On 28th October I finally finished C25K with a 30 minute jog around my local park. It felt like this:
Like Chariots of Fire. Only fatter.
Back in March last year when I originally considered taking up running, I jumped straight in. And it was hard, much harder than sitting about doing nothing, definitely harder than Wii Fit. I lasted a week before giving up and going back to my sedentary ways. Exercise isn't for me, I thought once again. I've tried it and I've failed, let's think no more about it.
Fast forward 18 months, and I was feeling a bit miserable, and I started noticing myself waver in the whole self acceptance anti-dieting stance that I'd been successfully maintaining for what was now some years. I felt fat, I felt unhealthy, I felt tired all the time. I started counting calories. I felt even more miserable.
Then I came to my senses. I deleted the calorie counting apps off my phone and I consciously went back to intuitive eating. The food diarising had at least exposed the woeful lack of fibre in my diet so I consciously upped that without restricting anything else in my diet. I thought about what would help me get out of this rut that was leading me down what I knew to be a damaging path (for me at least).
And so I started going out for a walk, just 30 minutes every other day. It was the dying weeks of August, so the weather was fine in the early evenings and it was pleasant to be outside. As I walked I thought about C25K, and I tried to work out what had made me give up on it so easily the previous year. I started reading message boards for C25K, and although everyone said that anyone could do it I discovered that it wasn't easy for everyone, especially in the beginning. I read that people with very poor fitness or "the obese" (dah dah dah!) could start off walking before easing themselves into the plan. I read that a common mistake novice runners made was to go too fast, and that it was best to go at a pace where you could comfortably hold a conversation. Last year I was so out of breath I could barely breathe let alone talk: I had definitely been going too fast!
So I had decided to try again, giving myself at least 2 weeks of walking to get me in the habit of regular exercise, and to build up my fitness level from 'appalling' to 'ok.' I took my iPod and used its fitness app to monitor my progress, I timed it so I was walking at least 30 mins each time. By the end of week 2 a half hour walk wasn't a challenge, so I decided to move on to C25k.
I knew that I would find it difficult but I was prepared to repeat runs/ weeks until I was able to complete the course. I was ready this time. This is what I had to say about the first run:
C25k wk 1 run 1: Managed 6/8 60 sec running intervals. Calf muscles seemed to shrink part way through. Hard. Kept telling myself it would get easier, need to believe this is true. Positives: Last time I tried this I could not run 60 secs, 6/8 isn't bad for a first go. Doing all 8 doesn't seem impossible, just hard.
And so the next day I went back out, and this time I managed all 8 intervals. That first run, I'm proud to say, was the only one I had to repeat. I am a slow jogger, sometimes overtaken by walkers, but I can work on that. I started to feel fitter within the first 2 weeks of the course, and it's given me more energy in my day to day life. More importantly it's a reminder that if there's something I want to do, even it it's not something that I have a natural aptitude for, I can do it if I want to. I might not be the fastest runner, but I am a runner.
I would recommend the NHS's C25K podcast to anyone interested in learning to run, it really does what it claims to and really is suitable for all levels. It's completely free and you don't need any fancy equipment, just an MP3 player, some decent trainers (I got mine for £25 from TK Maxx) and a good sports bra (if you're a woman).
You can download the podcast from here: http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/c25k/Pages/get-running-with-couch-to-5k.aspx or from iTunes. If you're running with a mobile phone, you can download the NHS Change for Life Couch to 5K app from Google Play or again from iTunes.