Last week, a friend advised me to write about my experience with the Couch to 5k app as she has had some popular posts on Instagram to do with her running successes but, as I’m in no way, shape or form an experienced runner, I didn’t really feel comfortable promoting fitness when there are so many more influential people out there who can do that and I only started running last week.
However, after some consideration, I decided that I’m not going to promote running but I am going to share my experience with making the decision to be more active.
As some of you may know, I was due to get married this year (31st July 2020) but, due to the pandemic, my wedding date has been postponed to July 2021. At the start of this year, I joined Slimming World and was actually having some great success with following the diet plan (losing a stone since Christmas) but, as soon as we went into lockdown, I completely lost it and struggled to lose any more weight. I did maintain my weight for a while but, then, once my wedding was postponed, I put on a few of the pounds I’d worked so hard to lose. Now, I want to start shifting it again!
Did anyone else feel like they were far more motivated to exercise at the start of lockdown compared to these past few months? I would complete circuits with my Hubby to Be on the decking in the garden, follow the Joe Wicks workouts and I even did some beginners’ yoga. However, that fizzled out around June and, since then, I’d become less active.
Now, Lee, my Hubby to Be, is a natural runner. He’s a Sports Coach so enjoys anything active. I need far more convincing to put my trainers on and participate in any kind of activity, even the ones I enjoy… and running was certainly not on that list of activities!
However, I noticed Lee and I were having more conversations about running and he began mentioning the Nike running app but I knew that that would be a huge commitment for someone who hasn’t ran long distance since their teens. I was becoming more interested in starting to run though and, eventually, I decided I would download the Couch to 5K app as I knew it would start from the basics, which was EXACTLY what I needed.
Just the fact that the idea was implanted in my mind has brought me to this blog post today as I want to share how I actually got myself prepared for this lifestyle change I was about to make. I’m going to break it down into sections and I really hope they help others who may be in the same situation as me…
Thinking about running
Admittedly, I am that person who looks at runners and thinks, “I could never do that!” or “I’m not a runner!” or even, “They must be mad!”
It’s true though. I’m not a runner. Like I said, I haven’t ran long distance since I was at school so the thought of putting my trainers on and just going for a run seemed ridiculous. However, I did the first step and downloaded the Couch to 5K app. I entered my details and chose the person I wanted to inspire me and push me on: I chose Sarah Millican as she sounds the friendliest. Just knowing that the app was on my phone meant that I’d invested an interest and that smallest spark was a start.
Setting a date
Lee was ready to get going straight away but I knew I had a busy weekend coming up so I didn’t want to start before then and then feel that I’d undone my hard work. So, we both agreed that the Monday was the best day to start.
Once I’d committed to that day, I didn’t want to then back out. It probably helped that I had Lee there to spur me on too so it might be worth telling someone that you’re going to do it. You may feel more committed if someone else knows.
Please don’t feel like you need to go and buy a whole load of new running gear before you start. I run in an old pair of cheap leggings and a New York Knicks jersey teamed with a pair of Nike trainers that I have for my more casual days.
However, one thing that you should invest in, without a shadow of a doubt, is a decent sports bra. I find the Nike ones the best as they just fit so nicely – I have two of these (one black and one turquoise both in Medium for a size 12) but I’ve bought others in the past that dig in, feel scratchy or so tight that I can’t breathe. If you wear anything that is uncomfortable, you’re going to give up straight away! I wore a pair of socks that rubbed on my first run and was tempted to say, “This is not for me!” … I didn’t though, I just chose some more comfortable socks for my next run and they were much better.
All the gear…
For me, when I do exercise, I need to listen to music. I used to exercise with some pink earbuds plugged into my phone and one thing I would experience was the wires getting caught on my elbows or my hands and it would pull them out – Arrrggghhhh!!
I didn’t want the same thing happening this time. So, I purchased some TWS AirPods from Amazon. I didn’t buy the Apple ones as I’m not made of money! No, I purchased some that were a fraction of the price of the Apple AirPods and they work like a dream. You can find them here: Bluetooth Wireless Earphones
Additionally, I wanted to store my phone efficiently so opted for an armband that can also store your house key and has an extendable strap. My upper arms are not twig-like, unfortunately, and some straps can make you feel like you’re having your blood pressure checked. This one that I purchased from Amazon is suitable for all arm sizes and has an extension strap if your arm is a bit wider: Gritin Running Armband
Hopefully, with these accessories, you are ready for your first run.
Embrace the Embarrassment
When I was younger and would attempt to run long distance, I would feel a little embarrassed about having to stop or to slow down. However, now, it’s part of the process with the Couch to 5K (running for a short period and then walking during intervals) and, to be honest, no one really cares about what level of runner you are; most people commend your efforts to take that first step to start being active.
