I’ve fielded a couple of questions already about starting the Couch To 5K program this week after my accidental running session last weekend. To those that have asked: I have begun the program, and yesterday was Day 2 of Week 1.
Can Anyone Really Learn to Run?
I had my doubts, to be sure. Despite enjoying great success with my sleeve, I am still well over 200 pounds. And I was very skeptical that over 200 pounds was a great place to start learning to run. Factor in my age and my bad knees…it really seemed like a non-starter.
However, my jog for a third of a mile did demonstrate one thing: I can do it, at least for short distances. And the whole point of C25K is to start with short distances and work up. It is interval training, really – right now I am running for 60 seconds, then walking for 90. I do this for a total of 10 intervals, tack on a 5 minute warm-up period and a 5 minute cool-down period at the front and back and voila – I have “run” for 30 minutes.
Apparently, as each new week arrives, I will be running for longer periods of time. At week 12(? I think) I will have trained long enough that I can run half an hour straight. If I run 6 miles an hour, half an hour works out to 3 miles. 5K stands for 5 kilometers or 3.1 miles. Elementary, my dear Watson.
The Snail in the Middle of the Road
The problem I have so far is that I am not running anywhere close to 6 miles an hour. I find myself surrounded by runners at the gym, hauling ass on treadmills and ellipticals. Not me, no sirree. My instructions say to run as slowly as possible, and that is exactly what I am doing. I find a treadmill at one end of the bank of the machines to avoid being surrounded, and then I put on headphones to ignore what is happening next to me.
My greatest fear was that I would break a treadmill by running on it – I still feel awfully big. I was relieved to discover that the treadmill did not shake and disintegrate from my weight slamming down onto it. Walking or running is all the same, thank goodness. God bless the engineers who designed and put this thing together.
Why am I doing this on a treadmill in the first place? Because it is too damn cold to try this outside yet. (Like, 18 degrees as I write this.) So, I head to Planet Fitness, stretch out, and prepare to tackle the challenge. I hop on my selected treadmill, insert my earbuds, and press the Quick Start button. I then turn on the C25K app.
The Mechanics of the C25K Runner
The app is friendly, anyway. You have the opportunity to play music from your phone storage while you run, which I do. It tells you what to do, how long to do it, and sometimes how far you have to go. During my 5-minute “warm-up” period I set the speed at 3 mph. Oddly, I found that it is more comfortable for me set it at a slight incline (the “1” level). When it tells me to start running, I crank that bad boy up. All the way to 4.5 mph, that is. 60 seconds later, I turn the speed down to 3.5 miles an hour. Back and forth, for ten repetitions, until it tells me to cool off. Then I move the speed back down to 3 mph. After 5 final minutes, I stagger off to sit down.
You wouldn’t think that 1 mile per hour difference would matter. But, boy does it ever. At 3.5 miles an hour, I can walk and talk at the same time. At 4.5 mph I am having to focus on running to avoid being catapulted off the treadmill. Those 60-second periods seem just about right for right now. I find myself counting down the last few seconds, waiting to be able to turn the speed down to walking pace every time.
I am only two sessions in so far, but I have at least demonstrated that, in theory, I can learn to run. The idea of running 6 mph or better for half an hour straight still seems ludicrous right now. Yesterday I even had to crank the “sprint” speed down to 4.2 mph for a couple of sessions. But I am doing it. I can manage the continuous movement for half an hour without quitting. And compared to who I was last January…
Well, there really isn’t a comparison, is there?
Usain Bolt’s World Records Are Probably Safe,