Runner’s Guide: How to get from the couch to the finish line

NEED FOR SPEED/ZERO TO 5K

Who: Runners of all levels 13 and older

What: Established runners can work on their pace and speed while those who want to tackle their first 5K can build endurance.

Where: Kettering Recreation Center Studio A (weather permitting, classes will be held outdoors)

When: Classes available through August. For a complete schedule, visit www.playkettering.org/.

Cost: $25 resident; $35 non-resident

ZERO TO 5K RUN/WALK TRAINING SCHEDULE

Week In Class/On Your Own

1. Walk 4 minutes, run 1 minute. Repeat one day; another day, try to repeat for 30 minutes increasing ratio to walk 3½ and run 1½ minutes

2. Walk 3 minutes, run 2 minutes. Repeat one day; another day try to repeat for 30 minutes increasing ratio to 2 minutes walking and 4 minutes running (go as slow as you need to)

3. Walk 1 minute, run 6 minutes. Repeat one day; another day, try increasing ratio to walking 1 minute and running 8 minutes

5k. Nice easy pace. If you have to take a few walk breaks, that’s OK.

While it can look effortless and feel exhilarating, that wasn’t J.J. Kunkle’s early experience with running.

“I was one of those people who would run around the block and just wanted to keel over,” she said. “I hated running, but I was in my late 20s and I wanted to keep in shape.”

Kunkle registered for a women’s running class and, two decades later, the now avid runner is teaching courses like the Zero to 5k class at the Kettering Recreation Complex. With a full slate of 5k races all summer across the Miami Valley, it might be tempting to give it a try. But first-time runners might want to think twice about just throwing on a pair of running shoes and going for it.

“You definitely run the risk of injury or just getting really discouraged and never wanting to run again,” Kunkle said.

Taking a course, or putting in some time training, can go a long way toward have a fun and injury-free run. In addition to local recreation centers, Up and Running also offers classes like Running & Walking 101, for individuals who want to "train from the couch to a 5k." (http://upandrunningindayton.com/).

“Just like anything else, if you want to do it well, you have to practice,” Kunkle said.

Getting it right

While the ultimate goal is to get from Point A to Point B, how you get to Point B matters.

“Form is important,” Kunkle said. “I see some people leaning way forward, hunching their shoulders or not breathing the right way.”

Even before you hit the starting line, there are important considerations like quality running shoes that fit correctly. The right clothing — preferably made from a moisture-wicking material — can also help keep you cool and comfortable.

A proper warm-up and cool down are also crucial.

“Cold muscles are especially susceptible to a pull,” she said.

No excuses

Kunkle has trained runners of all ages.

“I don’t buy the too old thing,” she said. “I’m 45 and I still do Tough Mudders. You can work up to it as gradually as you need to.”

According to Kunkle, it could take up to eight weeks for a non-runner to get race-ready.

The courses she teaches combine walking and running in various increments until participants are able to run the entire distance. And while form matters, speed doesn’t.

“You don’t start out with a 7-minute mile, it might be more like a 14-minute mile,” she said. “And that’s totally fine.”