Monday, 11 April 2016

Couch to 5k: Weeks 5 and 6

Week 5 is where things start to change a bit. The first two runs of week 5 follow the usual format - short-ish runs interspersed with walks - and all seemed fine and dandy. No complaints about the runs and although the two 8-minute runs in run 2 seemed long I managed to complete them without any problems. And then came run 3. At this point in the program I hadn't read ahead to see what each run would entail, thinking that I might freak myself out knowing what I had to do. So when she said that after my 5-minute warm-up walk I would be running for 20 minutes I nearly screamed. It felt like it came completely out of the blue and seemed a massively difficult proposition. I even double-checked that I was listening to the right week as it seemed such a jump from where I had got to previously.

Now, this isn't one of those accounts that reads 'it was hard but I pushed through and I actually found it was easier than I thought!'. This was hard. I did complete it, but every minute that passed I was counting down to how many I had left. For the last minute I was literally counting down each second. Although I managed to complete it I felt completely demoralised about it all - I had almost stopped at so many points throughout the run that it didn't feel like a victory at all, and on top of that I am still at the stage where I'm moving so slowly I'm not even sure I can even count this at a run - my pace is still around the 5mph mark and I've not been able to increase my speed at all as the program has gone on. The only saving grace of this run was the fact that I timed it to a super dramatic episode of Eastenders, so that helped pass the time a little bit (by about 0.009%).

After this point I looked ahead - I had to do my first run of week 6 in the morning before work and wasn't sure I wanted to do a long run before trekking into the office - and was relieved to see that for the first two runs it reverted back to shorter runs and walking. I honestly don't know if I would have been able to continue into week 6 if it carried on with a long run.

From a psychological point - the first two runs of week 6 were easier purely because I knew I had banked a 20-minute run. However, I don't think that physically they were all that much easier than the other runs I have done. The longest runs come in run 2, which are 10 minutes long. They were completely doable, but pretty boring. The third run however, was a 25-minute run. Knowing I had managed, just about, to do the 20-minute run definitely helped with the motivation to start it - but unfortunately that motivation disappeared about 3 minutes in. To be fair, I had a bit of an annoying start - I moved treadmills twice because the TV sound wasn't working with my headphones (and running for 25 minutes listening to the music on the podcast would have been awful) though I kept the momentum going and didn't slow my pace down when jumping from one to the other. The run was hard, though. I wanted to stop continually, and I did walk for about a minute half-way through before getting a grip and getting back on with it. The last three minutes were probably the easiest - knowing I had a really manageable amount of time left really helped push through at the end. 

I am now planning to do the first run of week 7 tonight, which is another 25-minute run. I'm completely dreading it. I think this whole thing has shown me that I am never going to be a long-distance runner. I still find running completely boring, and I'm not even running very far yet. I'm definitely going to persevere with the program but I can't see myself as even a 5k runner in the future! I'm not saying that there have been no benefits at all - I could barely run for a minute before and now even the 10-minute run wasn't a huge deal - but I think running is going to be a sort of warm-up part of my cardio in the future rather than my sole work-out activity.

Stats: all over the place. I'm pretty sure I'm nowhere near 5k yet as my pace is so slow, and at this stage I'm not even sure that once I get to week 9 I will be there!

Monday, 21 March 2016

Couch to 5k: Week 4

It really felt this week that the runs had stepped up a bit. Format is:

- 5 minute walk
- 3 minute run
- 90 seconds walk
- 5 minute run
- 2.5 minute walk
- 3 minute run
- 90 seconds wal
- 5 minute run
- 5 minute walk

The step up to 5 minutes of running was definitely tough.

Run 1
At the gym. Hard going. The first half of the program was fine, although the first five minute run felt like it lasted forever, however the final two runs were really tough as my ankles were really feeling the pressure. I'm not sure what it was that made them hurt, but the final five minute run was really hard as they were causing me a lot of pain. I pushed through though and finished it, but I did feel a bit nervous about run 2 in case this continued to be a problem.

Run 2
Really hard going. I was a bit ill this week and took Thursday off work, so went to the gym to force myself out of my house. I should have maybe skipped running this day as I wasn't 100%, however I'm on a bit of a tight schedule now as I want to get this program finished before I go on holiday! I didn't have any ankle pain however I had a stitch for most of the 30 minutes, and the last five minutes were agony as the stitch spread from one side all the way under my stomach. I found this one so, so tough - if this had been the last run of the week I don't think I would have felt ready to progress to week 5 yet.

