Guest Post: Jen F.
Couch to 5K –It didn’t change my life, but it did change my butt
First of all, I want to make something really clear. I hate to run.
That “runner’s high” they tell you about? As far as I am concerned it’s a myth. I don’t get a sudden rush of endorphins, or a surge of “happy juice” (like my friend Julie promised me). The closest I get to a “high” is when I remind myself that I’m not actually dying, I just feel like I might be. Also? The overwhelming sense of relief when I am done with my workout is great.
So why do I do it? Well, I guess it’s the effects of running that I like. I feel better about my body now, and I (generally) have more energy. It’s easy enough to do, and I can work out wherever I happen to be. It wasn’t easy to get started–I’ve only been running since March. But in four short months, there’s already a huge change in my health and my attitude.
You see, I realized last winter that I was getting closer to “that age.” I’m not quite close enough to 40 to feel like I am middle-aged, but it certainly is sneaking up on me. And while I considered myself a fairly active person (walking several times a week, riding my bike to work frequently) I wasn’t happy with that “post 30” change in my body. Frankly? I was getting a little too pear shaped. I tried boot camp, and hated it. I tried “hooping my buns off” and it wasn’t enough. I bought a temporary membership at a local gym, but that was expensive and just wasn’t my style (grunters and oglers … no, thank you!).
Then I saw a program starting at my kids’ school called “Girls on the Run.” It’s a running program for teenage girls–they train for a 5K and do some mentoring. The “goal” 5K race happened to be on the weekend of my (cough, 35th, cough) birthday. My stepdaughter decided she wasn’t interested, but it got me thinking. Could I run an entire 5K by my birthday?
I started browsing the Internet for ideas and training plans. That’s when I saw the Couch to 5K Running Plan. The name seemed fitting–I wasn’t exactly “couch,” but I was definitely not “5K.” Since I didn’t want to go it alone, I turned to my trusty Twitter and Facebook pals and also mentioned my idea on my (sad and neglected) blog. The response was overwhelmingly supportive, and I even managed to convince a couple of friends to train with me. Since it was still winter (I live in Bend, OR where winter lasts through about mid-June) we decided to meet in the evenings–not too dark and usually not too cold.
That first week, you only run for one minute at a time with a 90-second “rest walk” in between. After Day 2, I thought I was going to die. Looking at the training schedule, I didn’t think there was any way I would ever be able to run for 90 seconds … forget 30 minutes! But together with my friends, I pressed on. We actually repeated Week 1 so that we could feel better about moving on to Week 2. So while Week 2 was still hard (and I still thought I might die)–it didn’t kill me. And I didn’t get hurt. I thought for sure that we would have to repeat future weeks. Surprisingly, we managed to continue through the rest of the program without interruption. Along the way we signed up for a couple of “practice” 5Ks and worked them into the schedule. We just ran and walked the course according to where we were in the training program, and it really helped us get a sense of how long a 5K is and what it’s like to run with a “pack.” We also set up a shared spreadsheet so that we could track our progress toward our goal, and commiserate together about how scary the next week’s workout looked.
When our official race weekend arrived, we were all more than ready to run that 5K. We knew the course, since we had walked it a few days ahead to familiarize ourselves with the terrain.
Turned out we were part of one of the biggest athletic events going on this summer. While in a way that’s cool … I was so glad for those “practice” events. Overall for me that race was awful. It was too crowded, the chip timing they used was confusing, and I was unhappy with my results. But I didn’t let it get me down–we ran another (much smaller) 5K a few weeks later and that helped me get my confidence back.
But that’s just the running part of this story! Since I started running I have noticed a big change in my body. I haven’t lost as much weight as I would like (according to what my doctor says I should weigh). On the other hand, I’ve gone down three pants sizes since March. I can wear “single digit sized” jeans for the first time since before my daughter was born, more than 10 years ago. I have more energy, a more manageable appetite, and my craving for sweets and alcohol has dropped off. Yes, I still love chocolate and an occasional cocktail … it’s just better moderated now.
Another unexpected benefit is now that I am stronger and more coordinated, my golf game has improved dramatically (which makes my husband very happy).
But really? It’s those three pants sizes that keep me running. I know running isn’t for everyone … but I think what’s important is finding the fitness program that works into your schedule and meets your goals. I guess I look at exercise as a “chore” instead of a hobby now. (Since the exercise I actually like–biking, hiking, and walking–don’t seem to contribute to my specific fitness goals.) Taking care of my house and doing the dishes isn’t always enjoyable but it’s important. Taking care of my body is important, too, and running has helped me achieve that.
Thanks so much Jen for sharing this with us. If anyone is interested in writing a guest post for Go Fit Girl! let me know via comments or send me an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org.