Miracles do happen

I ran five kilometres this morning. Four months ago I couldn’t run for a minute.   

I used to visit the gym two or three times a week, repeat twenty or thirty minutes of cardio. Sure, I’d be sweaty and puffed out, but I couldn’t ever run.   In the end, I’d blame my knees or my ankles and stick with exercise that had no impact. 

Then, this winter I decided that I wanted to do some walking – I headed down to a local stretch of river and would walk three or four kilometres listening to a podcast or audiobook.  Every time I would be overtaken by healthy-looking joggers and cyclists.  

Dorney Lake – a London 2012 venue

After completing some walking laps of Dorney Lake, I decided that I really wanted to run around it – but knowing how much I hated running, I needed a programme to get there. 

Enter the NHS Couch to 5km programme – I started on June 8th, and graduated on 22nd August. I was short of the 5km, but it was within reach. 

Now, I’ve ran around Dorney Lake on a 5km track a total of four times – slowly, but surely I plod my way round. 

To me, it’s proof that miracles can happen…

I did a few things to help me get there:

  1. Held myself accountable – a video diary, telling people I was on a journey made me accountable for my work. 
  2. Enrolled a cheer squad – one or two positive messages of support after each run was enough to lift my spirits.
  3. Found the right tools – good shoes, good socks and some proper running tops made me feel like an athlete, even as I was learning. 
  4. Geeked out – Strava and some decent Bluetooth headphones kept me amused and entertained. 
  5. Enjoyed it – one of the best pieces of advice was to look up and out and the world as I ran.  

As I’ve said on more than one of my videos, if I can do it, you can too.  Take a few steps, run for a minute and before you know it, you’ll be running a five kilometre stretch. 

Couch to 5km – lessons for beginners

I’m over halfway through the Couch to 5km programme, it’s the first time I have undertaken a fitness challenge like this one. I’m not a natural runner, so it has taken some effort to get here, but as I was running this morning, I was thinking about what I have learned so far on this journey.

  1. It’s OK to reset, it’s not OK to give up – at the end of week one, I thought I had made a mistake. I was suffering with painful ankles and calves and I started to entertain that idea that I couldn’t do this. A bit of investigation and research and I came up with an alternative approach that reduced the pain and kept me going.
  2. If you need to repeat a week, do that – whilst I was researching, I kept repeating week 2, making small changes each time to see what would work. I did week two a total of three times before I felt I could move on.
  3. Prepare properly – it seems obvious, but stretches and the right equipment can be the difference. The pain I felt in Week 1 and 2 were alleviated by getting shoes with more support for my ‘over pronating’ feet, better socks and then finding a stretching regime that really works for me.
  4. Take it slowly – a bit like lesson 2, it’s OK to do this at your pace and ignore everyone else. Watching other runners is fatal, they are all better than me – so trying to keep up with a pace that is anything other than mine is not a good move.
  5. Reward yourself – I promised myself a new pair of cheap earbuds when I got to week 5 / run 3, two thirds of the way through the programme. It felt like a milestone to run 20 minutes, and so I treated myself to a prize. Now, I’m thinking about what to get myself at the end of week 9.

So far, the programme has been hard but the results have surprised me – in week 1 I struggled to run for 60 seconds and never thought I would get to run for 20 minutes. I have a way to go before I can hit 30 mins, and then a full 5km – but I’m confident with this programme, I’ll get there.