Couch to 5k – Lessons Learned

As I write this, I have just two more workouts to complete before I officially graduate from the Couch to 5k  program (www.coolrunning.com).

Go me!

While my accomplishment hardly warrants a spot on the cover of Runner’s World magazine, I am mighty grateful for the support of friends and followers that I’ve received along the way.

As I’ve written here before, the benefits of this regime are many and, happily, I no longer consider myself sedentary. The horizontal expansion of my waistline has stopped and is actually going in the other direction. My concern about my weak knees proved to be unfounded and, best of all, I recently mustered the moxie to register for my first ever 5k race.

All in all, a successful endeavor. Mission accomplished.

In case you’re looking to try this program, here are a few things I learned along the way:

1. Find a running buddy, fitness pal or kindly coach who can cheer you along, encourage you when you want to give up (especially during the first couple of weeks) and keep you motivated. I picked my youngest son. Just 9 years old, he’s already an accomplished runner, but more importantly, he is a generous soul. Play date conflicts notwithstanding, his unending optimism, sweet silliness and masterful form inspired me to keep going on even the toughest days. I see cross-country trophies and, eventually, coaching in his future.

2. Perseverance really does pay off. After the first few workouts, my lungs burned and I felt like I had the wind knocked out of me. I’ll be honest. It was horrible. When I complained to my cross-country runner son, he smiled knowingly and said, stick with it – it will get better. Then, mimicking Dory, the oblivious, but happy fish from “Finding Nemo”, he started chanting, “Just keep running, just keep running.” So, I did. And I’m glad.

3. It really is all about the shoes. I started out using an old pair of running shoes that I never actually ran in. After the first two weeks, my knees would start to throb soon after I got moving. As providence would have it, that pair went missing – likely during a quick clean of our foyer. Searching for them in my son’s closet, I came across a pair that he had out-grown. Just for kicks, I tried them on and felt bouncier than I ever did in my old shoes. I hit the track, making sure that I remembered to land on the balls of my feet instead of my heels (thanks again, MM!) and kissed the knee pain good-bye.

4. Music. If it’s got a good beat, you can run to it. Since a person’s taste in music is highly personal, I’m not going to take up space by recommending that you adopt my favorite playlist.  I just know that my first few music-free workouts would have been much more enjoyable if I had brought some tunes along. However, as much as I love James Taylor, I did learn the hard way that selections from his greatest hits are best saved for cool downs only.

5. Finally, food matters. What you eat and when can have a huge impact on how you feel during workouts. Duh, right? Well, this was news to me. Taking to the track several hours after eating anything, I feel like I can go on forever. Jostling around too soon after eating, though, makes for a rough time of things. There’s no better way to make one mile feel like 15. I’ll say no more…

In conclusion, with my first 5k less than two weeks away, I know I may not exactly fly across the finish line, but as long as I finish, even stumbling and gasping for air, I’ll be happy. And then I’ll sign up for another one and eventually a 10k.

Just keep running, just keep running…

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