The year I turned forty I created a list of things I wanted to accomplish in the next decade. I spent thirty-nine years of my life doing what I thought other people expected of me and it was time for a change! I was ready to take control of my own narrative. The list wasn’t necessarily a Body-Positive manifesto, it was just a bunch of things that I was ready to stop being afraid of. Everything from taking tap dancing lessons, to learning to cook, to wearing lipstick every day. But the biggest out-of-the-box item for me was that I wanted to train for a 5K race.
I have never been an athletic type of girl. I mean, my sport in high school was marching band…so I knew that this would not be an easy thing to accomplish. I didn’t intend to RUN any of the race. I simply wanted to walk quickly and cross the finish line. This was NOT about a weight loss journey or even trying to get in shape. It was simply about moving to make my mind and body feel better. This was a way of giving myself positive energy and an endorphin boost. Plus, I am shamelessly motivated by shiny things, cute shirts, and free beer.
In June of that year, I started training by walking a one mile loop around my neighborhood three days a week. It wasn’t huge, but it was a start. Then, I decided on my goal race, an Oktoberfest 5K that would be held in late September. The medal was cute, the shirt was bright, and I knew the pint at the end would be cold. In an act of solidarity, my husband, who is a fluffy guy himself, signed up and began training with me. Each week, we increased our distance, until we were walking 5K at least one day, and a mile and a half two other days.
September arrived, and we were ready to go. The day of the race, we were so excited. We headed to the back of the pack and set off. I’m not going to lie… the race was hard. There was one hill on the race course that almost did us in, but we persevered and crossed the finish line. We finished almost dead last, but we did it, and that’s all we really wanted. We proudly strapped our medals around our neck and headed to the beer tent like we were champions!
The feeling of accomplishment and the way we grew closer while training, motivated us to keep training for even more. For the last two years, we have signed up for a competitive 5K race every month. We’ve walked in sleet and rain, negative temperatures and triple digit heat indices, on holidays and on vacation. We have done races where we were last in the bunch and races where we finished in the middle of the pack. And I am super excited that I am doing my first race at Walt Disney World in February. With every walk, I feel stronger and healthier. I sleep more soundly and feel less stressed. Deciding to compete in a 5K race was certainly a big step for me, but I have been so grateful for every minute of it.
Want to start a 5K training program of your own? Here’s how to get started:
- Invest in a pair of supportive shoes and cushioned socks. Making sure that your feet stay healthy is everything! I can tell you from personal experience, the blisters are no joke and take a long time to heal.
- Set small, attainable goals and work to achieve and increase them. Start with small distances and gradually take them further over time. Make sure to map your walks in a loop, so you can still make it back to your starting point without getting stuck.
- Track your progress. Find a fitness tracker app that will help you log each step. There are many fantastic free apps that will map your route and keep track of every mile. It’s really motivational to have a visual reminder of your steps increasing and your finish time decreasing!
- Find an accountability partner. Having someone who will walk with you, even if it’s just once or twice a week, will keep you motivated to be consistent. Plus, when it comes to race time, it is way more fun to have someone by your side to talk with and push you to keep up the pace.
- Get a great playlist with upbeat tempos and motivational tunes. I find that I move better and faster if I have music to pace my walk. Find songs that make you feel fierce and powerful and then crank them up!
- Start with a big race where you won’t be conspicuous walking. Sure, people walk at every race, but some races are definitely more runner focused and that can be pretty discouraging. Try starting with something like the Hot Chocolate 5K or The Color Run where there are thousands of people in attendance, many of whom are just there to have fun with friends.
- Don’t give up, even if there are adverse days. The weather can be terrible. Life gets overwhelmingly busy. You may have stretches where you don’t feel great, or even good. You may not feel like it is worth it to continue. It’s totally cool to skip a day, a week, a month even. Just don’t give up on yourself. Keep moving.
I’m not fast, or remotely competitive, but I am out there, month after month, getting stronger and having fun along the way. Some people may think that you aren’t legit by walking the whole thing, but I promise you ARE! The running community is ready for the Body-Positive revolution. Take a breath, take a chance, and get training. If I see you at a race, I will be your biggest cheerleader!