1.5 years and 145lb ago, I decided to start Couch to 5k (C25k). It’s not too exciting of a story – Couch to 5k was Amazon’s free app of the day at some point, so I downloaded it. It took me probably 6 months to finally begin after I downloaded the app. I was sick of thinking about it, and thought, “Hannah, just DO it then, so you can stop THINKING about it.” So, one day over my lunch break at work, I drove to a local park and and did Week 1, Day 1 of Couch to 5k. If I could do this 145lb ago, then you can do it too – trust me. I was definitely on the “couch” end of things when I started, but by the end of it, I could run a 5k. Even at my most in-shape point in the past, the most I could run was a mile.
I learned a few things along the way, mostly from internet research, but also through experience. Sometimes when I get bored on my runs, I start thinking about advice I wish I had when I was doing C25K. So maybe this will help someone…
1. Your body will hurt. This is hard for me to recall in detail now (it’s been over a year since I finished C25k), but I know that if your body is not used to high impact exercise, things will hurt. Try to take it in stride. I mainly struggled with shin splints, which luckily, are not very serious. Sure, they hurt like a ____, but you will be fine. Stretch your calves, roll a tennis ball under your feet, prop your feet up and ice your shins…whatever it takes to…(this brings me to my next point)
2. KEEP GOING. No excuses. I did not let myself have one single excuse during C25K. I printed out the plan, hung it on the fridge, and followed it exactly. If I was feeling like crap, I still did the run. Bad weather? Run. Shins hurt? Run. See what I mean? To this day, I still don’t let myself have any excuses. I’m afraid that if I let myself back out of something one time, I’ll do it again and again. Keep going!
3. Slow down. I can’t emphasize this enough. There were times when people who were walking were going faster than me. This happened multiple times. It was embarassing, but I didn’t let it get to me. Just focus on completing the intervals – whatever it takes. It does NOT matter how slow you are going. Make the goal to finish the interval, and you can always work on speed later. This is imperative to finishing C25k in my opinion.
4. Celebrate by running a race. I finished C25k but didn’t run a race until 6 months later or so. Not sure why I waited so long – I guess I was just nervous. But running the race felt like an awesome accomplishment, and I wish I would have done it sooner.
5. Shoes. This is a bit of advice I found online right after I began the program and I think it made all the difference. Go get fitted for good running shoes at your local running store. I went to Elite Runners & Walkers, and I’ve also heard good things about Fleet Feet. The right shoes make all the difference. It can be expensive but it could mean the difference between completing the program and not. I’ve got to give a shoutout to my shoes, the Brooks Ghosts. I’m on my 3rd pair and will be running my first half-marathon in them in May.
6. You will learn to pace yourself. This goes along with #3. I think the greatest gift this program gave me was the ability to pace myself. In the past, even when I was extremely in shape, I could hardly run 1 mile. Now I am confident that I can run for a long time, it’s just a matter of how long it would take (adjust pace based on distance). It’s really nice not feeling like I’m going to die at the end of a run – thank goodness I learned how to pace myself, or I would have quit running long ago.
7. It can be the start of something big. How often in your life do you take something that you believe is impossibly and turn it into reality? I truly believed that I could never run a 5k. But once you do something that you once thought was impossible, you just may find yourself looking at other once ‘impossible’ things and realizing that they are within reach. What’s there to lose?