Monday 15 June 2020

Couch to 5K | Week One

As much as it’s always been something I’ve wanted to get into, I’ve always hated running. I thinks it’s largely down to a bit of a hangover from my school days where we were expected to do cross country during the winter months. Not only is it kind of rubbish to be out in the cold with no real way to warm up afterwards, but my asthma is badly effected by cooler temperatures which just made it all the more unpleasant.

That being said, I’ve always quite enjoyed sport, and played both contact and non-contact American Football for a few years which involved a lot of running but in short sharp bursts. That’s where I seem to do best it seems; a short sprint as fast as I can go, followed by a few seconds break and then a sprint again. One summer our football team took part in various 5k park runs around our area in full kit, as a way to try and get the team and sport a little more known about, and I found that my biggest problem was pacing. That, and the full kit weighs on average just over 20 pounds of which a large portion of that is on your head so it does start to weigh you down after a while!

During lockdown I’ve really got into walking and exploring all the lovely places near my home, but having not been to the gym since March I have inevitably gained a little bit of weight and started to feel a little bit rubbish in myself. I tried to follow home exercise videos on YouTube in my living room, which were good fun but not quite what I wanted. Given I have more time at the moment I decided that I would give running another go, and during my week off last week decided to download the free Couch to 5K app.

Whilst this app is certainly not new, and has in fact it’s been around for quite a while now, it felt like the best way to build myself up to (hopefully) be able to get into running on a regular basis. For those who perhaps haven’t come across it, Couch to 5k is a safe and manageable way to gradually increase your fitness with 3 runs a week over a 9 week period and eventually reach a point where you can run for 30 minutes without stopping. The way it achieves this is my intervals of running and walking, gradually increasing the running intervals and decreasing the walking intervals until you no longer need them.

So how did I get on with the first week? Well for a start the app was really easy to set up. It’ll ask you a couple of generic questions around why you want to do couch to 5k, let you pick your trainer who will motivate you while you are running and then you are ready to go. I started from week one, because I wasn’t all that sure of where my fitness level would be. However, you can start from any point you like so if you feel like you are more advanced. You also have the option to repeat runs if you want, so if you happen to find one week a particular struggle and aren’t quite ready to move on to the next difficulty level, you don’t have to.

My first run didn’t actually happen on the day I intended it to, as mother nature decided that the first day of my week off was the time for aunt flow to visit, and I tend to feel very sick on the first day or so of my period. I did manage to start my first run the next day on the Tuesday instead when I was feeling a little better, so my week wasn’t impacted too much. You start off with a 5 minute walk to warm up, before any actual running starts. The first week is intervals of running 60 seconds at a time, with a 90 second walk in between with a 5 minute walking cool down right at the end. Each run in my first week felt a little different, so let’s talk about each individual run;

Run 1
Against my better judgement I left the house for my first run not long after noon, when the sun was at its highest and it was pretty warm outside. Luckily is was fairly overcast so this didn’t cause me too much problem, but it’s something to be mindful of. My first two jogging sections were quite hard, but that was because I wasn’t jogging; I was pretty much sprinting. From the third section I started to actually pace myself at a regular jogging speed and found it to be much easier, manging to jog for the full 60 second bursts, at the end of which I felt like I could have run a little longer. A mistake I made on this run was that I brought a heavy water bottle with me, which I didn’t use and was a pain to carry, plus I also left my inhaler at home.

Run 2
For this run I traded the bulky water bottle for my inhaler, and although it rained the whole way it was much easier than the previous day. In fact it was actually quite nice running in the cool rain. I found that I didn’t really use my inhaler but it was nice to have it with me just in case. As couch to 5k doesn’t really track your route or speed (or if it does I don’t know how to find it) I decided to run my Strava app at the same time so that I can track that progress as well. My average pace was 13:44 minutes a mile, which is pretty slow, but when you consider that I am only running for less than a third of the total distance I’m covering it’s not as bad as it sounds.

Run 3
My third and final run for my first week was early in the morning and was quite chilly, which was nice and refreshing and really set me up for the day ahead. This run was on a Friday which meant I’d had a rest day the day before like the app suggests but my muscles were a little stiff when I first started, the warm up walk pretty much took care of that though and it didn’t cause me any problems. I had Strava running again and this time my average pace was 13:26 minutes a mile with the same run / walk alterations as my previous run, so I was pleased that I had been a little quicker.

Whilst I haven’t yet launched into my second week, I do feel as though I could have perhaps started slightly later than week one had I wanted to, but it was nice to ease in gently. Given that the last time I ran was a long time ago, and prior to my shin fracture I’d much rather be safe than sorry rather than overreaching too early and injuring myself. Overall I really enjoyed all three of my runs (something I never thought I’d say) and I’m somewhat looking forward to kicking it up a notch for the second week!

Do you have any helpful running apps? 


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