Couch to 5K: Running starts for yourself, by yourself, on your own

Soooooo you’ve been doing a lot of sitting on the couch and have started feeling lethargic. The most exercise you do is going from your room to the nearest auto-stand. Academics, hectic schedules, college clubs, socialising, late nights and parties have already got the better of you. But following the recent Rio Olympics and watching your favourite athletes in top physical form got you inspired, or maybe you checked out the sudden but definite upsurge in running culture in the country, and felt like actually trying a hand at running. So you woke up one fine morning, laced up your shoes and headed out for your first run. It’s just running, even 2 year olds do it, and you think you can most definitely run at least one circuit around the campus. A few minutes later, you have pain in your sides, your breath comes in gasps, heaves and shudders and you can’t even walk comfortably. You feel like a fool on the street, and write off running as something only for pros. You quit and go back to being a couch potato.

But let me share a story with you.

It is the story of a woman from USA named Sarah G. Her running career was something that started as a means to distance herself from the negativity and harsh treatment by society. Her parents died when she was very young. 19 years of age, a drug and smoking addict in severe depression and on the verge of committing suicide, Sarah was one day forcibly taken out of her room by a friend who was an avid runner. It was just a slow jog, less than half a mile, but Sarah’s physical and mental condition barely allowed her to complete it.

But she enjoyed it! For the first time in months she felt liberated from ghastly images and sorrowful thoughts. It relaxed her mind. And this is where a journey of self-liberation, success and happiness started. She started doing it every evening. The natural beauty all around her that she saw, the content people who were into running she met, all of it encouraged her to go on. She managed to quit drugs and smoking completely within a year and ran her first 5k within the next 8 months. Bitten by the runners’ bug, she soon moved from 5km to 10km to a half marathon and a full marathon and yes, completed the biggest milestone ever achieved, the Iron Man triathlon (that’s 3.8 km of swimming, 180 km of biking and 42 km of running), within the next 6 years. She is a role model to thousands of people who are trying to heal themselves and become better human beings. Today she runs to raise money for Anti-smoking and Anti-Drug campaigns.

In the article that follows, we’re gonna try and convince you why you should get up off your ass in the first place, interspersed with Srinjoy Sen‘s journey from 0 to 5k and further.

First, let’s discuss why people don’t run. The primary factor for people not running is the Over-Thinking. Feeling embarrassed about running in public is a common reason why people don’t get started with or continue running. Try not to worry about what others think! You should be proud of yourself for getting out there and doing something so healthy.  Runners actually love seeing other runners out on the roads or trails. Also, remember that every runner started out EXACTLY like you at some point, so they can relate to the struggles that beginners face. And as for any non-runner who criticizes someone for a healthy habit like running, it’s because they’re probably just jealous or you’re making them feel bad that they’re not running. Wearing the right clothes for running may make you feel more comfortable, and by extension, more confident while running outside. You can also try running with a buddy or a local running group; that may help you feel less self-conscious.

What made you get up off the couch and start running?

Well basically I was pushed into running by my girlfriend and a few of my other friends. Up until the point where these people pushed me, I always used to run as a warm up for football. But slowly looking at how running was shaping up even in Manipal (thanks to MRC) and looking at my girlfriend train and run 21 kms was a huge challenge for me! And who doesn’t love a great challenge? Running set a very high bar for physical fitness for me.

The second excuse people give is that they don’t have time to run. Well, if you have the time to eat 4 meals a day, why can’t you find time to run just once in the same 24 hours? We all lead very busy lives, but when it comes to health, we need to make time for fitness. Get off your butts, shut the lid on your laptops, put away your phones, pull yourself out of your books, forget about commitments for just 30 minutes and go out for a run. Running for just 30 mins can give a boost to your mental as well as physical health.

And then there are those who feel running is too boring as an activity. Wrong again. Running is one of the most enjoyable as well as challenging sports. Running introduces you to beautiful mornings, amazing routes, new people, and YOURSELF. It makes you dig deep inside your mind, heart and soul to prove to yourself how strong, psychologically more than physically, you actually are.

What mental/psychological blocks did you have to overcome in the beginning?

Well the biggest mental block was obviously my previous experiences. I was training for 10-12 kms at a point and at the beginning I thought that it’s a huge struggle for someone who’s 81 kgs (63 now) and has never run anything beyond 2. Being patient was sometimes very hard. Reaching just 5 kms even though you’d been training hard for 2 months can be a real buzzkill. But I stuck in there. It takes a lot of focus in the beginning. And of course the food habits. I had to switch from a high calorie diet to a high carb-low cal diet. Believe me it can be really frustrating at the start. Eating the same foods and watching what you eat all the time can be very painful. But once I started seeing the results, it was easy from there on in.

Need some more incentive to start running? Here you go: Running is one major objective activity that helps you in every sport. It builds dynamic stamina for games like football and hockey while helping you boost endurance and focus levels in sports like badminton, squash and tennis. Running disciplines and calms the mind, bringing in extreme focus and concentration, even in sports with low activity levels like chess, shooting and archery. Many professionals in the latter sports have narrated experiences of how running has surprisingly influenced their performances, in a good way!

