If you follow me on Facebook you have probably read my udaptes about the Couch to 5k program. You might have also read my update earlier this week about how excited I was to actually finish the Couch to 5k program. And not only did I complete it, I completed it in the nine weeks that the program allows.
Plus, my thirteen year old daughter completed it.
I have debated whether or not to post my thoughts on the Couch to 5k program. I usually deal with food, not exercise, so this is not my usual type post. I also did not want to discourage any of you that might be struggling with exercise and/or your weight. That is not my goal or intention at all.
But although this is not my usual type post, I decided to share my story, to document my thoughts and hopefully encourage some of you to give it a try. And even if this exercise program is not for you, maybe you will find something that is.
Why I Needed An Exercise Program
I have always known the importance of exercise. I have long known the reality of calories in/calories out. I knew that if I wanted to indulge in a piece of cake or a cookie than exercise was a must. I wrote a post several years ago on my thoughts on my weight and how I maintain it, and as I have aged, these things have become more and more important. Walking and other forms of exercise have also become more important to me.
The older we get the slower our metabolisms are. Our muscle and fat changes and our shape changes. And it takes more work to stay in shape and stay fit. I knew as I aged, I either needed to start eating a lot less calories, or I had to burn a lot more calories.
The fact is that I know I am in my late thirties. The same weight is no longer the same shape. And although I did not really need to lose weight, I was not happy where I was at. I knew exercise would help me feel better and tone up. No, it would not make me twenty again, but it would make me feel and look healthier.
Why Couch to 5K
I have never been a runner. I have never been able to run. I am a life long asthmatic and exercise has always made my asthma worse. No matter what medicine I took or what I tried, I could never run over a half mile. Last year after going gluten free, I realized that I felt different. I was healthier and felt like a new person. I realized that something was different when it came to my asthma. I gave running a try and for the first time in my life I could run a mile.
But, I never could get past one mile. It did not have anything to do with my asthma though, I was just out of shape. Yes, I had been walking and doing other forms of exercise, but I soon learned that running was totally different, and I wanted to get past the one mile mark.
I also wanted to find an exercise program for my daughter. We homeschool, and I wanted a structured exercise program for her to do. I wanted to teach her the importance of exercise and have her learn some of the other lessons that running and exercise teach you. I thought Couch to 5k would work well for both of us.
I am not sure where I first read about Couch to 5k, but when I was looking for an exercise program for my daughter and I to do, Couch to 5k was the first thing I thought of.
I did some online searching about it and then one day I downloaded the app to my iphone and told my husband I wanted to give it a try.
And to be honest, I never really thought I could finish it, but I was willing to give it a try.
What Is Couch to 5k
Couch to 5k is an exercise/running program for those that have never really ran or who have not exercised in a long time. It slowly helps you build up to running a 5k and it does this in nine weeks time.
Yes, nine weeks. I know it sounds impossible, but it really works. You start out mainly walking, with a little running. You slowly add more and more running, until you are running for 30 minutes, with a 5 minute warm up and a 5 minute cool down.
I used the app for my iphone, and it worked great. I could listen to any music I wanted, but a voice would come on every so many minutes and tell me what I needed to do and when I needed to do it.
Why It Worked For Me
This program is for people like me that are new to running or out of shape. It paces you and makes you go slow. It keeps you focused and helps you build up. I think the app for your phone or mp3 player is key to this. Hearing exactly when I needed to walk or run and how much time I had left really helped.
During my first week or two, I could not imagine making it to the end. One time I even looked ahead and thought I could never run 20 minutes straight, but I can and am now running 30 minutes straight without stopping.
If I can do this I think almost anyone can. Yes, it takes time. Yes, it takes diligence, and yes you have to keep at it, but it can be done.
Encouragement For Those That Have Not Completed It
I want to encourage those of you that have started Couch to 5k, but did not complete it, or those of you that are overwhelmed by the idea, to not focus so much on the nine weeks. Yes, this is the ideal time frame, but progress is still progress. If you get stuck at week five, do week five twice.
If you struggle with week seven, do week seven for a few extra days. Completing the program is the goal. If you can do it in nine weeks like I did that is great, but completing it is more important. It might take you ten weeks or even fourteen weeks, but running a 5k is not easy. Take your time if you need to.
