Thursday, May 27, 2010

My Couch to 5k Review


I get several readers a day stopping by The Parade because they google "Couch to 5k". Apparently i've typed it enough that i'm a google search result, i'm honored!

I'm happy to write my thoughts on the program and suggestions. I too googled the program when I first started and I always appreciate helpful hints, so it's the least I can offer other interested parties.

I started Couch to 5k in March 2010 and finished May 26, 2010. I repeated the 2nd week and a few individual runs throughout the program which is why it took me longer than the 10 weeks. My first 5k is scheduled for June 12, 2010.

Personal Running History
: None. I despised running. I never understood why people did it and I considered it a form of torture. It just seemed insanely difficult to me and I remember hating it all the way back in 8th grade Basketball and dreading the "suicide runs".
Week 1, I could barely run 90 seconds without wanting to quit. It was a struggle from the moment my feet hit the pavement.

Why did I do it: 2 fold. 1. I wanted to get back into shape. I miss seeing my ribs. 2. I wanted to prove I could do it. I've always secretly wanted to run a race (not for time, just completion) so I thought, why not now!

My Thoughts on Couch to 5k: If there was an infomercial, i'd apply to be on it! I can only speak to my experience, as a novice runner, and say that this was the best thing i've ever done!

Upon first glance you may think it seems "too beginner" and maybe for some people it is, but running isn't about just going out your door, running 10 minutes and falling onto the pavement out of breath. And i truly don't feel it's about pushing yourself beyond your body's ability either.

Running is a gradual sport, you have to train your legs, lungs, back, ribs, etc. to withstand the impact of long distance pounding. This isn't something that is possible overnight and it's dangerous if you attempt it too quickly.

Couch to 5k gradually builds your endurance, muscles and confidence to tackle long running distances.
I think it takes someone who isn't a runner and doesn't have the tools in their body to be a runner and at the end of 10 weeks, gives you the ability to BECOME a runner if you so choose. My body is now in the shape and condition it needs to be to withstand running. THAT is what Couch to 5k offered me--the opportunity and confidence to run.

That being said, if I stopped running tomorrow and tried to pick it up again in 3 months, I think I'd be back to zero. It's up to me now to use the tools and advantage it's given me and build upon it. Make sense?

What I loved: I think the best part of Couch to 5k is that it isn't overwhelming. You're only committing to 3 days a week, 20 minutes (until the last several weeks) a day. That's 100% doable for almost everyone. You don't get to have the excuse of saying "i don't have time for the gym" or "i don't have an hour of free time". You don't need a gym and you don't need an hour. You need 20 minutes and a road.

You may think 3 days a week doesn't seem like enough but if you don't have the leg muscles or endurance, your legs simply can't perform beyond 3x a week. They will be tired and irritated and you'll risk injury. 3x a week is the perfect amount for a newbie. This (my 12th week) was the first time I ran 2 longer distance runs (30 minutes) with only 1 rest day and felt OK.

I also loved that every step was planned out for me. I simply wasn't educated enough on running to know how to write my own plan. I didn't know what to expect for my body to know what I could accomplish. This did it for me. There were only a few times when I felt it was moving too fast for me and that's when I pulled back and repeated runs. I could have moved on and it probably would have been fine but repeating the 2nd week and a few difficult runs allowed me to build extra endurance and muscles.

What I Didn't Love: I read on a few reviews to pick the distance method of Couch to 5k, not the timed method. I didn't really know how to track distance so I went with the easier timed method. Yes, it's simpler and more convenient but you're cheating yourself (a little bit) in the end. You get 2 choices, you can either learn to run for 30 minutes (which I did) or learn to run 3.1 miles. Very few beginning runners will run 3.1 miles in 30 minutes. So if you pick the timed route, you're going to be short on 5k distance. Now this isn't too big of a deal, i'm adjusting my training plan to include longer runs the next 2 weeks but it's a little annoying to be like "I DID IT! 30 MINUTES!...wait, i'm only running 2 miles!" It's more of a mental let down than anything.

