Getting Back Into Running – Couch to 5k

I’ve never been a fast runner. I had pretty bad asthma growing up, so I struggled through the absolute minimum amount of running required by the sports I played in high school and junior high. I played volleyball, basketball and did the throwing events in track, so I stayed in decent running shape. I never enjoyed running, though.

That changed when I moved away to college. For some reason, the new environment of my college town made my asthma issues almost completely disappear. I didn’t play any team sports in college (other than some intramural softball), so I started running to get and stay in shape. Suddenly, without the asthma issue running was much easier. And even fun! I was never what you’d call fast, but running ceased to be a miserable struggle.

ragnar trail tahoe
Team Kokanee finishing Ragnar Trail Tahoe. We got 5th!

I kept up running through college and graduate school, and my first few years in Tahoe even doing a couple of races (the running leg of Ski to Sea, a few triathlons, and a Ragnar Trail race). Once I got more into mountain biking, I started to pay less attention to running. To me, mountain biking is so much more fun! If I was going to use up my energy doing something, mountain biking almost always won out, but I ran often enough that doing 5k or so wasn’t a struggle.

Strugglefest at the end of the Auburn mini triathlon. Photo from here.

In 2014, my running was hit with a one-two punch. My asthma symptoms returned with a vengeance and I pinched a nerve in my back. My PT told me no running for several months. After the moratorium on running was over, I tried to get back into it, but the asthma symptoms and time off made my slowest of past paces feel totally miserable. Instead of pushing through or backing off, I just gave up.

Biking instead of running in Santa Barbara.

I stayed in decent cardio shape from mountain biking, but I could definitely feel my lack of overall endurance on long climbs all summer. My out-of-shapeness made me scared to try running, and my lack of running wasn’t helping me get any better at it. Like most of America, I decided that January was a great time to start a new fitness routine, and I decided that running was going to become part of it. I joined a gym with treadmills, downloaded a Couch to 5k app, and dug out my running shoes.

Couch to 5k programs (often abbreviated C25K) are for beginning runners and involves walking and running intervals, with the running intervals getting longer as the program progresses. When I’ve tried to get back into running in the past, I’ve tried to go out at my old distances and paces, felt miserable, got discouraged and gave up. I avoided programs like Couch to 5k, I think because I considered myself something other than a beginning runner.

Finishing Iron Girl in 2011.

This time, however, I got over my own pride and admitted to myself that I am a beginning runner again. I vowed to follow the interval instructions, even if I felt that I could run longer or harder. I’m on week two of the program, and so far it’s been a success. No asthma attacks, and I haven’t dreaded the runs – even though I’ve had to do them all on the treadmill!

While my cardio level isn’t completely “couch” level, the lower intensity of the running has helped me actually get my runs in. The workouts involve a 5 minute warm up and cool down, with about 20 minutes of intervals. So far, I usually do the walking portions at about a 16:15 minute/mile pace, and my running pace varies between 9:50 – 9:00 during the course of the interval (I can’t not play with the treadmill speed, even during a 90 second running section).

Type 3 fun between legs at Ragnar Trail Tahoe.

C25k has been a great re-introduction to running. While I’ll never be a marathon runner, I love the ease of just throwing on shoes and getting out for a quick 2-3 mile run in the nice weather, and I think that C25k will get me back to that point. I’m only two weeks in, but I’ll do a follow up when I finish the whole program. Has anyone else used C25k to get running back into your life? How did you like it?

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