I finished another #Couchto5K today. This is maybe the 10th – or more – time I’ve done it. I live with chronic pain (injury arthritis & post-chemo stuff & post-surgeries stuff) and find that running helps me feel fit, stay strong, get outside, be in my body, and that I like all of those things.
It also helps me stay at a size/weight that I feel more or less comfortable with after decades of body-hating, some of that hating to do with the crap society pushes on to us about our bodies daily, some to do with post-surgeries/scarring stuff. All of which is another, much longer story for another day. Maybe.
I’ve also done the 5k to 10k a couple of times, and got about halfway through the 5k Pacer, but I find that trying to do more than 5k three times a week either hurts too much in the running or causes me more more pain in between.
So, by trial and error, I’ve discovered that I can finish the programme and start again, because just as it gets a little too much, I’m done. I take a week or a month to only do yoga and some walking, and then I go again. Sometimes I’ve got halfway through the programme and then gone back to the beginning because it’s a difficult pain time for me.
I’m sharing this because I think our culture around exercise (and work and play and everything!) is stupidly all-or-nothing. The idea that we might do the couch to 5k and that must lead to running further or faster puts off so many people. It put me off for ages.
So, if you’re able-bodied enough to give it a go but have been worried because it seems too much, here’s my not at all gung-ho version that might support you to try:
- it’s ok to exercise within your pain limits
- it’s ok to push and find your pain limit – mine is more than I expect some days and less on others
- it’s ok to stop and start and stop again and start again
- it’s ok to take longer than 8 weeks to do a couch-to-5k
- it’s ok to take less than 8 weeks if you find you love it and want to run 4x a week
- it’s ok to just do the first 3 weeks over and over again
- mostly though, it’s ok to give it a go, to see what it’s like, being in your body, in the street or the park, connecting with your heartbeat and sweat and the places that reach and the places that ache and finding your own limits. It’s more than ok, being in your body, happily in your body, however it works, whatever it is capable of, is everything.
- also, STRETCH! Adrienne’s runners’ cool down is brief and useful and might encourage you to pay attention to your breathing, which is good for running, yoga, mental health and life.
Hi Stella we met years ago in Nottingham and now we live round the corner in London but back to Couch to 5k. I love running. I’ve discovered quite late in life that it works for my body as long as I mix it with yoga. But there’s a bit of the old healthy fascism that I dislike intensely. So yes find what works and did the rest! For me it’s the ability to get All the way round John Ruskin park without stopping. I can do it and running with punk and new wave in my ears is just brilliant . I don’t care about park runs of half marathons.
thanks Gill, and yes, I mix everything with yoga – that works for me.
This has inspired me to give couch to 5K a go and not get caught up in the “what next?” mentality (or the “I’m not on schedule” anxiety). I’ll be super proud of myself if I make it to 5K while balancing various pain/chronic illness, however long it takes.
hi Naomi, that’s great. and it’s also fine if what you manage is 1k or 2k. getting out and being in the fresh air and moving your body is plenty.
I did the couch to 5K for the first time 3 years ago at the age of 51, mainly to dispel the myth that i ‘wasnt sporty’…a myth, i hasten to add, that i had fully adopted for myself and used as comedy repartee my whole adult life – ‘books and wine, that’s my sport hahah’ ‘dont be ridiculous, do i look like sport is my thing?!’ etc etc. When i turned 50 i started wondering if that was really me, or was it a persona i wore without actually knowing if it were true? I think i was tired being that person. I decided to find out. I ran my first 5k for park run in May 2017, having started the app training in the February after my 51st birthday. I had a few false starts in the training but finally completed it and ran in the May. I was sooo proud of myself, as was my sporty, younger, and much slimmer wife so that was a bonus lol. My adult kids couldnt quite believe it either. With my very supportive best friend I did a park run a month, and then eventually tried to do one every week. There were lots of weeks missed and some runs i found more difficult than others but i kept going. The 6 months before lockdown i found my resolve slipped, my energy plummeted, my willpower and willingness faded rapidly, and my enthusiasm went awol. Perimenopause was making itself known more and more loudly and since lockdown i have well and truly ground to a halt. In my mind it just all feels too difficult and I just visualise myself as this non-sporty, lumbering elephant with sore boobs. I feel as it I’m too heavy to cart around. It’s true i could do with losing a stone, but actually im not ‘big’, i’m nudging into a 16, from my usual 14, but I ‘feel’ as if my feet are kin concrete. I took up yoga not long after running and Ive just managed to go back for the first time since March as that, too, had vanished during lockdown, and im trying not to mind that my body isnt enjoying bending, stretching, and contorting itself yet, as i KNOW i have to persevere. I cannot for the life of me work out how to get it all back. I really enjoyed that first couple of years of running and being a different me.
I would always encourage anyone to give it a go!
Hmmm…that was a bit of a self indulgent ranty ramble there…sorry ’bout that!