Reaching the 5k target is a huge accomplishment so congratulations on your achievement! Perhaps you’ve done a 5k race or a parkrun to mark the occasion and are still basking in the glory of success. What do you do now though? Has running become a regular part of your life that you can’t do without out or more commonly, are you still wondering what all the fuss is about and dreading putting yourself through another run? Deciding what step to take next can be tricky. It’s very easy to find yourself not running at all and quickly losing all that fitness you’ve gained. Take a few minutes to consider which way to go now. Here are some ideas and options.
Stick at 5k
You know what, it’s absolutely fine to never go further than 5k. This is a great distance to run and going further certainly isn’t on everyone’s wish list. If you like the distance and it feels far enough for you, then just stick with it. If you haven’t discovered parkrun then do have a look at the parkrun website to see where your nearest one is, they are all 5k in distance and this is a great way to keep up your motivation and help you to run regularly. Don’t feel under any pressure to increase your speed but if you want to run faster then that’s a great option for your next target. Be careful though, don’t fall into the trap of repeatedly running 5k and expecting to get faster each time; this is unlikely to happen. If you want to improve your speed, then it’s much better to do some shorter runs with intervals of faster running mixed with slower running to get your breath back. Gradually, with hard work you will find you get quicker.
Aim for 10k
I have to admit that the first 5k of any run never gets any easier for me. It always seems to take me that long to warm up and I spend most of that 5k actually thinking about the running, how out of breath I am, how it wasn’t a good idea to go for a run etc etc. It’s only once I get beyond that that my body properly adjusts and I can run and let my mind wander and the miles pass without me actually thinking about the running bit! For that reason, I would encourage you to go slower and longer and see how you feel. I think you will be surprised that beyond 5k isn’t actually as bad as you thought and you might just enjoy it! My tip would be to reduce your pace a little and make sure you are running at the ‘speed of chat’ so you are comfortable. Don’t try and go further and further each time. Just pick one run a week to be your long, slow one and gradually increase this by a mile each week. For your other runs, keep them short and add in some speed intervals (see the Stick at 5k section above) or some hill repeats. You can pick a 10k race if you want a target and follow a training plan if you need need guidance. There are some 5k to 10k apps if you need that audio boost to spur you on. There’s no need to limit your goal to 10k, aim for further if you like but this is a great target.
Use your fitness
Once you can run 5k, your fitness levels are good. Why not use that fitness to explore other activities? Knowing you can run for three miles should fill you with self-confidence, why not make the most of that and try something new? Hop on your bike, go for a swim, you could even swim, bike run and take on a triathlon; the run section of a sprint triathlon is 5k. Head for the hills and use and build your endurance with some hiking, you could try some off road running too which many people prefer to road running. Netball, dance, football, rugby, tennis – all require the basic level of fitness which you now have so think back to what you used to really enjoy as a child and go for it, there are so many adult classes and taster sessions available now. Have a look at Back to Netball and Back to Hockey for starters! You don’t have to limit yourself to running.
Improve your technique
If you’ve enjoyed your running and want to stick with it then it’s a really good idea to take some time to make sure you are running with a good technique. Running healthily will help you avoid injury and prevent joint damage but it also means you will run more efficiently which makes running easier and more fun. There are several ways you can do this. Personal running coaches can guide you and there are running technique courses online and workshops you can attend, such as one with Kinetic Revolution. Some running clubs, such as 261 Fearless focus on building good running form for female runners. Altering your running form needs expert advice so get a recommendation from another runner if you can. Don’t forget that you can do simple things at home to improve your technique such as strengthening your core muscles, so if you haven’t already added a core workout as part of your weekly fitness routine then now is the perfect time to do it.
Join a club
Many people hesitate about joining running clubs because they worry that they can’t go far or fast enough. This is rarely the case and most clubs welcome runners of all abilities and will cater for runners of 5k distance. If you’ve put it off so far then I would encourage you to be brave and go and give your local club a try. Running with others has so many benefits. You will find that your running will improve, the encouragement of others around you will push you more than you would do on your own. The social side is a bonus as you’ll make new friends and that in itself motivates you to get to club sessions. Knowing that the others are there on that dark, rainy evening will give you the push to get out of the door and the best way to improve your running is to run consistently week in and week out. You’ll also be surrounded by people who have been in your shoes and know how it feels to still be finding your running feet.
Choose an option and crack on. I’ve seen so many people work really really hard to get to 5k only to stop when they hit that target and rapidly lose all that hard earned fitness. Getting to 5k is the toughest part of running, it really is so don’t let it slide. Make some plans and get those trainers back on!
Photos: Pexels and drjulietmcgrattan.com