You took the fitness plunge in January and it stuck. You’ve got a regular Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday date with squats and pushups. You like walking on the treadmill with Netflix a couple of times a week too. Your body is stronger and the weight is slowly but steadily coming off. Better still, you LIKE this feeling. You get excited to work out. Who knew that would happen?
With a confidence you’ve never felt before, you think you might be ready to take on a new challenge. Every fall your daughters’ school has a 5K. You’ve never been brave enough to even walk it before. This year your heart says RUN IT.
Of course you should! Training for a 5K is a great fall goal. Late spring or early summer is the perfect time to start training, provided you’ve been building a base of strength first. I never suggest people start their fitness journey with running because the body needs preparation to take on the high impact forces. However, if you’ve been in a workout routine for 3-6 months, you’re body should be ready to giving jogging a try.
I often recommend a few specific exercises for new runners to add to their routine. These can be beneficial for experienced runners too. (You would be surprised how many runners forget to cross train!). Here’s a throwback video of three of these strength-training exercises for new runners from an Ozarks Today segment I did.
- Calf raises: These are best off a step or stair to increase the range of motion. Rise up on toes by squeezing your calf muscles then lower down past the edge of the step or stair. Enjoy the stretch while you’re there with a 2-3 second hold. Raise back to start and repeat.
- Lateral lunges: You never know when you might need to make a quick move to the side to avoid some road kill or a shattered bottle in the road. This is why good lateral movement is important. For lateral lunges, start standing with feet together. Take a step to the side, bending the moving knee to push your hips back and down. Don’t kick your hip out, instead making sure to sit back and keep hip, knee and toe in line. Make sure to keep the weight in your heels, your knee behind your toes and the stationary leg straight. Push through your heel to return to the starting position. Do all your repetitions on one side before switching sides and repeating.
- Stability Bridge Hold: Isometric exercises are a great way to work on core stability. This exercise really targets the deep muscles that support the spine as well as the glutes. Start on the ground laying face up with both feet on top of a stability ball. Squeeze your glutes and lift your body off the ground, keeping your legs straight and feet on the ball. Hold for as long as you can, working up to one minute.
To round out your strength training for running routine add these two exercises for upper body and core.
- Row to Fly: Good posture is key to good running form. This exercise will help keep your shoulders and back tall and strong. Start standing with a dumbbell in each hand. Hinge forward at the hips, with a flat back and soft knees, looking down at the ground in front of you. Row first by squeezing your shoulder blades to pull the dumbbells back, keeping the elbows close to the body. Straighten your arms to return to the start position. Then raise your arms to side with slightly bent elbows to create a T with the upper body. Return to start position and repeated alternating the two movements for the desired number of repetitions.
- Walkout (plus push-up): This exercise works the core, arms and chest while giving your hamstrings a nice stretch. Start in a standing position with hands up by your shoulders. Bend forward by hinging at your waist to touch the ground in front of your toes, with only a slight bend in your knees. (No squat!) Walk your hands forward until your body is straight and parallel to the ground in plank/push up position. If you’re ready for a challenge, add a push-up at the bottom of the movement before walking hands back and returning to a standing position. Repeat for desired repetitions.
These moves make a great circuit that can be repeated 3-4 times, resting 1-2 minutes in between circuits, for 8-12 repetitions (expect for your Stability Ball Bridge hold).
Couch to 5K programs get all the love but I often recommend the American Running Association’s 12 Week Walk/Run program for new runners. It progresses at a more even pace while the C25K often make a big leap mid-program that came sometimes intimidate new runners.
You’ve built a base, now it’s time to try something new. The challenge is what brings the change. However, I also know that running isn’t for everyone. The best thing is if you try it and don’t like it, you never have to do it again!