Written by Jesse Cornelius, MPT, Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center
If your New Year’s resolutions include starting a running or walking program, the Sentara Colonial Half Marathon and 5K may be the perfect goal for you to begin. With the 5k walk-run rapidly approaching on Sunday, February 24th, there is still time to prepare for success!
As an avid runner and triathlete, the most important thing I advise people who want to enter a 5k race is to actually sign up! So many people talk about entering a run-walk event, but it is only after signing up that the commitment is made to follow through with the next steps.
As a physical therapist, my advice centers around two words: Tissue Tolerance. It means your body’s ability to adapt to the increased stress of an activity program that enables you to run when you could only walk before, or run faster this month than you could last month, etc.
Tissue tolerance is also the culprit when that nagging pain evolves into an injury.
To help make your training and racing more successful, here are five tips to help you when you’re starting a running-walking program.
1) Listen to your body! Feeling tired and a little sore after exercising is normal, but if you experience pain then you should reduce your workout load. Pain indicates that you are pushing beyond your tissue tolerance. Keep it fun and pain free!
2) Develop an exercise routine and try to stick to it. Most folks need to designate a certain time that is dedicated to their activity. If you are beginning a running program, allow a day between runs for your tissues to adapt to the new stress. On your ”rest” day in-between runs, it is ok to participate in another activity such as walking, swimming, cycling, etc. During your rest day, tissues repair themselves to be stronger. If you don’t provide enough rest then you will eventually overload your tissues and set yourself up for injury.
3) Always warm up before exercising. This could be a brisk walk before running or an even slower pace for 5-10 minutes gradually working up to “your” desired workout pace. Muscles work best when they have been warmed up with a lighter exercise than your training level and are less likely to be over stressed. Do not stretch your muscles when they are “cold.” If you are tight, it is best to stretch after 10 minutes of activity or even after you have completed your session during a cool off period. Never stretch to the point of pain.
4) Good nutrition is also a fundamental ingredient to a successful training plan. Most people will not need to increase their calories when training for a 5k event unless they are underweight to begin with. However, getting proper nutrients is crucial to our body’s ability to positively adapt to stress. A focus should always be made to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains in your diet.5) Race day. Unless you’re trying to break a record (in which case you probably stopped reading this long ago!), your goal is simply to have fun. Think of races as your celebration to all of the training you have put in and the progress that you have made! Take the first 5 minutes of a race at a slower pace than you are used to running. Enjoy the moment and scenery and gradually increase your pace if you like. But remember, this is your celebration of a journey, enjoy it because you earned it!
Jesse Cornelius, MPT, Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center, has been a physical therapist for 15 years and currently manages the hospital’s five outpatient rehab clinics. He is an avid runner and triathlete and has raced in numerous events ranging from local 5k runs to the Ironman Triathlon.