And who cares what you look like anyway? This morning, I had a butterfly land on my head whilst running and I had a real freakout (I have a phobia) so God knows what I must have looked like to passers-by!!
Go at your own pace!
Like I said previously, I am not a fitness junkie in the slightest and am, therefore, quite unfit and slow. With the Couch to 5K, you start off at a real slow pace: The first week is running for 60 seconds, followed by 90 seconds of walking (repeated for a total of 8 times) with a warm-up and cool-down of 5 minutes each, making the total time being active around 30 minutes. The app then builds on this progress and the second week has had me running for 90 seconds and walking for two minutes (six times in the half hour) and it will continue to get progressively longer to build endurance. By the ninth week, I should be running for thirty minutes straight so I’ll keep you posted on how I get on with that…
My very first run was a shock to the system. I felt like I was breathing as if I’d ran a marathon, not only one minute, my left shin was killing me and I could feel about three blisters forming on my right foot. However, I persevered and I actually felt good about myself at the end of the run. The second run was slightly easier with no blisters but I could still feel my shin hurting. So, the whole run was mostly me trying to run through the pain and convincing myself not to give up… which I didn’t! Yay!
This morning, I completed my sixth run and, although I am still working on my breathing (I can only breathe through one nostril so I do a lot of breathing in and out of my mouth, rather than in through the nose and out through the mouth) but I haven’t suffered a blister since that first run and the pain in my shin is becoming less noticeable.
Celebrate your achievements
No matter how small, certainly revel in the fact that you are running. Two weeks ago, it was still an idea, but now I’m running for longer than I did the week before and I’m feeling like I can actually do it and that I can accomplish my longer runs next week. From Monday, I am due to run for three minutes straight. When I thought about this last week, I wanted to give up there and then thinking that it will be too difficult; now that I’ve finished my second week of 90 second runs, I actually believe that I can do it. It will be tough and I know that my lead legs will struggle but I’m determined to do it. I’ve even been fantasising about running half marathons in the future, but keep that to yourself!
Pick the perfect partner
Although Lee has been the one to encourage me to start running, I don’t actually run with him. We both have the same starting point but, as he’s got greater stamina than me, he goes off on his long distance runs and I just amble along on my own.
I put my music and my Couch to 5K on and I run at my own pace. If I need to go a little slower or I can feel the fatigue kicking in, I know that I can and that I’m not in competition with anyone (or vice-verser if I’m faster or fitter than the other person).
However, I have seen others running (and walking, which makes me think they must be doing the Couch to 5K too) with a partner. I imagine this is great for motivating each other as you can both spur each other on during the run if either of you need that instant inspiration.
Pick the perfect place
Lee and I take a five minute drive to a local park that runs along a river. It’s great because it’s mostly flat. If there were steep hills that I need to run up, I think I’d roll back down!
Pick the perfect playlist
If anyone looked at my playlist (which I’ve named ‘Let’s Run and Have Fun’ on Spotify), they would probably laugh their heads off. It’s a real eclectic range with rock, indie and pop (including cheesy pop, such as S Club 7 and Samantha Mumba) but I need to listen to music with lyrics whilst I run; it helps me take my mind off the time and the pain in my shin, and sometimes I catch myself singing out loud which also helps regulate my breathing. Again, passers-by must think I’m such an oddball.
Lee, on the other hand, searches for running playlists and enjoys running to a beat.
Whatever your choice, remember it’s your playlist so choose whatever songs are going to motivate you the most. On my first run, I’d made the mistake of choosing a favourite album but some songs were slower and effected my pace.
What I’ve found has helped this week is finding a target for me to run towards; I sometimes get bogged down with the length of running time (90 seconds seemed so long this week!!) so I’ve started to give myself a target. For example, I’ll challenge myself to get to a lamppost, a bin or a tree, then when I do, I choose the next target. I base the target on how long I think I’ve got left of that 90 seconds.
I really hope my experiences from these past two weeks have provided some inspiration and also helped with knowing that you CAN do this!! Seriously, two weeks ago, the thought of running really ignited an anxiety inside me but now that I’ve accomplished two weeks of the Couch to 5K, I am so proud of myself. Yes, I’m still slow and I’m dreading the three-minute runs next week, but I feel far more motivated to do it and I’m at a point where I really don’t want to give up now that I’ve started.
Has this blog inspired you to start running? Are you already a keen runner and would like to share your running experiences? Have you completed the Couch to 5K? Did you enjoy it? Leave a comment below.
Lots of Love,
Loula Bella xoxo