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10 Steps to Finish Your First 5K

If you’re new to running, a 5K race — that’s 3.1 miles — may sound daunting. But with the right training, you can conquer the course. Use these 10 tips from Lakshmi Nandiwada, M.D., a pediatrician with K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital, to move from taking your first step to crossing the finish line.

FIND YOUR ROUTE

It’s best to run on a rubber track or dirt path, but if you don’t have either nearby, don’t fret. A route that’s clear, smooth and relatively soft will keep you safe from injuries.

TREAT YOUR FEET

Before you can hit the ground running, be sure to get the right gear. You’ll need a proper pair of running shoes that fit your feet comfortably. If you want help picking the best pair of shoes for your feet, visit a specialty running store. And don’t forget about socks. Get a pair that wicks moisture to keep your feet dry and protected from blisters.

START SLOW

Find a training program that gradually adds intensity. If you’re a walker, start by jogging for two minutes and then walking five minutes, aiming for a total of 20 minutes. Slowly increase the time you spend running until you’re jogging for a full 20 to 30 minutes. “Take it easy and don’t increase your time or mileage by more than 10 percent each week,” advises Dr. Nandiwada.

FIND BALANCE

You don’t need to be hitting the pavement your hardest every day. Running too much increases your risk for injury. “Switch up the distance and pace of your running routine to keep it fresh and safe,” suggests Dr. Nandiwada. “Balance longer and harder runs with shorter, easier training days.”

CROSS-TRAIN

If you think you need to run every day, think again. In fact, doing 20 to 30 minutes of other aerobic activities on days you don’t run can build your endurance. Just be sure to leave yourself at least one or two rest days a week so you don’t run your body ragged.

BRING A BUDDY

Take your kids along for some company and extra motivation. Just remember that the same rules apply. Kids should start slowly and increase gradually. Children ages 5 and older may be able to join you for jogs of a mile or less. And older kids ages 8 to 12 may be ready for more formal training programs.

LEARN THE COURSE

The big day is almost here! For your best race day, get familiar with the course. Run, walk or drive along the path and get to know its twists and turns.

FUEL UP

Before you head out for your 5K, eat a light carbohydrate snack. And don’t forget to drink plenty of water before and during the race.

PACE YOURSELF

“Although a 5K is a race, your goal shouldn’t be to go as fast as you can — it's to cross the finish line,” says Dr. Nandiwada. “Keep to your training pace and you’ll hit that goal without any problems."

KEEP MOVING

You officially finished your first 5K! But don’t come to a dead stop. Walking through the corral will help your body cool down and will prevent a backup of people.

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