Now What?

You've Run 5k! Now What?

May 21, 2020

Don’t Go From Couch to 5k and Back to the Couch

I was asked recently if I thought there were more runners in Ottawa this spring or fewer. It’s a great question. With no Race Weekend and associated goals, I’m guessing some people found it hard to get out the door to put in the miles. But, at the same time, exercise options are limited and running is one of the most accessible activities you can do as all you need are shoes. My online fitness classes have featured a number of new runners and I’ve enjoyed answering their many questions after class. Now that we’re in June, I’ve heard one question a number of times: I’ve made it to 5k. Now what should I do? Here’s my answer.

If you savour your time out there putting one foot in front of the other, enjoying nature and the moving meditation that running can be, then maybe more is a great idea. If you have time in your day then why not go a little longer, perhaps build to 10k slowly by adding 5 minutes or 500m to your long run each week.

There is a caveat to doing more, though. You are increasing the repetitive strain on your body so any structural or muscular imbalances you have will be placed under load and that increases your risk of injury. The answer is to renew your focus on functional strength training to address those weaknesses and ensure your unique running machine is strong and ready for the additional load. The sad reality is that many runners do the opposite, dropping strength training as the miles increase in order to save time.

Running lends itself perfectly to goal orientation but this advantage is also a drawback in some ways. There is an expectation within the run community that once you do a 5k you then move on to a 10k. From 10 it’s obviously on to the half and then to a full marathon. Stop the insanity! I could go on about this but I’ll leave that for another post and bring the focus back to our new runners.

Congratulations on being able to run 5k non-stop – that is amazing! Think about how far that is in a straight line. That’s from Tunney’s Pasture to the University of Ottawa and that is an accomplishment. Let’s consider for a moment that you are: a) incredibly blessed to have the health and strength to do that and, b) maybe you don’t need to run any further. If you enjoy the 5k distance and the time it takes, and if you don’t feel the need to go longer then don’t. Keep running 5k as your long run each week, keep your exertion level at conversational pace, and you’ll continue to build fitness and before you know it, that easy 5k will take you a little less time and there’s your reward right there.

My final point will rock the world of many runners and that is to reveal that the distance doesn’t have to be as much as 5k for it to qualify as a run. If you have less time or energy, why not do a 2 or 3k run? You’ll be sending some wonderful adaptive stress through your body, you’ll be burning off stress and getting some of the moving meditation we all need so much. Plus, those 2-3k outings are so easy to fit into your schedule. Short runs like that are hugely beneficial so don’t forget it.

Ok, I lied, that wasn’t my final point. Here’s one more. History has shown many a runner that summer can be a tough time to work on running goals. They’re not called the lazy, hazy days of summer for nothing. If this is your summer experience, just keep going at shorter distances and maintain a fitness base. You’ll be perfectly positioned come fall if you feel the drive to start adding a little more distance. Besides, who doesn’t want to spend more time outside surrounded by Ottawa’s autumn splendour.

If you’re a new runner, make sure to watch my running webinar.

Posted by Geordie McConnell