A guest post from Julie at Cantwell’s cabin about how she got on doing couch to 5k.

It was a freezing Friday morning at my local Slimming World club in Stratford-upon-Avon.

My good friend Amanda had just stepped off the scales and I was about to step on, dreading those dastardly scales. Another friend of ours who attends the local athletics club Amelie is a regular and her sons both run for the club. She was behind me as I stepped off the scales. I am sure she saw the look on my face as I had maintained but not lost weight again this week. 

running people showing legs running on a road

Starting couch to 5k

She mentioned the local running club is running a couch to 5K for beginners coached by a professional athlete. I am sure my face was a picture I cannot run, I told her. I have never been a runner. I can walk for miles but running has always been a big no-no to me.

Twice damaging my cartilage in my knee over the years and smashing into a wall on my bike my right knee has had its fair share of damage. ‘I don’t have running knees’ I told her every excuse I could think of.

Amanda equally declared she could not run either but wanted to give it a go at least. I have to say I doubted my ability. I imagined people in top-notch athletics gear sprinting around the track.

I imagined them sniggering as I bounced my 13 stone frame around the track. I was in shock, to be honest. I had always hated exercise classes and much prefer being outside so maybe it wouldn’t be so bad.

However, both of my friends are well aware my younger sister is a World Champion Ironman triathlete. This is a 3-mile swim in open water, a 112-mile bike ride followed by a marathon (26.2 miles). So if she can do it I can run 3 miles? Right?

Making a start

The following Tuesday it was still freezing cold dark and icy but better to run on the track rather than the slippery roads and paths.

You need a smartphone to download the NHS Couch to 5K app. We did not need it at the running club as the coach told us when to walk and when to run. I was so glad to use the track at the beginning as it is flat with no steps or obstacles it was easy to concentrate on walking and running.

Couch to 5k begins with a 5-minute warm-up. After the second week, we downloaded the app and started running the roads outside the club. 

Using the couch to 5k app

When you have downloaded the app, you get to choose the voice of your choice to motivate your runs. You choose from Denise Lewis, Jo Whiley, Sanjeev Kohl or Sarah Millican. I have to say I would have preferred Davina McCall.

Then you choose your goal, Fitness and Health, Lose Weight, Race or Charity Event, Challenge yourself, improve mental health, or you can personalise your own goal.

Next, you fill out all about you your age, weight, health conditions etc. I have a bad knee and thought running would make it worse. I actually found my knee strength improved. So if you are looking for an excuse you might find it will improve your health issue.

Obviously check with your GP or another health professional before trying a new exercise regime.

How the plan works

The Couch to 5K is broken down into 3 separate days of exercise per week over a period of 9 weeks. Finishing with a 5K run. We have a local park run in Stratford upon Avon so that was my ultimate goal. 

Week 1

  • 5-minute warm-up
  • 60-second run
  • 90 seconds walk.

This is repeated 7 times. Over 3 separate days

Week 2

  • 5 minute walk
  • 90 seconds run
  • 2 minutes walk

This is repeated 5 times, on 3 separate days.

Week 3

  • 5 minute walk
  • 90 second run
  • 3 minute walk
  • 3 minute run
  • 90 second walk
  • 3 minute run

Repeat this on 3 separate days during the week.

Week 4

  • 5 minute walk
  • Run 3 minutes
  • walk for 90 seconds
  • run for 5 minutes
  • walk for 2.5 minutes
  • run 3 minutes
  • walk 90 seconds
  • run 5 minutes
  • walk 5 minutes.

Repeat this on 3 separate days.

Week 5

Run 1

  • 5 minutes walk
  • 5 minutes run
  • 3 minutes walk
  • 5 minutes run
  • 3 minutes walk
  • 5 minutes run

Run 2

  • 5 minutes walk
  • 8 minutes run
  • 5 minutes walk
  • 8 minutes run

Run 3 

  • 5 minute walk
  • 20 minutes run

Week 6

Run 1

  • 5-minute walk
  • 5 mins run
  • 3 mins walk
  • 8 mins run
  • 3 mins walk
  • 5 mins run

Run 2

  • 5 mins walk
  • 10 mins run
  • 3 mins walk
  • 10 mins run

Run 3

  • 5 mins walk
  • 25 mins run

Week 7

  • 5 mins walk
  • 25 mins run

Do the same for 3 days

Week 8

  • 5 mins walk
  • 28 mins run

Do this for 3 days of the week.

Nearly there …. keep going!

Week 9

  • 5 mins walk
  • 30 mins run

Do this for 3 days this week.

My thoughts

When I started my couch to 5k journey I never expected it to be easy. It was not easy, I missed the odd week but I kept going. I achieved my 5k goal in the summer of 2018. 

I still do not love running I don’t think I ever will. However, I do feel amazing even after a short 1.5-mile run.

I am a Mum of 2 teenagers with special needs, this is challenging, I have found running allows me to re-set my mindset for whatever challenges hit me that day.

Amanda and I still go out running at least twice a week. We also occasionally attend the local Parkrun event in our local town. I even have my own park run card now.

The Parkrun events are well organised and run most weekends. You are fully supported and motivated the whole way around they are run by a large team of volunteers who give up their Saturday or Sunday mornings to support local runners. They are open to all ages and abilities and you can take your dog along. You can walk the whole route there are no set rules. 

So what are you waiting for? 

Get those trainers on and give it a go you won’t regret it.

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