Let me preface this post with a statement: I am not a runner. I have never been a runner, and I have never had any illusions of becoming a “runner.” Imagine, if you will, a 120kg 30 year old bloke with a big beard, “double-jointed” knees (my knees bend backwards!) and the running gait of a three legged aardvark. That was (still is, mostly) me.. I have always had an interest in weight lifting, martial arts and mountain biking, but prior to deciding to embark on the Couch to Five K, or c25k for short, I don’t think I had ever run further than was necessary to make sure I didn’t miss out on the last steak at a barbeque.
The couch to five k running program, or more specifically in my case the C25K app by Zen Labs, changed some of that. I’m still definitely not a “runner.” I’m still under no illusions of ever winning the Boston Marathon, but at the end of the eight week period I managed to take myself from struggling to run 100m to being able to comfortably run (well, jog) more than 5km non-stop. That is, honestly, not something that I thought I would EVER be able to do!
So, what is C25K?
C25K is an eight week beginners running training plan, designed to take you from zero (ie the couch) to running your first 5K. The plan calls for three training days per week, with each day requiring you to start with a five minute walk to warm up followed by 20-25 minutes of alternate running/walking, gradually decreasing the walking and increasing the running. This basic premise is much the same as almost any sensible exercise programme: start light and build up. It makes sense, and it works.
Week one starts out with 60 seconds of jogging alternate with 90 seconds of walking, which works up to being a little over 20 minutes of jogging by around week 6. From this point you further push the jogging out for the final two weeks, culminating in a nonstop five kilometre jog in week eight.
As I mentioned at the start of this article, I have never been a runner. When I started this program I felt like I was going to die (maybe a slight exaggeration) within the first ten minutes. I had my phone out checking the timer every few seconds. I was huffing and puffing. I was cursing. It. Was. Torture.
For the first two or three weeks, it didn’t get any better. I hated every second, but I was determined to see it through. Around the fourth week though something changed.. I started to actually enjoy it. I really felt like I was getting fitter and the workouts were getting easier. This thing was actually working! I continued to follow the program as directed, thoroughly enjoying it until that first non-stop 22 minute jog. Seeing that on the screen had me worried. I couldn’t even remember the last time I had jogged for 22 minutes unbroken, yet this app was telling me that’s what I was about to do?
…. and blow me down, that’s what I did! I was stoked. I messaged friends, posted it on Facebook and gave myself a mental high five. From there on through until the end of the program I felt like nothing could stop me. I continued on and finished the eight weeks. I even got into the habit after that of going for regular jogs on my lunch break during the day. I still didn’t count myself as a runner, but i was definitely someone who went jogging at least, and that was something entirely new to me.
Fast forward six months and things have changed a little. Life and work got hectic, so I unfortunately stopped going for my frequent jogs and felt like I had lost a lot of my fitness. When i decided it was time to get back on track though i knew exactly what to do. I downloaded the C25K app, put my headphones in, opened Spotify and charged headfirst straight back in to week one day one. I’m now back up to week three day three and you know what? I’m loving it. It feels ten times easier this time around and I cant wait for week six and beyond.
If, like me, you’re someone who wants to get fitter but thinks running isn’t for them then I implore you to try this plan. Download the C25K app (there are several to choose from, not just the Zen Labs one I happened to use) and commit to doing as it tells you. Its only three workouts a week of 25-35 minutes each, for eight weeks. Its a tiny blip on the timeline of your life, but its a blip that could make a huge difference.
What have you got to lose?