No matter your fitness level, the decision to participate in an organized run or walk, such as the Medical Mutual Polar Paws and Santa Claws Holiday 5K at the Toledo Zoo, is a great first step toward getting into shape.
“The best way to prepare for a race is through a regular training program,” says Cindy Ballog, Manager of Health Promotion and Wellness at Medical Mutual. “The consistency of a training program will give you the ability and confidence to complete a 5K run or walk this winter or spring.”
Ballog suggests a training period of several weeks so you can gradually increase endurance by combining walking and running for longer periods of time and distance until reaching your race goal.
Here are a few other tips to help you prepare for race day.
If the shoe fits…
Make sure you have appropriate shoes that will provide comfort and prevent injury. Look for comfort and support. Find a shoe store with experts who can analyze your gait and foot strike. The right professional will be able to determine if the bones of your foot rotate inward and to what degree. They also can determine your foot type by checking your arch height and observing your gait as you walk.
Keep these tricks in mind when shoe shopping:
Shop in the late afternoon when your feet will be at their largest since they will expand while running or walking.
Take your old running shoes with you to the store. This will aid the salesperson in determining your foot strike.
Wear the socks you plan to use when running.
If you have orthotics, take them with you so you can see how they will fit with your new shoes.
Try both shoes on your feet at the same time and take a “test drive” walk around the store or even around the block. Remember, they should be comfortable the first time you wear them.
Once you have the appropriate shoes, you can safely start a walking or running training program. However, if you have any health concerns, check with your healthcare provider before starting your training program.
Start out slow using a walk/run plan. At first, you will walk more than run, but you will gradually decrease walking time and increase running time until you are running for the full duration of the workout.
Start with a goal of 20 minutes of training. Alternate walking for three minutes and running for one minute until you reach 20 minutes. As you begin to feel more energized during each workout, increase your total training time.
Work your way up to at least 45 minutes of training time. Continue decreasing the amount of walk time while increasing the amount of run time. Soon you will be running for the full duration of the workout and well on your way to your first 5K.
Check your benefits
Don’t let the cold weather or snow prevent you from training. You can use indoor walking tracks and treadmills to get in shape. Ballog says some insurers, including Medical Mutual, offer discounted fitness memberships as well as spa and other wellness products as part of individual and group insurance plans.
Medicare-eligible senior athletes can take advantage of plans like MedMutual Advantage that offer health and wellness benefits like SilverSneakers® at no additional cost. These benefits include discounts and rewards on programs and activities to help improve your health and quality of life.
“Investing time in advance to learn about equipment, training, and available health plan programs can make healthy activities like walking and running more fun and rewarding,” Ballog adds.
For information and to enter the Medical Mutual Polar Paws and Santa Claws Holiday 5K, Sunday, December 15, or next May’s annual Dart Frog Dash, visit the Toledo Zoo website at www.toledozoo.org/polarpaws. ❦