[By Lucy Chua]
The First Step
If you’re starting from zero, any first steps, no matter how few, are steps to a healthier, happier you. Regular aerobic exercise will not only help you lose weight and improve cardiovascular health, it will also help reduce stress, boost your energy levels and instill a sense of overall well-being.
Before beginning an exercise program, you should always check with your doctor. “You want to make sure you don’t have any health issues when you start,” cautions Dr Chua Han Boon, a physician and avid marathoner. “Knowing you’ve ruled out potential medical problems will help you start with confidence”.
Overcoming mental hurdles
Often fears about being too out of shape or too slow–is the hardest part of getting started, says triathlete and running coach Mike Chee. “When I first meet with participants in my beginners running class, I always ask the group, ‘Who’s afraid they’ll be the slowest?’ Inevitably, half of them raise their hands. My response is, “You can’t all be right, and who cares if you are?” I find this exercise helps beginners to see that others are just as self-conscious as they are and that they share the same doubts about whether they can become actual runners.
Mental hurdles can be more overwhelming than physical ones. Chee says many women new to running are discouraged by preconceived notions of what a runner should look like. They feel they could never be a runner because they don’t fit the stereotype. “Not everyone is super fit,” explains Chee. “Runners come from all walks of life, sizes, shapes and colors.” Oprah Winfrey, for example, inspired thousands of women after she finished her first marathon.
If you have doubts, stand along the sidelines of any local 5K and observe the wide range of women who participate. You’ll see teenagers and grandmothers, women from sizes petite to plus.
Having a support system
Running with a friend, member of your family or being part of a running group can make training less daunting and ultimately more rewarding. Chee explains: “People find motivation in groups; you’re there to reach your goal and help others get through it.” Adding that making a commitment to a group also makes you feel more accountable to your goal.
Your 5K Training Plan
The following training plan will prepare beginners to finish a 5K comfortably. Perform the workouts three times each week, with at least a day of rest between workouts. Be sure to begin each workout with a brisk five-minute warm-up walk.
Week 1: Walk 20 to 30 minutes.
Week 2: Alternate walking 3 minutes with running 30 to 60 seconds for a total of 20 to 25 minutes.
Week 3: Alternate walking 2 minutes with running 1 minute for 24 to 30 minutes total.
Week 4: Walk 1.5 minutes, run 1.5 minutes; walk 3 minutes, run 3 minutes. Repeat three times for 27 minutes total.
Week 5: Run 3 minutes, walk 1.5 minutes; run 5 minutes, walk 2.5 minutes; run 3 minutes, walk 1.5 minutes; run 5 minutes, walk 1.5 minutes; run 5 minutes, walk 2 minutes–for 30 minutes total.
Week 6: Two days this week, alternate running 5 minutes and walking 3 minutes for 30 minutes total. On day three, run 8 minutes and walk 5 minutes twice for 26 minutes total.
Week 7: On day one, run 5 minutes, walk 3 minutes, run 8 minutes, walk 3 minutes, run 5 minutes–for 24 minutes total. On days two and three, run 10 minutes, walk 3, run 10 for 23 total.
Week 8: Run 25 minutes.
Week 9: Run 28 minutes.
Week 10: On day one, run 30 minutes. On day two, run 31. On day three, run 5K.