In my opinion, there is absolutely no reason for anyone to be middle-aged any more! My friend's Aikido sensei is in his 70s; another friend marshalls at races where two of the runners are in their late 70s. Carole Rowland was 68 when she ran her first London Marathon in 2006, yet when she started running the year before, she was hard-pushed to manage a three-minute run! These are the kind of people who inspire me! As are the people I see posting on MFP that they are doing C25K with their children, or running and pushing their babies strollers/buggies, or at 400lbs+ are walking it...for now! These are the people who are getting out there and not making excuses. They have a goal, and they are going to achieve it. Just as I am! Just as you can!
Attic black-figured Panathenaic prize amphora. Source: Marie-Lan Nguyen
On April 28th, 10 weeks before my 48th birthday, amato mio and I started Couch to 5k (C25K) - a running programme designed to get complete novices running 5k in nine weeks. Even at my slimmest, healthiest and fittest, I've never been a runner... and to be honest, the mere thought of running gave me the heebeejeebies! However, since deciding at the beginning of April that I needed to get back to being the healthy person I once was (prior to injuring my back in 2006), my attitude toward certain things has changed - not least that far from being a sweaty inconvenience, running was looking like a viable option. When amato mio asked what he could do to be more supportive of my return-to-healthiness (he has always been THE most super-supportive person I have ever met), without thinking about it, I told him about C25K. His immediate reaction was,
"OK, we'll start tomorrow!"
It was actually a couple of days later because I needed to seek advice from friends who were already seasoned runners, and then get fitted for proper running shoes; having got in this situation partly through injury, I wasn't prepared to risk more. I downloaded the Bluefin C25K iPhone App, which, I have to say, is pretty fab, and we headed toward the park!
We've been doing it for 12 weeks now; at Week 6 we went back to the start because a friend wanted to join us...but since she was already pretty fit, we only did two days of each week, instead of three. Amato mio now has a contract in London, which means he is no longer able to run at 7.30am with us, so he only comes out at weekends now - even so, he keeps up! Last week, I got shin splints, so had a few days off, which has retarded my progress a little (we were up to the end of Week 7) - who knew that my stamina levels would drop so rapidly? Certainly adds credence to the 'use it or lose it' saying. So now we're back on Week 7 - 25 mins solid running with no intervals. I am still amazed that 12 weeks ago, not only did I have difficulty running for 60 seconds, but it wasn't even really running! Now I can run for almost half an hour at a time (my shins are fine at the moment), at an average speed of 5mph (8kph)! Some achievement eh?
So what was it like? I've been keeping a journal, so over the next few posts, I'll tell you!
Week 1: Brisk five-minute walk warmup, then alternate 60 seconds of jogging and 90 seconds of walking, for a total of 20 minutes. Finish with a five-minute cooldown walk.
Pre-Day 1: I thought it would be hard, that I would probably feel as though I was going to die(!), and that in all likelihood, I'd do half of it and give up. I thought that it would be like that for a few weeks - only doing half-sessions, but probably with more frequency than every other day. I knew this would be a huge challenge; however, at around 62lbs (28kg) overweight, and very unfit, I also knew that diet alone wasn't going to get me back into shape. I couldn't imagine what it would be like to run for 30 minutes at a time...
Day 1 (Thursday, 7.30am): The five minute warm up is exactly the time it takes to walk from home to the park! By the second jog (I really can't call them runs!), my ears were hurting from the wind. I think The Racecourse must be the windiest place in Northampton!
By halfway through the session, I felt as though I'd been at it for far longer than 10 minutes, and in all honesty, I could have so easily quit then. Thank goodness for amato mio! There was no way I was going to give up in front of him (especially not when he seemed to have barely broken a sweat)! So I kept on, looking more and more like an old woman as I stumbled/jogged (which, at almost 48, is rather unfortunate!)! By the penultimate jog, I thought my legs would fall off, my chest explode, and I had a really bad headache.
