Today I completed my Couch to 5 km program by running 5 km non-stop, the first time I’ve run 5 km since 1986. When I finished I was so happy I cried. It actually took me 17 weeks to complete what should have been a 10 week program as I had a few set-backs along the way, but they were luckily all just set-backs, not roadblocks!
Last October’s Weight Watchers magazine ran a feature on running for beginners which included this 10 week program. I read this just at the time I was starting to feel more energetic after losing around 10 kilos and decided I’d give it a try. The program has three runs each week for ten weeks and starts off with you only running for short periods interspersed into a longer walk. The first day of the first week you run for one minute, walk for five minutes and then repeat that run and walk set another three times. Two days later on your next training day you add another set. Each week you gradually increase the amount of time you run, or increase the number of sets, or you decrease the amount of walking time between runs.
This is a great little program and if it can get me running after decades of inactivity it should work on almost anyone. I’ve been talking about running at my weekly Weight Watchers meeting and heard quite a few different excuses from other people as to why they can’t run. I know from this program that these are excuses not reasons and wanted to jot down a few of the more common ones and show how I overcame them.
“I’m too fat to run.” When I started this program I weighed 99 kilos and had a BMI of 35 which is very firmly into the obese range. I checked with my doctor and she told me that my blood pressure was fine, I have no issues with blood sugar, cholesterol or heart problems and that I could start the program any time I wanted. Don’t let being fat stop you: check with your doctor, they will tell you if you actually are too fat to run, most likely you won’t be.
“I’m too old to run.” I turned 49 while doing this program and am regularly overtaken on my runs by older women and men. We have all heard stories about 90 year old marathon runners so we know it is possible to keep running even when the Grim Reaper is on your heels. It doesn’t matter if you have never been a runner before and are well into middle age, if you start running now you may even end up being that 90 year old marathoner.
“I bounce too much.” A large bust is actually a real problem for huge numbers of women, including me. I bought the most expensive and heavily engineered sports bra I could find at Myer when I started but still the pain from the bouncing was enough to make me stop after only a few meters. Even wearing two bras together didn’t help. If you are a D cup or over don’t bother with those sports bras at a normal lingerie shop, you need a specialist bra from either a running shop or a bra shop that caters for larger sizes. I bought some Panache Sports Bras from Big Girls Don’t Cry Anymore. They cover cup sizes from D to H so I had plenty of choices of style and colour in 16FF. Another friend also recommended Moving Comfort bras which come in sizes up to E cup. And do get a specialist to fit you before you buy one, you will no doubt find like me that you were wearing the wrong size bra to start with, which causes most of the bounce problems.
“I can’t even run for 1 minute.” Neither could I before I started this program. In fact it took me two weeks of practice before I could manage to do the day 1 program, I just couldn’t run for a whole minute. I started by walking fast for 45 minutes every second day. When I came to a level bit of path I would gently jog along until I started gasping for breath. It only took two weeks before I could manage the 1 minute run and could start the program.
“I’m too busy / I travel too much / I can’t do a set routine.” It can be difficult to fit this program into your life but I managed to do so even though I took two trips away for weeks at a time and had Christmas and birthdays to contend with. It doesn’t matter if you miss a day here and there because of your work, or even if you miss three weeks as I did due to overseas travel, as long as you start again and keep trying to fit in three runs a week you will get there in the end. When I had a long break and lost some fitness I simply dropped back to an earlier weeks program and restarted from there rather than trying to push myself to pick up where I left off. It is perseverance that gets you there, not punishment! I planned around training and travel by changing the days I ran, changing the time from evening to morning or even night and by blocking time out in my calendar for running. After all, what is more important, attending that committee meeting or your health?
“I tried running once before but hurt myself and had to stop.” Unless you have been told by at least one, but preferably two, medical practitioners that you should never try to run again then an injury shouldn’t stop you, it should only slow you down for a while and give you some valuable feedback on your training program. I was told many years ago that I would have great difficulty running again due to the damage to my knees from parachuting. I should have gotten some advice from a civilian doctor rather than just believing what the Army doctor told me. A few weeks of work with a Sports Physiotherapist has strengthened my knees and ankles enough to support running every second day. I had some muscle pains and problems in the last few weeks also which the Physio sorted out easily with pressure point massage and some exercises. Take the aches and pains as feedback, not roadblocks. Don’t let them stop you, just adjust your program to ensure they don’t recur and get professional help to recover from them.
“I don’t want anyone to see me / I’m too embarrassed.” Run at night, wearing black. Just be sure to wear your night vision goggles so you don’t run into all the other overweight people out running late at night when no-one can see them Or better still, pretend no-one can recognise you and run in the daylight anyway. I had so many words of encouragement from other runners and walkers when they saw me out gasping and sweating my way along the bike path and even had a much younger and thinner woman tell me I was an inspiration to her. Instead of worrying about people seeing your fat wobble, think about how your example might help someone else who is too scared to try or thinks they should be embarrassed by the way they look. I am losing weight every day because I run and I feel better for it. I concentrate on the good I am doing myself and don’t worry about what other people think. If they can’t stand the sight of me improving myself it just shows how pitiful they are, its no reflection on me. So there.
Now that I can run 5 km I intend to work on a training program to increase my speed and get me running up to 10 kms four or more times a week. I’ve bought Running for Women and will use it to set up a good training program that will see me gradually improve throughout the year and will keep me losing weight until I get both my BMI and my weight into the normal range. And then who know what might happen, maybe there is even a marathon in my future…