The good, bad and the ugly of Couch to 5K

couchto5kI was the kid who got picked last in gym class. Please, save your sympathy sighs. Even then, my feelings weren’t hurt. I was awful. I’ve never been an athletic person. I remember my friends comparing me to Daria playing volleyball and it was a really fair comparison. My friends were all athletic and I envied them, but I always felt because I wasn’t naturally athletic (and I really am not), it just wasn’t for me.

As I got older, I did start exercising regularly right up until halfway through my pregnancy. I did weight training, yoga, spinning, etc. But I have never been a runner and outside of a little treadmill interval training, I didn’t run. Not more than 45 seconds or so. If I had to run for my life, I would die. I had a rough pregnancy which ended in bed rest and I just didn’t regularly resume my exercise routine after having my baby. I took leisurely walks that barely warranted tennis shoes, and that was about it.

DH finishing the 10 miler. What a stud!
DH finishing the 10 miler. What a stud!

My husband is a runner. He started before he joined the army and continues to regularly run. He’s been the runner and I’ve been the one cheering him on from the sidelines. He could run 10 miles, I could barely run across the street. And maaaan, I was sick of it. I wanted to run with him. I wanted to be the one lacing up my shoes and saying, “Hey babe, I’m going for a run.” But I wasn’t a runner.

On Facebook, I started seeing these updates from a friend who was also “not a runner”, but she was running! She started the Couch to 5k program and I started seeing these updates with her progress… “Just completed week 2, day 1 of C25k” and so on. I was really blown away and impressed. I also noticed a real change in her. She looked fantastic and really seemed happier and healthier overall.

I figured I didn’t have anything to lose, so I downloaded the C25K app and started the program. Couch to 5k is a program designed to turn couch potatoes into runners who can run 5k (or just over three miles) regularly. The idea is that if you don’t run regularly, if you just start running as long and fast as you can immediately, your body rebels, you feel awful and don’t stick with it. The C25K program is a gradual program that you complete three times a week for two months. For example, the first day you run one minute, walk 1 1/2 minutes and repeat six times with a five minute warm up and cool down. By the next week, you run 1 1/2 minutes, than walk two minutes. And so on and so on. Very gradually, you’re increasingly the distance and time you’re spending running. It’s so gradual that I really believe anyone can complete the program successfully. It’s like they’re tricking you into running.

The program is very black and white, which completely worked for me. I’ve made my own exercise programs and guidelines and dropped out because it wasn’t sustainable and the plans were arbitrary. This was very sustainable and very clear, which made me feel like I had to do the program exactly how it was designed. I had to run three days a week, but not consecutively. So I worked that into my schedule. I ran when the program told me to run and I stopped (gladly!) when the program told me to slow down and walk. I’m really proud that I never walked when I was supposed to run and I didn’t miss a day on the program. But the way the program is designed, I didn’t feel like that was an option.

I did so many things throughout the program that I never thought I would do, especially voluntarily. I ran in the rain. I got up and ran before my son woke up. I ran until I thought I was going to vomit. I ran until I got a case of heat exhaustion. (Not recommended, don’t be dumb.) I ran with my husband. And by the end of the program, I ran a 5k! I, the girl picked last in gym class, the non-runner, can run more than three miles!

Now, here’s the ugly truth of it, from a non-runner runner… when I started this program, on the first day, I could barely run one minute. And during that one minute, I haaaated it and couldn’t wait for it to be over. By the end of the program, I ran 5k and while running, I haaaaated it and couldn’t wait for it to be over. But, once it’s over, I love it. I feel amazing. I feel healthier overall. I sleep better. As a stay-at-home-mom, I have rough days where I don’t feel like I really accomplish much. (Other than keeping the kid happy and fed.) But now, on those rough days, I still feel really accomplished because I ran! I did something for myself and completed a program that now allows me to run regularly. That feels AWESOME.

Another ugly truth… I am slow. I saw this shirt that says, “I run. I’m slower than a herd of sloths stampeding through Nutella, but I run.” And I was like, ‘That is ME!’ I embrace it. I may be slow, but I am running! I don’t run so fast that I can’t continue. I run at a pace that I know I can sustain. Right now, I can run just over three miles and that, in itself, is pretty amazing to me. As I continue, I hope I can run the same distance a little faster. Then I hope I can run a little further. And so on.

To celebrate finishing the program, I dedicated an entire weekend to lounging on the couch watching Netflix and trying all the different Ben and Jerry flavors. Kidding. (Although it does sound tempting…) I signed up for an official 5k! I chose the Great Pumpkin Run and completed it last weekend with my husband. I will admit that the trail was a shock for me. I was used to running around my neighborhood, local park and school track– so mostly flat pavement. The Great Pumpkin Run was held at a farm and they basically plowed some hilly cornfields to make a trail. We even had to run through a corn maze towards the end. (Which made me really angry at the time.) So it was much more of a challenge running uphill and trying not to trip on pumpkin vines and I cursed even though than I normally do while running. But I’m proud that I did run the entire thing, actually passed quite a few people and I crossed the finish line with my husband instead of cheering him on.

This was post-run, so, yeah, I look like shit. But I was so happy!
This was post-run, so, yeah, I look like shit. But I was so happy!
Even though he's much faster, he slowed his pace so we ran together.
Even though he’s much faster, he slowed his pace so we ran together.

Overall, the c25k program was a great experience for me and I’m so glad I did it. I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in running. ryanrun

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