With the drawn-out spring storms, your running regimen may have had an equally slow start as you head toward your inaugural summer 5k. But don't sweat that you took a month or two off. Building mileage isn't a race. Rediscover your fleet feet and make an injury-free comeback with three tips from Brad Hudson, author of Run Faster From the 5k to the Marathon: How to Be Your Own Best Coach.
Gain strength. Not just in your leg muscles, either. The sure-fire way to prevent injury is by strengthening the muscles that support and protect your knees, hips, and back. Hudson suggests starting core work, plus circuit or weight training, the week you begin, if not before. Cross training is equally important. Getting on a bike or elliptical will build muscles without impact and increase your endurance for that first 5k.
Take it easy. Your first month back should be all about easy runs. The 10 percent increase is not a bad rule, but you can do a little more, if you listen to your body. Hudson's plan of attack usually starts with two or three miles, twice a week. The next week, build to running two to three times a week, and add one mile to the third run (or each run, if you feel good). Continue to build that way and add an extra run or two to your schedule until you’ve hit five times a week.
Do your drills. Hudson's not a fan of static stretching, but light drills and strides are a good way to lengthen muscles. As early as your first week back, Hudson recommends adding two 45-second stride outs at 5k pace or a couple of 8-second hill sprints after a run to keep your muscles loose while building strength. Light drills before a run can include fast feet, under-the-leg claps, and leg swings.
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