I found out my friend Megan had started the Couch to 5k program which got me really excited as Megan’s roommate Becca and try to do a 5k together every month. I told her I’d restart the Couch to 5k program with her as I’ve never actually finished the program. I always start and then do it for a while and just never finish. Needless to say, I’m already off to a bad start because I did Week 1 Day 1 on Monday Aug 14 and it is not Tuesday, August 22 and I just did Week 1 Day 2 (hahaha). Don’t fret though, I did the Jefferson City Hotter ‘n’ Hell 5k on Saturday so definitely got my miles in last week. I not only finished the race faster than last year, but it was my fastest race to date by 30 seconds.
As I’ve said before, I’m by no means a fast runner. My time was 45:30 which is obviously nothing to brag about but the fact that I made a PR motivates me. It motivates me to keep going, to set goals, to complete the Couch to 5k program with my friend, even if it takes me more than 8 weeks. So here are my goals:
- Complete the Couch to 5k program, even if it takes more than 8 weeks
- Run a 5k in under 40 minutes by December 31. (This may be lofty goal as it only gives me 4 months to shave off 5 and a half minutes, but we’re going to work on it)
- Run at least 3x a week, Crossfit not included
Sometimes running for me is a hit or miss. If it’s too hot, it’s usually a bust and I don’t do well (ie June 5k). Some days I’m just not feeling it, but luckily Saturday was not one of those days. I have been running off and on for more than a year now and have picked up a few tips on running in general and 5ks that have helped me tremendously and will hopefully help you too.
- Music-find some tunes that motivate you! I use Pandora and the two stations I like to use are Zumba (up beat for cardio) and Brittney Spears Radio. I find the Brittney Spears Radio tends to have more girl power songs which I totally get me in the zone when I’m running (especially Christina Aguilera’s “Stronger”).
- A belt! I finally bit the bullet and bought a running belt. The pros is that it’s so much easier and less annoying than an arm band for your phone or ipod and it can hold things like car keys and credit cards. The cons are that it’s harder to skip songs you don’t like and my phone is huge so I have to take the case off the phone to get it to fit in the belt. Small price to pay to not have to deal with the arm band. Also, finding a plus size belt may be difficult. I’m lucky that I can squeeze my ass into a size large from Dick’s Sporting Goods but it’s a little more snug than I’d like it to be.
- Good shoes! No brainer! Shoes can make all the difference, though the fastest mile I’ve ever ran was in shoes that were too narrow. My feet hurt so much I couldn’t wait to get home.
- Stretch every single leg muscle you can think of. Running is hard on your body and most pain (Especially in joints) is cause by tight muscles. So make sure you’re stretching your foot, ankles, heel and Achilles, calves, IT band, hamstrings, quads, glutes. Don’t be shocked if you’re sore everywhere but your legs the next day. I am frequently sore in my abdomen, back and shoulders from holding my posture for 3 miles. The more you do it the more you get used to it.
- When breathing is difficult I find it helpful to breath in through my nose for three steps and breath out through my mouth for three steps. It absolutely slows my running down but sometimes that’s what I need. I’m to the point now that it’s rare for me to get winded while running. Normally I stop because my legs are on fire (need to be better about stretching those heels) but on days it’s really humid, I start too fast, or my sinuses are just plugged I find this trick helpful.
- Run in intervals. Last year when I did the Hotter ‘n’ Hell 5k I had one goal and that was to see how far I could run before stopping. It was amazing, I made it over a mile without stopping (first time ever in my life I ran a mile without stopping); however, my legs were shot for the rest of the race. At the time I didn’t care because my goal was not time it was to challenge myself not to stop. However, now that my goal is always time I run in short intervals, similar to the way they do it in the Couch to 5k program of the Ease into 5k program. I downloaded a simple interval clock for HITT workouts and set it. On Saturday, I decided I wanted to do 2 minutes of running followed by 2 minutes of walking. It worked great. I was tired toward the end and a few of the last intervals I wasn’t able to make it the entire 2 minutes running, but it was fine! I still finished 30 seconds faster than my 5k time in May, which was a new personal record.
- If you’re playing tag with one person the entire race, make it your goal to beat them. There is almost always one or two people who pass me and then I pass them as we’re running. I usually make it my mission to finish before those people. What that means is when I see the finish line, I’m running and if they’re running and I’m behind them (which I usually am) I am sprinting. You’re not always going to beat them across the finish line, but it will help shave off a few seconds and it will give you someone to stick with when you’re feeling tired.
- If you can see the finish line you should be running, regardless of whether you’re in a run or walk interval.
- Always sprint across the finish line. Shave off those seconds where you can.
- Get off the treadmill. Nothing replaces running on the street or on a path. When running on a treadmill the belt moves you forward meaning your running technique can be off making street running and races much harder. The treadmill has it’s place (ie inclement weather) but the street is always better.
- Make it fun. I say it all the time, I hate running and I notice a huge difference in how well I perform when the 5k has a fun and festive feel to it compared to just a boring 3 miles. Also don’t be afraid of trail runs! Yes, they are challenging and sometimes they’re even longer than a 5k (the one I did was a 7k). Yes you will be sore the next day if all you ever do is run on flat paths and roads, but it’s so worth it. Constantly having to look at the trail ahead of you so you don’t trip keeps you mind occupied, the scenery is usually fantastic and you’ll challenge yourself in ways that are not possible on the road. Trail running definitely keeps running fun.
If you’re thinking about starting running, I would encourage you to try it. If you’re not sure where or how to start, check out Couch to 5k or Ease into 5k. If you can’t run a full minute, don’t fret. You can repeat weeks as often as you need to. I can guarantee that I will be repeating some weeks. Completing one of these program is not a race. Do it at a pace that works for you. And runners, if you have any other tips and tricks on running please put them in the comments. I would love to hear them!