I say this with a twinge of hesitation that I shouldn’t have after reading John Bingham’s great book for “adult onset runners,” “No Need for Speed,” but: I am a runner. Wait, don’t leave, I’m serious! It had been on my mind for a while that I wanted to be healthy and I just couldn’t figure out how. I have so many obligations that squeezing one in that was just for me seemed selfish and impossible but the idea of running started popping up in my mind. If I could just lace up my shoes and walk out my door while someone watched the kids then I would be good to go, I thought. I could even take them with me in the stroller if I had to.
With these things in mind I told my husband I was thinking of running. The next day he called me from REI (a sporting goods store) asking about what size I wore – he was buying me some gear. I had felt so silly telling him I wanted to do this and here he was taking me seriously and supporting me. That was the final nudge I needed in January 2012 to give it all a shot. How hard could it be? I wondered. I ran until I was tired and walked until I felt ready to run. This meant I was averaging 15 to 16 minutes a mile and feeling very lame indeed in the process. After hurting my ankle I took some time off but after I mentioned what I was trying to do with my running to a friend, she suggested something called “Couch to 5k.” I started in earnest early in May.
Couch to 5k is meant to take you from being a non runner (on the couch, so to speak) to doing a 5k or running or jogging 30 minutes non-stop using a 9 week training plan with runs three times per week. I gave it a go and am happy to report that though 9 weeks ago 90 seconds of running had me counting my footfalls until I could rest, now I can run over 30 minutes at a consistent pace without stopping to walk. I have even had a mile as fast as 10 minutes and 57 seconds and ran a 5k in 38 minutes and 5 seconds at the end of the program, beating the time I set at the Terminal 3 5k of 43 minutes and 53 seconds!
In short, the program worked for me. My husband or mother in law (if she was visiting) would monitor the kids as they slept and I’d wake up at about 4:40am in the morning to get out to run (the photos in this post are from my mornings out and about). Often that meant being out the door at 5:20 in the Vegas morning heat because R wanted to get just one last night nursing session in but I got out there and did it. In the process I have lost 12 pounds in 12 weeks (along with diet of course), ran over 5 miles down a road at Mount Charleston with friends while we camped up there early in July, and felt fantastic about myself.
I had to repeat one of the weeks when I just couldn’t finish a 5 minute stretch of running at the end of week 4 but for some reason after I made it through repeating that week I never felt that discouraged again. I have made new friends and been supported by old ones, I have been able to be a good example to my children and have even started doing other exercise as a form of cross training. I can’t recommend giving this a try highly enough. I do know some people do the program more than once and repeat weeks like I did so it is all about listening to your body and doing your best not to get injured but give it a try and surprise yourself like I did.
I have been trying to research what comes next and while some people follow a program called “Bridge to 10k” I thought a 6 week program to double what I could do seemed ambitious so I was going to try a 10 week training plan called “One Hour Runner” (discovered via this MetaFilter thread). I’ve just completed week one. A great resource I found in my searches was the post “After the Couch to 5k: What Comes Next,” which makes it clear that you can really make your own plan with the right components that you need for your particular goal but I liked having the pre-made training plan so much that I will continue with it for a while longer. By my next milestone I should be better able to come up with a custom plan. My next race is Calico Racing’s Recycled 5k in October and following that I am debating whether to do the 5k or 10k Running from an Angel race in January 2013 (also from Calico Racing, I’ve heard good things about how they operate).
I started with an application for my phone called “My Tracks” to track my workouts but then changed to one called “Run Keeper” that I love because you can program your training plan into it and it will give you audio cues for your intervals of running or walking. I track my calories and exercise in My Fitness Pal and there’s even a Couch to 5k Sub-Reddit to ask and answer questions. I also get support from a local facebook running group, I’ve found that runners are kind and encouraging no matter what your skill level and as I am what is considered a “penguin,” that helps! I have a lot to figure out still, like what I can eat that won’t give me a side stitch as I run (right now I just drink water before runs and eat when I get home, not ideal as I try to add longer distances into the mix).
Some final notes:
- Music really helps, here are some of my new favorites in my running mix: Wild Ones (amazon affiliate link), Chasing the Sun (amazon affiliate link), and Part of Me (amazon affiliate link).
- Earbuds that don’t fall out of my ears are Skullcandy Chops Hanger Earbuds (amazon affiliate link).
- My favorite sports bra is the Fiona by Moving Comfort, great if you’re a nursing mom too (amazon affiliate link).
- A fantastic book for beginning runners: No Need for Speed by John Bingham (amazon affiliate link).
- As far as shoes go, good ones that are larger than you’d think you’d need are a must. Bingham writes that your feet should have lost of space in the toe of the shoe and I’ve found that to be true. I bought a “neutral” shoe to start but I do feel my ankles tilt in so I probable need some insoles or different shoes when it comes time to buy more. I may splurge on one of those consults that they do at running stores where they really try to find the right shoe for your running style.
I tell myself things to beat the mental game that sometimes makes me want to stop, such as a phrase I got from this blog post: “running is a privilege.” I tell myself that I am lucky to be able to run – hurting my ankle early on made me grateful when it stopped hurting and I am grateful for the help of others to watch the kids so I can get outside early enough to beat the heat. My other favorite was sent to me by a friend as encouragement and I can’t think of a better way to end this post: “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” – Arthur Ashe