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Fitness the Fun Way

Thinking of trying a 5K this spring? The training is something most people can do, says Jennifer Newman, director of Lake Regional Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation.

“The goals are personal,” she says. “For most 5K runners, success is not about being the fastest runner out there but about accomplishing something that makes them proud. A lot of times, people do their first 5K just so they can say they have done one, and then they get hooked.”

Why Try a 5K?

For people who want to get fit, 5K training is a good strategy for several reasons, Newman says. A big one is motivation.

“Sometimes it’s helpful to have a specific goal, like a scheduled race, rather than a general goal of getting fit,” she says. “A 5K can be trained for in eight to 12 weeks. Most people do better with a definitive deadline.”

Another benefit of 5K training is that it eases people into fitness.

“Training usually starts with a combination of walking and running,” Newman says. “The first running interval can be as low as 15 seconds. People will look at the week one schedule and think, ‘I can do 15 seconds.’”

And although running and walking are simple ways to exercise, they deliver important physical benefits.

“Running and walking use large muscle groups and get your heart rate up into the calorie-burning zone,” Newman says. “Also, the weight-bearing element can benefit bones and joints, and the balance required builds core strength and can help prevent falls.”

People also like the social aspect of 5K training.

“Working out with friends adds to the motivation and makes training fun,” Newman says.

Have a Plan

The key to successful 5K training is to have a plan and follow it, Newman says.

“A 5K is an endurance race and is something you should build up to slowly with clear, preset goals,” she says. “A training plan is important to keep you from doing too much, too fast and risking injuries.”

Various plans can be found online or via apps, and there’s no single training plan that works for everyone.

“A basic plan might start with 15 seconds of running alternated with 45 seconds of walking,” Newman says. “That pattern continues for 30 minutes. Then as the weeks go on, the time spent running slowly increases as the time spent walking decreases.”

All plans should include a warm up and cool down for each training session.

“To warm up, walk or do exercises such as jumping jacks, as well as some gentle stretching,” Newman says. “To cool down, end with walking and again do some stretches.”

It’s also a good idea to add strength and flexibility training as separate workouts. Strength training builds muscle that helps support the bones and also helps with speed and endurance. Flexibility training helps keep bodies limber and increases freedom of movement.

Feel Good

5K participants don’t to have wait until finishing the event to feel good about their accomplishments.

“I encourage people to look for little victories to celebrate throughout their training,” Newman says. “Those victories might come in faster times or longer distances or they might come just in feeling better and wanting to be more active. There are lots of reasons to feel proud.”

This article originally appeared in the March/April 2017 issue of Lake Lifestyles Magazine.

Join the Fun!

Lake Regional’s 10th Annual Fun Run/Walk is Saturday, May 6. Register here.