But I kept on, and when I finished the last one, I felt utterly triumphant! I wanted to tell the world what I'd done (the App did it for me, and auto-posted to Facebook!)! Despite being really cold, hurting, and wheezing, I felt so good! And so unspeakably proud of myself!
What I learned:
1. I can do this.
2. Do not think, "I'll get warm from jogging" - if it's cold outside, wear a hoodie or sweatshirt. If it gets warm you can take it off. Cold muscles quickly become hurty muscles...which trust me, nobody wants.
3. I cool down very quickly afterward, so need to get in a hot bath ASAP!
4. In running gear, I am far from the graceful and elegant creature I am in stilettos!
5. There really is no gain without pain!
Day 2 (Sunday, 7.30am): Because Kevin had got a couple of blisters, and I was aching like stink, we postponed our Saturday morning session for a day. While it was still hard, Day 2 was so much easier than Day 1. My heart rate came down much more quickly between jogs, and I wasn't wheezing as much (although still some - I am so pleased I don't smoke!). My calves ached, and by the halfway point, I was feeling pretty worn out, but I think this had much to do with the fact that my body was already aching when we started. I certainly hadn't fully recovered from Day 1!
I also found that for the last jog, I actually picked up a little speed... so appeared to be a slightly faster old woman! Instead of collapsing in a worn out and wheezing heap when we returned, we did 90 mins of housework - cleaning the place from top to bottom (which is no mean feat, given that we have a four-storey house!)... well, almost bottom - we didn't do the cellar (which is our dining/games/guest room)! Couldn't have done that after Day 1!
What I learned:
1. I can still do this!
2. It's actually a really good feeling to go out at 7.30am and jog around the park.
3. It's even better to get all the chores done before 10am, and have the whole day ahead for doing fun things!
4. There might actually be something in this c25k malarky. If I can feel such an improvement in just two days, what's it going to be like in two weeks? Two months? Wow!
5. Jogging makes you heavy! Or rather, according to my scales, I put on several pounds overnight. I guessed it was probably water retention because I had been religiously sticking to my eating plan, so there's no way I could have really put on weight, especially not that much. Several people on MFP told me that in all likelihood it was my newly-active muscles hanging onto water in order to repair themselves, and that the weight would even out soon.
Day 3 (Tuesday, 7.30am): Up at 6.30am and raring to go, although we didn't go out until 7.30. The difference was quite something; very little wheezing, absolutely no ache in my calves, and a steady pace through all my jogs until the last two when my thighs began to ache. Kevin and I even managed to chat during a couple of jogs (The New Avengers v The Professionals!). Woohoo...who knew I could do that?!
By the last one, my quads were hurting, so I was very pleased to start walking home afterward. Unfortunately it wasn't a very brisk walk, and it was actually quite difficult to stretch out my muscles when we got home. I had a very long soak in the bath and when I got out, my thighs felt better, but not recovered. (They were merely achey the next day.) I was a tad concerned, but again, the lovely people of MFP had lots of good advice, and have been very reassuring.
What I learned:
1. Not only can I do this, I will do it!
2. I really didn't need 90 seconds in between jogs - 60 would have been sufficient...although this would have meant an extra jog, which I don't think I was ready for!
3. Sometimes the light just goes on: two weeks ago, I wasn't even contemplating c25k, then something just clicked. Even that made me feel good!
4. I have the best partner a person could wish for! I actually knew this already, but since I have been doing MFP, he has been even more supportive than usual. He's doing c25k to help me, not because it was his idea, or because he thought he needed to get in shape (although he's happy to get fitter) but because it is a way of
helping me achieve my goal. For this, and a gazillion other reasons, I love him more than words could ever convey.
5. I now have a vision of myself, jogging through the park on a sunny morning, looking like a young (and slim!) woman, not an ageing crone!
6. I really can see how I can be jogging for 30 minutes at a time, albeit, I can't quite imagine being that fit again. I will get there though.
7. I've completed the first week - how cool is that? I really feel as though I am regaining my old drive and enthusiasm...and it's about bloomin' time!
Next time, Week 2...