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Set a good pace when going from couch to 5K

By Ryan Kaczmarski

I started this summer with a goal of competing in, and finishing, the annual Classic at Mastick 5K cross country race. I have covered the event over the last few years, and I thought it would be fun to get out there and run with all of the local cross country teams and the other competitors. I only completed half of that goal, as I succumbed to a knee injury 1.5 miles into the race.

This story was going to be how a man over the age of 40 – who has not run in a race since his days at Olmsted Falls High School in the late 1980s – could start training, and in two months, compete in his first 5K. Now, this story will reflect on what I did wrong in my training, and how someone who is (somewhat) out of shape can get back into a routine of exercise and healthier living.

To give you a little background on me, I am in my early 40s, have just become a father for the first time and have a slight love of Netflix. Being a first-time parent at this age, I started to think of how will I be able to play with my son when he starts walking, and running around? I figured it’s not too late to get back into shape, so I signed up for the “Classic” and figured I had no choice but to do it.

I figured that the race is just over 3 miles, so I should just start running 3 miles, track my times and start to lower that time. Boy, was I wrong.

I (WSS) sought out someone who could tell me the right way to train, and I found him right in Bay Village. Rick Bement (RB) is not only a local legend in the sport of distance running – placing third in the half-mile at the OHSAA state track and field meet for Olmsted Falls High School in 1999, finishing 11th in the 1,500-meter run at the Division II NCAA track and field championships in 2004, while running for Ashland University, and going on to a successful road-racing career after college (winning several 5K’s, 10K’s and half- and full-marathons) – he also manages the specialty running store Second Sole, in Rocky River. He knows his stuff, whether you are talking about training regiment, using the proper equipment or just how to pace oneself – both mentally and physically.

WSS – What should I have done instead of just going out and running three miles as many times as I could before race day?

RB – You really should do a lot of cross-training, with swimming, biking and walking to go along with the running. You may have done too much at first. In running, I think a lot of people say, “I have to get into shape yesterday.” So, they do too much at first and don’t really progress as much as they should. They just jump into it and get hurt. I usually say that you should start with a modest goal, and every two weeks, increase your mileage by 10 percent.

WSS – With someone going from not doing any kind of strenuous exercise in years, to wanting to compete, how do you get the right start?

RB – You should start with just training three days a week. In your off days, do nothing. In the three days, do a fartlek (which means “speed play” in Swedish, which is a training method that blends continuous training with interval training). With that, you will do three minutes of easy work, then three minutes of hard running and keep interchanging that as a walk-jog for your first couple of weeks of training (three days a week). Then you should just gradually start progressing from there, 10 percent every two weeks. You can always cross-train in-between those workouts, also – get in the pool or get on the bike – then just keep building upon that. Once you get to the point where you can run two and a half miles, running that 5K will be easy.

WSS – I noticed that when the race started, I was out there running as fast as I can, trying to keep up with the younger and more experienced runners, and was sucking wind after just 1 mile. How do you learn to pace yourself during the race?

RB – It’s hard not to get swallowed up by the atmosphere and the field of all the other runners at the Classic. The adrenaline is pumping and you feel comfortable at the start – even though you are going way too fast. It’s easy to do that. Just one half mile into the race, your lactic acid is starting to build up in your blood stream, and all of a sudden you’re out of breath. Try not to keep up with the runners who are more experienced, and sometimes 25 years younger than you.

WSS – I did all of my training on concrete or asphalt. The race was on grass and gravel. How could I have prevented losing my footing and hurting my knee, eventually preventing me from finishing the race?

RB – In a race like that, with all of the high school runners, it goes out pretty fast and it’s hard to see your footing. There are so many people in that race (about 650) that you can’t really see around you. In the future, you should try to train in the Cleveland Metroparks and run on the bridle-trails. They’re a lot softer (than roads) and it won’t beat you up as much. It’s just injury prevention, that way. Also, the right footwear, obviously, and I know you probably covered your bases there.

WSS – Talking about correct footwear, how do you choose the right shoes to run in, especially with hundreds of choices out in the market?

RB – Go to a specialty shop and have them look at your foot structure and your mechanics. Tell them your injury history. That’s a big factor, too, in what type of shoe you should run in.

 

 

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