If you told me six months ago that I would write a blog post about running, I would have laughed in your face. If you told me that I would not only write a blog post about running, but that it would be about my very own running experiences, I would have fallen down and rolled on the ground laughing. And if you told me that on the very same day that I write a blog post about running I will run for 45 minutes straight, I would have laughed so hard that I cried, and maybe even peed my pants. Well lucky for me, I don’t need to fall down, or cry, or pee my pants, because all these things really are happening. I really am writing a blog post about my own running experiences, and I really did run for 45 minutes this morning.
The reason all of this seems so, well…laughable, is because I hate running. Always have. For most of my life I was one of those people who claimed I would only run if someone was chasing me. And even then I probably wouldn’t run far before I had to bend over and gasp for breath while my pursuer caught up with me. It’s not that I hate exercise. Hiking, biking, walking- those are all good in my book. But running always seemed pointless, and monotonous, and really, really hard! So what changed? In some respects nothing. I still hate running. It’s hard to imagine that I will ever not hate running. But I also know that running is good for me. I know that getting my heart rate up and pumping my legs up and down for a certain amount of time three times a week has made me stronger, healthier, and better able to enjoy the forms of exercise that I do like.
Running is not my number one choice of exercise, but for our current lifestyle I’ve come to accept that it really is the most practical. If we had time to go on a four hour hike, or a 10+ mile bike ride everyday it would be wonderful. I would much prefer that over running. But the reality is that we don’t have that kind of time. On average we probably only get in a good length hike or bike ride 1-2 times a week. Which is not not enough exercise. So we decided to do something about it. Tim was the first one to mention running, and I’m sure I my initial reply was a flat out no. Or maybe even a more dramatic, “No way, never, you can’t make me!” But deep down I knew he was right. Running might be a hateful activity, but it’s also a really versatile one that we are able to easily fit in wherever we happen to be that given week.
Once we both accepted that running would be the prefect answer to fitting more exercise into our routine, the problem was the actual running part. We agreed that just going out and starting to run three times a week was not going to work for either of us. Which is where an amazing program called Couch to 5K came in to play. I’m sure that if we hadn’t followed this program I would have given up the first week. Couch to 5K claims that it can help anyone go from a couch potato to running a 5K. We were far from couch potatoes when we first started, but let me tell you there is a big difference between the exercise we had been doing – an afternoon walk around the campground, some leisurely bike rides, and a hike thrown in here and there – and running!
The reason Couch to 5K works so well is because it starts off slow and increases the amount you run at a very gradual pace. The entire program is nine weeks long and consists of three 30 minutes workouts each week. During the very first workout you spend the entire 30 minutes alternating between running for one minute and walking for one and half minutes. I’m not ashamed to admit that even just one minute of running was really hard. But I did it. And I kept doing it. To my amazement I was able to keep up with the increasing intervals, and with each new milestone my ability grew. I still remember the first time I ran for three minutes, and then five minutes, and then eight, and ten. I think it was week five when they threw the first 20 minute run in there. All week I was dreading it, and when Friday came around I was so sure that I wouldn’t be able to do it. But then I ran all 20 minutes without stopping, and you know what? It wasn’t that bad.
Near the end of the program the intervals stop, and for the last three weeks you run for an increasing amount of time each week. By week nine you are running for 30 minutes straight. Granted, I can’t run a full 5K in 30 minutes, but I can run for thirty minuets, and I can run a 5K, which means that program definitely worked.
So then what? Well I almost can’t believe it even as I write this, but we finished the Couch to 5K program nearly six weeks ago. And guess what? We’ve continued to run on our own! Crazy right? For awhile we were making up our own workouts, sometimes with a time or a distance as a goal. But last week I decided to tackle another program. I’m not real good at pushing myself when it comes to things I don’t enjoy, and was afraid that if I didn’t have a program to follow I would end up getting stuck in rut and never improving.
After finishing the Couch to 5K program I started keeping tracks of my runs with an app called Runkeeper (before that I was using the Couch to 5K app). Runkeeper is great because you can set it to give you audio cues at certain distances or times, and at the end of your workout it saves a summary of your workout including distance, time, average pace, elevation gain, and even a little map of your route. You can also set goals for yourself, which I did a few times. But the best part is that Runkeeper offers a bunch of different running programs. I picked one and last week started following it. This program gives me a variety of different workouts each week. For example, this week on Monday I ran at different speed intervals (3 min. fast – 3 min. moderate for 30 minutes), today I ran for 45 minutes at a steady moderate pace, and on Friday I will run speed intervals again (this time 10 min fast – 5 min moderate, for 30 minuets). I like that this program challenges me to go faster than my normal pace, and am hoping that eventually it will help to increase my average speed and stamina. We plan to run our first official 5K race when we’re in Durango for the 4th of July, and I am confident that by then my speed will have increased significantly.
My final thoughts on running:
~ I still hate running, but I will continue to run because I want to be healthy, strong, and able to hike mountains with ease.
~ I still dread every morning that I have to get up and run, but I love the feeling of accomplishment when I finish.
~ I still struggle with my speed, (especially when I have to run up hills, or in a town with an elevation of 8,600 feet!) but I know that I’m improving every week.
~ I still would prefer to get my exercise in a more “fun” way, but I know that running fits into my life much easier than carving out 4 hours for hiking and biking everyday.
~ I still think it’s hilarious that I’m writing a blog post about running. But after sticking with it for a few months, I’ve come to realize that while I may never be a stereotypical runner, it is something that will continue to be a part of my life for the foreseeable future.