Couch to 5k – Life Above the Cafe

Couch to 5k

You too can be an athlete!
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Couch to 5k

Couch to 5k
May 17, 2020

I’m not an athletic person because my parents both worked full time and I grew up in a generation when children weren’t living in the car from activity to activity. We played outside like wild animals, so in their minds I had plenty of free activities no need for sports.

I was signed up for a dance class, with my neighbor who was three years younger than me because the only way that I could make it to any after school activity was as a passenger in her mother’s car.

Imagine being a foot taller than all of the other girls because they were in kindergarten while you were in third grade. I felt like the Jolly Green Giant with a bunch of little Sprouts running around! Needless to say, dance class only lasted for one fall session and the recital audience probably wondered if I had a growth hormone issue.

I married a very athletic person, you know the state championship type, runs fast, throws far, jumps high. He’s not in any adult leagues at the moment, but one thing he has kept up with is running for fitness. I used to envy him, but then I had an epiphany and realized that running involves no coordination or skills. I could finally be an athlete.

I looked around on the internet for advice on how to start running. I found a few Couch to 5k posts on Pinterest, bought a Garmin watch to keep up with my running stats along with a pair of comfortable running shoes, sports bras, breathable running attire, sunglasses, and sunscreen. I roped my neighbor, a mom of three, into joining me and off we went. We called ourselves the Running Mom’s Support Group.

Slowly but surely, I became a runner. It took months, but eventually I was running before work, after work, on the weekends, in the heat and humidity with bugs eating me alive, or on cold mornings that made my bones ache and my lungs burn. We narrowly avoided collisions with wild herds of deer, and the occasional bunny rabbit or a fox that crossed our paths. Thankfully, we missed the neighborhood skunk every time that we were out! Our huffing and puffing probably scared him off.

It was a love hate relationship that I had formed with the trails and roads of my neighborhood. I hated it when the alarm went off at 6:30 A.M., when the incline was steep, or when my mouth begged me for a drink, but I loved it when I looked at my watch and saw my ever decreasing time and ever increasing mileage completed or when I started noticing muscles in my legs and abdomen.

We moved, so I lost my invaluable running partner and amazing course. I would wake up literally dragging myself out of bed so that she wasn’t waiting for me and I know that she did the same. Sometimes you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone! I settled into my new space and tossed my old running shoes aside. The altitude adjustment where I live now, plus other health issues were wreaking havoc on my body. I became one with my couch.

Recently, I decided to stop making excuses for not running and exercising because life is short. I have an app that has all kinds of HIIT Workouts available that I’m participating in from my family room rug. I dusted off my treadmill, updated my play list, and found some shows that keep me entertained for the duration of my run. Would I rather be running outside with my old neighbor on our old path, absolutely, but I’m not going to let my past control my present.

Here are my suggestions if you want to start the Couch to 5k program:

  • Consult your doctor and possibly have a physical before starting a new physical activity.
  • Look at my chart or others and decide what’s best for you, but just get going!
  • Stretch before and after your runs, but not to the point of pain. I like to use pilates/yoga moves as my cool down.
  • Run as far as you can and then walk when you’re tired.
  • Only compete against yourself. I like to one up myself daily. Even if it means that I ran 15 seconds faster or went 1/10 of a mile farther.
  • Use an app or desk calendar to track your daily exercise. I use the RunKeeper App. Seeing my times/distance improving is motivating.
  • Find a running partner that is at a similar level, or a family member that will slow down for you. Since I don’t have my neighbor to run with anymore, my husband will run his normal route and then swing by the house to go run with me. It’s his cool down time since I’m a turtle compared to him.
  • Take a water bottle at first. There are small handheld water bottle carriers. I hate running with the ones that flop around at my waist.
  • Make sure that you are wearing comfortable socks and shoes to avoid blisters. Some athletic/running stores have treadmills setup so that you can try before you buy. Try different brands because even if you’ve always worn one brand, you may not enjoy running in it.
  • Bug spray is your friend if you run outside in a buggy town.
  • If running outside during the day, I suggest sunscreen, sunglasses, and possibly a visor. Hats are a no go for me because my head feels hotter, but a visor is open on top and keeps the sun out of my face.
  • Use a reflective belt or vest and a headlamp if you plan to run at night.
  • Check out your local high school tracks for a safer, flat place to start running. Most are open to the public in the evenings and weekends.
  • Set up a motivational playlist in your phone full of songs to keep you energized. I like Bruce Springsteen’s, “Born to Run” among others.
  • Look for local 5K’s in your area and make a plan to join a future event. This serves as motivation for all of your hard work.

Click on the chart above to be directed to a larger view of my suggested running schedule. It will direct you to another small chart, click it again to see the largest view (sorry for multiple clicks). This schedule is one that I made to use as I journey back to running 3.1 miles without walking breaks.

I don’t recommend any particular times for how long that you should walk vs. run. That’s unique to every individual, especially when you first get started. You can try 1 minute of running followed by 1 minute of walking, or 2 minutes of running followed by 1 to 2 minutes of walking. I promise that you will improve daily and weekly as long as you’re participating.

Remember that if you can only complete a 5k by walking, you’ve accomplished a goal. Don’t think that the Couch to 5k is only for runners. Walkers are welcome! Just remember that runner’s etiquette is to stay to the right just like driving on the interstate. Let the race horses pass you on the left.

If you need two days of rest as you get started then use Wednesday and Sunday as your recovery days. If you’re already in pretty good shape, then only use Sunday as a resting day.

I may not be running alongside you as you start your journey from the couch to 5k, but I’m sending lots of support your way via my own running shoes pounding the pavement or treadmill belt six days a week. Stay safe and happy running!

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