The jump from 8 minutes to 20 minutes sucks. On week 5, you'll run 8 minute stretches (it seems like a lot) and then on your 3rd run of the week, you'll do a 20 minute run. This seems INSANE. They should tell you that the only goal of that long run is just to finish it, as slow as you need to, just do it. I think it's 90% mental, to gear you up for knowing it is possible to do. But it's a huge jump in time and can be discouraging if you can't accomplish it. Just finish the run. You go back to walking breaks the next week.

Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me Before I Started:

--Run outside.
Seriously, from day one, just go outside and run. Bypass the evil treadmill. Everyone tells you that running outside is 100x more difficult than running a treadmill and it's true. So don't even tempt yourself with that option. I ran on a treadmill for like 2 runs and then I was outside (I didn't have any other options anyways) and I'm so thankful because I don't know any different. You'll be ahead of the game if you start outdoors and pound it out. Your endurance will thank you.

--Speed doesn't matter. I'm still telling myself this. You'll find your natural pace after a few runs but for your first 5k, just concentrate on finishing, not on time. There will be plenty of time to speed up and continue your training. I think it's far more impressive to finish your 5k at 14 minute miles without walking, than 1 mile at 10 minutes and 12 walking breaks the next 2 miles. Anyone could do that!

--Get nice shoes. I started in an old pair of Nikes and now i'm in a nice pair of Brooks. If you do 1 thing for yourself, get fitted at a running store (Not Dicks or Foot Locker) for a real pair of running shoes. They help prevent injury and if your feet are happy, your legs are happy. This will help your endurance immensely!

--Run in crappy weather. Dudes, I started running in March. It's friggin cold outside in Ohio, in March. Like wintery cold. I remember wearing the gloves and having blue legs from the wind. But it makes you feel bad ass and it's realistic. Race days won't always be sunny days. I still have to push myself to run in drizzle. I feel like I can only run outside in sunshine.

--Have a goal. Find a 5k at least 12 weeks out from your start day, sign up, pay your fee, mark it on the calendar and tell everyone you know that you're doing it. Don't pick 8 wks or 10 wks. At least 12 wks. Life happens, training may need to be adjusted, so give yourself that extra cushion of time but know that on X date, you'll on the starting line ready to race. All of my friends and family know that on June 12th, I'm running a "5k Marathon", i wouldn't want to face them June 13th knowing I'd bailed on my announced goal.

--Don't weigh yourself. Running isn't initially about weight loss. Your body needs to change and build muscle and adjust some bits and pieces so don't rely on weight as an indicator of success. I know my starting weight but I don't know anything beyond that. It's hard not to focus on that (at least for girls) but you'll definitely see changes in your body and you know runners have hot bodies (mostly) so trust that and keep going.

--Trust the training plan. I love this saying. If you're on Week 2, don't look at Week 5 and wonder how you'll run 8 minutes. Trust the training plan to bring you to the 8 minutes. If you do the 8 minutes and it was horrible and you're dying, then repeat the run. But don't hold off on a run because you don't think you can do it. If that was the case, I'd still be at 3 minutes.

--Find a friend/support network. The best decision I made in this entire process was doing it with my best friend Heather. I can't tell you how many times we said to one another "i would have quit by now if not for you". Preferably find someone of your same fitness level but you want a person who will knock on your door, or text you, about planning the next run. Heather and I equally said "ok when are we running next" or if one of us didn't want to run that day, the other would say "we're running, it'll be over quick". I appreciate her commitment to this goal as much I do my own. If you don't have a friend to do it with, check out running blogs. I've made some running acquaintances on blogs and twitter of runners and beginning runners. It's fun to share good news and success stories! Plus reading their successes makes you crave your own!

