Tuesday, 21 June 2011

So, you want to start C25k? Here is my guide

As I come to the end of the program, I thought I would share some advice on where to start for those that, like me have no prior running experience and are pretty daunted by the whole prospect of jogging and running.

What is C25k
Couch to 5k is a program designed for the absolute beginner that aims to turn that person into primarily a much fitter person. The end goal of the program means that after 9 weeks, you should be able to run either 5k (just over 3 miles) OR 30 minutes straight without stopping.

It is important to make the emphasis that most true beginners should not expect to run 5k within 30 minutes at the end of the 9 weeks, it really is a matter of picking which goal suits you the most.

Which plan should I use?
The most widely recognised plan is available at http://www.coolrunning.com/engine/2/2_3/181.shtml.
This plan gives you the choice of running to distance or time. My personal recommendation is that you use the time based plan rather than the distance based plan. Why? Because time is much easier to measure than distance with a simple stopwatch, podcast or such like.

What equipment do I need?

  • Suitable Running clothes. Depending on temperature, any t-shirt with shorts or jogging bottoms (pants) will do. I've heard a sports bra is a necessity for the ladies!
  • Running shoes. At first, you can probably go out in a pair of average trainers (sneakers) but as soon as you can, you must move to a properly pair of running shoes - see below
  • Something to time your run - a watch will do, preferably with a stopwatch counter
  • Courage and strong will.

  • Running tops / shorts and socks that can help wick away the sweat
  • ipod/MP3 player for training podcasts or running music
  • GPS device / footpod
  • Heart Rate Monitor
  • Treadmill / Gym membership if you don't want to run outside.
Why the big deal over running shoes?
There are different foot types. Those that roll inward when you walk or run, those that roll outward. Some people are flat footed, others have high arches.
When you begin to run, you put a lot of stress on your feet and depending on what type of foot you have, this can cause a great deal of pain and injury including shin splints and stress fractures.
There are a variety of different running shoes (and prices) that deal with different foot types. Some have more cushioning whereas others have motion stabilizers. The most ideal solution is to go to a running shop where they can assess how your foot falls and is shaped. Some have GAIT Analysis software that watches you on a treadmill.
All of this can sound scary for some and too much hard work. If you want to try to work it out yourself, Google for "Wet Test" to try and figure out your foot-type at home and then have a look at trainers that fit your profile.
The most accurate way to test your foot type and prevent injury is to go to a running shop and ask.

I've got all I need, where do I start?
  • Decide if you will run the plan to time or distance and stick to it.
  • If you like, download podcasts or iphone apps that help you to know when to run and when to walk.
  • Decide if you are going to run outside (I really recommend it) or start off on a treadmill.
  • GO
It's important that you warm up. All podcasts will incorporate this in the form of a 5 minute brisk walk. Stretching beforehand is not usually necessary, but may become so if you develop particular muscle weaknesses.

That first 60 second run

Most people will over-estimate their fitness and run too fast. For most, the correct pace is a jog barely faster than a walk (some in fact end up jogging slower than they walk). In terms of exertion, you should be able to hold a conversation when running. If at first this means you have to walk the "running" sections then so be it. Keep going with Week 1 until you can complete it 3 times in a row!
It really doesn't matter how slow you go at this point as long as you finish all the intervals per the plan, so eight times 60 seconds jogging.
For someone who has never run or is plain unfit, you might struggle to complete this first day's run, but don't be discouraged - most start here.

The program is scary. In 5 weeks time I am expected to run for 20 minutes straight!

Take one run at a time. When you are asked to do 3 minute runs, you will find the prospect scary. The next week when you run 5 minute intervals, you will be grateful when you "Only have to run 3 minutes on this interval". Your body adapts and can achieve what seems impossible.
The 20 minute run at the end of week 5 (in fact weeks 4-5 in general) can literally stop people from starting or continuing the program in pure dread. You can do it - it will take strong will - you will feel on top of the world once you have completed it.

How can I stay motivated?
  • If you are a people person, try to find a running buddy who can start the program with you. Maybe someone recommended this program to you? Get them to run with you and coach
  • If you are competitive, you will find a GPS watch and HRM invaluable for recording your progress.
  • Join up to dailymile, runkeeper or such like. Post your progress on facebook or blog your runs for encouragement.
  • Realise that when these 9 weeks are over you will be in vastly better physical condition
  • Set an an achievable goal such as "I want to run a 5k race by the end of the year" or "I want to lose 10lbs in 6 weeks".
  • Give yourself credit where it is due.
What other advice can you offer?
  • Don't run on an injury. Your body has to adapt to running so you will be sore. If you get pains, talk to a doctor. You should make sure that if you are in any doubt about your health prior to running, you get the all clear from a GP to begin.
  • Slow down. Pace is not important for C25k
  • Try to get outside. Other people don't care what you look like when you are running and anyway - you are not running for their benefit anyway!
  • Make sure you diet correctly. Your body needs fuel to facilitate burn. Keep well hydrated at all times.
  • Stretch after your run.
  • Set short, medium and long term targets. Write them down and track how you are doing.
  • Don't give up. If you cannot complete a week, repeat it. Try not to go BACK a week unless you've had a long term injury.

Remember that you can do it. Be brave.

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