“Running is the greatest metaphor for life, because you get out of it what you put into it.”
— Oprah Winfrey
At the stroke of midnight every Dec. 31, millions of people make resolutions for the new year. Quit smoking. Unplug from social media. Volunteer. Without fail, exercise remains at the top of most people’s list of resolutions. If running your first 5K made your list this year, you’re not alone!
Perhaps your desire to take up running is because you want to get in shape, feel stronger, or set a new personal challenge. The reasons people run are varied but the goal is the same … crossing that finish line.
The best way to begin any fitness program, particularly training for your first 5K, is to speak to the experts. Heidi Langan, owner and founder of H4Fitness in Trumbull (h4fitness.com), is an RRCA (Road Runners Club of America) certified distance running coach and AFFA (Athletics and Fitness Association of America) certified group fitness/personal training coach. She has an impressive list of credentials that includes having trained hundreds of adults and children to learn running endurance, speed, and agility … but, most importantly, to develop a lifelong love of running and a healthy lifestyle.
“For me, running is so much more than the actual physical activity. It helps me with depression, helps me clear my thoughts, helps me brainstorm, helps me escape everyday stresses,” she enthuses. “If I can help somebody else achieve that, it’s the greatest reward. I’ve had runners recovering from heart attacks, double lung transplants, brain tumor survivors, cancer survivors and many others who face daily struggles.”
During the summer of 2013, Langan started a children’s running club and a women’s “Couch to 5K” group. “Over the years, this expanded to adult and children Couch to 5Ks, 10Ks and half marathon training groups,” she says.
Langan begins each training group with a base plan and modifies it as needed. “There are so many different factors that come into a daily run. Someone may not feel well, it may be raining, some days people just don’t feel like running! The biggest challenge is getting people to believe in themselves by actually showing up … If they can show up, then I can do the rest.”
One of Langan’s “Couch to 5K” participants, Allison Yao of Trumbull, shares her story: “I never had a dream to run, hated it all my life. I was going through my divorce and I weighed over 350 pounds. I was adjusting to having my kids every other week. A good friend wanted to try running but she needed a ‘push.’ I had another friend who had done a session with coach Langan and loved it. I figured that getting some exercise would be a good thing and I thought I’ll do good by giving my friend that push. The whole while, I was thinking, there’s no way this lady’s going to get me to enjoy running three miles. So I planned to run the first 5K and hang up my sneakers.”
However, Langan’s group made it fun for Yao. “On my own, I would have never achieved it,” she recounts. Runners run in cold, heat, rain, and snow. When you do that, you feel tough as nails. The camaraderie of runners is awesome. When you learn to run, you make new friends everywhere you go.”
Christina Lee of Trumbull also praises the group running dynamic. “There’s something about running that always intrigued me,” she says. “I wasn’t very athletic as a child, but I knew running was something I could physically do, and could get better at with practice. I find that training with a local running group — like Heidi’s training programs — keeps you accountable and committed towards your running goals.”
Langan’s top five tips for new runners
• There’s nothing more important than a good pair of sneakers and dress appropriately for the season when running outside.
• Trust the training.
• Drink water and lots of it … and fuel appropriately.
• Never compare your pace to anyone else’s.
• Never judge your run by the first mile … it’s always the worst!
A properly fitting pair of sneakers is the first rule. Megan Searfoss, owner of both Ridgefield Running Company (ridgefieldrunning.com) and Everywhere on main, Ridgefield (everywearonmain.com), is also the founder of Run Like a Mother 5Ks and author of See Mom Run: Every Mother’s Guide to Getting Fit and Running Her First 5K. “The success of someone’s training and, ultimately, commitment will be if they’re comfortable in their shoe,” Searfoss explains. “If the shoe hurts, there’s no incentive to put it on.”
For the race, the athlete should be wearing the shoe they trained in, according to Searfoss. “You should never run a race in a new shoe! At Ridgefield Running Company, we evaluate the athlete’s gait by walking, or running on the treadmill, video their movement and then talk to them at length about their goals, prior injuries and any other issues that might affect their movement.”
Ridgefield Running Company offers 5K training programs for beginners, half/full marathon training groups and Saturday shop runs. Run Like a Mother 5K training programs for women begin this March.
If you’re interested in learning more about 5K races in Fairfield County or throughout the state, visit these websites for details: hitekracing.com, runningintheusa.com, and getsetusa.com.