tagReviews & EssaysCouch to 5K Beginners Thoughts

Couch to 5K Beginners Thoughts


Crap. That's all that went through my head as my wife placed the small towel on the hand bar of the treadmill, then informed me that she'd soaked it in cleaner. My eyes were stinging from the sweat pouring down over my face and for a brief moment it had seemed that relief was in sight, and yet so far away. Seven more minutes, just seven more minutes, I promised myself. Two more minutes of running and five minutes to cool down, then I could head to the shower. Damn though, I could feel the desire to just hit the STOP button and head off, but I was so close to finishing it, to completing the Couch to 5K program (C25K), just seven more minutes. And damnit, I don't care if they look dorky, I'm getting a fucking headband.

By now many people are fading off from the popular New Years Resolution while retailers try to make one last push for some more active wear sales. With Valentine's Day coming up, many are starting to let their minds drift away to the holiday of hearts. There are still those trying to stick it out, trying to make that life change, and some who just need a little inspiration.

I'll be honest, I hate the actual act of running. Making the progress, sure it's fun, but all of the aches and pains that go along with it, not so much. What I do like is the feeling afterwards, what is commonly called a runners high. It's not easy, for many of us giving up the hours of time to put your body through a stressful situation, which working out is. As always, it is important to talk to your doctor prior to starting any workout regimen.

In Spring I finally hit the desire to start trying to get into a workout routine again. I've always been an on and off person with it, on for a period of time but as soon as I made the goal, slacking off again. However, I really enjoy outdoors activities and as it turns out, those can be severely hampered by being out of shape. So, facing the facts I looked up running programs, as in the past I've found having a program gives you a set of goals and helps to keep you motivated while trying to make the exercise a habit. In the end I chose Cool Runnings Couch to 5K (C25K) as it seems to be the popular choice now and most closely resembled a program I had used prior to boot camp to start running.

In April I started with the program, running around a small track in a pair of trail running shoes. Honestly, it was nice to get working even a little bit, though being passed as often as happened was frustrating. With the end of the semester away went my access to the track and my attentions turned towards finals, away from running. Lesson learned, if you don't really make it a priority then it becomes way too easy to drop out.

Instead, I took up walking along an old railroad track turned to park and an old love was reignited. In my teen years I used to love to go hiking, finding solace in being alone with nature. This became my passion over the summer, searching out a variety of trails in the region and making my attempts at them. Often times I got strange looks from people for being the fat guy huffing and puffing my way down the trail, other times a smile and nod. Honestly I didn't care, the views were always worth it and the time away precious. But mostly what this did was bring about the reality that I needed to get into shape badly.

All that huffing and puffing at the least got me started, upon my return to the gym during the fall I pleasantly found I'd dropped fifteen pounds over the summer. Something that I did find out later was that there is the suggestion for people who are overweight to actually start with walking and make it a goal of being able to walk for an hour without stopping prior to starting the C25K program. I really do think spending that summer out hiking made it a lot easier to transition into running the second time around, both in giving me a more solid goal and in helping to put me in a better physical state.

After adjusting to my fall schedule and making some room for it, I took the plunge again with the C25K program. This time I started running on the treadmill, easier to keep track of the time spent running, stay at a more constant pace, and they tend to be a little gentler on the joints. The only work load difference between running outside and on a treadmill is the loss of wind resistance and a little help from the moving belt. If that bothers you, it has been found that if you adjust the elevation of the treadmill by 1 percent then you will equal the work load. Admittedly I felt a little funny spending so much time walking on the treadmill with so little running. By the end of it I was a little more concerned about muscles and tendons that hadn't been used like that in too long a period of time to care.

Three weeks, that's how long it's supposed to take to create a habit. My advice is, do what you can to ensure you make it the three weeks, though four weeks would be better. But even having formed the habit, be ready to still have to motivate yourself to go. Your mind is pretty darned good at finding reasons not to head out, sore muscles, thoughts of other things you could be doing, other uses for money, and so on. They still come to me, often times even a couple of minutes into the start of my runs.

One of the biggest lessons I learned though, was to buy the best shoes that you can afford for running. I had trail runners when I stared out, and they are good shoes by a reputable company but I still felt a lot of soreness in my joints, particularly my knees, during and after running. After a lot of searching I settled on a pair of Altra Olympus trail shoes. They're zero drop shoes with the maximum amount of cushioning that Altra makes and after the first time I ran in them I was sold, my knees felt great! For me, getting to a running store is fairly difficult as I'm out in a rural area but if you have access to a store that specializes in running equipment your best bet would be to go visit and chat with one of the employees. Have them look over your gait and discuss options with you, the right shoes can make all of the difference.

Most importantly though, it all comes down to having the right attitude, listening to your body, and sticking through the goals when they get tough. Don't let yourself get psyched out by the upcoming goals, while at first glance some of them seem to make massive jumps, you'll be surprised at just how ready you are when they come up. Listen to your body, most injuries come when you don't pay attention to how it feels. Yes, I know the old adage of 'No Pain No Gain' but pain is the way your body tells you that something may be wrong. If your body really feels like it needs one more week at a certain level then give yourself that week. While the program is made to be done in nine weeks, finishing it is what is most important, not the number of weeks it takes.

If you need to take time off, for scheduling, illness, or injury, then do it and just make it a point to return to the treadmill as soon as it's feasible. You might actually think that would be hard, but I had to take some time off for the holidays and found myself jonesing to get back to running as soon as I got the chance. It's almost an addiction once you get the habit of it.

Finally, make sure to set yourself a goal that will occur sometime after the training period is going to end. I have a 5K in mind to run in a few months, my first one, and am now currently working on increasing the speed that I run at and adjusting the elevation of the treadmill. That goal has helped me to keep focus now that I'm a C25K graduate and keep the motivation to huff and puff on.

I hope you find some of the tips I've offered helpful. The program itself is a nice structure that can help you get into a routine of running and hopefully start you on the path to feeling better. In a couple of hikes that I've gone on since, I certainly have noticed the difference and find myself less winded than I used to. It is a program that worked for me and I hope you find it as useful as I did!

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