If you read my “New Year, Same Me” post, you will know that I have been taking on Couch to 5k, a running programme developed with the NHS. It is a fantastic way to start running by slowly (and safely!) building up your fitness and stamina. My journey with C25K began on November 15th and ended on 14th January. That’s going from running for 60-second intervals to a whopping 30 minutes at a time!
Why taking on Couch to 5k?
To be honest, I have had the app on my phone for a while. Ahem, perhaps a year or so… I also joined the brilliant Facebook group which was filled with wonderful posts about runs, graduation and change. It was totally inspiring.
I would have loved to have taken on the Couch to 5k the other year, but with prepping the house for selling, packing for moving, and also having to choose how I would spend my one outing a day during the Covid pandemic lockdowns last year, sadly C25K ended up bottom of the list.
Since moving and finding out that living in a posher area means that gyms come with an extortionate membership fee (have you checked out David Lloyd gyms?!! Eye-watering!!) I had to find something more attainable. And kinder to my wallet.
In addition to this, I was finding that I didn’t get much time to myself anymore with Jit working from home. While I love the company, I do miss having the space to let my thoughts settle and take time out from the house. I find that it helps me to recalibrate and handle things with a clearer head.
And the final reason behind taking on Couch to 5k is that I want to live well for longer, so need to prepare myself for menopause and inevitable ageing. Some time ago I read “Iron Gran” and the part about needing to undertake high impact activity to strengthen bones after menopause really resonated with me. It is something I have had at the back of my mind since as I inch my way towards 40!
While all those reasons alone are good enough, the main one was to get out there and challenge me with something fitness based. It seemed to fit the bill.
Getting out the front door!
Before I even started, I browsed the Facebook group for inspiration. Anything that would spark that fire to get me out of the front door. I already had my trainers, leggings and top at the ready, but needed that final push. Bizarrely, that inspiration came from an Amazon Original film called “Brittany Runs a Marathon” which is a heartwarming tale of the trials and tribulations of an unlikely runner getting to the finishing line. I absorbed the whole film during a lunch break and pledged to myself that no matter what, I would run that following Monday. True to my word, despite an annoyingly challenging morning speaking with my vet about repeat faecal samples (Yes, utter shit!) I went out and ran!
Taking on Couch to 5k in autumn and winter!
It might seem a bit bonkers to take on an outdoor running challenge in the midst of the colder and darker months of the year. You could be right! But, I found that I had to take on the Couch to 5k while I was feeling ready for it. Waiting until nicer weather would be another delay on an already put off idea. I was amazed to see that many other people started on the same day as me in the Facebook group. Either there are loads of nutters out there, or we just had the right mindset to get going. (I’m thinking the latter as we are all coming up to graduation now, despite ice, rain, hail and also running through Christmas and New Year!)
To me, it was a bit like a baptism of fire. If you can get out there and run in the snow and the likes during your first few months of running, you can do anything!!
Getting (and taking!) support
One of the biggest things that helped me through the programme was the Facebook group. You have never seen such support, inspiration and guidance as in the C25K group on Facebook. People from every single background, age and location come together to cheer each other on and to wish everyone success! Have a niggle? Post about it and within minutes you will have been virtually lifted onto the shoulders of giants and be ready to take on that next run! It is inspiring. I also found a wonderful number of friends and virtual run buddies. We ran for each other as we would be ‘letting each other down’ if we didn’t go out on our rest days and would get together in the group afterwards to share successes, pains and challenges. It all helped us to get out for those three runs per week – even when the weather was completely against us!
Don’t look forward!
During the programme, you can sneak a peek at the coming runs. I would recommend that you don’t do this as it can fill you with unnecessary dread. I’ve seen many new runners trying to go after a sleepless night because they saw that the run would increase by *fill in the blank*. I found it simpler and less mind monkey-y to just pop in my headphones and do what I was told. There was no thinking, or time to overthink as before you knew it you were fully running for the period of time you’ve been told to go for. It certainly helps with the mental hurdle of lacing up those trainers and putting your feet out of the door.
Trust the programme!
Speak to anyone who has graduated from C25K and they will tell you that it is magic! This app gets you from sitting on the couch to running for 30 minutes, in nine weeks (or however long you want, as you can repeat as many of the runs as you feel you need to) It is crazy! We all graduate with a look of surprise on our faces that we can progress so far, so quickly… and still, feel amazing!
My tips for taking on Couch to 5K
I’m far from an experienced runner (I was a sprinter in my teens, but being almost 40 that experience is as relevant as my GCSE results!) but there are some things I have learnt by taking on Couch to 5k:
🤧 Take a hankie with you! (you will get snotty!)
🌡️ Wear clothes for 10C hotter than the actual weather as you will warm up when you start moving. (you won’t get it right every time, but you’ll be learning!)
⏩ Don’t look forward in the app – let each run be a surprise!
😁 Wear a smile on every run, and accept the waves and smiles of encouragement you’ll get.
📱 Join the Facebook Group (this one is a MUST!)
👏 Share your journey and cheer on others doing the same.
🤗 Make friends there and find virtual running buddies (or real ones, if people are nearby)
👟 Don’t worry about the expensive kit! Start with what you have and upgrade when you need to. (also remember second-hand gear, is still great gear!)
📈 Remember that you’re running for yourself and your fitness. There is no point worrying about numbers or comparing yourself as you’re at a completely personal point in your journey!
🏃♂️ Have fun and don’t take it too seriously! Enjoy the ride, learn from the challenges, but get out there and run the next run. You will seriously surprise yourself and feel amazing when you reach your goal!
Whether you are taking on Couch to 5k, have already graduated or are just looking for ways to help you get a bit fitter as you get older, welcome to the journey!
I will be sharing my adventures on the blog, to track where I go and how I’m doing, and hope that you will join me in sharing your successes too. Every win is a win!