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Sharp Health News

Running your first race

Oct. 7, 2021

People running a marathon

You did it — you signed up for your first-ever running race. Whether you are inspired to run a 5K, 10K or longer, Stewart Sanders, physical therapist and director of Sharp Rees-Stealy’s Running Clinic, shares these four tips to help you prepare to run the distance with confidence.

  1. Have a plan
    Before you hit the pavement, begin by creating a plan. Follow a weekly training program for the appropriate race length. You should make sure you work on strengthening and flexibility exercises during training as well. By having a good base of strength and mobility, you will help prevent injury during your training. Allow for the appropriate amount of rest in between running days and make sure to get good sleep at night.

  2. Set goals
    Make realistic goals for your race and training. Expect some muscle fatigue and soreness the day after a run. Any acute or sharp bouts of pain may be a sign that you are overdoing it. Using ice for several minutes on painful spots can reduce pain and inflammation.

  3. Take it easy the week before the race
    During the race week, keep your running somewhat light as to not tire out your muscles as you approach your event. Focus on being well-rested in the days leading up to the race. Make sure to get a good night’s rest for at least two nights prior to the race.

  4. Stay focused on race day
    Having jitters before a race is common, so focus on ways to keep yourself calm and relaxed. On race day, eat something that has high energy and is easily digestible. Plan to eat about 2 hours prior to the race. Give yourself plenty of time to get to the venue without stress. You should lightly warm up about 20 to 25 minutes before the race. After your race, gently stretch your muscles and replenish calories with carbohydrates and protein.

“Keep things positive,” says Sanders. “Training can be challenging but enjoy the experience leading up to your first race.”

He adds, “Remember to breathe and let go of any comparisons to other runners. You are training to run the race that you want to run. Capitalize on the post-race high and look to sign up for another race within a week or so. Enjoy the process, and congratulations on your first race.”

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