title: Reflections on Couch to 5K (to 5K, to 5K, to 5K…)
date: 2018-08-13 02:32:45
In the latter weeks of the Couch to 5K program, I decided not to post a weekly update. Things felt too variable and I didn't feel that I had enough time to reflect upon the changes. Now, with the benefit of hindsight, I feel like I have a few things to share.
The Less Gear the Better
Don't get hung up on stuff. You can run in any old pair of sneakers, shorts, etc. After you've been working the program for a few weeks, you'll actually be in a better place to assess your equipment needs. None of the gear will make you a better runner. Some of it will make you a bit more comfortable while you run. But, unless you've been running without it, you don't have a good way to figure out what you really need.
This problem extends to apps and phone accessories as well. Most of the C25K apps break the core tenant of the program. They push you to run harder when the program was designed for you to back off when feeling pushed, optimizing for distance over time. This is part of the reason that I prefer using the podcast(s) over the apps. The podcast(s) seem to cleave closer to the original slow down to run further ethos.
As for phone accessories, I did wind up buying a Running Belt to hold my phone/keys/etc. and a set of sweatproof wired earbuds to replace my bluetooth ones that started to stutter during week 3 of the program. The running belt alleviated the lopsided weight problem that occurs when I put my phone into the pocket of my shorts. And, I decided on using wired earbuds because bluetooth ones with good sound quality were expensive enough that I didn't want them to get destroyed while running.
Learn about Lacing
Before replacing my sneakers with shoes better suited to my running style, I learned about ankle lock lacing...
Ankle Lock lacing definitely gave me a much more comfortable run. When I finally upgraded my shoes, the new laces were a bit short for an ankle lock, so I learned about Straight Bar Lacing...
Be sure to watch that video to the end where he combines Straight Bar with an Ankle Lock.
Stick with the Program
At the end of week 5, when the program had me run for 20 minutes straight, I did not want to stop. So, when the podcast coach suggested that I slow down to my cool down walk, I said, "No," and kept on going. Having then done 25 minutes non-stop, I was loathed to back off and follow the programs next few runs.
Week 6 is designed to get you up to 25 minutes of running (which I had already done) but very gently. Week 7 then gets this to 28 minutes, and finally week 9 completes the plan at 30 minutes. Instead of following this, I decided to drop 2 runs from week 6 and another 2 runs from week 7 (since I felt that I had completed this bit already). I made it through, but at a cost.
My modified program left me sore in ways that previous weeks had not. It became clear to me that the gentle increments of the program are designed to help you achieve the most gain with the least discomfort. It was a mildly painful lesson.
The Goal is to Keep Going (and going, and going...)
Some people are sad to find that at the end of week 9, though they are running for 30 minutes, they aren't covering 5 kilometers. It can be hard to convince these people that they are missing the point and diminishing their own achievement. Nine weeks earlier, most C25K people could not have run for 30 minutes straight. Now, they can. This should be a point of celebration. Also, the progression from weeks 6 through 9 show them how to get to 5km with the least discomfort possible -- add just 2 to 3 minutes each week until you reach your goal.
Not long after completing the program, I pushed my distance up to 8km. I found that hard to sustain over time and backed off to 5.3km. And, I do that every other morning (so far, without exception). In a few months, I will probably push back to 6km. For now, this works well for me.
What has Changed?
Before starting the program, I was experiencing mild arthritis in my left knee and both ankles. This disappeared completely by week 4. Also, my lung capacity has improved. Though I have not measured this in any official way, my work as an audiobook narrator has me very aware of how much breath it takes to handle long sentences that occur throughout nonfiction. Over the last few weeks, those sentences have become less physically challenging.
Run with a Smile :)
As I began to understand the mechanics of how I was running (shorter strides to be gentle on lower body joints), and with the podcast coach reminding me to slow down a bit if I needed to (because distance is the primary goal, not speed), I started to try an research this as a running style.
Niko Niko Running is gentle on your body and good for long term health. The method is well researched in Japan, and is popular both in Japan and eastern Europe. The method that I stumbled upon is pretty close to what you see in the video and discussed in the article. My speed is about 45-55% of a full out run. It's faster than my walking pace. I have a good mid-foot strike and my joints feel great. As this style of running gains popularity in the US and western Europe, there will probably be more information on this. Right now, it fits my minimalist aesthetic ;)
Planning for the Future
Having re-started my running over the summer, I have been thinking ahead to what it will be like running at other times of year. Again, I am not going to go out and buy gear before I know what I need. So, if I am going to plan for changes in weather now, I can use tools to plan out where I might run when the rail trail is covered in snow/ice/etc.
On The Go Map is great for that. I've planned out a few different runs in my areas. Some favor roads that tend to be cleared of snow more regularly, while others are just a bit more scenic. The site has quite a few features, including many that I don't use (like sending the maps to my phone).
Will I run in the rain? the snow? Maybe. I'll do it at least once or twice and see how I feel. I've been lucky so far. Even on rainy days, I haven't hit more than a drizzle. One thing that I do know is that I'd rather run outside than on a treadmill. So, if I can handle the weather, I'll probably stay outdoors.
See you on the trail!