if you’re finding the hill to be challenging. This will help you cover the same amount of ground with less physical work. 
  • On the way down the hill, “stride it out.” In runner’s speak, that means taking longer steps as you descend. Keep your chest back to balance your body and let your legs stretch out as you run down the decline. This gives those muscles that worked so hard on the incline the ability to loosen up for the rest of your run.

Month 3 Training - Weeks 1 & 2

  • After warming up, start out at a light jog for five minutes.
  • Walk briskly for one minute.
  • Repeat four times for a total of 24 minutes.
  • Run for the last six minutes. 
  • Walk for one to two minutes to lower your heart rate.
  • This should be repeated 2-3 times each week.
  • Stretch out after your exercise session. 

Month 3 Training - Weeks 3 & 4

  • After warming up, start out at a light jog and run for at least ten minutes. 
  • If you feel strong, proceed with running. If necessary, slow to a brisk walk for one minute, then resume running for several minutes. 
  • Alternate one minute of walking with several minutes of running until you’ve completed about 30 minutes of exercise.
  • These sessions should be repeated 2-3 times per week. 
  • Stretch out after each exercise session.
If you have yet to sign up for the Father’s Day 5K benefiting GBMC’s NICU, visit for information and to register. And stay tuned for the last installment, “Tips for Your First 5K,” coming in June. See you at the race!

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