As students, with hectic workloads, clubs and immense amounts of projects, a run a day, not only keeps you physically fit but also relieves mental stress, prevents/helps combat indulgence in drugs, smoking and drinking and stimulates the hormones that raise your energy, happiness, focus and concentration levels. Also studies conducted by the New York Times have found two major evidences of running playing a major role in keeping away diseases. It is found that running at least thrice a week even for 30 minutes, right from your youth can prevent Alzheimer’s disease and increase bone density levels in adult age, especially for women. The reason is that the improved blood circulation deposits the right amount of calcium in bones and also stimulates nerve endings in the brain (proper blood circulation in the head) and prevents memory loss. Running will be increasingly beneficial in improving oxygen retention and lung capacity draining out toxins from the body.

How did you keep yourself motivated? What made you run the longest distance that you ever did?

I kept myself motivated by setting targets. Now this seems like an outright cliché but it’s very important. I have 3 running based apps on my phone which measured the distance on my phone and also calculated how much I should actually be aiming for in the next few weeks. I surrounded myself with people like my girlfriend and my roommate who really helped me and pushed me with everything that I did contributing to running better. They monitored what I ate, how much I ate, how much time I’m devoting and various other factors. The fact that there was a distance I had to cover every week and do better than I did last week was very appealing to me. Of course I had to be disciplined for all this too. I watched a lot of videos on YouTube to prepare myself, before going to sleep. The fact that I looked better than I ever did in my life was also a side bonus, very well appreciated of course, haha. I set an aim of 24 kms in 6 months and I had to do it. I was at a stage in my life where running gave me a lot of joy and it was the most meaningful part of the day for me. The thrill of pushing yourself to a place where you never dreamed of going was just too much for me!

Have we managed to convince you by now about the benefits of running for you? What’s that? You say you can’t run? That it’s not in you? Let me pop that bubble. We were born to run. Only over time have we substituted other forms of transportation for what comes naturally to us. It might take a few outings to get back your natural rhythm. We all can run. Don’t fight it. Find your stride and run. It is also the only sport which you don’t need to learn. You’ve been doing it your whole life! You think kids are taught how to run? As soon as they can get up and walk on two feet, they become capable of running as well. Too much, at times!

You don’t know how to start? That’s just lame. You don’t need special skills to start running, obviously. But you need to keep some points in mind about posture and diet. Call them good running practices, if you must. Running can be a bit challenging, and strenuous if not done correctly. A training plan might also come in handy too. It is not advisable to start running and aim for huge distances from the get go. Rather you should work up to it gradually. Maybe walk a loop around your hostel/house for the first time, then graduate to running a 500m, then run+walk for a km, then slowly build up within a few weeks to being able to run 5kms at a stretch.

Worried that you’ll make a fool out of yourself in front of all your friends or even random strangers on the road who run miles and miles on end? Compare Yourself to YOU, Not Others. Running is a very objective sport. You do it for yourself, by yourself and can always start on your own. It’s easy to compare yourself to other runners who cross the finish line seconds, minutes or even hours ahead of you. But running isn’t about keeping score with every other runner on the race course. Running is about self-improvement.

Ask yourself, “Have I improved my personal best time for this course or distance?” If so, you’re making progress and that’s something to always be celebrated.

You may never be that person who runs 42 km in 3 hours (and they may never be that person who runs it in 2.5 hours), but learning what your body is capable of achieving and incrementally improving is how to be a successful runner.

Don’t fall victim to all the fears, and excuses. If you want to get fit, get out and run today.

Now here’s where our couch to 5K plan can be the perfect help for you. The 5-week program enables you to run a 5K minus the confusion and the tail-chasing, and will definitely transform your sedentary life into an active one. Doesn’t matter what fitness level you’re at right now; we’ll get you there. All you need to do is get out there for 30-40 minutes a day, 3-4 days a week. Bear with us. We guarantee you that you’d love to stick to it, or would want to move to a more challenging, longer distance plan. Either of which is better than being unfit, unhealthy and miserable. The plan is so structured that it prevents runners from giving up, and at the same time challenges them to continue moving forward.

Here’s a brief overview of what the training plan might look like:

  • Routes maps/descriptions, near and around all major hostels and residential areas, ranging from 100m to 5kms
  • Tips and Techniques for things like posture, foot strike, pacing yourself, breathing, how to stay out of trouble on the way, and such
  • Possible hurdles you’ll face on the way, literally and figuratively, and how to deal with them like a boss
  • What to eat the night before, pre-run, post-run, and long term diet plans, not just running-specific but also for better GI functioning and immunity boosting.
  • What kind of gear to run with, and what to avoid or minimise usage/dependence on
  • Stretching exercises, and exercises to improve your posture, form, endurance and strength (We secretly want you to be able to run up the KFC hill by the time you’re done with the programme)

And just about anything else you can think of!

So sign up for our C25K Programme today!

2 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. MRC Profiles – Accomplished Runners: Tanya Singh – Manipal Running
  2. The Couch To 5K Training Plan – Week 1 – Manipal Running

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