Run 3
Much better! I think my illness earlier in the week really affected me as this run was much easier than run 2. I still had a bit of a stitch but not enough to really cause any major pain so it was totally manageable. This was still tough going, and I'm still finding myself looking at the timer every 10 seconds, however I didn't feel at the end of the last five minute run that I couldn't go on any further, which is how I felt after runs 1 and 2. Goes to show that sticking to the program really does make a difference!

Calories: c. 240
Distance: c. 2.4miles
Time: 16 minutes running
Distractions: again, I varied my gym times this week so didn't catch any Eastenders and I'm still of the opinion that having something else to focus on really makes a difference for me. I think I'm going to be one of those people who always finds running a bit boring!

Monday, 14 March 2016

Couch to 5k: Week 3

Week 3 runs are complete! The format of week 3 is: 5-minute warm-up walk; 90 seconds run, 90 seconds walk; 3-minute run; 3-minute walk; 90 seconds run; 90 seconds walk; 3-minute run; 5-minute warm-down walk. This is the first time it really feels like you're running for a prolonged period of time, and the two 3-minute runs definitely felt longer than I was used to in run 1. However, each one got a bit easier and I'm already looking forward to the week 4 program.

Run 1!
At the gym. This first run was the hardest of the week, and knowing you have to run for 3 minutes is a bit of a daunting prospect. However, in the first 3-minute run the podcast lady starts talking to you when you're 90 seconds in, and by the time you're finished you've only got a minute left so that helped a lot. It was definitely a bit of a struggle to complete the second long run, but I did it without any dramas so I'm definitely improving. Knowing that I had to do the two longer runs this week, I slowed my pace to 5.2 miles per hour for the runs, but tried to keep my walking pace up so as not to not lost too much ground overall.

Run 2!
Again at the gym. I actually went longer than usual between run 1 and run 1 due to various boring reasons, so I was a bit nervous about this one but actually it was completely fine, which makes me think maybe I'm not pushing myself hard enough? I kept my pace the same as in run 1, and found this run much easier than the previous one.

Run 3!
Once more at the gym, and this time with my new gym top that has a built-in bra - I cannot tell you what a difference this made! I don't have any sport bras so constantly find I am adjusting my straps when I'm running, so not having to do this for this run was a dream. I get all my gym stuff from H&M and I cannot recommend it enough - it's good quality, fun and cheap. I was feeling pretty confident about this run as run 2 had gone so well, so I upped my pace on the 90 second runs to what I was doing in week 2, and upped my pace on the 3-minute runs to 5.3. It's only a marginal difference but psychologically it felt like I was working harder so this felt like a great way to end my week 3 runs.

Stats time:
Average calories per run: c. 170
Average distance per run: c. 1.9 miles
Time spent running: 9 minutes
Eastenders storylines: Due to the times I could make it to the gym this week I didn't see any Eastenders, and while this isn't an issue in itself it really hit home that I actually still find running quite boring. The first two times I went there wasn't anything on the tv screens that was capturing my attention, and it really did make the runs seem longer than they were - not ideal when this week contained the longest run so far! As I'm doing this with the podcast I can't really take something else to watch / listen to as I have to have my earphones plugged in already, but this week has definitely shown me that when I am at the stage where I'm running without the podcast I'm going to have to think carefully about how I'm going to occupy my brain whilst I'm doing it...

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Couch to 5k: Week 2

Week 2 is completed! I've done the three runs so I'm going to move on to week 3 later in the week and see how I get on - as you'll see these three runs were a bit up and down, but they're done now so onwards and upwards!

Run 1!
My first outside run and the worst so far. Where I live is a bit hilly, and I really underestimated how much this would affect my running. The week 2 program is 90 seconds of running interspersed with 2 minutes of walking, and I found it really hard to maintain a quick pace for the walks as the runs were so hard. I did all of the runs except one - one of them was a up a little hill and I just couldn't make it. However, I did the next run when it came along so I guess that's something. Aside from the hills, I also missed having the timer on the treadmill - I find it really useful to see how many seconds I've got left, so running blind was really difficult. I'm sure I'll run outside again during the program but I think best to stick to the gym for the time being.

