Join Sophia as she takes on the Couch to 5k challenge, documenting her progress and giving a few tips along the way.
I have never been a fan of running. I love sport and was a very active child; I played for a girls’ football team three times a week and had tennis lessons every Saturday at my local club. Short bursts of running I was fine with, but running laps around the school field was a no-no.
Around 5 times throughout the year I put my trainers on and head out of the house with every intention of beginning my runner’s journey. But when I’m approximately 4 minutes down the road, throat burning, head pounding and stomach cramping I decide that perhaps running is not for me after all – clearly it’s not something I’m very good at. I’ve read all about the positive aspects of running and am fully aware of the benefits, but it’s just not something I have ever enjoyed doing – I’m more acquainted with the runner’s wall than the runner’s high.
After browsing through the app store in a bid to find myself an easy programme to follow, I came across Couch to 5K. As stated in their intro: ‘Couch to 5K is a simple plan for total beginners that will get you off the couch and running 5K in just 9 weeks’. A rather bold statement I thought, and something that I undoubtedly had to put to the test. So I logged on to Amazon and bought an arm band for my mobile phone and wrote down a brief exercise schedule for the following week. This is it I thought, I’m going to become a runner.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel sick after the first run – it was pretty embarrassing. With Jo Wiley telling me how well I was doing for even having stepped out of the front door I became overly confident, which no doubt caused me to lose sight of the fact that I hadn’t run properly for about 3 years.
To begin with there was a 5 minute warm up which was basically just a brisk walk (I believe this also led me into a false sense of security). I then had to begin running for 60 seconds. No problem, I thought. After that it was 90 seconds of walking before the next 60 second run. Sounds pretty simple right? Wrong. You have to repeat this routine 7(!) times before being able to relax with a 5 minute cool down. My throat was raw from the heavy breathing and my ears were throbbing from the cold wind. My mum opened the door to a red, sweaty, mess of a girl – far from the accomplished runner I’d pretended to be half an hour earlier.
The second run was a tad easier; it followed the same pattern as Run 1 but my stitch started a lot later on and I didn’t feel quite as puffed out as I had after the first run. I made sure that I was wearing really comfortable clothes and planned my route before I set off. I still felt out of breath by the end but there was a noticeable improvement.
By the third run my stamina was a lot better and I got into a good rhythm with my breathing. My legs felt a bit stronger and I didn’t get a stitch until the last 60 seconds of running which I was pleased with. I felt happier afterwards too, which was a pleasant surprise.
I’ve always considered myself a pretty fit and active person but this first week of running has really taught me a few lessons. It’s all about listening to your body; your breath, your heart and your brain. Focusing on each of these before, during and after running really does have a positive effect. You’ll find that you can run longer and enjoy the exercise more when you take note of how your body is feeling. I would highly recommend this app to anyone wanting to up their fitness or improve their mental health. It’s perfect for absolute beginners or those like me who have taken a break from exercise.
For more information about the Couch to 5k challenge visit the dedicated BBC page here.
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Images © Sophia Chettleburgh