Last week I began the Couch to 5K running program. It’s designed to get “couch potatoes”, or people with little-to-no regular exercise, running a 5K (five kilometers) or approximately 3miles, within 2 months. I do have regular exercise, but nothing too strenuous. Monday through Friday, I ride my bike two miles to the train station from my house and I walk a mile from the downtown Chicago train station to my office. Then I walk another mile and bike another two miles going home. Plus dance parties, walking around outside with the kids, riding my bike to the store . . . I’m not completely without exercise. It’s better than nothing, but it’s not making much of an impact. Oh – I have an elliptical machine but I don’t use it as often as I should. I weighed myself recently for the first time in months, and almost cried. I’m my highest weight ever, not counting pregnancies. Not good!
I’ve thought about doing Couch to 5K for a while, so after seeing the number on the scale, I looked up the program and decided to give it a try. The first week is three days of this pattern: you start with 5 minutes of brisk walking, then begin intervals of jogging and walking. You jog for 60 seconds then briskly walk for 90 seconds. You’re supposed to do the jogging/walking for 20 minutes total, which comes out to eight sets of jogging/walking.
My first day, I turned off my alarm. I’d stayed up very late the night before and I don’t operate well with little sleep. So I tried again the next day, and having gotten better sleep, I got up, excited to start. I stretched out a bit and then began my walking and jogging. During my first interval of jogging, I noticed someone walking toward me on the bike path I was on. I felt self-concious about how I looked jogging, and near the end of the minute, long after I’d passed them, I realized that I wasn’t even thinking about forcing myself to keep going, the way I thought I’d feel.
That didn’t last long. I did pretty well through the first half of my intervals and then had to push myself in intervals 5 and 6. And then I wanted to quit! I didn’t want to fail and I didn’t want to have to admit I’d failed (I’d told people I was doing the program) so I made myself slog through the last two intervals. I only ran about 50 seconds of the last two 60-second jogs, but I figure that’s better than quitting altogether. I finished, and felt great. I was dripping sweat and took some time to cool off before getting cleaned up and ready for work.
My second run, two days later, was the opposite. As soon as I started, I wanted to quit. OH MAN I wanted to quit. I told myself, you CAN do this. YOU CAN. And you WILL. And . . . I did! There was even one point where I began my jogging interval, I stopped, began walking, was going to quit, and I said, No, you better do this. This isn’t torture, it’s just jogging, stop acting like you have no strength and can’t deal with something unpleasant! So I started up again, and felt good at the end.
I was talking to my husband about this and remembered when I first started riding my bike to work a few months ago. I was miserable. I felt every incline no matter how slight, every bump. The seat hurt my butt, my legs cramped. Sometimes I got off my bike to push it up hills rather than ride it. This lasted a few weeks and I’m surprised I kept up with it, because it didn’t get much easier during those weeks. I was in lots of pain. Then one day, I got home from work and realized I hadn’t spent the ride home wincing and breathing hard. I was just home all of a sudden. From that day, the pains decreased, my speed and stamina increased, and now I absolutely LOVE riding my bike twice a day. My hope is that running will be this way for me, and I’m going to use this comparison to keep going when it sucks. Yes, it hurts, it sucks, you feel like you’re going to throw up, you feel like you’re just dragging along, your shins hurts . . . it will get better. One day, you might even like it!