Monday, 25 February 2019

My Couch To 5k Journey



Back in the Summer of 2018 I thought I would give Couch To 5k a go. I've never been good at running and that's always put me off it as a form of exercise but, that being said, there are many aspects to it that I really like. The fact that you can just go outside and do it at any time and it doesn't cost anything are huge plus points alone. I'm also a keen walker and I love any form of exercise that involves being outside so all of this led me to want to give it a go.   

My Couch to 5k experience last Summer sadly didn't go to plan. It started off better than I could have imagined and for the first time ever in my life I found myself enjoying the challenge of running. By week 2 I was really into it and enjoying it. I actually looked forward to going out to run and I found the app and the structure of the programme really user friendly and every challenge was pretty achievable, even for a complete beginner like myself. By week 3 though severe knee pain had set in and I suddenly found myself hobbling around my home and struggling to stand up. I was in agony! I felt so deflated and upset because I was genuinely really enjoying it and feeling great for the exercise. 

I can't really recall what happened after that but all I know is that I didn't pick it up again. I think it took about two weeks for my knees to feel normal again and after that I was feeling scared to try again and risk injuring myself further. I did however do a little research online and soon realised that what I was experiencing was one of the most common running complaints - runners knee. 

Just before Christmas last year I felt myself really wanting to get outdoors and try running again. The knee problems I experienced before were a distant memory and this time I thought if I started the programme wearing knee supports then the issues wouldn't present themselves again. Boy was I wrong! Almost at exactly the same point as last time, entering week 3, my knees began to feel really painful again. I tried to stop myself feeling completely deflated and instead came up with an action plan. 

First things first I iced my knees which did really help. I felt a burning sensation inside both of my knees which was really unpleasant and uncomfortable, especially at night when I was trying to sleep. The ice definitely helped to elevate this and encouraged them to heal quicker. 

My next point of call was to visit a running shop and have a gait analysis completed. If you're unsure what this is you basically run on a treadmill so your tread can be examined and your perfect shoes determined. It was quickly established that I needed more support around the sides of my trainers to help support my ankles and straighten my stride. I'm so glad I went and had this done because it was really clear to see on the footage what was happening to my knees when I ran. I tried on a few different pairs of running shoes and I have to say I felt like they were all really ugly and not something I would have ever usually chosen to buy. It pained me to spend £130 on a pair of shoes I didn't really like but at the same time I felt that this was the only way I was going to get over this hurdle and be able to continue with running.

Within a week of wearing my new trainers my knees felt so much better after running and I was no longer suffering any pain that prevented me from running. I felt so relieved that the trainers were working for me and on reflection it was the best investment I could have made. I also initially allowed myself a two day break between runs which I think helped my knees to strengthen and recover properly after each run.

Couch to 5k works on a week by week basis and each week you increase the amount of time you run for. Personally I initially found increasing every week too big a leap for me and that, alongside my knee issues, meant that I actually spent about two weeks on each of the beginning levels. I wasn't in any rush to be able to run 5k, and I didn't have any upcoming runs or races booked in, so this meant I was able to just take my time and go at a pace that was more comfortable for me. Fortunately the app allows for any previous runs to be repeated so you can do them as many times as you like.

I think one of the most rewarding aspects of training to run with Couch to 5k was being able to see and feel myself running better and better each week. I could feel my fitness levels improving and found myself being able to run further than I thought I ever could. Again, and just to reiterate, I've really struggled with being able to run my whole life and it's definitely not something that has ever come naturally to me. To finally be able to witness myself improving at it was such a motivating factor and really pushed me to keep going with it.

I remember the first time I ran for 5 minutes straight and what a huge achievement that felt like. Each week i'd look ahead to the next week and when I saw I had to run for 8 minutes I thought there was no way I would be able to do it and yet as soon as I got out there and tried I found myself doing it! Every time the running minutes increased my initial thought was always that I wasn't going to be able to manage it. The first time I ran for 20 minutes straight felt completely surreal and almost like it wasn't me doing it! I couldn't quite believe that I had managed to do it.

Without a doubt the biggest benefit of running for me is how its impacted on my mental health. I'm probably going to write a whole separate blog post on this as it's a topic as it's something I'm really passionate about but I had to mention it within this post too. When I started running again I was struggling quite a lot with anxiety first thing in the morning and getting up and going for my run as soon as I woke up was a huge help. It basically completely eliminated it which is quite something! I also often struggle with low moods and on the days when I run I really notice what a better frame of mind it put me in for the rest of the day. My mood lifts and I feel much more stronger and motivated. Running has pretty much become a natural antidepressant for me.

Another benefit that I have experienced is that running has really helped to boost my weight loss and speed up my metabolism. I had been slowly losing weight anyway but implementing running into my routine has definitely helped and it's been great to feel my once tight clothing becoming looser and looser over the weeks.

I'm now nearing the end of the Couch to 5k programme and running for 25 minutes straight. All that is left for me to do now is hit the half an hour mark which i'm confident i'm going to achieve over the next week or so. Part of me feels really sad that the little weekly challenges have come to an end as I personally found those initial weeks really motivating and encouraging. I'm finding it more challenging getting out for the runs now that they are just one long run but i'm determined to keep going with it and who knows, maybe i'll look to progress to 10k after this!

One thing I'd really like to do now I have found my stride is try out Park Run. I've heard so many different people rave about it and i'm really intrigued to find out what it's all about. It's something I have thought about doing even before I started Couch to 5k but it's only now that I feel confident enough to give it a go and I hope that it can become a regular part of my running routine.

If you've made it to the end of this post then thank you for taking the time to read it! I've been really excited to share this journey and experience with all of you because it has felt pretty life changing and I'm so proud of myself for sticking with it and making it this far. I really hope that my own experience will encourage some of you to check out the Couch to 5k app and perhaps give it a go yourself.

It sounds like such a huge cliché but if I can do it then anyone can!



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1 comment

  1. I use to run after having my son but stopped few months ago I need to go back to it again- good job and this is such a good read

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