It seems most appropriate to start where I started, and that was with the C25k programme (www.c25k.com or search c25k).
I’ve never been a sporty person. I hated P.E. at school and since I left the closest I’ve been to sport is the occasional visit to bums, tums and thighs (the emphasis there being on occasional). I’m short (5ft 2), I’m heavy but I was fed up and wanted a change. My boyfriend brought up c25k so I looked into it. Seemed easy enough so I thought I’d give it a go. This was early October 2010.
I downloaded the C25k iPhone app (http://c25kapp.com/) which I would thoroughly recommend and started on my journey.
Under the C25k programme you run three times a week. When I use the word “run”, I really mean more like a very slow jog, but I got into the habit of calling it a run and it’s stuck so you’ll have to put up with it I’m afraid. Each work out starts with a five minute warm up- meaning 5 minutes’ brisk walking, and a five munite cool down- again five minutes’ brisk walking. The first week sounds easy. If you’re anywhere near as unfit as I was, it isn’t. After the warm up you alternate running for sixty seconds and walking for ninety seconds, for a total of twenty minutes. So you end up with eight of each.
In all honesty, this was probably my hardest week. I remember my first run. I walked most of it, I felt sick, I was sweaty and smelly and felt really ugly and fat. BUT I did it and I felt GREAT afterwards. Honestly, I felt like I’d just run a marathon- nauseous, knackered, but incredibly like I’d achieved something massive. So I carried on.
As I said, you’re supposed to do three runs a week. In all honesty, most weeks I repeated a day. If I didn’t feel I’d done as well as I could have or that I wanted to do it one more time before I moved on then I just tried the last day again. That worked really well for me and the iPhone app is flexible enough to allow you to do that.
For the first four weeks you simply follow the same routine each day. These are:
Week one – five minute warm up, alternate 1 minute running and 1.5 minutes walking for a total of 20 minutes, five minute cool down.
Week two – five minute warm up, alternate 1.5 minutes running and 2 minutes walking for a total of 20 mintes, five minute cool down.
Week three- five minute warm up, then run 1.5 mins, walk 1.5 mins, jog 3 mins, walk 3 mins, 1.5 mins, walk 1.5 mins, jog 3 mins, walk 3 mins, five minute cool down.
Week four- five minute warm up, then run 3 mins, walk 1.5 mins, run 5 mins, walk 2.5 mins, run 3 mins, walk 1.5 mins, run 5 mins, five minute cool down.
I got through them ok. I remember having trouble with week three, only really getting through it on my fourth attempt. Week four I was nervous about because the running parts are suddenly longer than the walking parts but I was fine. Whenever I found myself struggling I just had to force myself to slow down. This was my main problem- I seemed to have a speed which I naturally ran at, but because of my weight and lack of fitness I couldn’t physically maintain that speed. So I spent a lot of time consciously telling myself to slow down. Don’t be afraid of going slow. Don’t worry if you feel like a snail could overtake you without trying. That’s how I felt but it meant I could get through each week.
Please understand, if you’re a complete beginner like I was then NONE of these weeks are easy. Not even the third or fourth day of each week. You will feel sick, you will be exhausted, you will be achey. They aren’t designed to be easy. But they are possible. They’re bearable. And at the end you feel as if you’ve really made progress and you’ve really moved forward and achieved something. At the end of each session I did ache terribly, but I never ached the next day. I think that’s because it’s broken down so much you’re not putting too much stress on your body.
At the same time, when you’re doing well it can be tempting to skip one of your rest days and run for two in a row. Maybe that’d be fine for someone fitter, but if you’re out of shape just don’t. You may not feel achey, you may feel desperate to move forward and carry on going, but running too soon before your body is rested and ready WILL give you the aches and WILL lead to injuries. I tried it in my second week I think, regretted it after about 5 minutes and ended up limping miserably most of the way round.
Week five includes the first BIG RUN. This is terrifying. You’re moving from running 5 minutes to suddenly doing 20 without stopping. The first two days are gentle: run 5 mins, walk 3 mins, run 5 mins, walk 3 mins for day one and then run 8 mins, walk 5 mins, run 8 mins on day two. Day three just involves your normal warm up and then running for twenty minutes. I got through days one and two easily. Day three was a real killer though. I had to try three times. But once I finally got it, I was SO proud. I even cried on the cool down (out of happiness, not pain!). If you’re trying it remember- go slow, find a flat route, and listen to your body. If its saying you can’t do it yet then have a small walk, start running again when you’re ready, have a couple of days to let your body recover and then try again.
It’s when you start doing the longer runs that I found you start getting the aches the next day. I’ve never had them too bad but being 25 maybe older runners would get them worse. My boyfriend definitely gets them worse than I do.
Week six is similar to week five- two days which are split up with walking and then a long 25 minute run at the end. Once you’ve done the 20 minuter then 25 minutes goes easily. It’s about this time when I found I’d stopped struggling and could finally start working on my speed and distance.
After week six you move away from the broken down runs and just do full 25 minute (week 7), 28 minute (week 8) and finally 30 minute (week 9) runs. At this stage I moved away from the c25k and started my own programme, finding courses based on distance rather than time.
I found the c25k a fantastic starting point. It is meant to last nine weeks but I always seemed to be a week or so behind and then moved away after week six, so it probably lasted me 7-8 weeks. The app I used was also fantastic. You upload your music from your iPhone onto the app and then when you set out it plays the music automatically and either says out loud or vibrates when you need to change from walking to running. If your phone’s on silent it automatically sets the app to silent, which caught me out a few times, not feeling the vibrating and expecting to be told when to start running, so just be aware of that.
If someone had said to me I’d be able to run for over half an hour without stopping and without feeling too much out of breath, which I now can, within six months I’d never have believed them. But here I am, living proof. And I’ve lost about a stone in weight. I feel happier in my life, healthier, and just generally thrilled with how the c25k has worked out for me. I’d recommend it for anyone who wants a running programme which is doable, and which will give you a daily sense of achievement.
I’m so proud of how far I’ve come.
Good websites for more information:
http://www.c25k.com (c25k website)
http://c25k.cze.dk/ (c25k forums)
http://www.coolrunning.com/engine/2/2_3/181.shtml (good overview)
http://c25kapp.com/ (c25k iPhone app)