So weeks 5 and 6 of running were interesting. They started off with a walk/jog combination and transitioned to a 20 minute jog with no walking by the end of the week. During week 5, this 20 minute jog seemed ominous. But when the day finally came, I was able to tuck away another victory! I jogged for 20 minutes straight and when it was over, I wasn’t wheezing, coughing, gasping, or ridiculously panting! *Cabbage patch dance*
When week 6 came, I just knew I had it in the bag! But the strangest thing happened. I was huffing and puffing during the run segments, and felt like I needed the walk segments again! What is going on?!
At the end of the run, our run lead explained what we were feeling (So I’m not the only one? Whew!). She told us that the purpose of weeks 5 and 6 were to overcome the mental hurdle of running. With week 5, we conquered the physical hurdle of running longer. Week 6 conquered the mental by proving that we tell ourselves we need breaks when we actually don’t. It’s actually easier to just keep running! It’s all about pace. I am definitely learning to pace yourself. If I get ahead of myself and my breathing becomes labored, I slow down. . .sometimes to a glorified walk if necessary. This Couch-to-5K program is amazing! Had the run lead told me this last week, I’m sure I would have laughed in her face. But the program speaks for itself. Trust the program. The final weeks are longer running segments. And now I KNOW I can do this.
I’ve been surprisingly committed to my training! I have encountered obstacles that normally stop me in my tracks. With each passing week I faced a new challenge (besides convincing myself to run another day). But every time, someone gave me an answer I could not refute.
Obstacle 1: Night running.
Solution: Headlamps! In “5K Training Update“, I explained how I showed up to my first night run in all black. #tragic By the end of the week, I went out and bought my own headlamp for less than $3! The first time I wore it, I felt so silly. . .like Bob-the Builder (Can we run this?? YES WE CAN!). But safety outweighs sexy on this one!
Obstacle 2: Flat-ironed hair.
Solution: Dri Fit headbands! I managed to keep my hair together post run! Dri fit material is a God-send! It sucks moisture away from the body and locks it into the material. (The cold weather and slow jog pace probably played a big role in saving my hair, as well.) Someone suggested a dri-fit headband and/or cap. They are both available at Sally’s Beauty Supply for about $3.50 each. I ended up trying both because I was under the impression that the cap would protect the middle hair area and reviews said it was a little on the big side (which I agree with). To my dismay, the cap is just mesh on top to hold the hair down, but the dri-fit headband I DEF recommend!
Obstacle 3: Rain.
Solution: Ponchos or windbreakers. I secretly hoped rain would allow me a break from running, since I am still not in love with it, but BGR! said rain or shine, WE RUN! -__- *le sigh* Okay. . .I snagged a camping windbreaker on clearance at Target for about $5. The Dollar Tree also sold 2 ponchos for $1. The free route would be using a trash bag from home. I’m not THAT dedicated to the cause. . .just being honest. I opted for the camping windbreaker because it was a bit more durable, meaning I could use it outside of running.
Obstacle 4: Injury.
Solution: Take a break! Despite all the suggestions and advice for the obstacles listed above, the best piece of advice I have received thus far in the journey to 5K is Listen to your body! Challenging my body with fitness has proved to be beneficial (-5lbs, craving healthy foods, more energy, positive vibes), but it has also proved that I am, in fact, human. Taking a break is OKAY. I won’t fall behind in my commitment because I have conquered the mental challenge of running. It feels less like a chore and I actually look forward to running with my #TeamTeenyWeenyBikini partner. During my injury break, I focused on my health in other ways: dieting better (check out this article on superfoods, most of which are NOT difficult to incorporate into the Plain Jane life); alternative fitness that was less stressful (i.e. yoga, pilates); and Fab Ab February challenge (5 minutes or less of core strengthening exercises every day).
This journey has been amazing so far. The amount of support I have received from BGR!, comments on these posts, and random passersby on the street while I am running has been incredible. I haven’t crossed the finish line just yet, but I’m on my way. And that feels good!
Week 1 is officially done! And, shockingly, it wasn’t horrific. Being moderately in shape was definitely a plus, but the Couch-to-5K program is definitely made for the average Jane. The first week’s running assignment was:
5 minute brisk walk
60 second run, 90 second walk repeat (repeat 8x for a total of 20 min)
5 minute cool down walk
60 seconds may not seem like much, but that “When will it end?!?!” feeling sneaks up on you before you know it! Fortunately, I linked up with Black Girls Run! to train. These women are very motivating, encouraging, and inspiring. I just so happened to look up my local BGR! chapter on the very same day they were initiating a new C25K group. I decided to break in the new running gear, pack up my fatty (my dog Lilo :)), and join the run.
I was a little apprehensive because I didn’t know what to expect. Would I be the slow poke? Would I be too in shape and inadvertently discourage someone? How many people will be there – 5…10…20?? Would they be afraid of my dog? Would my dog be able to handle a 20 person crowd? All of my apprehensions only increased when a crowd of 50+people gathered at the meeting location!! Groups of women – friends, sisters, cousins, nieces, kids and grandkids – all filed into a large circle to stretch before the run. How in the WORLD are we all supposed to run together? But I didn’t let my apprehensions overwhelm me. I was pleasantly surprised that the large crowd kept me motivated. If I passed someone during a run interval, I was cheered on with cries of “That’s right!” and “Do it girl!” If I was behind someone, they would wave me on to catch up saying “C’mon girl, you can do it!” There were run leads who would keep time and signal the run/walk interval and shout out the seconds remaining in the run. At the end, everyone cheered as we finished our run assignment for the day. We waited for those who may have struggled and cheered for them too as they completed their segment. We finished stretching together then all went home to soak our tired bodies.
I enjoyed the community run so much, I finished the entire week’s assignment with BGR! (The C25k program commits 3 days/week to running.) The other two runs were just as encouraging, but I ran into a kink in preparation: nighttime running. I have no idea why this didn’t cross my mind, but nighttime running can be dangerous if unprepared. And I showed up as the epitome of unprepared: dressed in all black, no reflectors, no light source. -_____- Thank goodness for a large turn out again! Someone loaned me their head light and there were plenty of reflector vests and neon colors to surround me. LESSON LEARNED.
I leave you with the lessons I learned this week:
Get a running partner or find a local BGR! group to keep you encouraged and accountable for finishing.
The goal is to COMPLETE, not compete! Work to complete run segments and not compare yourself to anyone else.
Before starting any run, avoid static stretches on cold muscles. Instead, do DYNAMIC stretches to protect your muscles, ligaments, and joints. (We do side and front leg lifts and hacky sack before our BGR! runs)
After finishing a run, static stretches will help to minimize soreness in the following days (soaking in a hot bath or shower will help too 🙂 )
If you are running in the evenings, have some safety gear so you can be seen by cars and fellow nighttime runners and bikers as well as you can see any hazards (e.g. holes, cracks, uneven ground): reflector vests, neon colors, glow sticks, headlamps, flashlights. Most of these can be purchased at Walmart or Target. Hardware stores also carry some of these items. If you have some time, eBay and Amazon are always wallet friendly!
And if you’re running in the street at night, run on the side facing oncoming traffic.