5 tips for getting through the Couch to 5K program

Well, it has been a long time since I blogged.  A ton of things have changed in my life, which are probably better covered in another post.  So, for now, let’s just dive in to my current pursuit- completion of the Couch to 5K running program.  I’ve done this program a few times- sometimes all the way to the end and sometimes giving up in despair after a few runs.  There are a few things I’ve discovered that make the program much easier (for me, at least).  So, here are 5 tips I’ve discovered that make the learning to run via the Couch to 5K program much easier.  Very small tweaks can be the different between success and failure.

5 things that make learning to run easier

  1. Run on a treadmill.  This makes pacing so much easier.  You don’t suddenly hit a hill and then cannot complete the week, like you would running outside.  And yes, even very small inclines can totally wreck you if you aren’t fit.
  2. Get an app.  I’ve done this by manually tracking the time, but that is too much mental effort, especially if you are being physically challenged.  I’ve been using the Couch25K app by Zen Labs.  The free version tells you when to switch between running and jogging.
  3. Set a consistent time to run. Yeah, habit building 101!  The last time I did most of the program, I ran in the afternoons on weekends, and at 6:30 am on weekdays.  In practice, I frequently overslept on weekdays, and could rarely get in 3 runs per week.  I also am much looser and more energetic later in the day, so later times makes runs much easier for me,
  4. Don’t run fast.  This is the most common piece of advice out there about the program, and it is totally true.  If your run was a total nightmare, then back off the speed.  This is much easier if you are using a treadmill. I walk really fast (~ 4 mph), so the first few tries, I decided that running had to be at least 6.5 mph, or else it was not really running.  This time around, I’m being more gentle, and using a running speed of 5.2 mph.
  5. Pay attention to your body.  Does something feel tight or weird when you are running?  Does your left whatever feel different than your right whatever?  Google it, and make sure you are doing an appropriate stretch to fix it.  Even if you are following a suggested stretching program, such as the one recommended by the Cool Running site (“Stay Loose”), it may not have the stretch you need.  And personally, I very much dislike stretching, so running through a 12 stretch program is unlikely to happen at this point in time.  But, I do feel a huge difference in tightness between my right and left calves.  So I tested a bunch of stretches for tight calves, and found one targets exactly the tightest part.  One stretch I can do, and because it is targeting a specific problem, I can see improvement with every run.  This sets up a nice feedback loop that keeps me stretching.

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