Last January, like women everywhere, I resolved to lose some weight and start exercising. And you know what? I actually did lose some weight. And I did develop a new running habit.
I started the Couch to 5K program, the same one that countless other people start. If you’re not familiar with the concept of the Couch to 5K program, or C25K, it’s simple. You’ll train three days a week for 9 weeks. Essentially, you start out by walking for half an hour with very little running mixed in and slowly, you’ll alternate until you’re hardly walking. By the end of the 9 weeks, you’ll spend your entire half hour running.
Every year, people download one of a gazillion C25K apps and give it a try, but some never make it much further than the couch. In fact, I failed at the Couch to 5K program the first time I tried it too. But in 2013, unlike the first time I tried this program, I didn’t quit at week two. I stuck with it.
In March, I ran my first 5K. In April, I ran another. May arrived and with it came another 5K and a 5 Miler. In October, I ran another 5K and then I finished with a bang and ran a 10K. That’s 6.2 miles.
Miles. When I started the program, I couldn’t run 6.2 minutes consecutively.
Y’all, you’ve got to know that I’m overweight and I’ve had little time for exercising in the past several years. My kids are 5, 2, and 1 and I homeschool, so I don’t get much alone time for working out. I was completely out of shape when I started the program and while I still have more weight to lose, I’m doing better all the time.
So how did I have success with this program, the same one that many people aren’t able to finish? Here are my secrets, and trust me, if I can do it, anyone can do it. Anyone.
1. Sign up for a race.
Like yesterday. As soon as you decide to do the program, sign up and pay for your race. This makes it real. And don’t choose a race too far ahead of time. That will give you time to slack off. It’s a 9 week program, so give yourself 10-12 weeks max to complete the training. If possible, choose a race with tons of people so that you’re not the last one to finish, but don’t be too picky. Sign up. If you’re super cheap like me, then paying for a race will motivate you to run.
2. Find accountability.
I don’t care if you have to canvass your Facebook friends to find a running buddy, but trust me, you need someone to force you to go. If you know that your friend is waiting for you at the local high school track at 6:00 am, then you’re not going to let her down. You’ll show up.
3. Push everything else aside to prioritize your running.
I know this sounds selfish, but hear me out for a minute. The housework can wait. It’ll still be there tomorrow. Dinner can be late. But your body? You only get one of those. And you only get one heart and one set of lungs, and those organs need you to take care of them. So prioritize to make a little bit of time to exercise. Your kids and husband will appreciate having a more energetic and healthy mommy. Eventually, you’ll figure out how to juggle these things and you might even learn some new crock pot meals to help you get it all done. But for the first couple of weeks, you’ll probably have a little more chaos in your home while you figure out how to make some room in your schedule for your new healthy habit.
4. Take it slow if you need to.
If you’re struggling to complete a week, then you may want to take an extra day or two to master it instead of just the three days provided. Week four looks something like this: Run 3 minutes, walk, run 5 minutes, walk, run 3 minutes, walk, then just keep trying. Don’t move on to week 5 until you’ve successfully completed at least one day of running in this format. Sometimes all I needed was one more day of trying to complete the assignment before I finally mastered it.
5. Trust the plan.
I know that week 5 has you jump from running 8 minutes at a time to 20 minutes. I know you think they’re crazy and there’s no way you can possibly do it. But you know what? You can. Trust the plan and trust the training you’ve been doing. You’ve done far more than you think. And besides, half of the battle is mental. If you can get over this mental hurdle and run the 20 minutes, then you’ve got this thing.
6. Just run.
So much of it is mental. Don’t worry about your breathing or your form. Just get out there and do it.
Me and my twin sister, after running our five mile race!
Are you a runner? Have you ever tried the C25K program? Did it work for you? What tips would you add?