1. Plan ahead
“If you only have a month before race day and have yet to start training, you won't be able to run your best possible time, but you can still get round in one piece with a smile on your face and a sprint for the finish,” encourages Sam Murphy, running coach and author of Real Women Run. “Mark the date on your calendar and commit to a realistic number of training sessions – ideally two or three – until then. The night before a planned session, lay your kit, shoes, watch and drink out so you have no excuses for stalling. And, if you need extra motivation, write yourself a note saying ‘just go!’ You will feel better afterwards.”
2. Take it easy
“If you’re new to running and class yourself as relatively inactive, then approach the next four weeks’ training with caution,” warns outdoor fitness expert Rob Jones. “Take it easy and ease your body into running by starting gently; don’t push yourself too far, as you’ll risk injury.”
3. Walk and run
“If you rarely run or haven’t before, the smartest approach to both training and the race itself is to run/walk – essentially running for a short periods of time (anywhere between 30 seconds and three minutes, depending on your fitness) then walking until you feel recovered enough to run again,” reveals Jones. It’s a great way to build up speed and stamina without getting completely out of breath or exhausted.
4. Pop out for a run in your lunch hour
Scheduling your training sessions in your lunch hour won’t interfere with your day. “Aim to complete a 15-minute run or run/walk session in your lunch hour; that way, you’ll have time to freshen up and eat a sandwich before getting back to work,” says personal trainer Anna Ferguson.
5. Run when you have the most energy
“It’s pointless planning runs for first-thing in the morning if you’re not naturally an early riser, as you’ll be too tired to get out of bed, let alone put one foot in front of the other,” Ferguson says. “So run when you’re most alert; now the evenings are lighter, you could go for a run after work, which will give you a great excuse to leave the office on time and, as the days gradually get longer so can your runs.”
6. Add brisk long walks to your training
According to Jones, “adding 45- to 60-minute brisk walks into your training will help build the physical condition of your lower body, boost cardiovascular fitness and help improve energy levels – all important to help you finish a 5k.” Try completing at least one long brisk walk a week; weekends are usually best, so gather your family and head outdoors to work up an appetite for Sunday lunch.
7. Use peer power
Swap girls’ nights out for evenings spent with your mates trotting on treadmills or round the park. “Training with running buddies who share your fitness goal is a great motivator and an excellent way to keep exercise from slipping off the agenda,” says Jones. Keep talking while you’re running to encourage one another and check you can still hold a conversation; if you’re struggling to breathe and talk, you need to slow down the pace.
8. Distract yourself
Training on your own? No problem. “Chatting to people is a great way to distract yourself from the pain of pounding the pavements but there are lots of other ways you can take your mind off it,” Ferguson says. “Count lampposts, listen to music, focus on the scenery or take your dog along – anything to take your focus away from the clock.” Podcasts and audiobooks are also a great motivator.
9. Play the long game
“If you feel utterly breathless during training runs and shattered every time you finish, don’t let that get you down and don’t be frustrated at your fitness level. Instead, set your sights a little further and use the 5k as practice for another event two to three months in the future,” suggests Jones, adding, “treat the race as a training springboard to improve your running fitness for the next big challenge – keep that exercise momentum going!”
10. Squeeze in some strengthening exercises
When time is of the essence, Murphy suggests throwing some strength exercises into your daily routine: squat while you wait for the kettle to boil, do calf-raises while you’re on the phone and walking lunges in the TV ad breaks. “These strengthen your legs for running and reduce the risk of injury.” Good luck!
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