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Running Your First 5K? Try These Tips

Westlake physician and marathoner Dr. Jeff Galvin offers advice to those interested in running across the finish line for the first time this year.

As humans, we’re built to run, right?

You figure our ancestors once had to run for safety to escape predators, catch game, deliver messages or get help in an emergency. Being able to run must have been a critical component of staying alive.

Nowadays people rarely need to run. That is unless you’re a police officer, soldier, firefighter, medical professional or in a position where you are required to leap into action to serve, protect or mend at a moment’s notice.

But more and more people want to run. Thousands – maybe even millions – of people take up the pursuit of running each year. They do it to lose weight, improve their fitness, get that runner’s high, and sometimes just to prove that voice in their head wrong that tries to convince them they have no business running. Ever.

Regardless of how you come to the decision to pick up the pace, there is no denying that running is an excellent aerobic exercise that burns a ton of calories, conditions the heart and gets the blood pumping, and strengthen muscles and bones.

Dr. Jeff Galvin, who specializes in internal medicine and is one of four physicians practicing at , which opened this Monday on Center Ridge Road. Galvin, who underwent back surgery on Christmas Eve 2001, said he started running to rehab and to drop some of the extra weight he had gained following the surgery. He ran his first marathon on Halloween 2010 about 45 pounds lighter. He plans to do two more marathons this season.

With nine years of running under his arches, Galvin, who lives in Westlake with his family, offers the following tips to beginners.

Invest in the right gear

Good training shoes and workout clothes with fabrics that wick moisture away from the body are important for all runners, especially for those whose bodies will have to learn to adjust to the pounding, impact and sweat that comes along with the sport.

“You don’t want to run in cotton … because when you get really sweaty, it just holds that moisture against you and when it’s cold out you can actually do yourself harm,” he said, adding that running any distance in soaked clothing can lead to chafing.

The proper footwear is critical for running as pain-free as possible. Galvin recommends getting fitted for the first pair at shop that specializes in running such as Second Sole in Rocky River.

“Rather than going to a store and picking the pretty shoe off the wall, you want to work with someone who knows how you run, how much you run, and what you are training for,” he said.

Once you have a solid pair of shoes. Keep track of your miles. The general rule of thumb is that shoes should be replaced after logging 350 to 400 running miles.

Other recommendations: wear reflective gear if you’re going to run in the early morning or late at night; and if you run alone, consider investing in a hydration belt that can hold a cell phone or ordering a Road ID, which is a Velcro strap that you wear that has pertinent personal and medical information in case you get hit, pass out or fall while you out on a run.

Train like a turtle: slow and steady

When you start a running program, you want to start slow with your pace and never increase your total mileage by more than 10 percent in a week.

Galvin said it’s also important to stretch out the calf muscles and the muscles in the front of the leg, especially when you are an outdoor runner pounding on the pavement. 

“If you’ve got the slightest bit of pain when you are done running, ice,” he said. “Freeze packs are great to just lay those on the sore spots.  One good 15- to 20-minute icing after a long run and that’s usually all you need.”

He also suggests making use of websites, mapmyrun.com to route a run through your city or around your neighborhood, and active.com to find local running groups.

“Running with a group is always fun and it makes it a lot easier,” he said. “So try and enlist other people to run with you just for the camaraderie plus you are less likely to quit when you are out on a run with other people.”

Fill out that entry form, and submit it

Nothing motivates quite like signing up for a race – a term used to describe everything from a non-competitive 5K charity run all the way to the prestigious races that require qualifying time such as the Boston Marathon, which Galvin will run April 18.

“When you know a race is coming up, you don’t want to just go out and survive. If you have any competitive juices, you want to get out there and put up a good time,” he said. “If you really know any sick runners then it’s always about your PR, or personal record. Can you take your time lower? Those are the kinds of things that drive you as a runner.”

Galvin was ecstatic by the size of some of the people who were headed across the finish line at a recent race.

“It’s the Biggest Loser mentality that’s out there right now that basically says it doesn’t matter how big you are, you can do this. You can go give it a shot, work your way up to it and you can finish a race,” he said. “The people on the Biggest Loser, my God, they run a marathon at the end of the show.  If they can run a marathon, you can run two miles or three miles or five miles.

“There is something very empowering to crossing a finish line, you’re not setting a world record and everybody knows that, but you did it, you committed to it,” he said. “Crossing finish lines is a riot.”

Susan Ruiz Patton March 29, 2011 at 07:41 PM
I'm actually starting to train to run my first 5K and these tips were very helpful. Never knew the thing about cotton clothes. Thanks Chrissy!
Marie Cauley March 30, 2011 at 04:42 PM
This is also very helpful to me while I'm in the training process. There is so much to learn about running...thank you! :o)
Brandon Frye April 24, 2013 at 11:52 PM
I love the last pointer. Sign up and you will get serious about training. This is so true. I talked my mother into signing up for a 5k back in March. Once we were registered, she got very serious. She did fine, although she fought with her negative inner dialogue for a few weeks leading up to the race. Luckily, we signed up for the Color Run which is a fun theme-based run. There's a lot of these sort of runs going on nowadays. Look up theme-based runs in your area to see what's available. These races are great for getting people to run that wouldn't normally get off of the couch. The Color Run is just one of them but you can read my full review of it here: http://www.forkstofeet.com/2013/04/the-race-of-colors-color-run.html It can be intimidating for a beginner to run in a competitive race. Try a "fun run" of some sort for your first and you may find it more enjoyable. They usually don't even time these types of races.

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