So, it’s time to come clean. I’ve turned into one of THEM. The ones you see sweating their backsides off on the pavement. The ones who look as though they’re about to die as they pound the street three times a week. The ones who take every opportunity they can to evangelise about the life changing power of putting one foot in front of the other at a speed that’s (mostly) quicker than walking.
I am now a jogger. I hesitate to say runner, since my mile time is pathetic at the moment, but it’s definitely going down. So, I hear no-one ask, how the hell did this happen?
Well, four months ago I needed something to zone out my brain. For a number of reasons, including an encroaching exam season at work, a novel deadline and lots of stuff I won’t go into here, I needed to be able to switch the f*@k off for a bit, regularly. It was either that or spend my working at home days eating toast and contemplating my navel. Add to that a stone put on since Christmas, and I was in pretty poor physical and mental shape. I was in serious danger of sliding downhill mentally on my arse, if that makes sense, and for half an hour, three times a week, I figured I could crack on and drag that same arse outside, with a view to making said arse smaller, and helping out my head, before that disappeared up my arse, too!
So, I started the ZenLabs Couch to 5K program. Now, I’ve got history with the C25K. I’ve usually got to week 5 or so and either got pregnant or the weather’s got too cold and I’ve wussed out of finishing it. Not this time. No chance of more babies, and the weather’s been pretty good, so I had neither of the usual excuses to stop. But I didn’t go shouting about it here on the blog when I started, as I’m actually the queen of self sabotage, and I knew that if I started writing about it, I’d pack it in quicker than a bottle of Cava on a Saturday night. So, despite extolling the benefits of the C25K in person to any poor sod who happened to ask me about it (and quite a few who didn’t – sorry, lovely friends and family!), I kept schtum on here.
However, now is the time to start shouting. As of today, I can now actually run/shamble 5k. But surely that was the whole point? I hear no-one ask. Well, of course, but, I knew there was no way I was going to get to that marker in a mere eight weeks. I mean, let’s face it, I’m at least three stone overweight, rather greedy, love my Co-op dry Cava and when I started I was running about an eighteen minute mile, so 5K in the half an hour that the C25K app suggests was never going to happen. But, and here’s the insightful bit…I knew that 5K in eight weeks was never going to be A Thing for me. My goal, like so many others who do the C25K program, was to be able to jog without stopping for the full thirty minutes. For me, it was never about the actual distance; it was about being able to put one foot in front of the other for the full time and achieve it, regardless of the distance. So, by the final week of the program, I was running just over 3k (about two miles), and, you know what? 3K was OK.
So when I ‘graduated’ the C25K, I had two choices; continue to run for 30 minutes for a few weeks and see if I got faster, or, increase the time I was running for, and see if that was enough to increase my mileage. Oh, incidentally, apologies for switching up the units in this post – I tend to think of whole runs in KM in terms of distance, and MPH in terms of speed (I’m a child of the 80s, what can I tell you?!). Anyway, I decided that I’d soon get bored of keeping up the 5K final run, so I downloaded…you guessed it…the C210K!
This is the sister app from Zenlabs, and you can actually start on week 9, as a ‘graduate’ of the 5K program, so that’s what I did. And guess what? It was just the psychological kick I needed. The intervals are back (for example, the first couple of week 9 runs are 10 minutes running, one minute walking, repeated four times), as a way of increasing endurance. And it works. Completely. I ran for forty minutes, with four one minute walk intervals. And I’ve done it twice so far. I mean, f@!k me…forty minutes! Me…
And today I ran 5K. Now, did I mention that I am SLOW? My 5K time was forty five minutes, which is about 3.5MPH, I think. But you know what? That doesn’t matter. I did it. For the first time. And I’m not dead. Not even remotely. It’s taken about fourteen weeks, but I’ve actually got there. And while I’m pretty sure, to date, I’ve lost no weight (did I mention…greedy), I feel SO MUCH BETTER. When I started this jogging malarkey, I had to come back and have a little lie down after each session (not kidding). Now, I can come home, dash around the house and then engage properly with my children. In fourteen weeks. I call that an effing miracle, myself.
I know that I will never be a ‘runner’ – one of those lycra clad lovelies who bounces along the pavement at a speed that would put a March Hare to shame, but I’m a proud shambler, and I have the C25K to thank. Oh, and Bryony Gordon, of course, whose brilliant book Eat, Drink Run kept me on track as I was making the transition between ‘OMG I’m going to DIE’ and ‘Ooh, this feels GOOD!’. Well worth a read, whether you’re a runner or not, and not just because she loves a Star Wars t-shirt, like me.
So, what I have I learned? What are my top tips?
- If you’re ample of bosom, like me, get a VERY GOOD sports bra. Not only will it stop your boobs from bouncing around and distracting the motorists who pass you, but you can put your phone in your cleavage while you’re running. Saves using one of those silly arm band things.
- A good C25K app is your friend. The Zenlabs one literally just talks to you to tell you whether to run or walk, which suited me as I couldn’t be doing with someone chatting to me all the way round (headspace, and all that). But if you like the company, there are plenty out there who will have natter while you run.
- Listen to music only when you’ve found your pace. I couldn’t run and listen for the first six weeks of the program as, quelle surprise, I sped up and slowed down, depending on what I was listening to. Put it back on when you’re confident you won’t do this (the Zenlabs C25K app runs in the background and breaks in over your music so you know when to run/walk, but only if you keep it up on your phone’s screen, so be careful. The 10K app is lockable, and works better for this).
- Don’t worry if you can’t breathe properly for four weeks. I only really learned to breathe in week 5. Before that, I felt like I was on sixty a day. Which I wasn’t. It hurts, but you’ll get through it.
- Trainers are good, but don’t get too hung up on which pair at this stage. I’m only now thinking I should get some decent ones, and I’ve run in all three manky pairs.
- Try not to carry anything except your housekey in a pocket. Honestly, it’ll mess with your elbows.
- Ibuprofen gel is your friend. Buy lots for your knees. Apply before and after.
- STRETCH. Before and after. Or your knees will kill you.
- Don’t worry about what anyone thinks when they see you. I was once put off, many years ago, by some twat shouting ‘I can see your cellulite!’ as I panted past him. Had I been able to speak at the time, I’d have shouted back about not being able to even see his tiny c*ck, but as it was I was struggling to breathe. And I didn’t think about it until WAY afterwards, as with all the best comebacks.
- Realise that, by taking this on, it’s a reward, not a punishment. You might even find yourself looking forward to the next run. This mindset is particularly useful in the early stages when you think you’re going to have a heart attack.
So there you go. I’m out of the running closet and proud. Here’s to reaching that 10K marker, however long it takes me!
I’m off to drink some Cava now…