We’re still running! A Couch to 5K update

Back in April, I wrote about the Couch to 5K program, which aims to transform sedentary people into runners. Seems like time for a little update.

We did complete the program. We’re still running, and we don’t intend to stop. I mean, we stop and go home and have lunch and stuff, but we haven’t let a single week go by without running, and most weeks, we run three, four, or five times. Today, we ran 2.5 miles, which is the longest distance we’ve done together.

I know. That’s not 5K! Well, when you get close to the end of the Couch to 5K program, it starts giving you the option of running for a certain distance or a certain time, and we always chose time (I think it ends at 31 minutes of running), falling short of the suggested distance. Once the program was over, we focused on keeping up the habit of running regularly, rather than upping the ante. Some weeks, being sick and busy, it was a struggle to get a mile in three times a week. We just wanted to make sure we didn’t stop just because the program was over.

And we are slow. Slow as hell. But we are gradually increasing the distance we go, and are working our way up to a 5K run in the fall, when it will be cooler. In New Hampshire, there is no such thing as a flat route, so we always end up trotting up and down, here and there, on dirt, on pavement, on gravel, and on grass, and some of the hills are killers. There are frogs and flaming orange salamanders in the road, and turkeys and turkey buzzards angrily launch themselves into the air as we pass, because we are annoying. We talk about the kids and politics and sex and what will become of us all, and what we want to have for supper. Occasionally we have a little fight as we run. Sometimes, I’m wheezing and gasping, and I just focus on not stopping or throwing up. Other times, it’s fluid and almost euphoric, and I feel like I could go forever. The weird thing is, it’s very hard to predict what kind of run it will be.

It’s far, far easier to run before 10 a.m., when it’s shady, the air is dry, and there’s a little breeze. Humidity makes running awful. But nothing feels better than being done with a run and knowing that, whatever else happens that day, you didn’t quit.

After we finished the program and proved to ourselves that we’re sticking with this thing, we bought ourselves some new shoes. We went to an athletic store, where they measured our feet, watched us walk and run, talked about our routine, and then gave us a variety of suitable shoes to try.

I settled on a pair of New Balance shoes (W860PG7, if you’re interested- see photo at top). They’re not too stiff or heavy, but are much more structured than the Walmart $15 pair I had been using. They are nice and wide, which I need for my feet that have splayed out after being barefoot and pregnant for almost twenty years. They don’t feel all that much different when I’m actually running, but my feet feel perfectly fine the rest of the day, which is amazing. With my crummy shoes, my feet were always sore, and sometimes I felt stabbing pains in my soles. These NB shoes have a pretty firm medial post, which apparently keeps my feet from pronating, or rolling inward, which makes your arches collapse or something. I wasn’t really listening, but it sounded bad.

The shoe people noticed similar issues with my husband’s feet, and he chose Nike Air Zoom Structure 20s. His feet feel better while he’s actually running, and he has less trouble with his ankles and knees during the day.

Each pair cost over $100, which kind of knocked the air out of me; but we figured we were paying partly for the guidance; and also we don’t spend any other money on running. We just run, and want to keep running. So it’s cheaper than a gym membership, and cheaper than physical therapy from running in crap shoes.

Other observations: Don’t skip the frickin warm-up, even if you’re in a hurry. Among other benefits, it gets your lungs going, so it’s not a horrible shock when you suddenly launch into a run and can’t breathe.

-If I’m struggling and getting tense and taking short little choppy steps, it’s helpful to think to myself, “Light and loose. Light and loose.” I need to remember to use my whole body and to be as fluid as possible, and that makes it easier to keep going.

-Always go pee one last time before you leave the house, even if you don’t feel like you need to.

We both have bad days and good days, and we don’t always match up; but when we do run, the rest of the day is always better than the days when we don’t run. I find myself thinking it’s reasonable to take the kids to the beach after dinner, rather than just flopping on the couch and turning into upholstery. I try to remember to offer up the run for different people’s intentions.

As I can’t seem to stop mentioning, I’m still pretty fat. I’m just not ready to stop eating mashed potatoes, is what it comes down to. But I feel so much more confident. My back never hurts anymore. I sleep well most nights, instead of almost never. My knees and other joints, despite everyone’s dire warnings, feel fine. My husband and I are alone together for over half an hour three times a week. And nothing, nothing, beats that feeling of starting something hard and scary and keeping at it until it starts to feel easy.