A Few Of My Thoughts and Lessons Learned
- Running in 70 degree weather is much easier than running in 95+ degree weather.
- Because of the above, starting Couch to 5k in the middle of the summer, during recording breaking heat, may not be the best idea. (Although, I do think it helped build my endurance up, it was a challenge running in the hotter weather.)
- Good, high quality running shoes are very important and well worth the money they cost. By week three my daughter, my husband, and I all had new running shoes, and they were so worth it.
- Stretching before and after running is very important. I learned this the hard way.
- The first 3-5 minutes of running and the last 3-5 minutes of running are always the hardest for me.
- Running uses muscles that I never knew I had. Muscles I have not used in years. I was sore in places that had never been sore before. (But although I was sore almost everyday the entire 9 weeks, I was never so sore I could not function. I guess it was a good sore if there is such a thing.)
- Sweating is a good thing. Yes, I know it is very unlady like, but there is something about a workout that makes you sweat, that just makes you feel better. It makes you realize you have accomplished something. I never got that feeling when I just walked for exercise.
- Running clears your mind. We have had a very stressful last few months. There were times I did not think I had the time or energy to run, but I ran anyway, and I was always glad I did. There were times I was very discouraged. Running gave me time to think, time to clear my mind, and just a time to release the tension and stress. And if for nothing else running is worth it for me, for this fact alone. Running helps me handle and release stress more than I ever realized it would.
- Running first thing in the morning, when all you have had to eat and drink is a glass of water and a gluten free granola bar, is not a good thing to do. In order to run your best you need lots of water and some calories. I learned the hard way.
- Running helps me sleep. I have never really been a good sleeper, but on days I run I have realized that I sleep so much better. My body is tired in a good way and I sleep way more sound. It really does make a difference for me.
- Running makes me feel better. I feel much healthier overall. I think this can be said about any good workout or exercise program, but I really do have more energy and stamina since I started running.
- It does not matter what the scale says. Well, okay it does, but at the same time it doesn’t. When I started Couch to 5k I was hoping to lose 5-10lbs. I did not really need to lose weight, but losing 5-10 lbs would put me at a weight I am more comfortable at. I did not change my diet much, but I was hoping that just running would help me lose a few pounds. After nine weeks I have only lost 4lbs, but I have lost inches and am in much better shape than I was before. From my legs to my stomach to my arms, I can tell that I have lost fat and gained muscle. My clothes fit better, and a few things are even a little big now. I know that is a good thing, so I am trying to ignore what the scale says.
- Pacing yourself is very important. If you sprint the first mile, you will struggle the second mile. It took me a while to realize this, but sometimes slow and steady wins the race.
- I need upbeat music when I run. My husband runs to audio books or sermons. I cannot do that. I loaded music to my iphone that I do not normally listen to. I ended up making a running playlist with some more upbeat country type music. This is not my usual type of music, but it helped me keep going when I wanted to give up.
- A partner helps. Not only is it more fun and safer to run with someone, it is encouraging. You can struggle, complain, and be thankful together. It helped me so much doing this with my daughter and husband. (My husband could run a 5k before we started the program, but he did it with us for encouragement and to help himself exercise more regularly. Also, because he was an experienced runner, he could tell me to slow down when I started out to fast, when I did not know how to pace myself yet.)
- I now love to run. I get it, and I plan to make running a regular part of my routine and life. I have realized that running helps me and I want to continue.
- Although, I love to run, I still fear running. Those of you with asthma will probably understand this. Not being able to breathe is scary. It is difficult and hard. I have spent my life not being able to do hard exercise and even though I can now run 30 minutes straight, I still fear it. I can’t get past that fear of having an attack without anyone to help me. I have yet to complete a 30 minute run without my husband running with me. I realize I need someone there to rescue me if needed. I know in my mind that I only took my inhaler once in the 9 weeks of running, but I cannot get over the mental fear that I have. Someday, I hope I can get past that fear of what if I have an attack, but for now I will always take my daughter or husband with me.
Have any of you tried Couch to 5k? If so what are your thoughts?
I am not a doctor or healthcare professional. This is my story and journey. It may not work for you. I still have asthma, my asthma is not cured. Not everyone with asthma or other issues will be able to do what I did. If you are thinking about starting this program, please consult someone that knows way more than I do.