Couch to Marathon
When I started running, it was something I did alone and, dare I say it, in ‘secret’ for a while. Because I wasn’t talking about it with anyone, and wasn’t aware that any of my friends were into running, predictably I resorted to the Internet to tell me what I needed to know. Six years ago, all roads pointed to the NHS Couch to 5km interval programme (or ‘C25K’ as it’s known by the C25K crew). Back then, C25K was a mere podcast, but now you can check out the app version in the App Store and there are also zillions of copycats.
The original C25K NHS podcast is a nine week programme with three walk-run sessions per week of varying times. The podcast builds up over the weeks so you gradually run for longer and walk for less until you are a fully fledged transformed couch potato to 5km runner and you can go forth and Park Run. Back when I did it, I loved the calm lady talking you through the runs and giving out tips. However, I couldn’t stand the background elevator type music. I presume the apps are a good choice now that you can overlay with your tunes and some now take you beyond that distance.
Thinking about starting to run but are nervous about it? Check out the C25K programmes for sure, and here are some of the other things I have learnt along the way (which tend to revolve around tricking myself to not bail on a run!):
- My number one tip is to PLAN YOUR RUNS (and/or other workouts). As well as being more likely to stick to a schedule, you’ll know when you can reschedule a morning run to a lunchtime/evening if necessary. Making a promise to yourself to go for a run at some time next week is just not going to work, trust me. You will probably head out once or twice a month and it won't get any easier as your fitness won't be increasing.
- Choosing a programme (like C25K) helps you to schedule in your runs, and means you can track your progress easier.
- Set yourself a goal - again, tied in with scheduling runs but having something to train for means you probably will haul yourself out of bed at 6am on a dark, rainy morning because you know that run is part of your training.
- It's not rocket science but pack everything you need for the next day the night before. If I am running in the morning I literally lay out everything from socks to headphones to contact lenses. It means I don't miss that 6.10 am bus to the tube station.
- Try and run in the morning - it's then done for the day, doesn't hang over you and you won’t risk something coming up later on, or you changing your mind (sense a common theme here?!). Plus you are in a fasted state so appaz you'll burn more fat and you'll more likely make healthier eating choices throughout the day.
- If you are out for a run and finding it tough, you can stop and you can walk! Blimey, you can lie down and go for a nap as far as anyone else cares, it's your run! I like to stop and take pictures on my jaunts.
- Understand that it is supposed to feel relatively tough - however fit you are, the first mile is especially difficult as the body adjusts. There is so much mind over matter involved in running and more experienced runners just know they can do it because they've done it before.
- Take your keys, phone, a fiver and, if you live in London, your Oyster card. This way you can always get home/grab a drink/order an Uber (haha) if something does happen or you are feeling especially knackered/unfit/hungover.
- Stock up on basics - nothing worse than scrabbling around for matching sports socks or a clean sports bra and you are going to need it all if you are regularly exercising.
- After you have head out a few times, upgrade your trainers. Trenchfoot isn't pretty and looking at your new shiny kicks sat by the front door will make you want to lace them up and get out there, as well as making you more likely to stay injury free.
- When you need some motivation, grab some new and fun kit. You will feel amazing in it.
- Line up your playlist. Obviously music is a massive motivator and there is nothing like Eye of the Tiger (or not) to get you going in the morning...
- If you feel bored listening to the same old tracks, download an audiobook or a podcast! I smashed through 40 hours of The Goldfinch when marathon training and podcasts got me through the longer runs. I love, love, love This American Life, Radio Lab and Reply All. GO CHECK THEM OUT!
- If you’re into your tech, a free GPS app or sports watch might keep you going so you have more stats to geek over after.
- Run with mates. This is coming from the previous solo, secret runner and it's changed my outlook on running - miles fly by when you are chatting.
- Schedule a run around your life like meeting up with friends by running to the park together and finishing with a coffee or running home from work or to a yoga class.
- Don't be intimidated by other runners you pass. They might be on their first or tenth mile, and so might you as far as they know. They don't know this is your first ever run!
- Don't put yourself down or your running mates down. I always get 'oh I couldn't run with Alana, she's been running for ages/is too fast/will want to run further'. This is B-S. Anything is possible and we all face our own challenges in running, whether you are reasonably new to running or have been all your life.
- Just go out and do it! What's the worst that can happen?!
Good luck! If you are about to embark on your first run or are getting back into it after a break, I would love to hear how it went!