Yep, we’re gonna keep running.

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9 thoughts on “We’re still running! A Couch to 5K update”

  1. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/09/well/eat/exercise-as-a-weight-loss-strategy.html

    Great job running! I was just looking at this which validates the frustration I also feel that exercise does not result in weight loss😕 But, as you said, I feel so much better when I do. I’m trying a couple things to see if I get better results. I read that studies show that is you exercise first thing before eating in the am you are more likely to lose weight. Also a 40 something lady who was overweight & got in shape says she does only interval running , run as fast as you can for 30 seconds and walk for 30 seconds

  2. I have an ankle made serviceable by surgery, but running would be asking too much. I walk, use the stair climber, and do some Pilates. Not quite the same streetcred one gets with running! I can’t tell you how much I admire your ability to keep with this.

    I’ve found that small improvements to our diet over time have added up to better health. We got used to dropping soda, white bread, etc., and got used to more fiber, more protein, less sugar. Treats today are so nice, but so much less insane than what used to be normal for us 10 years ago. We maintain our weight way more easily, and more importantly, our kids are able to hold a healthy weight while still having some treats. We have nieces/nephews who are already fat, and that is hard to see. I know how hard it was to keep my weight in check as a teenager and twenty-something, even having been fit as a kid. We use the guidelines of Trim Healthy Mama to give our kids the gift of good habits, healthy blood sugar levels, and a palette that has adapted to non-starchy veggies instead of high glycemic breads, white rice, potatoes, pasta, etc. I wish I had understood how to eat like this during all those years of struggling. I’m about to go make some THM tiramisu, something I couldn’t eat if I wanted to fit into my pants when I was eating the way I used to. (And by American standards, my original diet was good! 😳)

    Good luck with the running and writing and back-to-school!

  3. Oh, and one more thing after reading the comments–I agree that EATING is way better than being skinny. You get to a point when you are skinny that won’t even allow you to enjoy a real meal, because your stomach shrinks too much. You can’t drink wine either or you feel sick.

    For the birds!

  4. Thank you. That was beautiful and inspiring.

    At the beginning I was guiltily thinking “I hate running” but I could see the frogs and salamanders the cool trees, and the turkeys. Most of all the priceless reality of spousal solidarity.

    I am moving to Marin with three of my kids in 10 days. I am leaving two kids (18 and 21) behind, and my dog that I adore. My husband has almost finished my BIG kitchen with the big, six burner stove, but alas, God has a sense of humor, and I will visit it every 2 to 3 weeks.

    One thing that I will absolutely bring with me is my paddle board. I’m so afraid of sharks, I don’t even realize I’m really working out. I can feel it the next morning though. Working out in nature is mesmerizing. You can go out really far off shore, quickly, on a board. Seeing dolphins right up close freaks you out at first, but then you start praying and thanking God for it. My son Xave and niece Lucia heard them talking to each other!!!

  5. I’m super happy for you (keep up the good work, seriously), but as someone who lives in New Orleans, I got a kick out you saying how running in humidity later in the day is tough. Down here we can run in the early hours when it’s 83 and 92% humidity or wait until some of it burns off, which is around 10am. Then it’s 92 with 83% humidity. Blech.

  6. My first half marathon, I met a girl who was overweight (as am I). She said she runs half marathons just because she likes to eat. #balance

  7. You’re inspiring. I never make it past week two. I’ve hated to run since I was 5, and I believe I will keep on hating it forever. I do admire runners so much!!

    1. I’m with you. I’ve always hated running except in sports like basketball or tennis. I admire runners’ perseverance, but I still think they’re crazy. Freud might say it’s because I associate running long distances with punishment (high school coaches always made athletes run laps for bad behavior or poor performance) or emergencies. And, heck, marathons are named after a guy who dropped dead after running. To add to my hang-ups, I know two skinny runners who developed Type 1 Diabetes in middle age. So, if there’s no guarantee that I won’t get diabetes if I run, why torture myself? Finally, everyone and his brother runs or does yoga (and wears spandex). I’ve always refused to be part of the mainstream.

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