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I get a lot of questions about my experience with the popular running plan “Couch to 5K” also known as “C25K” so I thought I’d put it all down here.

If you’ve never heard of C25K before, it is a 8 week running program that gradually increases your time and/or distance over the course of the 1/2 hour work out 3 days per week until you can run for 30 mins. HOLD UP. Run for 30 minutes? I know. Calm the bleep down. If I can do it, so can you.

So we can get a baseline, I never played a college sport or even anything in high school. I didn’t  grace a pee-wee anything with my presence. I took gymnastics at 10 and was horrible — screenplay worthy horrible.  I don’t have some sort of natural muscle tone, secret rock climbing wind surfing six pack abs cross country cycling hobby. We’re talking total beginner. Total just had 2 kids in 3 years beginner.

When I started, I had  joined a gym that month but didn’t know where to start. I wanted to get fit. I wanted to lose weight. And I felt totally ill equipped. I did the elliptical but felt bored. Then I saw that the gym offered a C25K class but it was at night which doesn’t work for me (little one needing me to hold her to get sleep — more on LittleDaughter another time). I mentioned this to a trainer at the gym and she suggested I download the app. Hooray! The app! It is a no-brainer app. Press start. Do what it tells you. Rinse, repeat for 3 days a week for 8 weeks.

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I ran inside on a track for the first few months because I felt wonky on a treadmill. And embarrassed. It was difficult for me to overcome the fear of people seeing me run but I would think to myself that people were thinking (if they thought about me at all), “Good for her for getting out there.” I would imagine that the trainers were impressed with my determination not judging all the parts of me that were jiggling while I ran. I tried to keep my head up with pride and imagine I had been 400 pounds when my journey began. For all other people know, I was. This could be the last leg of my body transformation. Who knows. Who cares really, except that I did.

The C25K is not easy but it is doable. It doesn’t ask you to do something that other people — tons of other people — have done before. And those people have done it with great success. I had to remind myself not to think about speed and when I did, I realized that most fit people walk faster than I run.  You’ll want to set your sights for an upcoming 5K — I gave myself 5 months which was enough time to repeat weeks if necessary. Lucky I did that because in the middle of it, I sprained my ankle in a class aptly named “Cardio Chaos” and had to take 2 weeks off from running. During that time, I was devastated that I couldn’t run. ——- Let’s pause here. I was DEVASTATED that I COULDN’T RUN. —— This was the life- changer for me. I am thankful I sprained my ankle because I saw people out there running on beautiful spring days and I wished it was me. I also found out from my orthopedic that I have junked up knees (that’s the actual medical term — no, I’m kidding) so I may never train for more than 10K and should run only on a treadmill (no trails, no track, no pounding the pavement). I managed to jump back into the program and complete my first 5K only a few weeks later!

A winner because I did it.
A winner because I did it.

Will it help you lose weight? Yes and no. I did not lose a ton of weight doing it (lost 7 pounds which isnt nothing!) while I was calorie counting but have come to the sad realization that what I eat (not even the amount of calories but WHAT I eat) is directly related to weight loss or gain.

Did I use equipment? Yes: 1) Nike+ sensor for my sneakers that tracks speed and distance, syncs up with my iPhone, and runs at the same time as the C25K app — this is less necessary when running on a treadmill but was helpful on race day; and 2) Polar FT4  heartrate monitor which was helpful for tracking calories and allowing me to assure myself that NO my heart is not going to explode — because I’m paranoid like that (more on the Polar FT4 soon, I promise).

It can be done. You can do it too. Seriously, just get out there and do it. And then tell me about it.

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Mary Galioto
Mary Galioto is the founder, publisher and editor of MercerMe, a lawyer. Originally from Brooklyn, Mary has progressively moved deeper and deeper into New Jersey, settling in the heart of the state: Mercer County. Formerly the author of an embarrassingly informal blog, Mary is a lifelong writer and asker of questions and was even mentioned, albeit briefly, in the New York Times and Washington Post. In her free time, Mary fills her life with mild germaphobia, excessive self-reflection, enthusiastic television viewing, and misguided adventures in random hobbies.

11 COMMENTS

  1. Mary – you should know that this post inspired me to run – yes run. I’m on week three of the program you mention above and am, against all odds, enjoying it. I’ve never run for anything other than sport, and don’t think I’ve had any kind of regular exercise routine. Ever.

    God know I needed it, so thanks for the inspiration!

    Chris

    • Chris, that is awesome! I’m so glad you’re doing it (and enjoying it)! I have a love/hate/hate/love relationship with running and benefit from the no-brainer structure of the program. Congrats! I wish you running success however you measure it.

  2. Love this post. About 2 years ago my boss wanted to do a 5k and suggested we do it together. Being an extremely overweight person, you can ask Merrit I’m not just a little overweight, I wasn’t sure I could. But I started the program and got up to running a mile. I to was terrified of the treadmill and falling off and if I ran outside I got up at 5 am or did it at 9 pm so nobody would see me. I was not able to do the 5k running but did the walk instead. I wasn’t upset I was proud that I did that! I haven’t been running, kids, chore, life I never seem to find the time. But like you I can say I enjoyed it, no loved it! People think I’m crazy! So my niece and I are going for it again. She lives in Vermont so it’s a great excuse for me to go visit. So the reason for my comment was first congratulations on your accomplishment and its nice to know you skinnier girls are thinking the same way as us overweight girls. Thanks for your posts!

    • It is great to hear your experience and feedback, Cheryl! While I was doing the program the first time, I loved it too. I recently restarted C25K, stopped after some shin pain (see Tara’s comment below) and restarted again. I have never in my life been called a “skinnier girl” but thank you — I think I might write a before/during post soon. Most of my pics on here are carefully selected and flattering. Well, for everyone this whole body/fitness thing is a journey and thank you for sharing yours! Happy running!

    • Cheryl – I’m so excited to hear that you’re running too!! I think next year, we need to find a fun Color Run or something to do together in the Valley. Hopefully by next spring, I’ll have made it through the C25K app and can run the 5k. Also – I too do my running early in the morning, so nobody sees me. It’s been mentioned by a certain sister that I may or may not have a “funny” run. She says it’s more PRANCER than RUNNER. And like you, I’m now at the point where I’m so proud of myself for even attempting a 5k – I’ll prance the hell outa that race 😉

      Keep me posted on your progress! I’ll look for a local event for next spring – we’re there!

  3. Mary

    Re-read this post before talking yourself into not running outside any more. People get shin splints, things hurt sometimes, but you WILL get past it and get outside again.

    • I know, I know. For anyone else reading this, commenter Tara is my gym bully… err… I mean buddy. I’ll keep at it and take my own (and your) advice.

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