Motivating your run after 5k

Lee Gregory, Senior Lecturer in Social Policy, School of Social Policy

Over the last five years or so I have helped a lot of runners get to 5k but have also seen several them go further. Some have run 10k, others a half marathon. A few have even completed a full marathon now. A few stay with the 5k having achieved their goals and don't look to take their running further. But for those who do, here are my top three tips.

As I explain to many of my 5k runners the hardest part of running is starting. Getting to that 5k from a zero or very little running base is one of the toughest things you can do. Not only do you have to get into the habit of going out and running, you’re building the new routine and your body is gradually adapting. But once you get to 5k the feeling is fantastic. The runninghabit is established and you’ll likely be wanting to go further. So here are a few tips on how to do just that.

First, your couch to 5k has a very clear goal; getting to 5k. You’ve done that, and it's amazing. So now you need to think about your next running goal. Is it to maintain 5k, build distance, perhaps you now have enough confidence to run with others and might be looking to join a running club. Whatever it is, give yourself the new goal and work out your plan to achieve it.

Second, hopefully you've already established basic stretching routines as part of your running. These can be easily found online through a quick search. Ensure that key areas are included: hamstrings, calf muscles, quad muscles but also stretches for arms/shoulders, hips and a nice back stretch. Developing a routine to stretch after a run and in between running is vital. It can help the body to adapt and therefore reduce the risk of injury. Stretching also flushes the muscles with blood and oxygen which aids recovery and can help ensure you don’t have stiff legs the next day. Stretching is an important motivator because of its preventative benefits: if you get injured and can’t run you will be surprised at how frustrating lack of running becomes. So a 10-15 minute stretch most days, but certainly after every run, is an important step to adopt.

Third, spend a bit of time maintaining the 5k distance. You don’t have to add more distance straight away. Spend some time getting really comfortable with your current abilities. This won’t take long. But a few weeks of building this new baseline for your running will really pay off. Perhaps try some new routes to vary your 5k. Not only will that keep the mind happy but it will also offer new challenges in running different gradients and routes. But you will also get a sense of how long it takes you to usually run a 5k. This time is important for the next step.

So three tips for building beyond 5k: stretch, maintain 5k and then gradually build up. You will need to (and should already be) stretch(ing) often. But when it comes to weekly running, in your two or three runs a week, designate one as your distance builder for now and the others as your 5k maintenance runs. Before you know it there will be just the one 5k as your other runs get longer.


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