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.