So you signed up for your first 5K. Or your first 5K since Friends was part of Thursday night t.v. You weren't going to do it, but someone applied peer pressure the way Dolly Parton applies makeup and you crumbled like you were in middle school and everyone said it was cool to peg your acid washed jeans.*
The race is in a month and you’re putting off all of the things you should be doing. Like, I don’t know, running. Or working out at all.
I’m not here to tell you that you won’t have to run. I mean you did sign up for a 5K. But I’m also here to make a few suggestions about some other exercises you can be doing to help prepare for the run.
1. Soft tissue work and warm up
Do your foam rolling. Do it! Eat your vegetables and do your foam rolling. If you don't have a foam roller, use your Tiger Stick. (Or use a rolling pin. Just maybe don't tell your spouse). I've posted before on the benefits of foam rolling, and I realize that it can be tough to plop down on a roller before a race (hence the tiger stick). But using the roller to get the main muscles in your leg before a run can help get the blood flowing.
And don't forget about your upper body. Many runners tend to hunch over and tense up the shoulders during the run, so using a lacrosse ball or baseball to get into the shoulder areas can be very helpful before and after the run.
After you do your soft tissue work, doing a dynamic warm up. In other words, do more than a few arm circles and cursory quad stretches. Deep squats, 90/90 hip shifts, rocking ankle mobs, hip flexor stretch, t-spine rotations are a few good ones to start.
2. Do some form drills and strengthen the glutes
We've all seen the video of Phoebe from Friends running. And I don't know what it says about me that I managed to make two references to "Friends" in the same post...
What are your glutes anyway? Well, there are three gluteal muscles that form our butt.
- The gluteus minimus, (the smallest), is situated immediately beneath the gluteus medius.
- The gluteus medius is a broad, thick, radiating muscle, situated on the outer surface of the pelvis.
- The gluteus maximus, the largest and most visual of the three. It makes up a large portion of the shape and appearance of the hips. It’s also the largest muscle in your body.
Weak glute muscles can lead to a host of injuries, including the dreaded runner's knee. Glute strength helps to provide stability in the lower leg. And trust me, that's a good thing.
Spend some time focusing on technique. Below are two exercises that can be very helpful in working the glutes and forcing you to concentrate on leg drive especially. No you're not planning to sprint in this 5K, until the very end when you want to catch that one dude that you KNOW you can beat.
A strong butt can also help support proper trunk posture during the run, which leads me to point number three.
3. Don't neglect your core
Pretty much every post I write on everything comes back to having a strong core. A strong core can pretty much stop a zombie apocalypse, make a short person taller, and help you leap buildings in a single bound. It can help with balance, posture, speed, endurance...a strong core is pretty much the unspoken key to happiness.
Do your core work. And no, that's not a butt-ton of sit ups. It's some stuff like this:
Last but not least, you should actually get some runs in. Build up slowly - if you're not currently running, start slowly. Follow a format of walking/jogging/walking/jogging. Choose a landmark in the distance and run to that landmark. Walk for a minute and repeat. Keep in mind that you will be ready to run from a cardiovascular standpoint sooner than your joints will be ready. So resist the urge to go from 0 miles a week to 30 miles per week.
Listen to your body. Don't be like me and run on a stress fracture for a month. If something starts causing you pain stop running; immediately.
Your 5K will be less fun if you can't run it.
*I'm talking about me here. This is how I signed up for a 10k and a Tough Mudder Half within a few weeks of each other. Also, I did peg my jeans.