If I can, YOU definitely can!!
Half way through lock-down, I decided to attempt the couch to 5k!
I downloaded the app with a little hesitation and had absolutely no idea what to expect.
The first thing I was faced with was a coach to choose. I decided Sarah Millican would be a good option and made a plan in my head to run on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning. I also made the decision to run super early. I had two main reasons for this.
Firstly, so I could get the run out the way as early as possible and then be able to focus on my day ahead and secondly, so I would minimise the risk of being seen by absolutely anyone!!
I have never been what I would call a "natural runner".
During my years at secondary school I would do anything I could to get out of any kind of physical activity. When it come to the summer months of athletics and the dreaded running, I became a total pro at coming up with every excuse under the sun in order to sit on the sidelines and watch my fellow classmates participate. I often wondered how they managed to be so good at what I considered to be the horribly lengthy 1500 meters. On top of that they seemingly enjoyed it and found the ability to get excited about cross country running! This I found odd to say the very least!
I am hoping this has now set the scene for you on how I felt when my first couch to 5k run was in sight.
I was not even close to feeling excited, I was horrified that I had somehow managed to convince myself that this was a good idea.
Monday morning came and I put my trainers on and started the app. Sarah Millian assured me she would be with me every step of the way. We started with a 5 minute walk, this was totally manageable. But what was coming next? A 60 second run followed by a 90 second walk - 7 times! I surprised myself that I completed it!
The rest of the runs for weeks 1 and 2 went really well.
I managed weeks 3 and 4 and suddenly found that I had gone from hating every step to watching my breath and listening to my body. I noticed how by allowing my thoughts to remain focused on my breath the physical aspect of the actual running became much easier and much less intense.
Week 5 came around and I suddenly found on my 2nd run of the week that an 8 minute run was in the pipeline. I felt ready, but I could I do this? 8 minutes suddenly felt like a tall order. With perseverance and my well regulated breathwork helping me through, the 8 minutes felt amazing.
Feeling super happy with my achievement, I looked ahead on the app to my 3rd and final run of week 5 and I was horrified!! My trusted couch to 5k friend Sarah Millican suddenly thought that she would pop in a cheeky 20 minute run!
My nerves set in and I felt completely out of my depth. There was no way this was achievable but there was also no way I wanted to give up.
Friday morning came and without hesitation I put on my trainers and got straight to the task in hand. After a 5 minute warm up walk I was off, I kept focused and paced myself just like Sarah told me to. It was the first time I had ever had fire in my belly to run and I proved to myself that I could do this. And I did. I felt absolutely amazing and could not wait for more.
Week 6 and I found myself flying, with three different runs on the cards I felt totally ready for what was in store. By my final run of week 6 I had a 25 minute run to complete. The first 15 minutes felt easier than I thought it would and with 10 minutes to go I felt super strong. But then I felt and heard a sudden ping in my left hip, with determination (and a little stupidity) I carried on running for another 5 minutes and I had slowed down to almost a hobble. Realising that there was no way I could continue, I stopped. And cried pretty much all the way home. I was absolutely gutted.
By the time I reached home, the reality hit me that my couch to 5k journey was potentially over. I got straight on the phone to the chiropractor and had an appointment for the following day.
It turns out I had a Tensor Fasciae Latae injury. The pain in my outer hip was almost unbearable. However, being told by my chiropractor that this was quite a typical "runners" injury filled me with a sudden sense of pride! A typical runners injury - me, wow!!
Plenty of ice and a few stretches each day as well as walking instead of running was on the cards for the next few weeks. Although still upset not to be doing the couch to 5k I continued to do as I was told. After another chiropractor session I was feeling good. Things were definitely looking up. I attempted a couple of little runs whilst walking (5 minutes here and 5 minutes there) and I seemed to feel okay.
After two weeks, I decided that I was going to continue with my couch to 5k and repeat week 6 to ease myself back into the routine.
Today, I sit here writing this blog after completing week 6. This morning I smashed the 25 minute run that I was forced to stop due to injury just a few weeks ago.
Sarah Millican told me this morning that by running for 25 minutes I was practically a "proper runner!" Who would of thought it. Me. A runner. I am so proud of myself and feel completely elated.
I still have 3 weeks to go of my couch to 5k journey but I can tell you now that I cannot wait to get cracking. I am certain that I can do this and I have proved to myself already that I am totally capable.
I know for some the thought of running for half hour or maybe busting out a 10k is a daily activity that comes completely naturally, but for me, this is huge.
I wanted to share my tips with you on what has helped me to get this far in hopes that I will inspire others to take on the couch to 5k challenge:
Always start with the 5 minute brisk walk and end with the 5 minute brisk walk - skipping either of these will definitely hinder your progress.
Pace yourself, its a marathon not a sprint (well for me anyway!)
Breathe - stay in control of your breath, notice it, watch it, observe it.
Running the same route each time may seem boring, but by keeping this consistent I found I knew where I was in terms of the bigger picture. I divided my chosen route into smaller chunks which was much more manageable for me to cope with. I had a little celebration in my head when I got to the "next part" and it felt pretty great!
Always have a days rest between each run, again if you don't, your progress may be affected.
If something doesn't feel right, stop. Always listen to your body. Don't push through pain. Stop, rest, recuperate fully and then try again.
If I can do this, YOU definitely can!
Grab your trainers and go for it!
It doesn't matter how fast or slow you go, just keep those legs moving.
In the words of Sarah Millican:
"You can totally do this pet!"
Much Love Zara xx