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Start training now for a 5K run in 2017 (Gasparilla Distance Classic anyone?)

Set your sights on the 2017 Gasparilla 5K. The 2016 race in February, pictured, drew a large field of runners to downtown Tampa.

Times file

Set your sights on the 2017 Gasparilla 5K. The 2016 race in February, pictured, drew a large field of runners to downtown Tampa.

Is 2017 your year to get fit?

If getting in shape is your No. 1 resolution, you're probably pondering a new exercise plan.

May we suggest training for a 5K run? Specifically, the Gasparilla Distance Classic 5K on Feb. 25 in downtown Tampa?

Here's our thinking:

Running is cheap. All you really need are some good shoes and race registration money.

Running is easy. Okay, walking is easy. But you can build up to a run!

Running gives you a built-in support system. Because it's cheap and easy — and fun, once you get into it — it's wildly popular. If you're running in the Gasparilla 5K, you'll quickly find that friends, family and co-workers are participating, too, so you can celebrate and commiserate as you train.

Ready to get started? Here's a step-by-step guide to get you going.

Step 1 Assess your health.

If you haven't been to a doctor for a while, it might be time to schedule a physical — especially if you're very overweight, inactive, getting up in years or have some ongoing health problems. If you're relatively fit, you can use the Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire (PAR-Q), a self-screening tool that can help you determine your risk. Find it at tbtim.es/parq.

Step 2 Sign up for the race.

Don't put it off. Paying the money, even though it isn't much, will keep you committed to your goal. So will telling everyone you know that you're doing it. Register at tampabayrun.com by Jan. 13 and you'll pay $35; after that, it goes up to $40. Can't make the Distance Classic? You can find other local races at runtampa.com/events.

Step 3 Buy shoes.

Most coaches recommend you get your first pair at a specialty store. "If you're buying running shoes, you want to talk to runners," says Bill Davison, owner of Running Center Tampa Bay in Tampa. (The store has a great FAQ list at runcenter.com.) Think of it as buying a piece of performance equipment, not a fashion choice, he says, and focus on getting the right type of shoe and the right fit. Davison estimates that 80 percent of runners wear shoes that are too short. Most people are more comfortable with a pair that's a half-size bigger than what they normally wear.

Go to a store that carries several different brands to see what works for you. Price doesn't dictate what's best for your foot, Davison says, but you probably won't find a good pair of running shoes for much less than $100.

If you're a first-time runner, you may find you'll need a different kind of shoe in six months, when the ones you have wear out. (You will wear them out, won't you?) If you've lost weight, you probably won't need as much structure, or you might develop a different gait, which can be analyzed at a running store.

Step 4 Start training.

Most beginners need six to 12 weeks to train for a 5K (3.1 miles). If you start today, you have nine. So get out there — but take it slow. It's going to be super tempting to run as fast as you can for as long as you can on day one. Don't. You could hurt yourself. Even if you don't, you'll surely feel some soreness tomorrow, which will give you a good excuse not to train again. But you're on a new path to fitness, remember? You aren't looking for excuses.

There are several walk-to-run programs you can try, including the popular Couch to 5K schedule available at coolrunning.com. It recommends sessions of 20 to 30 minutes, three times a week. The first week, you'll start with a five-minute warmup walk, then alternate 60 seconds of jogging and 90 seconds of walking for 20 minutes. The amount of running increases from there, up to a 30-minute run in the ninth week. If you're a fan of instant feedback, you can track your progress with a Couch to 5K app.

Step 5 Do your last-minute prep.

Check out the race maps at tampabayrun.com so you know where you're going in the sea of humanity that is a Gasparilla run. Pick up your packet the day before the 5K at the health and fitness expo in the Tampa Convention Center, or get there early (6 a.m.) on race day. You'll get a goodie bag filled with fun stuff for runners (that's you!) and a bib/race number that includes a timing chip, so you'll know just how you did.

Step 6 Run the race!

Finish and you'll get a medal — and an awesome start to a fit and fabulous 2017.

Contact Kim Franke-Folstad at kffolstad@gmail.com.

Start training now for a 5K run in 2017 (Gasparilla Distance Classic anyone?) 12/22/16 [Last modified: Thursday, December 22, 2016 6:06pm]
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