"woman running on the beach"Whether you are getting ready for bathing suit season or looking for a new fitness challenge, spring races offer an opportunity to find motivation and turn workout goals into reality. Signing up for a race is the first step, but once you’ve decided to participate, it’s important to prepare. TOPS Club, Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), the nonprofit weight-loss support organization, shares reasons to take part in a 5K or other middle-distance race and offers training tips for the event.


Benefits of Races

1. Have a starting point. 5Ks are perfect for beginners, and they are often a stepping stone to future goals – 10Ks, half marathons, and, possibly, marathons.

2. Say ‘goodbye’ to winter blues. Exercising outside will expose you to more sunshine, and running kicks off the production of endorphins, which are associated with positive emotions. Researchers from the American College of Sports Medicine recommend 30 minutes of cardio activities to reduce tension, depression, anger, and fatigue.

3. Get in shape for summer. Training for a race requires exercising more frequently for a longer period of time. It’s a great workout, raising the heart rate, burning calories, relieving stress, and toning the body.

4. Workout with a purpose. A training schedule to meet your race goal will keep you motivated and focused. It’s essential to have a positive fitness goal to get and keep you moving.

5. Help others and yourself. Many races are hosted by a nonprofit organization or benefit a charity to raise money. It’s an opportunity to support a worthwhile cause while getting in shape.

Getting Started

It’s essential to train in advance for a race. “Choose a race that is approximately six to 12 weeks from the start of your training,” says Amy Goldwater, M.S., educator, former body building champion, and physical fitness expert for TOPS. This will give you time to plan ahead, get into shape, and set goals for the race.

According to Runner’s World, run for three days out of the week, resting the remaining four, reaching six to 15 miles total each week, for 5K training. Run for five days out of the week, resting the remaining two, reaching 17 to 22.5 miles total weekly, when preparing for a 10K race.

Follow these other tips to transition from walking to running and get ready for race day. 

1. Start slowly. If you’re new to running, start out walking and progress to a brisk walk or run. You can also alternate between running and walking. When you start out running, take it easy. A good rule: you should be able to have a conversation during the workout without struggling for air.

2. Seek variety in a workout. Mix running with walking to change up the workout’s intensity. Participate in resistance training. “Weight lifting two to three times per week is another way to improve your 5K run and strengthen your legs to reduce fatigue,” explains Goldwater.

3. Join a group or do it with friends. Many gyms have walking or running programs that members can join. Participating in a group or exercising with a friend will help keep you motivated and accountable.

4. Eat right. It’s important to fuel your body properly for a race. According to Goldwater, “Individuals should consume a meal of 300 to 400 calories about two hours before the race begins.”

5. Invest in proper gear. Buy well-fitting shoes and comfortable, moisture-wicking clothes. If you’re not sure where to begin, look for a running store in the area. Many have staff that can assess you and help select the ideal attire.

6. Rest. Respect your body. If you’re tired or sore, you may need a break for a few days. Understand what your body needs, so you know when it’s time to push yourself and when it’s time to rest.

TOPS Club, Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) is the original weight-loss support and wellness education organization. Founded more than 64 years ago, TOPS is the only nonprofit, noncommercial weight-loss organization of its kind. TOPS promotes successful weight management with a “Real People. Real Weight Loss.” philosophy that combines support from others at weekly chapter meetings, healthy eating, regular exercise, and wellness information. TOPS has about 170,000 members – male and female, age seven and older – in nearly 10,000 chapters throughout the United States and Canada.