Special Reports

With these steps, get on your way to a 5K

It may feel like an oven outside, but on any given evening, walkers and runners are still out on the streets. With one of Middle Georgia’s largest road races approaching in two months, many of them have started training programs to get ready for the event.

Have you always wanted to do a 5k — either walk it or run it — but never thought you could? Don’t know where to start or how to prepare? Thanks to a partnership between The Telegraph, Macon Tracks Running Club and the Cantrell Center in Warner Robins, you will now have the tools you need to get moving.

During a brainstorming session about The Telegraph’s fitness project, “Tighten Your Belt,” it was clear that Telegraph staffers wanted to do more than simply write about the benefits of getting fit.

“We wanted to offer readers very specific ways to participate in activities and events that would help them set and achieve goals,” said Sherrie Marshall, executive editor at The Telegraph.

“Newspapers pride themselves on keeping an arms-length distance from their subjects, but our fitness project was conceived as a more personal venture.

“We really want to see people eat better, exercise more, change bad habits. ... If we can provide a variety of ways for people to get moving, that’s a step in the right direction.”

Macon Tracks members wanted to create a fitness program to get people moving. According to F.M. Barron, a member of the Tracks board of directors, the club is “committed to the encouragement of physical fitness, including running and other forms of physical activity.”

Barron contacted Jason Barker, director of wellness at the Cantrell Center for Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine, about where to find a good “couch to 5k” program to offer folks interested in running the 34th annual Macon Labor Day Road Race.

As organizers of the Labor Day race, Tracks members said the program is an opportunity to give new exercisers a goal to work toward.

“Having the race as a goal at the end of the training will help the new runner or walker stay focused and meet the intermediate steps of the program,” Barron said.

As it turned out, Barker had created a similar exercise program for participants in the road race sponsored every year by the Cantrell Center, and agreed to donate the program to Macon Tracks.

Barker, who has a degree in exercise physiology and is a certified personal trainer, said he went into the fitness profession because he “wants to make a difference in people’s lives,” and that creating this program is something that he hopes will spur a life-long love of exercise in those who give it a try.

“I want it to be fun. Something people do not only for the 5k, but that they’ll keep doing into the future,” Barker said.

Barron emphasized that the Labor Day event is for people of all fitness levels.

With that in mind, Barker also offered up a program for people who would rather walk the 5k than run it.

“Many people view the Labor Day Road Race as something that is only for experienced or advanced runners, but runners and walkers of all abilities and ages have enjoyed it for many years,” said Barron.

What’s the “couch to 5k” program all about, and how do you know if it’s right for you?

The run plan begins with much more walking than running, and is designed to progress slowly.

Over time, you’ll run more and walk less. Don’t skip any of the workouts or weeks of the program.

Even if you think you can do more, hold back. This will prevent doing too much too soon and getting injured.

“I made the first week extremely easy, to where those who’ve never exercised can get up off the couch and do it,” Barker said.

He added that if during that first week of the run program you experience any serious knee or hip pain, then it may be a good idea to switch to the walking program.

Barker’s biggest tip for new runners or walkers: Get new shoes designed specifically for running or walking.

And remember, it’s an oven out there, so drink plenty of water!

Eight-week running plan, week 1

Note: Begin each workout with a five minute warm-up walk and conclude with a five minute cool-down walk.

Monday: Run 1 minute, walk 2 minutes, repeat four times

Tuesday: Rest

Wednesday: Run 1 minute, walk 2 minutes, repeat four times

Thursday: Rest

Friday: Run 1 minute, walk 2 minutes, repeat five times

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: Rest

Eight-week walking plan, week 1

Note: Begin each workout with a five minute warm-up walk and conclude with a five minute cool-down walk.

Monday: Walk 10 minutes

Tuesday: Walk 12 minutes

Wednesday: Rest

Thursday: Walk 15 minutes

Friday: Rest

Saturday: Walk 20 minutes

Sunday: Rest

To view the plan in its entirety, visit the Cantrell Center’s Web site at www.cantrellcenter.com. If you have questions about the plan, e-mail dow@cantrellcenter.com.