Couch to 5k Review and What I’m Doing Next

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

16 thoughts on “Couch to 5k Review and What I’m Doing Next

  1. I’ve never believed myself to be a runner. I can remember being a kid in elementary, our PE teachers would make us do a “run test” where we would basically just run laps around the gym and see how long we can last. I could never get in as many laps as a lot of my classmates so ever since then, I’ve just had this mentality that running is just not my thing. I think that’s why I’ve only gotten as far as walking. But now I’m thinking maybe it should be my next goal, the next level for me. I’m so inspired by your blog post! Thanks for writing this. I’m proud of you!! 🙂

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    1. Thank you!!! You made my day, Kris! It is crazy how each week that passes the last week suddenly seems like it wasn’t as hard as it seemed – that is pretty empowering, the realization that you are getting stronger. 🙂 I struggle with the cardio component but you are already doing the elliptical, etc. so you have more stamina than I did starting out, I’m sure. I was one of those kids in PE that just walked around the track, I gave up trying to run because I could never sustain it or be as fast as the other kids. Or I’d “forget” my gym clothes so I could sit out for the day. I think in school the kids that are athletic do their thing and the teachers never make the effort to encourage the rest of us to improve. I think you would love a 5k, there are people that speed walk them even and it is just the right amount of time and you also get to be part of a fun event!

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  2. Good job Homa! You should be so proud of yourself. My favorite quote about athletics in general is, “it never gets easier, you just get better.” You are getting better and better everyday. I want to do a triathlon at some point, so I will probably start with this C25K too. Thanks!

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    1. What a great quote! A triathalon sounds awesome, I know gyms even provide some groups to help train for them. I’d love to do a half marathon someday just to know that I could. Much more training ahead of course but it feels great to get better. Thanks so much for the encouragement, it means a lot!

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  3. Oh my gosh, Homa! I’m sitting here in court reading this and I’m getting misty-eyed!! I’m so proud of you.
    I feel so many emotions reading about your journey – pride, inspiration, and gratitude. I’m proud that, through injury, frustration, and doubt, you stuck with it, and your determination was rewarded with (what sounds like) a newfound confidence. Your journey also inspired me to get started again, and continues to inspire me to keep going. Learning (from this blog) that I had any role in helping you along, really just touches my heart (why I’m this emotional about this, I have no idea). Thank you for sharing your story and thank you for allowing me to be a part of it.

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    1. You really made a huge difference, I don’t care how corny that sounds! 🙂 I think sometimes it is nice to know that life isn’t just slogging through the days (though there are days like that, I know) but that we can seek out new experiences and positive challenges. There’s enough that is just hard about what we have to accomplish in a given situation that I never thought adding to my to-do list made sense when adding things I choose changes the balance of the whole list. I’m rambling but thanks so much Melissa!

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  4. Thank you for this post! I was Googling reviews on the Couch to 5k app and this told me everything I needed to know! You even sound exactly like me right now when you said you thought it was silly to think of yourself as a runner and that you could barely run a mile in fifteen minutes! This is me; however, I also recently quit smoking! This has inspired me to make even more healthy choices in my life. It has been about a month and I just ran today for the first time in years because I finally have the energy and lungs to do so with some motivation! I also have a kiddo, making my leisure time very sparse. :). I like the fact that this program is three days a week. Did you do any other physical activities on your “off” days? I will also add that two years ago I was 145 pounds and I am now over 170. I dread getting dressed everyday because I can’t wear most of the cute, chic clothes in my closet without looking like a cow! I know… woe is me but I am motivated to lose weight so I can feel good about my self image and I am hoping this program will help me accomplish that. Thanks again for sharing and keep up the good work!

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    1. Alison, you’ve made my day! I’m so glad I could offer some useful information. I know I’m a rambler but if what I wrote helped show what a novice I am then it was all worth it because I think the awesome thing about Couch to 5k is that it really is for beginners. Congratulations on quitting smoking, that is a huge mental battle I’m sure so you’re well prepared for the mental battle of pushing yourself forward with running.

      Regarding your questions, I did try to do workouts on my “off” days but stopped mainly because I do get out there and walk with the kids or take them to the park almost every day and adding more workouts made me very tired. This may be because of eating less calories though so I want to do some strength training down the line when I am more at a maintenance weight. Three days a week is more than enough if you are strapped for time. This past Saturday I ran 10 miles (crazy to think I started in January and I’m training for a half marathon now!) which was a 2 hour time commitment but I think 30 – 45 minutes three times a week is plenty to achieve a greater level of fitness. You don’t want to push so much at the start with a schedule that is hard to maintain and then burn out, after all.

      I was surprised how little losing weight helped me with my self image. I don’t mean this to discourage you but what I want to say with that point is that running has made me feel much better about myself. I really thought a smaller size would be the boost I’d need but showing myself I can accomplish something and challenge myself with running helps especially on those days when the scale might tick higher for some reason. I can really keep up with my 2 and 4 year old now. The other day our stroller went down a hill while I strapped them in their carseats and I sprinted after it only to have some folks that were watching comment that I really “booked it.” Who knew I could?

      You can do this! I’d love to hear how it progresses for you through the program. Feel free to ask any more questions if you have them and thank you again for your comment, I really appreciate it!

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  5. I read about From Couch to 5K and now I’m reading this. Talk about really valuable information! I’m trying to get moving as it is time to loose this weight, so I saw From Couch to 5K in a magazine, but truly, your article is 10 times better.

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    1. It made such a huge difference for me, having the plan to push me along. Tuesday I will have been running for one year and it is surreal! You can do it, don’t be afraid to repeat weeks or build up with walking before launching into the 9 week plan. The sense of accomplishment you feel from pushing yourself a little more each time is very rewarding, let me know how it goes! I will say that running outside is very different from being on the treadmill so if you find that one or the other isn’t working for you, try switching it up. You can do it! And thank you for the kind words about my post, I love that the program is free and so accessible so if I help anyone give it a try then that brightens my day.

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