--Diet? Or don't. I purposefully didn't change much of my diet. I knew if I did too much at once, I'd resist and become overwhelmed. I made minor changes but nothing huge so far. My biggest change is that on running days, I eat a good lunch. I run around 6pm so dinner can't happen until after the run. If I don't eat a good lunch (usually subway with turkey & veggies) then I get tired and dizzy while running. Blah.

-Go Potty Before Runs. Gah! The evil topic of pooping and running! Dudes, running jiggles your intestines, and gets things moving, which equals poop. It's not fun to be 10 minutes into a run and wondering what to do about that issue. Sorta breaks the motivation to keep moving. Make it happen before you go run. You'll thank me for this advice.

Well I think that's about it. I don't have much else to add but if you have questions, please feel free to contact me (my info is on the side bar). If you have additional advice, please add it in the comments below!

Best of luck with your running journey! Go slow, be smart and know that every single time you hit the road, you're making the choice to run, which impressive in its own right!

UPDATE (7/17/11): Wow! I never ever thought I'd receive so much traffic/comments on this review but that goes to show what I know! It's so great to hear that my review is helping folks hit the road. I don't blog here any longer (I have a tumblr and rarely blog about running but here's the link if you're interested) but I thought i'd answer some of the questions that have been posted or emailed to me over the last year:

What kind of shape were you in when you started running? Um horrible. I swear on my life that I couldn't run 60 seconds without coughing and wanting to die. I'd say I was 20-30 lbs overweight (not obese but chubby) and did no type of physical activity outside of recreational softball (where I stood in a field). I'm redoing the program (as of July 2011) because I had to stop running for a bit due to school and I've lost about 10-15 lbs vs. last year when I started the program and it's SO. MUCH. EASIER. I feel like I'm flying. I'm thinking it's because I'm lighter but who knows.

Did you keep running? I sorta answered that one above. I did for awhile but I work full time and was taking full time pre-med courses and barely keeping my head above water so I had to give up running for time to sleep/eat. But I'm back at it these days, I ran 3 miles tonight (with walking breaks..which I think are totally acceptable these days) and really enjoying things more this time around.

Did you fuel while running? I'm not sure if they mean water or gels? I took a hand held water bottle with me (bought for $10 at a running store) when I started on longer runs and in the middle of summer but not all the time. I never used gels. It just isn't necessary for such a short difference. I guess water is a personal need...I drink a lot more water during daily life these days and found i'm much less dehydrated on runs so I'd go that route. I also like to carry my iphone in hand (I don't know why, I just do) and an iphone in one hand and water bottle in my other would be a lot. 

Why didn't you use a treadmill? Because I don't own one or have access to one. And once I started running outdoors, I couldn't imagine being anywhere else. I like the heat of summer running, I like the breezes as you run, I don't know, I just like outdoor running. But I don't run in a loop, it's too boring and I think the treadmill would be the same for me.

What is good running music? I laughed when I read this email (but thank you for sending it) because I'm such a music nerd. I have a limited running playlist because I'm just not in tune (pun intended) with the new hip music out there so it's mostly Black Eyed Peas and whatever is one the Top 10 on pop radio. I don't even know the names of most songs. I find Katy Perry's Firecracker to be a good running song. River Deep, Mountain High from Glee is good. 

Thanks for saying speed doesn't matter because I feel really slow! This isn't a question but it rang true for me. To this day I'm hung up on speed and I don't know why. I'm so mortified my first 5k was 40 minutes. But when I started this program if anyone said "Britt you'll run for 40 minutes straight" at whatever speed, i'd have laughed in their face. I ran for 40 straight minutes! That's such an accomplishment and I know it wasn't easy for me to do but yet I still think, "I should have run faster". It's a mental thing and if you can not care about time, i think running is more enjoyable. This time around, I don't even look at my iphone (I use the C25K app) until I'm done with my run so I have no idea on my splits. I'm trying not to care. 


