October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Every year, millions of people participate in walks and fun runs to raise funds and promote awareness for the disease that affects 1 in 8 women in the U.S. That includes many individuals with huge hearts who don’t consider themselves athletic and are wondering how they’ll make it through a 5K walk.
Sound like you? Relax! You’ve got this – but you need to do a little footwork first. Here’s how to get prepared for the main event.
Before You Start Training
#1. If You Have Health Concerns, Talk to Your Doctor First
Walking, running, and vigorous athletic exercise is part of a healthy lifestyle, but make sure you’re healthy enough first. See your doctor before you hit the pavement if any of these apply to you:
- It’s been a year or more since you’ve exercised regularly
- You experience fainting or dizzy spells
- You feel chest pain when you exert yourself
- You have a heart condition (including high blood pressure)
- You’re currently pregnant
- You’re over 65 and don’t exercise regularly
#2. Proper Footwear is Essential
Whether you walk or you run, you’ll need well-fitting athletic shoes that still have some life left in them. If you see holes in the lining, soles, or fabric of your old shoes, it’s time to ditch them for something new.
Your shoes should cradle your foot in comfort and provide good support – if your foot isn’t supported, neither is your back, your hips, your knees, or your neck. You don’t have to spend a lot of money: if you’re new to exercise, find an athletic store with clerks who can advise you on what shoe meets your needs and fits within your budget.
When You Start Training
#3. Start Slowly
Don’t try to go from 0 - 100mph overnight. Ideally, you’ll have six to eight weeks to train, especially if you haven’t done anything athletic before. The longer the walk, the more time you’ll need to train.
If your event is one mile, you’ll need to be able to comfortably walk for about 20 minutes.
For 5K (three miles), you’ll need to be able to walk for at least 45 minutes to an hour.
For 10K (about six miles), you should be able to walk at least 90 minutes, continuously.
This is a sample training schedule for beginners (again, check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program).
- Focus on getting moving. Aim to walk at least 15 minutes, five days a week.
- Gradually increase your time, while focusing on posture and technique.
- In addition to increasing your time, increase the intensity, too. You should be able to comfortably carry on a conversation while exercising.
- Concentrate on longer walks. If you’re training for a 10K, you should be able to walk for 60 minutes by this point.
- Focus on a swift, speedy gait. That includes using your arms to help you move forward.
- Each week, take brisk, but easy walks during the first four days. The fifth day should be a higher intensity, longer walk.
Event Day and Beyond
#4. Dress for Success
Even in California, weather can be unpredictable, so dress in layers. If you have an early start time, you may find yourself feeling chilly at first – but you’ll definitely warm up once you get moving. Cotton t-shirts will soak up all your sweat and leave you feeling soggy, so opt for moisture-wicking synthetics instead. And don’t forget your head: a brimmed hat, sunglasses with UV protection, and sunscreen will help protect your skin and eyes from the sun.
#5. Stay Hydrated
Drink lots of water, not sugary sports drinks or energy drinks. Some studies show a little caffeine before a workout can boost your athletic performance, but you’ll still need ample water to avoid dehydration. Even though there will most likely be water stops along the course, bring your own.
#6. Don’t Push Through the Pain
It’s natural to feel slight fatigue, soreness, or a little short of breath, but if you feel pain, STOP. If you don’t feel better after a few minutes of rest, seek care from medical stations at the event.
#7. Keep Up the Good Work
After you finish your walk or run, don’t let all that hard work go to waste. Exercise is one of the best things you can do to reduce your breast cancer risks. You don’t have to do another 10K but keep moving every day.
Can’t Do a Walk? There are Other Ways to Show Your Support.
If you can’t participate in a breast cancer awareness walk, there are still many ways for you to support those you know with breast cancer. The biggest and best way is to be there for them and ask them how you can help.
And don’t forget to keep yourself healthy, too! Learn more about when to begin screening and how to cut your risks. At AltaMed, we’re here to support your health, at every age and every stage.