I am not a natural runner. I was the type at school who shunned any form of exercise, who would ‘go long’ during rounders, who saw the monthly ‘cross country’ as a nice leisurely walk around the local housing estate (although that perhaps says more about my school’s view of what the term ‘country’ covers). Suffice to say, I was not a fan of exercise.
Fast forward a few (ahem – many!) years to around my mid-twenties, and I finally discovered that exercise is the only way that I shift weight. And somewhere along the line I realised that I quite enjoy it.
Even after a long time of working my way through various home workout DVD’s, I still hadn’t tried running and thought I would give it a go. It turns out, I needed to learn to run. Even with a good level of fitness, the stamina and discipline required for running just didn’t come naturally to me. I would make the classic rookie mistake of going too fast, too soon and then find myself puffing and with a crippling stitch after less than 5 minutes. And when I did manage to build up to it, I’d get overenthusiastic, build mileage too quickly and end up with shin splints. It was the now well-known Couch to 5K program that taught me how to run – a nine week training program that starts with just 1 minute of running followed by 90 seconds of walking, building gradually over the weeks until you’re running for a full 30 minutes. Manageable for even unfit plodders like me and you can download numerous apps for your phone which guide you through it. I like the C25K program from Zenlabs for android, available here. You do need to commit to running 3 times a week , but each run is only 30 minutes, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to find the time to fit it in.
Since I becoming pregnant (around 2 years ago now) my level of fitness has gone through the floor. I had quite a difficult pregnancy, suffering from severe morning sickness throughout the entire pregnancy, so exercise was out of the question. Then when Max arrived it seemed too difficult to find the time and hardly a priority when there’s a crying baby that needs your attention. But 18 months down the line I’m aching to get that level of fitness back and am starting the Couch to 5K program for the third time.
What I love about the Couch to 5K is that it’s really achievable for everyone. You can take it at your own pace, as the speed of your run is totally up to you (mine could be described as a snail’s pace at best!). At the end of Week Four I’ve completed 12 runs now and I’ve found it much easier than I remembered or that I’d built it up to be in my mind. Although I started with such a low baseline of fitness it’s manageable and even with such a small amount of running I’m already feeling the endorphins that kick in, the looking in the mirror afterwards and seeing that post-exercise glow, the pride at seeing how quickly I’m progressing. I’m not going to lie – Week 4 has really challenged me, and the first run of the week I couldn’t manage the prescribed amount of running, but I like the gradual increase in challenge each week.
Running is always a mind cleansing exercise for me. I’m enjoying the peace and quiet, the time to empty my busy mind of the thoughts that seem to fly around it constantly, to feel more of a connection with my body. It’s not about losing weight this time around – I want that positive feel-good attitude that running brings, to be able to take myself off for a run along the canal or through the woods and get a bit closer to nature, and to feel like I’m achieving something that represents a challenge.
Are you a runner? What are your top running tips?