Remember when I ran a mile without walking and felt on top of the world? I’ve come so far since then! On Friday, I hit a lifetime high of 8 miles without stopping. The credit for that most definitely goes to the Couch to 5k Program (also known as C25K). Before I did C25K I did not consider myself a runner, and I didn’t understand people who did so. I ran cross country in high school because I liked the coaches and my best friend was doing it, but I was always the slowest one and I never really enjoyed running. After completing C25K I still find running hard, and I have to push myself really hard not to walk at times, but I’ve reached the point where I understand that “runners high” people talk about. In fact, there was a week recently where I took a break for a few days and actually craved a nice long run!
I hope that my experience will help some of you feel confident enough to give C25K (or another running program of choice) a try. I most certainly consider myself to be an example of “If I can do it ANYONE can.”
I started running the C25K program right at the beginning of January and due to the sporadic notes I kept throughout the program I can give you a little peek into how I felt about it. As it was the middle of a very cold Chicago winter I did all of my running for this month on the treadmill in the gym that’s located on the ground floor of our apartment building. When we signed our lease they offered us an extra year of gym membership if we signed for another year within a two week window. I’m so glad we took them up on that offer as I plan on using the gym a lot again next winter.
My notes for my first day said: Never felt like I was about to die . That’s good right?
Maybe I was trying to attempt a rosy picture for myself though, because I remember grasping the sides of the treadmill after each running period. I came back up to the apartment feeling absolutely exhausted! It was really hard, and I told myself that if I ever walked during one of the “run” periods, I had to do the whole day over again. I also set up some accountability for myself by tweeting about my progress after each run, and I didn’t want to tweet to everyone that I had walked through part of the running section! I did allow myself to hold the handlebars or the head of the treadmill when the running sections got really hard though.
At the beginning of February I wrote: Finished without holding the handlebars! Which means it took me an entire month to run for 5 minutes at a time without supporting myself with the treadmill. February 7th was the day I ran over a mile without stopping, but I wasn’t able to run 20 minutes without stopping like C25K wanted me too. It would take me weeks and weeks to be able to do that consistently.
Week 6 is where I started to feel stuck. The program wanted me to run 25 minutes with no walking, but I couldn’t seem to do it. I ended up chipping away at week 6 for 3 weeks total, before I finally moved to week 7 at the beginning of March.
And before I forget, a little tip! Put the incline on your treadmill at no less than 1.0 as it will make your transition from treadmill to running outside (which has terrain that varies) much easier.
By the time you reach week 7 (don’t feel intimidated by this, you’ll be prepared by the time you get there if you follow the program), you are running a minimum of 25 minutes each time you lace up your running shoes. When I heard some one talking about that back at the end of January, I thought it would never be possible for me to do such a thing. But then March arrived, I signed up for a 5k in Chicago and was feeling the pressure of being able to run my race without walking, and the weather warmed up and I was finally able to start running outside.
Week 8 in the training is the point where I stopped worrying about the program and started focusing on distance and building up my stamina. I would use Map My Run (thanks to Cecy for teaching me about it!) to figure out how far I wanted to go before I got out there, and then push myself really hard to finish it. Leaving the program behind, and allowing myself to walk sometimes, also allowed me to work on running faster because I wasn’t worried about tiring myself out before the timer on my phone told me my 28 minutes was up.
April came and one of my weight loss challenges was ending, so I started running more than 3 days/week at times. I also began tracking my workouts in my weight loss spreadsheet, something I’m glad I started doing because I like looking back at my progress. I was trying to work out at least 6 days per week, at least 3 of those were running days, and I was trying to go at least 2 miles each time, building up to 3 miles each. By the time my race day came on the 16th of April, I felt confident that I would be able to run the whole time without stopping.
As the weather warmed up and school became more difficult for That Husband, I realized that I would need to get a jogging stroller if I wanted to be running outside in the middle of the day. I got lucky and someone from our church sent out a mass email advertising one for sale right when I needed it!
Then we had a few weeks of bad weather, and I was often driven back onto the treadmill again. I did not like it, and I checked the weather forecast obsessively for sunny days. After far too many cloudy skies the 29th of April dawned bright and sunny and absolutely perfect for running. I loaded up the baby in the stroller, filled up my water bottle, and headed out for what I knew would be a nice long run. I was planning to go 2 miles out, and 2 miles back in, and then I’d be able to tweet and say that I ran 4 miles without stopping that day, a new record for me (the desire to tweet seems silly to some, but it’s a very motivating factor for me because of the much appreciated congratulations that come on, and so I think I can say that I owe some of my success to my cheerleaders on Twitter!). When I hit the two mile mark I realized that I didn’t feel that bad, and so I decided to keep running until I hit 3.1 miles, and then I could run/walk back if I wanted. But when I hit the 3 mile mark I still felt good (in fact I felt even better than I did at the two mile mark) so I decided to keep going. When I made it 4 miles I decided that the ultimate tweet would be to say that I ran 8 miles without stopping, and so I turned around and started home. Toward the end I wasn’t really running, more like hobbling at a pace slightly faster than a limp, my right knee was feeling sore and my left foot was aching and the baby was whining because I’d been out for almost two hours at that point. But I did it! I made it just over 8 miles and when I stopped I realized that my legs were weak and I was a little sore, but I wasn’t gasping for breath like I always thought I would be if I ran that far.
