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The question: Before the summer, me and my girlfriends agreed to run a 5K together in the fall. I ended up spending the summer relaxing, eating and drinking more than my fair share – everything but training. Now the race is weeks away: Is there any way I can still realistically prepare for this run?

The answer: I know how frustrating it can be to have a specific goal for a race and then not be able to accomplish it. I've been there: I've entered dozens of races, and there have been numerous occasions when my race time, or the training leading up to it, did not mesh with the expectations I had for myself. What is important is to not let this frustration dissuade you from participating in the race.

This is not a 100K ultra-marathon. It is a 5K race. You don't need to run every kilometre of the course. There have been many races where I have needed to walk part of the race. When I completed my Ironman, my goal was to finish, not to get a great time, and I ended up walking some of the marathon portion. Use any combination of walking and jogging that allows you to complete your race injury-free.

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Part of being an athlete (yes, even running a 5K race makes you an athlete) is learning how to reframe your race expectations and goals. The upcoming race is not the last opportunity that you will have to run a 5K. Use your finishing time as a benchmark of your current fitness, and then establish a realistic goal for a future 5K.

For example, if you walk/run this 5K in 45 minutes, a realistic goal would be to run another 5K in early spring in under 32 minutes.

Try the following training plan for the next two weeks:

  • If leading up to your hiatus you were an avid runner who regularly ran 25-km-plus per week, spend the next two weeks alternating 10 minutes of running with one minute of walking. On race day, attempt to gently run the entire course.
  • If you had just recently worked up to comfortably running 5 km, spend the next two weeks alternating five minutes of jogging followed by one minute of walking. During the race, attempt to alternate seven minutes of jogging with one minute of walking.
  • If you were a fairly novice runner even before the summer, spend the next two weeks alternating one minute of jogging with four minutes of walking. During the race attempt to alternate two minutes of jogging with three minutes of walking.

Trainer's Tip: Try not to get too caught up in the excitement of race day. Don't risk injury, stick to your race plan. In 2011, I raced the Goodlife half-marathon and hurt my right hip because I did not listen to my own advice; I ran faster then I should have. It might be frustrating in the short term to hold back. But in four or five months, when you are properly trained up, you can race as hard as you want without risking injury.

Kathleen Trotter has been a personal trainer and pilates equipment specialist for 10 years. Her web site is www.kathleentrotter.com.

Click here to submit your questions. Our Health Experts will answer select questions, which could appear in The Globe and Mail and/or on The Globe and Mail web site. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.

The content provided in The Globe and Mail's Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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