I’ve never been a lover of exercise. I spent most of my senior school PE lessons side-lined with an ingrown toenail with notes to excuse me written regularly by my mum*.
(*There’s a reason why our signatures are so alike. I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions about what that reason is…)
But I do appreciate that exercise is a vital part of maintaining a healthy body and mind. With this in mind, I have, with varying levels of commitment and longevity, tried a reasonable range of activities to try and get into the exercise habit over the years.
One of the things I’ve tried is the Couch 2 5K Program (C25K). This is a free program developed by the NHS which promises to take you from sitting on the couch to running 5km in 9 weeks.
I’ve tried it a few times over the last few years. It’s always started well but I’d previously never gotten past about week 4 or 5.
This new year, rather than making ‘resolutions’ which are easy to break and then forget about, I decided to set myself some goals which you can keep working towards even if you have a bit of a set back. One of my goals was to finally complete the C25K program.
I downloaded the latest version of the app and actually went for my first run on Christmas Day last year. “Christmas?” I hear you ask, “I thought this was a ‘new year’ goal?” Well yes, but I’m a planner and I’d decided on Christmas Eve that this was going to be one of them so I thought I might as well strike while the iron was hot and try to balance some of the Christmas calories that I was about to consume.
The first week has you running for 60 seconds at a time with 90 seconds of running in between for a total of 20 minutes. Mr FFF came with me and encouraged me every step of the way. Despite the fact that it was only 60 seconds of running at a time, that only just felt manageable. It felt like I’d never get to a point where I’d be able to run for 30 minutes without stopping, but I knew that I could get to at least Week 4 (the running periods increase gradually each week) so I persevered and made it to Week 5.
Now, in Weeks 1-4, each of the 3 weekly runs is the same, ie in Week 1, you run for 60 seconds and walk for 90 seconds for a total of 20 mins and you do this 3 times in the week. But in Week 5, this pattern changes. I did not know this.
So the first run in Week 5 went: 5 minutes running, 3 minutes walking, 5 minutes running, 3 minutes walking, 5 minutes running. I coped well with this and was feeling pretty good. On my second run, I was feeling a but tired as I’d had a late night the night before and then a particularly busy day at work. But I tied my laces and headed out anyway, not really paying attention to the introduction that my chosen coach (you can choose from the NHS’s own coach or a couple of celebs. I chose Sarah Millican) was giving on how the run would be structured as I chatted to Mr FFF whilst completing our 5 minute warm-up walk. Sarah told me it was time to start running and I picked up the pace expecting to run for 5 minutes. As I was running and waiting for Sarah to tell me that it was time to walk, I was finding the going surprisingly hard. My legs felt heavy and it felt like much more of a struggle than run number 1 of the week had felt. When she finally told me to stop running, she congratulated me for managing to run for 8 whole minutes! No wonder it felt harder.
This was the hardest week as run 3 (which I looked at the schedule for after getting home from run 2!) increased again to running for 20 whole minutes!!! I suddenly remembered why I’d never made it past this point on my previous attempts.
At first I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to do it but I reasoned that the plan had been devised by people who know what they’re talking about. I also knew that I could always repeat this week or the previous week if I found it too hard.
But guess what? I did it! I managed to complete Week 5! Having passed the point at which I’d previously quit really spurred me on to complete the program and I carried on. Even when Mr FFF couldn’t come with me to cheer me on and provide that accountability that I need as an Obliger. Even when the weather turned really wintry and it was snowing. I kept on doing it and I COMPLETED THE PROGRAM!!!
I was so proud of myself for sticking with it and achieving my goal. Even thinking about it now, months later, I still feel really proud.
So, if you’re looking for a way to get moving more**, I’d highly recommend the C25K program. The app is great. It’s free,you can listen to your own music and your coach will tell you when to run, when to walk and will give you words of encouragement throughout each run. You also get a gold tick in the app for each run you complete and a virtual trophy at the end. The program builds up the running time gradually and each week feels like just the right level of challenge.
I’m still fighting the battle with getting into a regular exercise habit, but completing the C25K program has definitely helped me to alter my mindset and believe in my physical abilities.
What are your top tips for getting into an exercise routine? Let me know in the comments section.
Thanks for reading,
**I am not a doctor. Please check with a doctor or other suitably qualified healthcare professional before beginning any exercise program.