NHS Couch to 5k

I know, I know, I’ve just come back from Malaysia and I owe you lots of pictures. They will come, I promise. But today I want to write about jogging.

I got into the C25k plan in mid-April, after an internet friend strongly recommended it, and shared her (very positive) experience – I’d vaguely wanted to improve my fitness for a while, but not quite made it work. In the last few years I’ve started dancing a lot more (which has definitely helped). I’ve also dabbled in trying to jog or swim regularly, but neither of those had really stuck. But after hearing about this plan, I decided that this was a good time to try to go for it – I’m less busy than I was as a full-time student, and it would be great to improve my fitness by the summer so I’ll be ready to dance at Towersey and run around with teenagers at Soul Surivor.

The C25k plan consists of a series of podcasts, which you can download for free. There are 3 sessions each week, for 9 weeks, with each session being roughly 30-40 minutes long (10 mins of that is warm up + cool down). It aims to get you running 5k by week 9. The podcasts guide you through walking and jogging for alternate intervals (read a full description here), to gradually build up stamina and fitness, until by the end you can jog for 30 minutes (which is likely to be 5k).

I started on the 11th of April. And by the time I went on holiday 2 weeks ago, I had completed Week 6, which finishes with a 25-minute jog. Even though it was only 5 weeks I spent on it (I skipped through a few of the early runs), I’ve really made progress – at the beginning, there’s no way I’d have been able to make 15 minutes, let alone 25. And I am really, really seeing the benefits.

Nothing much has changed in my everyday life – e.g. I’m not seeing a change in energy levels or anything like that. But when I’m running, and when I’m dancing, the difference feels huge: my stamina has gone from epsilon to moderately good. I’ve also just been enjoying the feeling of being physically active – my work/study/leisure is generally pretty sedentary (I’m honest enough with myself to note that knitting doesn’t burn many calories!) so it’s been really good to just – move.

Although I am happy to sing the praises of this plan, and would generally recommend it, in the interests of full disclosure I should point out that I was in a very good position to do well in this. I already had a good sports bra (so important!) and really good running shoes, properly fitted (from the last failed attempt at taking up jogging). Where I live, I can cross the road and get onto a nice, jogger-friendly path in less than a minute (there are always a few joggers / dog walkers / casual bike riders on it, so it’s well enough populated that I don’t feel alone or vulnerable). I started at a time of year with nice, jogging-friendly weather. I had passable fitness to start off with, so the first couple of weeks were pretty painless and I had a while to get into the routine of getting out and running whilst finding it well within my comfort zone. Most importantly, though, I haven’t found the mental discipline side of it any trouble at all. This time last year I was doing Tripos. The strength of mind and determination necessary for that far, far outweighs anything needed to do something like this. So yeah, I’ve found it easy to get started and make good progress, but that’s for all these reasons – I wouldn’t want anyone to be discouraged if they’re finding it a lot harder.

So. Now I’m back from Malaysia, I’m restarting from the beginning of Week 6 – just did the first run this evening. I’m kind of excited to see what happens in the next month!

Do you jog/run? Have you tried anything like this before? Would you consider it?

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