Couch 2 5K: A Return and a Rethinking

Sup, readers?


As those of you who have been long-term readers of this blog will remember, my entire life changed when I took up Couch 2 5K. At the time, it was the hardest thing I’d ever done for myself. Now, I look back and can only sort of remember the time before I could run the way I run now — it seems like so long ago. So much has changed.

When I first began Couch 2 5K, I was hoping to speed up my weight loss. I couldn’t run more than a minute or two at a time. Not much weight had come off yet. I wheezed like an asthmatic ancient any time I tried to keep going past about forty-five seconds. I felt gross in all my workout clothes. I was working out in basketball shorts and t-shirts, until my mom (a saint) told me I needed actual workout clothes, so I wouldn’t chafe or suffer. She got me my first set of workout clothes, and I cried. I remember vividly that not much by way of running clothes really fit me very well. I remember being so grateful when we found things that did fit, and felt comfortable. I remember — and have kept, precious and safe in my closet in their box — my first pair of running shoes.


I remember thinking that achieving my goal — running a 5K — sounded herculean, and seemed impossible.


I remember calling my mom, sobbing, the first time I ran a full mile without stopping. I was so proud. I couldn’t believe I did it.


In the time that’s passed since then, I’ve kept on running. In the months after I completed Couch 2 5K, I gave myself challenges: 3 miles a day for a month; 5 miles a day for a month; half marathons — and qualifying for Half Fanatics. I’ve run many races. I have a medal rack, now. The world is different for me. My body is different. My heart and mind are, too.


But! Life gets in the way of even the best habits — and the death-defying struggle to finish my doctoral program didn’t help. In the past year, I’ve really slacked on my running. For a lot of reasons. Some are personal. Some I’ll write about. Either way the bottom line is the same: I’m not where I was.


My speed is a little slower.

My cardio ain’t what it was.

I haven’t run distance in quite some time.


What to do?


Chelsea and I have been talking about signing up for a fall half, though, and recommitting to running. I love the idea, since I love when I run — and love myself, when I run. But as I embark upon the process, I decided I wanted to set some goals for myself.


I wanna be faster. I wanna get my cardio all the way back. I want to run distance… faster.


So! Enter Couch 2 5K, my trusty steed.


I’m beginning the program again, but this time, instead of jogging during the running parts, I’m going to try to run at about 80% max capacity. AKA, I’m gonna push just about as hard as I can to speed it up. And hopefully, over time, I’ll get better at speed + distance.


My line of thinking: When I first completed Couch 2 5K, I WAS running as fast as I could — it’s just that it wasn’t very fast. Now, I CAN run faster — it’s just not comfortable or sustainable (yet). But why shouldn’t this work?


Plus, the start-stop of walk/run/walk/run is great for weightloss since it confuses the heart, muscles and lungs.


So yesterday, I ventured out and tried this for the first time.


Panting like an exhausted puppy at a dog park after each “run,” the walking was welcome. I was mad, though, that my Garmin couldn’t adjust to tell me how fast I was running during the “run” portions — only a general combined time estimate. With walking AND running, I averaged 14:15 per mile — and I was walking a VERY slow 22:00 mile in between runs.


Obviously I could do math to figure this out. But have not yet.


Suffice to say: I think I must have run pretty fast when I was running. Maybe 9:00?


Things I noticed this time, as I begin Couch 2 5K:

  • My form is beautiful, if I do say so myself. I can feel my abs, back and arms doing WERK for me during the sprints/running sections.
  • I don’t necessarily feel like I NEED to walk in between runs — slowing down might be good enough — but I’m following the program to the letter, so as not to overestimate or overextend.
  • I know how to focus and get out of my head in those sprint sections — something I did NOT know how to do way back when, when each second felt an ETERNITY.


I’ll keep you guys posted as this plan develops. Hopefully, my thinking is right: I’ll finish the Couch 2 5K program with a sub-30 5K, and head into working on the same process with Couch to 10K. Eventually, there may be a sub-2:00 half in me. Who knows?


Here’s a pic I took yesterday. Our new home is so beautiful. This little gem is from a random wooded path I found near the local middle school. 🙂 Steeeeeep hill… but a nice view.


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