Run 2!
I actually went to the gym the day after my first run, but I decided not to do the second run on this day as the program does say to have a day off inbetween each run, and I didn't want to have another terrible run so soon after. So, I gave it a couple of days before doing it and it was definitely the right decision as this was one of my best runs so far. As the runs are for 90 seconds on week 2 I slowed my pace from 6mph to 5.5mph and this was really manageable - it's actually meant that I've not gone as far as in week 1 on average, but at this stage I don't really care. It's not really about the distance yet, more about the stamina.

Run 3!
Not as good as the second run but still managed to complete it without too much trouble. Again, I kept my pace at 5.5mph rather than 6mph and although I was getting tired as the runs went on I found the last one pretty easy-going (probably because I knew it was the last one). There was a woman running next to me though which put me off - she was properly going for it on quite an incline but there's no point in noticing what the other people in the gym are doing - there's always going to be loads of people there fitter than me and there's nothing I can do about that! Anyway, on to week 3!

Week 2 Stats:
Average calories per run: c. 210
Average distance per run: c. 2 miles
Time spent running: 9 minutes
Eastenders storylines picked up on: Abby is still pretending to be pregnant, but now she has her period. Why not just pretend something's gone wrong with the pregnancy? Plus, Stacey seems to have some sort of post-natal depression?

Friday, 19 February 2016

Couch to 5k: Week 1

So, here's a thing: I cannot run. I don't really know how to do it and I've never been able to pick it up despite trying now and again either on the treadmill or in the outside world. My gym routine when it comes to cardio has basically been sticking to the bikes, but I've felt for a while that this is only really exercising certain parts of my body and, for me, I really have to cycle for a long time to make any noticeable difference. So I decided to give the NHS Couch to 5K podcast program a go. I've read loads of good things online about it, and despite being in a slightly weird position in that I am a regular gym-goer I still feel like a total amateur when it comes to running. I walk really, really, quickly and so my main issue with running is that I go too fast too quickly, over-exert myself after about 30 seconds and then have to stop as my legs hurt too much and I have a stitch. Couch to 5K teaches you to build up slowly - you intersperse bouts of running with a fast-paced walk, building up over the weeks until the focus shifts and you're running more than you're walking.

I thought it might be useful to keep track of the different runs, to see if I make any progress and remind myself of when I've found it both easy and hard.

Run 1!
The Couch to 5K program suggests that you run 3 times a week. My gym-schedule is quite flexible depending on work, so I reckon that some weeks I'll be able to do 3 runs and others only 2, so I'm just going to move on from week to week after 3 runs, regardless of whether this has taken me a week or a week and a half.
My first run was on the treadmill at the gym. For the first week you do a 5-minute warm-up and warm-down walk at the start and end, and then you do 60 seconds of running followed by 90 minutes of walking. The whole thing lasts 30 minutes, meaning you do 8 mini-runs in total. 
The first session wasn't too bad - I started to struggle by the end but the voiceover tells you when you only have two runs left so that really helps when you get to around minute 22. I was worried that the music would be really annoying and make the time go slower, but it's interesting because even though it's not music I would listen to at any other time, it's paced in the right way so it builds up as your 60-second runs come to an end meaning that you sort of know how much time you've got left without having to clock-watch. Finished my run feeling pretty positive.

Run 2!
Again, on the treadmill at the gym. Definitely found this run easier than the first one, which I initially put down to the fact that I had already done it once. I had a little stitch towards the end, but in that sort of way that you're pleased you have it as it shows you're working hard. Finished my run feeling very positive.

Run 3!
Still at the gym, and the hardest one of the week. I'd had a glass of wine at lunchtime, and I really think this hampered me when I ran that evening. From about the second run in my left calf was really hurting, and I got quite a painful stitch around the 20-minute mark. I also noticed I drank loads more water than I had the previous two runs - my lungs were needing it - but, again, this is probably due to the lunchtime wine. It helped though that this was the third run of this section, so I knew what I had coming and how long I had left. Finished my run feeling less-than positive, but pleased I powered through and completed it. I think as the weeks go on I'm not going to feel bad about it if I need to do an extra run before feeling like I'm ready to move on to the next week, however for this one I think I'm ready to move on to week 2.

Week 1 Stats:
Average calories per run: c. 200
Average distance per run: c. 2.25miles
Time spent running: 8 minutes
Eastenders storylines picked up on: Sonia is a lesbian again, a blonde-haired girl is faking a pregnancy, Sharon now has brunette hair [I haven't watched Eastenders since I was at university, but it's usually on at the time I'm at the gym so this is what I've noticed from the subtitles]

Any other amateur runners out there? Advice greatly received!