RFYL Weekly: How to prepare for your first 5K or 10K

This Saturday, the Run for Your Life team will meet in Central Park at 8:00 am in front of the Band Shell, located on the 72nd Street Transverse. For those using public transportation, take the #6 train to 68th Street & Hunter College, then walk over to 72nd Street and 5th Avenue. Once you enter the park, walk straight ahead until you reach the roadway, then bear left onto the 72nd Street Transverse. All participants must follow CDC guidelines by wearing a face mask and maintaining a 6-foot distance during workout sessions.

Please don’t forget to join me for our 15th Annual “Run for Your Life” 5K run this September to raise awareness about addiction, homelessness, and mental illness. If you would like to join me and a small group of Odyssey House clients for this fun run on Randall’s Island, meet us next Saturday, September 12th at 7:45 am in front of the George Rosenfeld Center for Recovery (13 Hell Gate Circle, New York, NY 10035). Water, Gatorade, and a place to secure personal property will be provided. Click here to register.

Follow these steps to prepare for your first 5K or 10K.

By Jennifer Van Allen and Hailey Middlebrook

Fuel smart. Don’t eat anything heavy within two hours of the race. While different meals work for different runners, as a general rule of thumb, your meal should contain mostly carbs, a little protein, and a limited amount of fiber and fat. Here are a few tried-and-true prerace meals: a toasted bagel with peanut butter and a banana; an energy bar with a cup of fruit; or oatmeal topped with berries and a handful of nuts.

Start slow, and stay even. Run the first 10 percent of the race slower than you normally would, with the idea that you’ll finish strong. Don’t try to “bank” time by going out faster than your goal pace. If you do that, you risk burning out early. Try to keep an even pace throughout the race, and save your extra energy for the final stretch to the finish.

After the Race

Keep moving. Get your medal and keep walking for at least 10 minutes to fend off stiffness and gradually bring your heart rate back to its resting state. Be sure to do some post-race recovery stretches to stretch out your legs, back, and hips.

Refuel. There are usually snacks at the finish line, but what the race provides may not sit well with you (especially if it’s, say, barbecue sandwiches, as one Runner’s World editor ate at a post-race party and paid the price for later). To recover quickly, pack a snack—or ask your cheer squad to have one waiting for you—with a combination of protein and carbs to rebuild muscles and restock your energy stores, like a Clif bar. Consume it within a half-hour of finishing the race.

Get warm. Change into fresh, dry clothes as soon as possible. After you cross the finish line, your core temperature will start to drop fast, and keeping sweaty clothes on will make you cold and also tighten up your muscles, possibly leading to more soreness later.

Shake out the next day. As sore as you might feel the day after the race, it’s important to move the next day, as doing so will increase circulation to your muscles and help you bounce back sooner. If a slow jog is too much, try a non-impact activity such as swimming, cycling, or working out on the elliptical. Just keep the effort level easy.

Adapted from Runner’s World

Coach Andre’s tip:

Experience is always going to be the best teacher in most cases because even when we know better, we tend to still want to do things our way. Often what ends up happening is we fall short of our expectations. My very first race was enlightening for me because I started out running way too fast and about a quarter-mile into the race, I ran out of steam. It was after the race that I realized that I didn’t need to come in first to be a winner.

Whether it’s your first race or 45th, just remember to smile whenever you pass by someone taking photos and to breathe with a sense of confidence because you are a winner the moment you cross that finish line, and no one can take that experience away from you!