I’m in shape! I’m a runner! I’m everything I wanted to be when I started this program. I still have a lot to learn, but I feel like a completely different person than the overweight-huffing-and-puffing-gasping-and-leaning-on-the-treadmill girl that I was back in January.
I used, and swear by, the C25K app on my iphone. It allows me to play my own music, record my workout notes in a little journal, and during my run little prompts come up telling me when to run or walk.
Now that I’ve finished the C25K training I’m using another app called RunKeeper, and for the life of me I can’t understand how this app is free! It uses the GPS in my phone to tell me my pace, average speed, how long I’ve been running, and how far I’ve run. I can use my own music and it pops up every 5 minutes to give me an update (which always helps me run faster, at least for a little bit).
If you haven’t experienced the joys of running outside, get off that treadmill and give it a try! There is something about actually moving from one location to another that makes is much more enjoyable than pounding in place. I am also able to go a lot longer because I can vary my speed from moment to moment. If you’re like me and you feel self-conscious about running outside, you could try starting in the gym. I used to get really stressed about running outside because I could only run for a minute, maybe two, and I felt like everyone was watching me and laughing at my pathetic attempts. But once I moved outside in March I was able to run a full mile without stopping, and I felt much less self-conscious. I still run incredibly slow, and feel like people might be noticing, but I try to use that as motivation to speed up a little bit and show them how awesome I am (at least while I am in their field of vision ).
My shoes are several years old (yes, I’m getting new ones!) and were purchased from a specialty running store in Utah. They are made by Pearl iZUMi. I most definitely think you need to go to a specialty store and have someone who knows what they are looking for watch you run. Invest in your shoes, your knees and feet will thank you for it!
Right now I usually wear a wonder tee on top, or one of the free tshirts I’ve hung on to over the years. My favorite pair of workout pants are made my Nike, I bought them 7 or 8 years ago and have worn them through my various weight gains/losses. I believe they are similar to these and I paid $50 for them when I first bought them. At the time I felt guilty and thought it was a splurge that wasn’t worth it, but they still fit so well after all these years that I’d be happy to work out in nothing but those capris! I also pick up new pants as needed at Costco when they have them available. I have some racerback style tanks from Walmart but they fit very poorly and I think I’m going to look into buying some nicer stuff as the weather heats up.
My sports bra is The Last Resort Sports Bra by Title Nine. If you have large breasts, I guarantee there is no better bra in the world. It’s the best sports bra in the world for large breasts. (Really!)
The jogging stroller I recently started using was a secondhand purchase from a family we go to church with. It’s the Baby Trend Expedition Jogger which retails for just under $100 on Amazon, and I would absolutely recommend it to someone looking for a jogging stroller. I’ve never used any of the very fancy jogging strollers, but I think this one moves very smoothly. The seat lays back nice and far so T1 can relax and take a nap while I run, and the canopy on top stretches forward to shield his face from the sun. It has two cup holders, a compartment on top that I place my keys in, a pocket on the back of the seat, and a deep wide pocket down below. I use it all the time for grocery shopping now that the weather is warmer! The only drawbacks I can think of are that it doesn’t store completely flat (but I don’t know if any jogging strollers do that) and if you unlock the front wheel it wobbles very badly. I’m not sure if that is a design flaw with my stroller, or something all users experience.
Those who read regularly will know that I paid $40 for a 5k the day after my birthday, woke up with a sick baby the morning of and decided not to run. I’m going to plan on doing a 5k in my hometown (I think it’s free, and if it isn’t the entry fee will be much less than the exorbitant amounts they charge in the Windy City!) with my parents cheering me on as I cross the finish line.
After my 8 mile run on April 29th, I’m actually feeling ready for a half-marathon. If all goes as planned, I should be running one with a few of my best friends from college in Utah on the 25th of June. I’m thinking I’ll use this half-marathon training plan from Oh She Glows to get ready for it. After I run the half-marathon will I start training for a full one? I have no idea! I’m trying not to get ahead of myself.
I hate to end this post on a sad note, but I’m actually taking a one week break from running while I try to figure out what is causing some intense knee pain I’m experiencing. I’ll be buying some new shoes soon, and looking into some stretches that should help. Some very kind doctor friends on Facebook suggested that it might be “patellofemoral pain syndrome”. I’m not ready to give up though, the runners high just feels too good!
You’re going to start running now as well. Right? RIGHT?!?!?
I did it, you can too!