Wow! I still get emails from this blog post on a weekly basis. It's pretty awesome! I'm glad my experience could help so many people.

I'm also happy to say that my fitness journey is going really well and I've transitioned into CrossFit. If you aren't familiar, I blog about my experience at my new blog, Size 6 Fairy.

I run 10x more than I ever did before so I'm still happy to answer questions, etc. 

Good luck new runners, I'm with you every single step of the way. I was, where you are. You. Can. Do. This. I promise!


Blogger Heather said...

AWESOME review!!! I completely agree! And Im super happy to be your running buddy!! It's fan freakin tastic! Now if only I could finish the program.....

May 28, 2010 at 4:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I enjoyed your review, thanks. One comment that I wanted to make concerning choosing a distance run, is that you can use Google Earth to plot distance. There is a ruler tool that allows you to mark a path. This way you can choose exactly how far you want to run.

September 8, 2010 at 11:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I failed my last attempted Couch to 5k by giving up too soon. Thanks for the inspiration, I start today!

January 6, 2011 at 9:33 AM  
Blogger Jill said...

Thanks for this review, it was just what I was looking for!

January 9, 2011 at 8:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you Britt, this was exactly what I needed to hear, I start tomorrow!

January 23, 2011 at 7:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your running history (or lack there of) sounds exactly like mine! I started yesterday - and I was surprised that I could finish it. I am in it until the end! Thanks for the encouragement!

January 27, 2011 at 11:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just finished workout 3 of week 7 and agree with everything you wrote...especially getting new shoes...made a big difference.

February 5, 2011 at 12:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Awesome! I just finished W6D3, I have to wait a few days to start W7D1 due to a blister. I could not agree more with every word, well written, enjoyed reading it. I'll be linking this on the running boards, 1000's of people there doing the C25k now.

February 7, 2011 at 8:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for your review. Just finished W5D1. I'm starting to doubt if I can really do this but thanks for the inspiration.

February 13, 2011 at 9:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great info, thanks for sharing. I am gonna try on a treadmill cuz I am a wimp, but its better than nothing. I enjoyed reading your blog

February 20, 2011 at 10:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great review! It was just what I was looking for. I had never been interested in running until I started hitting the gym and exercising more. Whicg that was towards the beginning of this year and I began realizing how much better I was feeling. I soon after made a goal with a friend of mine to do a 5k in June. She has already done one before but is very supportive and encouraging. It sounds like I am starting at the same level you were at when you began. I am on week 2 and so far so good. Your right, I had looked ahead and read what the future weeks would be bringing and thought how the heck am I going to run that?! Now I know I can! Thank you for the inspirational post it helped alot!

March 15, 2011 at 12:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for this. My son (10 years old) and I just finished W2D1, and we're going to make it happen!

April 4, 2011 at 10:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks--so helpful. I did my first 20 min run today and I, like you, thought it was asking a bit much. But I did it!

April 17, 2011 at 12:15 AM  
Anonymous Randi said...

So glad I read this. I started the Couch to 5K last night. I am not a runner and I was happy to read that you were not either. It gives me some motivation that this is not an impossible journey for me to embark on.

May 17, 2011 at 2:32 PM  
Blogger Tiffany said...

I just started Day 1 of C5K today. I am still really nervous about this because I really don't know if I could do it. Can I ask you some questions? When you did it 3 days a week, did you do any other cardio? I'm currently doing spinning twice a week and I thought I'd run on Mon/Thur/Sat. Do you think that's okay to skip that many days in between? I'm really excited but really nervous! Thanks for the wonderful in depth review though, it really helped!

June 9, 2011 at 5:19 PM  
Anonymous Megan said...

What a great recommendation! I would love to know how out of shape you were when you started (because I am sooooooo out of shape). Good for you!

July 13, 2011 at 8:02 PM  
Blogger adama said...

the best review that i have come across, thanks

June 26, 2012 at 4:20 PM  

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