Pound by Pound: Couch to 5K

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DSCN0119For much of my life, I’ve had one motto:  I don’t run unless I’m being chased.

Running on purpose just to do it was a strange concept to me. I didn’t see how people could run and enjoy it, mostly because it was always so difficult for me and was, therefore, intimidating.

To be honest, I still don’t know why people run for fun. It’s about as interesting to me as watching paint dry.

BUT, I have found a method that makes running less intimidating, and for my purposes, that is more than good enough!

Couch to 5K is an awesome, 9-week program developed at CoolRunning.com, the goal of which is to help you gradually go from sitting on your ass (couch) to being able to run 5K. You can either download the Couch to 5K app on your smartphone, or if you’re like me and have a dumb phone, you can just go to the website and follow the program as laid out there using your own timer or stopwatch. The fact that it’s gradual is key – in Week 1, you alternate between running for a minute and walking for a minute and a half for twenty minutes; in Week 2, you run for a minute and a half and walk for two. And so on, three days a week. There’s also the fact that you can repeat weeks as many times as you deem necessary. So, you can really train at your own pace, and in the process, get yourself used to regular, consistent exercise.

I was inspired by my sister, who completed Couch to 5K weeks ago, as well as some runner friends of mine, to give the program a try, but I was petrified at first. Just getting started was a challenge, and on my first day I stalled with every fiber of my being. I took way too long stretching, I “made sure” to get water, I went to the bathroom, like, five times…anything to keep me from actually going out the door and to the park where I regularly jog.

And that’s the moral of this story. I can now say I “regularly jog.”

Despite my fear, I eventually did get started, and I surprised myself when I realized that running for a minute at a stretch, which is how you get started in Week 1, was already my natural limit. I went in thinking that I’d “pass out” after about 30 seconds, but when I looked at my stopwatch just as I was about to lose my breath and “collapse,” a minute had come and gone. I’d actually gone a little over a minute before actually getting tired! This revelation kept me going. I’d be one thing if I had to work my way up to a minute – but I already had that ability? Hell, yeah! No reason I can’t go for a minute and a half…

I think they knew that when they designed this program!

I’ve decided to repeat weeks until they “get easy.” So, I’ve done Week 1 and Week 2 twice each, as doing each one twice makes starting the next level a lot easier. To me, it doesn’t pay to move forward until you’ve “mastered” the level you’re on. But everyone is different, and like I said, you should move forward at the pace that’s comfortable for you! If it helps you keep your momentum to push forward through each week, do it! Especially if the alternative is stopping. The real point is, don’t stop. Slow down and take a breath, by all means, but never stop.

Couch to 5K is something that you can do on your own, or with friends. There are benefits to both! When I run with a friend, conversation makes the time fly by. Also, if your friend is in a bit better shape than you and they pull a little ahead, it gives you something to shoot for. It’s not a race, you don’t have to “catch up,” but if you stop, you risk losing your friend. So, you keep going, if only to keep them in your sights! However, I’ve also really enjoyed running alone. I don’t do it with music, which is weird, because I absolutely NEED my iPod at all times whenever I’m just walking around. For some reason, though, when I’m jogging, it helps me more to maintain a zen-like focus inside my own head; to repeat certain words or phrases to myself to keep myself going. Mantras, I guess. Some personal “mantras” I’ve repeated to myself lately?

“You already did this yesterday. There’s no reason you can’t do it again today.”

“You want to keep up with your future kids, right? Run like your five year old’s about to run into traffic.”

 “Don’t be that cliché of a schlubby writer who gains weight in front of a keyboard all day!”

Sometimes, it’s as simple as:

“Just make it to that third tree before you check your stopwatch.”

As of this writing (5/28), I have started Week 3 of Couch to 5K, and for the first time EVER IN MY LIFE, I ran for THREE minutes at a stretch.

TWICE.

I’ve never run for three minutes straight EVER. That might not seem like a lot to some of you, but it’s HUGE to me. What’s more, it didn’t feel like that much more than a minute and a half, even though it’s TWICE that!

Knowing that chubby ol’ me can actually do this, week by week, keeps me motivated and actually has me looking forward to my scheduled Couch to 5K days. I’ve gone from being someone who’s never run ever, to being someone who looks forward to it! I still don’t know if I’d call it “fun,” but it is pretty cool to see how far my body can go.

Maybe that’s what my runner friends mean by fun.

Huh.

**Wanna keep me motivated? Don’t forget to make a pledge/donation to the Pound By Pound Pledge Drive – running Apr. 5th 2013-Apr. 5th 2014!**

About Teresa Jusino

Teresa Jusino is an East Coast transplant who currently lives and writes in Los Angeles. Her pop culture criticism has been featured on websites like Tor.com, GirlGamer.com, Al Dia, ChinaShopMag.com, PinkRaygun.com, Newsarama, and PopMatters.com. 2012 saw Teresa’s work appear in two Doctor Who anthologies: Chicks Unravel Time (Mad Norwegian Press) and Outside In (ATB Publishing), and she was also published in Mad Norwegian’s Whedonistas. Her fiction has appeared in Crossed Genres, and she is currently working on two new anthology projects that will be released in late 2013/early 2014, as well as scripts with which she hopes to take the television industry by storm!

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  • I love your mantras. When I’m boxing and having trouble meeting my time goal, I picture needing to protect baby unicorns and that gives me extra energy! 🙂

    • Ha! The other day, I was saying to myself “Just keep swimming…just keep swimming…” like Dorie in Finding Nemo. 🙂 Whatever works!

  • AwesomePossum

    You can also get podcasts for any mp3 player that talk you through each run/walk and do the timing for you (with new-agey music to run to): http://www.c25k.com/podcasts.htm
    Much easier than a stopwatch.

    • Oh wow! Thanks for this. Because yes, the stopwatch thing is starting to get in my way the further I have to run. I’d love to be able to take my mind off it completely. Thank you! I’ll look into this!

  • Joline Baylis

    Good for you for facing your fears and going for it! I discovered running a few years ago when I was at my heaviest. I went from not being able to run around the track once without having a hissy fit, to consistently running about 45 minutes to an hour at a time. Showing myself that I was able to do something I never thought I could do gave me so much strength and confidence in all areas of my life. And, I was surprised to find that after not too long at all, it actually did become fun. It got to the point where if I didn’t run for a few days I would be craving it hard! Since then I’ve lost about 100 lbs, so whatever your goals are, let me tell you, they’re totally possible! And thank you for reminding me how amazing running is… I’ve let it slide lately and I know I would feel so much better if I made it a regular thing again!