Yesterday I finished Week 5 of the Couch to 5K (C25K) – a nine week interval training program that promises to have you running for 30 minutes, or 5k, by the end.
Last week’s program had me pretty worried, so I thought it might be worthwhile writing something short about the way it turned out for me. There must be other people out there who are googling the hell out of C25K to see how others are handling it – so here is another person’s account!
Week 5 is traditionally the week when most people drop out of C25K, for reasons I completely understand. On paper it looks unachievable to the beginning runner, as it sets a goal that is far beyond anything we’ve had to achieve up until that point. Here’s what I mean:
Week 5, Day 1: Three 5-minute runs, with 3-minute walks in between.
Week 5, Day 2: Two 8-minute runs, with one 5-minute walk in the middle.
Week 5, Day 3: Run for 20 minutes with no walking.
At this stage in the program the longest interval we’ve ever had to run without walking is 8 minutes. How was I ever going to run for more than double this time?
I didn’t actually believe that I could do the 20-minute run. In truth, I never feel completely physically spent after each running segment in my sessions, but I have come to rely on those short “rest” periods of walking to prepare my lungs for the next burst of punishment. The prospect of cutting out the walks completely scared the crap out of me!
All I can say is that I attempted it with the best possible attitude I could muster. I assured myself that if I didn’t make it this time, it was okay to try it again until I met the goal. I reminded myself that plenty of other people repeat entire weeks until they are ready to move on with the program, and that it was okay to be one of them.
I fired up the music, started my C25K app, and turned the screen of my iphone off. I decided to forget about the clock, and just run.
20 minutes later I stopped!
I won’t lie – there were times when I wanted to walk. I didn’t get any of that euphoria that I wrote about on Monday, and that made every step a little bit harder. However, I don’t think that it was any more difficult than the first time I ran for 5 minutes, or 8 minutes – or even the first time I ran for 90 seconds! I remain amazed at the way that my body continually adapts to the new challenges I put in front of it.
The key, I guess, is making sure that you pace yourself. I kept a good steady pace throughout the entire 20 minutes, but this time I didn’t go out of my way to choose lots of hilly streets or force myself to extend my stride. The challenge of running for 20 minutes was enough, I saw no need to overachieve.
I covered 3.2km yesterday, which included a 4-minute cool-down walk. Tim commented that I didn’t seem out of breath when I got home, and it’s true – my recovery time was pretty much contained to those 4 minutes. My biggest challenge during the run was to manage my asthma, as I have become quite reliant on my inhaler halfway through my sessions. I couldn’t have used my inhaler without stopping momentarily yesterday, so I managed it with my pace instead.
So – with Week 5 out of the way I have one month of running to go. I am bracing myself for some fairly big challenges over the coming week, including four 25-minute runs, three 28-minute runs, and finally three 30-minute runs. My greatest hope is that my body remains injury-free, and continues to adapt to this foreign sensation!