Training for a 5K
A 5K is a foot race which takes place over a course that is 5 kilometers, or 3.1 miles in length. The 5K is very common distance for footraces with open registration to all comers, as they are relatively short, require few amenities and staff, and create little or no intrusion into public streets, as longer distances often do. Most 5K participants are recreational runners who participate for fun, fitness, or other reasons aside from a serious bid to win the race. In terms of long distance running, the 5K is considered a short race and as such, one can successfully train for a 5K primarily or exclusively on a treadmill.
A training regimen for a 5K depends largely upon the goals of the individual runner. Someone that has never run a race before, who has the goal of participating in, and completing, a 5K could easily train only using a treadmill.
For beginning runners, building up the endurance of leg muscles as well as cardiovascular fitness is the most important part of completing a first race. Using a treadmill to do short runs, building up in distance toward 3.1 miles is an effective way for beginning runners to train.
More advanced runners that wish to run a 5K in a certain time, or attempt to win a race can also benefit from using a treadmill. A treadmill allows one to set an even pace, and increase incline or decline to mimic hills, which is a good way to train running up and down elevation. A treadmill is also useful for running distances further than 5K, in order to push fitness to a higher level, enabling an athlete to run with increased intensity over the shorter 5K distance.
Regimen for Aspiring 5k Runners
For runners who wish to use a treadmill as their primary tool for training for their first 5K, it is wise to begin training with at least two months of lead time to allow stamina to build. A four-run per week schedule is usually an effective way to train, as it leaves several gaps between workout days to allow for recovery, but keeps activity level fairly high.
For a first run, try running one mile at a comfortable pace. If you are able to make it one mile, do three more one-mile runs over the course of the first week. If not, continue attempting one-mile runs until you make it to the end. Once you have four one-mile runs under your belt, switch two of your four runs a week to 1.5 miles. After two successful 1.5 mile runs, move on to four 1.5 milers over the third week, and then add in a couple of 2 mile runs for the fourth week.
Continue this fashion, increasing run distance by half miles, so that in the fifth week you do four 2 milers, the sixth week you do two 2.5 milers and the seventh week, you do four 2.5 milers. By the eighth week, go for a full 3.1 mile run, and one shorter run a couple days before the race. By this point you will have completed your goal distance once already in training and you will have built up your stamina enough to confidently finish your first 5K.
Training for More Advanced Runners
Those who have been running a while and are already in shape to run a 5k can also use a treadmill to train for increasing the speed of their run. A four run a week schedule is still an effective way to train, but better runners will want to do a larger variety of training workouts. For one or two runs a week, running a 5K distance at either moderate or high speed will both increase one's feel for the distance, and gauge improvement over the course of training.
Committing one day to intense interval training, like three or four fast one mile runs, or 5 to 10 half mile runs is a good way to build pursuit speed. Doing one longer run of 5 to 10 miles each week is also important to build stamina to a new level, allowing the heart and lungs to bear running the shorter 5K at a quicker pace. Ending runs by turning the speed up toward a dead sprint for the last tenth to quarter mile will help acclimate the muscles to finishing strong despite fatigue. Every other week, add in a hill climb run of one to three miles with the treadmill at five to fifteen degrees of incline. This will help acclimate the legs to hill running and strength to increase top sprint speed.
Treadmill vs. Outdoor running
Running on a treadmill has numerous advantages over outdoor running. For one, using a treadmill enables a runner to train in spite of bad weather, a fact with is especially useful during cold winter months. They also allow for consistent pacing, allowing runners to run exactly as fast as they want to for a given training run. Treadmills are great for building motivation, and are especially useful for new runners, since a run can be stopped at any time. Treadmill running can also be easier on the feet and joints, since the running surface creates less shock than pavement. While treadmills have many advantages over outdoor running, serious runners should also do some of their training outdoors. Learning to deal with the extra shock from hard pavement, and the feel of the surface is important for running a fast race. Also, the affects of weather, and wind resistance are important in a real race, so getting used to them in training is essential. Many runners also believe that the stride one takes on a treadmill differs somewhat from running on a real path--that the treadmill can tend to pull the runner along--so getting to used to striding on outdoor paths will create the most efficient running motion for outdoor running.
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