02 June 2013

I think I love running now...

As you know, I've been on a major health/fitness/weight loss kick since January of this year. My workout routine has had a lot of variation over the months to accommodate my hectic school and work schedule as well as my abilities, but I've basically been trying to work out for 30 mins to an hour a day, 3-5 days a week. My strength training routine hasn't changed much in 2 years, but I've been experimenting with different forms of cardio to keep things interesting and figure out what I like. I started off with some amateur hip hop workout videos on youtube, moved on to more intense aerobics/dance videos, got really excited about everything Deanne Berry did for a while, and now I'm on to running with the very popular Couch to 5k program- and through some miracle, running has become my favorite.

I have never, EVER been a runner. In middle school and high school I absolutely dreaded the days that we had to run the mile and would always "run the straights, walk the curves" because i knew there was no way I'd get through it otherwise. I would see the cross country team running after school and question why on earth anyone would put themselves through that willingly while secretly marveling at their ability to run for more than a few minutes. I did begin going to the gym in high school/throughout college and could run fairly successfully on the treadmill, but I openly detested running outside. It was so much harder than running in an air-conditioned gym with your own little tv screen, and you couldn't just step off and quit whenever you wanted- you'd have to walk back to where you started.

There was always a part of me, though, that wished I could be a real runner- one of those people that is not only able to run outside for long periods of time but actually enjoys it. I decided to try couch to 5k simply because a bunch of people I follow on tumblr were talking about it, and I think it was one of the best fitness-related decisions I ever made. I'm not all the way there yet, but I'm actually on my way to becoming a real runner! I look forward to every workout, my endurance and stamina has increased exponentially in just the 5 weeks I've been with the program, and I think/talk about running and how much I like it pretty much all the time.

If any small part of you has any desire whatsoever to get into running, I seriously cannot recommend this program (and the smart phone app which is incredibly useful and only a couple bucks) enough. At the risk of sounding like every single other person who used this program and wrote or talked about it online: if I could do it and end up LOVING running, anyone can have the same results.

I'm halfway through the 9 week program right now, so I still have a few more weeks left but here is what I can tell you about the program and the first few weeks:

From what I can gather, the program is divided into three 3-week segments. The first 3 weeks are designed to basically just get your body used to the act of running without concentrating very much on endurance. The running segments are very short, but if (like me) you aren't used to running at all, they are still difficult. Not difficult enough to be overwhelming, but definitely enough to feel like a valid and challenging workout. The second 3-week segment is designed to transition you from running short periods to being able to run for longer periods. While the first three weeks were focused on getting your body into running-mode, I feel like the second three weeks are much more focused on getting your mind into running mode. By week 4, you are already capable of running but it may still feel difficult and mentally exhausting to push yourself to keep going. I definitely had to spend entire jogging segments during the fourth week convincing myself that I could do it and that I shouldn't quit. Right now I am on the fifth week, which has also been called the hump week or the "oh shit" week. My next run will be a full 20 minute jog that for the first time will not be broken up with walking segments- many people have felt that this week/jog is the big mental challenge of the program and once you are able to complete it the final weeks will feel relatively easy. The final three weeks are designed to simply extend the amount of time you are running (without any walking) until you reach 30 minutes and ideally 3.1 miles.

I'm not going to lie, I did not love running right from the first workout. I enjoyed completing the workouts because I felt like I was making progress and got a huge boost of endorphins each time, but the running itself felt like hell for the first few weeks. To make it easier, I would try to mentally trick myself by thinking over and over, "I love this! This feels soo great, I'm so glad I'm doing this!" while feeling like I was going to throw up and die. Around the beginning of the fourth week, though, something shifted and I no longer felt exhausted a minute or two into each run. I started feeling as though I could keep going at the end of each section and was able to get into a 'zone' where I didn't even think about the fact that I was running, I just ran and let my mind wander. And that's when the real excitement set in- I was running, I wasn't hating it, and I was actually kind of good at it! SO- that is all to say: if you try this program and have trouble pushing through each workout in the beginning like I did, just keep pushing and trying your best and eventually you will experience the same mental switch and begin to feel exhilarated instead of exhausted!

The most amazing thing about the program is the way it is designed really, really works. Many weeks I was so doubtful looking ahead to the next workouts, unsure I would be able to complete them. The first two weeks only have you running 60-90 seconds which sounds like nothing but actually feel exhausting in the beginning! I was terrified of week three, when I would be running 3 minute segments, and even more terrified for week 4 when I would be running 5 minutes at a time. Miraculously, though, the program really does prepare you in advance for each level of difficulty and yesterday I ran two 8 minute segments and barely felt winded! That's a far cry from week three, when I had to seriously struggle to get past the two minute mark.

SO now that I've rambled on for several hundred words about this amazing program, I want to finish by saying that out of all the benefits that running offers- weight loss, muscle tone, stamina, energy, a healthy heart and lungs- the most valuable thing I have received through running and in particular couch to 5k is an amazing amount of confidence. I never thought I would be able to run for 3 minutes at a time without stopping, let alone 20-30 minutes and yet this program helped me prove to myself that I can and that it will be fun, too. It has made me feel physically energized and toned and mentally motivated and strong-willed. If you don't want to run for the physical benefits, the mental benefits are more than enough reason to get started!

Ok, so there's my massive endorsement of the couch to 5k program. If you are at all intrigued by the idea of running, you should absolutely start out with this! Maybe in the next couple weeks I'll do a post about my favorite running/fitness clothes/gear which have made running that much more comfortable and fun :)

<3 Em

No comments:

Post a Comment