Beyond the first step.

Or how to succeed at the couch to 5k. An idiots guide.

So you want to run a 5k it’s not a small thing to decide upon and we all have our reasons. For me it was to help get fit and lose the weight that I have been adding all of my life and then to see if it would help as much as everyone says it will with my mental health.

I’ve tried at least 3 times before to do the c25k program and each time I failed miserably.

My first attempt I was full of excitement and hope as I started. I remembered that I should stretch before a run as that is what we always did when in the Airforce. Stretch and run it prevents injury they said. My trainers were just old ones I had that I used for gardening and walking around but they were comfortable enough and I would just put on a pair of joggers and a t-shirt and of I would go. Walk for 30 seconds and jog a bit. I would then do a post run stretch and that would be that.

It all was going OK until I started to get shin splints at the run for 3 minutes mark. So I did what all pro’s do. Anti-inflammatory tablets and man up. After repeating this for a couple of weeks and being unable to walk after a run I just gave up and thought ah well I’m just not designed for this and that was then end of that.

This repeated itself the next two times shin splints or calf strains were the end of each time I tried. I was doing the same thing and shocked that I got the same results each time. I wonder sometimes if I actually just wanted to fail so I could feel a bit more crap about myself and think that sometimes we do this to ourselves, find some reason to fail and be happy about it rather than work out why we fail.

This time I didn’t set out to run a c25k. It was not even in my thinking to run why would I want to do that!

Step one. Don’t run, sounds counter intuitive just don’t run to start with. Walk increase the amount of time each day you spend putting one foot in front of the other. Listen to something that you like and only listen to it while you are walking. For me it’s audio books. I found a nice long 11 hour audio book and so i would walk and listen to a chapter. Not thinking about the time or distance just walk for a chapter. Then two chapters. Do this for three months or until you can walk 5k at a decent pace without getting out of breath. It will help. Add in some core strength training too. Yes Planks and crunches do help. Running isn’t easy and it takes strength to hold yourself up!

After all of this it’s time to actually start the c25k. Get an app, print a chart it doesn’t matter but do commit. Tell someone and make it difficult to back down from. Then get a good set of running shoes. There is much debate about getting fitted for a set of shoes. I didn’t, I just got a pair that were neutral but lots of cushioning for distance running and a couple of pairs of good running socks your poor feet won’t know what’s hit them so look after them.

The biggest thing to remember is it’s not about running 5k. It’s getting to a point where you can run for 30 minutes without gasping for oxygen and collapsing in a heap. The 5k will come all by itself. So don’t run fast. They recommend running at a pace that you can hold a conversation at. Not easy when you are by yourself. I used my watch with a heart rate monitor and kept my heart at a maximum or zone 2 for me that’s 123-153 bpm. In reality my easy pace is 132-136. We are all different but do not run so hard that you collapse! Take it easy as slow as you like it’s not a problem. Learn to enjoy the time spent away from home and look around and enjoy the scenery.

Rest days, rest is almost as important as the running you need to recover. I was always a get it done person so would skip rest days not now you need them. Don’t stretch before a run. What! I know I found that completely wrong I’ve always stretched. No do dynamic warm ups for me that just meant a five minute walk at a reasonable pace and that was enough to get me going. I will do yoga most evenings but that is not part of a warm down. That again is just a walk at the end of a run to let the legs get used to not running for a while.

This time I found the c25k actually rather easy. It wasn’t a big shock to the system. I gradually increased the time I ran and followed the plan until the last day of the plan was the run for 30 minutes. I managed it and ran a distance of 4.5k. Disappointed? No I was proud that I managed to achieve that! Over the next two weeks I just repeated the final week of the c25k and at the end of the second week I did it 5k in 30 minutes.

For me that was the start. I didn’t realise it but I had decided that I wanted to be a runner not just do a c25k. Something that you need to do is understand it isn’t about the distance it’s about the actual running time and distance are really irrelevant. Now I run 3 or 5 times a week depending on where I am and time constraints and I will run a minimum or 25k a week. I try to do one pace run a week a couple of easy runs and then a distance run. I am currently up to 13k as a distance run and increasing this each week I have no plan to what distance I have as a goal just more each week. I guess I’ll probably get to a point where I will do a marathon but I have no plans just yet I just run for fun!

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