Growing up as a runner, people always thought I was a little crazy for spending my free time running around in circles. (They're ovals, by the way.) Isn't running every sport's punishment? That may be the case, but there is nothing more motivating, or will get you in shape faster than signing up for a local race. Here's why...
Once you sign up for a local road race, there is no going back. You paid the entrance fee and there is no refund. With race day looming in the back of your mind, it's much harder to skip a workout. "Running a race is also a great way to see where your fitness is and help motivate you," John Honerkamp, a New York Road Runners coach, told us. "It's a lot easier to know where you're going when you know where you are."
To get in the necessary training before race day, you have to put in the necessary mileage. But the great thing about running a 3.1 mile race, unlike a marathon, is that a little bit of training can go a long way. "A new runner can get in shape for a 5K in as little as eight to ten weeks," Lauren Laroche, manager of New York Running Company and group leader of the Upper East Side running club, says. "The key is to take at most one day off at a time. If you're busy, even running just one mile a day is better than nothing." This also means the pounds will melt off faster.
We always have good intentions to give back, but at the end of the day, it's always still on the to-do list. Some of the most popular road races give back to charities through their proceeds, killing two birds with one stone. Fight hunger by running the Fighting Hunger 5K in Cincinnati or the Toronto Waterfront 5K to raise money for Team Fox, Michael J. Fox's organization for Parkinson's research, among hundreds of others each year.
Peer pressure gets a bad rap. There is no better way to get a good workout in than through a support system that "pressures" you to do your best. A great way to get that support is through a local running club. To find a club in your area, check out Meetup.com for local listings. "There is also an ever-growing social media 'running community' where you can find fellow running geeks, enthusiasts and critics," said Honerkamp. "These communities provide learning, coaching, motivation, race results, racing and running tips, all of which can enhance your running experience."
If the idea of running a 5k seems a little mundane, there are new races popping up that make an adventure-seeker out of all of us. There are relay races, such as the Ragnar Relay in Huntington Beach, CA, where you run as a team and obstacle races, such as the Spartan Race with races across the country, that is exactly how it sounds. You run through a fire pit, crawl through barbed wire and balance on boards. That may not be the best adventure for a first time runner. One to real ly get you moving are the newly popular zombie infested obstacle course 5Ks.