Participating in running races gives you a method for tracking your progress. You can compare times from beginning to end of summer and see how much you improved. Plus you get to be outside and enjoy the excitement of crossing the finish line. 

It doesn’t matter if you’re in fantastic shape and want to push yourself or if you are a beginner who wants to make finishing a 5k the first goal they achieve.  A 5k offers something for everyone.  The distance is short enough so beginners won’t be intimidated. Seasoned runners and athletes can sign up expecting to maintain a high level of intensity throughout the entire run and get a fantastic cardio workout. Either way it’s a fantastic summer event to add to your workout routine…Try it!

To prepare for a race you should incorporate both training runs and cross-training into your routine.  During running workouts, you can compare distance and time for each week, incorporate indoor and outdoor runs, sprints, hills, and distance runs.  In addition to running, strength training, core strength, and other forms of cardio will improve your performance when race day arrives.  When it’s time to strength train, remember to work the entire body as opposed to focusing only on your legs.  Upper body, lower body, and core muscle groups work together throughout the running motion, so training the entire body will be more effective in improving your performance.

I found two studies that talked about strength training and running being used together in a training program. In the first study, it was found that explosive strength training improved the 5K time endurance athletes [1].  Explosive training can be defined as performing the eccentric (lowering) portion of a movement at normal speed and the concentric (raising) portion rapidly and forcefully as possible.  This type of training increases the nervous systems ability to fire the muscles at higher rates of speed and allows you to generate more force and in turn will assist with your ability to turn the legs over at a faster rate of speed throughout the running movement.

 

The second study indicated that endurance athletes could benefit from strength training if they were doing certain activities that required fast-twitch muscle fibers [2].  These studies were done on trained endurance athletes and indicated some positive correlations between strength training and running, depending on the distance. Most athletes will  benefit from strength training as a cross-training activity to improve 5K time [1], although endurance runners who run 4-6 days per week may not see notable improvement in running performance for longer races [2].

If you have just signed up for one of your first races or you haven’t raced in a long time, you definitely want to start training runs at least 4 weeks before race day (for a 5K). If the race you’ve chosen is a longer than 5K, plan on training at least 8 weeks prior to the race.  Before you start training, design a training program that includes various types of running and regular strength training.  Beginners should start with basic and controlled strength movements before moving on to explosive training.

References

1. Leena Paavolainen1, Keijo Häkkinen2, Ismo Hämäläinen1, Ari Nummela1, and Heikki Rusko <em>Journal of Applied Physiology Vol. 86, Issue 5, 1527-1533, May 1999</em> Explosive-strength training improves 5-km running time by improving running economy and muscle power

2. R. C. Hickson, B. A. Dvorak, E. M. Gorostiaga, T. T. Kurowski, and C. Foster

J Appl Physiol, Nov 1988; 65: 2285 – 2290 Potential for strength and endurance training to amplify endurance performance