I finished the Couch to 5K (C25K) program last month and will be running my first 5K race tomorrow!
I was looking for a way to get in shape that wouldn't require a gym membership or much hassle and expense. The C25K program fits those criteria and it is effective. It gets you off the couch and able to run 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) in nine weeks. I downloaded the app onto my iPhone in August and set out to improve my cardiovascular fitness, little by little, three days a week. The program starts out gently, with more walking than running. By the end of it, though, you will be able to run 30 minutes straight.
I was cautiously optimistic about the program. Worried that I wouldn't be able to complete it, I didn't tell too many people I had started it. Following the program faithfully, I didn't miss any workouts. For the first time in a long time, I was able to run without being sidelined by shin splints and other injuries.
My first workouts were painful, not so much physically but emotionally. The first week was especially embarrassing. I was ashamed of letting myself get so out of shape. I hated hearing the sound of my labored breathing and heavy footfall. I imagined how I looked lumbering down the street.
Throughout the program, my nine-year-old son, Nico, accompanied me during my workouts. In the first week, he joined me on his scooter; after that, he rode along on his bike.
Starting the program, I was deeply self-conscious so I opted to run at night. It was peaceful then, since we live in a quiet, safe neighborhood that basically shuts down at 8 p.m. We outfitted my son with an orange safety vest and equipped his bike with front and back lights. This made me feel even more self-conscious as I set out. Great! Now we looked like a parade.
After just a few workouts, though, I started to gain confidence. I fine-tuned playlists for my iPhone - lots of 80s and hip hop tunes - and made sure I had good running shoes and gear. Finding inspiring music was key. It's amazing how fast time passes when you are listening to songs you love.
There were times when I wanted to quit my workouts, but I always found ways to keep going. Having my son next to me was a big motivator. It would be one thing to let myself down, but I wanted to keep moving for him. I wanted to be an example to him in not quitting or giving up. Sometimes, I would set mini-goals for myself: Just run to the next light post. Just run to the end of the street. Just run to the park sign.
The program brought me closer to my son. Nico doesn't often share his feelings with me but during our C25K workouts, he opened up and shared details about his life, what happened in school that day, how he was feeling about our move from Ohio this summer, what his hopes were for our life in California.
Nico was a great coach throughout the program. His sense of direction is way better than mine so he charted our training routes and always made sure we found our way home. He would provide encouragement ("I think you're running way faster than before, Mom!") and help me log notes for each workout.
Soon, I began looking forward to my runs. Even though they were sometimes tough, I loved being connected to Nico and having special one-on-one time with him. I loved how I felt after each workout: sweaty and happy! I loved taking a bath afterward and thinking about my progress.
I never thought I'd be someone who would enjoy running, but now I am. Growing up, I loved sports but hated running. The only time I enjoyed running was when chasing a ball. Running on its own was boring, tedious, pointless. These days, I appreciate the rhythm of running. I like running to think about things; I like running to not think about things.
At this point, I am still a very slow runner but seeing how far I've come from a few months ago, I know I can change. I know I can set a goal and achieve it.
Right now, I am looking forward to tomorrow's challenge: the Pacific Grove Lighthouse 5K!