50 year old, now struggling with 20 minute runs

Hi all, my very first post... Okay, well I seem to have gotten through the first 7 weeks of couch to 5k but what I'm now finding is that I fee like I'm struggling on the long 20/25 minute runs... My legs ache so much and I'm still gasping for breath.. In fact, I have found it's the first 10 minutes that are the hardest and if anything, it gets slightly ( not much ) easier as the run goes on...

I've tried going slower but it doesn't seem to help. Actually, at 6ft, I think it might be easier to go a bit faster... I'm hoping I'm not alone as I really need some motivation to reach that 5k milestone! Help!


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15 Replies

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  • Hi

    your not alone.... I was struggling with that too, and yes the first 10 mins were the hardest for me also.

    I got up to week 8 a couple of weeks ago, then my right calf went. now I I will probably have to go back a few steps and build up again. going to see how I go tomorrow.

    Not much help I know, but is good to know people have the same issues :)

  • The first 10 minutes are hard even after 14 month from graduation... I think it's the same for many here - As for aching legs, I think it could depend on different things - and on the kind of ache

    Posture, the way your stride is, shoes can all help - are you doing any other form of exercise? Squats and lunges are a must.

    I find also that exercises that work on proprioreception can be extremely useful (think standing on one leg and moving the other as if you were running )

  • It's strange that, how the middle minutes are the best (and that's also the case on our dead level Parkrun down at the beach, so this is not anything to do with uphills and downhills).

    Probably your best bet is to step by step try to work on form? Pick some aspect of it, and see if that doesn't make you more economical. (But maybe your form is fine, and you're not thumping along putting all your effort into bouncing up and down, or whatever).

    If a more economic running style is not what you need, then I suppose maybe you just need to keep running more? I'm managing the long runs not too badly, but I took my time about getting here. That probably helped. There isn't a deadline, you know? So it might help you to wind back to Week 6, where you still have intervals, and switch to focusing on pushing your speed on the shorter runs, and betting on yourself to recover quickly enough to do that again. Intensity will help you build strength more than pushing to longer distances will, and maybe it's a speed/ strength issue if you feel inside yourself that you're running slower than your "happy speed". Maybe some faster speed is your most efficient one? I know that when it all comes together sometimes for me, and I run better, I just automatically also go quite a bit faster, so maybe this is what your intuition is pulling you toward.

    The last resort, of course, is to treat the 9 weeks as a deadline, carry on, suffer a bit, knowing that although you suffer, you do survive, and that the more times you've survived like that, the better you'll get at it.

  • Pigvi is right - the first 10 minutes remain tough for a long time. I've only graduated 3 months ago and I still hate the start and feel so much better later on. personally I also find it difficult to reduce my pace as the slower pace doesn't come quite naturally, but it is worth trying to keep it pretty steady to start off with so you can settle into a nice rythm without feeling out of breath. This was also the time when my legs ached most the next day and i am pleased to say that that at least got better over time :-) All the best.

  • I repeated weeks towards the end of c25k that, I felt, I was struggling with and I also introduced some hill work, which built up my stamina and gave me much more confidence in my running.

  • Hi

    Well I'm 52, I completed C25K in April, like you I sound like I'm gasping for breath and the first 10 minutes I still have this feeling I'm going to stop, sometimes even now I do! I can run 4mile in one go, but if I try to do it in 32 minutes I struggle, even if I slow down I don't feel that much better, in fact I'd go so far to say like you I feel more comfortable going faster but then struggle with the distance. I can honestly say, I have and still don't find it easier. Ive even tried introducing yoga & spinning and swimming once a week. I can only put it down to a low level of fitness when I started. I guess I did loose 4 stone last year first and only started trying to run in December. Keep at it cos I certainly will and just hope one day soon it feels easier.

  • Hi, I know how you feel!! I really struggled with week 8 when others found it easier, I think we have to keep going and while it can be a struggle I am proud of myself for not giving up.I keep telling myself if It gets to hard I can stop and suddenly about ten minutes in I decide to keep going a bit further!

    You aren't alone in this , if you can just keeping going it does get better !!

  • Well you sound perfectly normal to me! I'm your age (nearly) but about a foot smaller ๐Ÿ˜ƒ. The first 5/10 mins is always hard, getting going, moving the legs, breathing, arguing with myself I can't do this, yes I can, oh it's hard though, yes but you did it before....etc etc......

    Took me longer than 9 weeks to graduate and I've had time on the IC...but it does improve and I'm still plugging away at getting to 5k. All I can say is, don't give up, go slow and then slow down again, maybe have additional rest days if the legs ache too much? Stretch post run? Hot bath? I'm now finding my time is improving and it's definitely getting easier all round....that doesn't mean it's easy though! Good luck :)

  • I struggled with weeks 8 and 9 which I ended up repeating about 3 times, in the end I think for me it was more physicological, I had to switch laura off and use the timer on my phone. Once Laura told me I only had 5 mins to go my mind and body started to protest and most of the time I end up walking/running the last 5 mins. I used the timer on my phone and changed my route so I had no idea how long I had been running for so it was a surprise that I had ran for that long the first time and found it much easier..well a bit easier anyway. I am training for a 10k now and still think the first 10 mins are the worst.

  • Thanks everyone for the replies. Actually, I'm now feeling more positive today. I think I've made the mistake of thinking its a competition and I have to do the 5k in the prescribed time. I'm actualy going to spend the next few weeks just running , and timing my runs to see how long I go for. When I'm comfortable at running 20 minutes non stop for a straight week, then I'm going back on to the couch to 5k plan. On saying that, with my warm up, I'm actually covering 4.7km anyway at the moment, so I'm not too far off the 5k milestone

  • Please don't think you have to cover 5k in 30 minutes! You do not - all the plan aims for is to get you running non-stop for 30 minutes. Distance and/or speed is irrelevant. Many on here have not and will not run 5k in 30 minutes - it's not part of the NHS programme anyway - but some can run longer distances, longer times or are just happy to run whatever, regardless.

    Once you have reached that milestone, then by all means go for increasing either distance or speed but don't put extra pressure on your mind and more importantly, your body by pushing yourself too hard. That way lies disaster!!

  • Hi! I'm a year on and sometimes, not always, the first 10 mins are still awful!! I was going to suggest you slow down lots but that's already been said. I find if I've properly stretched, am well hydrated and warm up properly, my runs and definately better. Keep at it though. It's the gremlins! Little bar stewards!!! You can do it!!!!

  • I think what you are experiencing is pretty normal. I graduated almost 2 years ago at 55 and to be honest my legs ached for quite a few months after graduation. I found that doing yoga twice a week really helps me with that and maybe try using a foam roller to iron out some of the aches and knots too.

    If you can breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth and have a very very slight pause between in breaths and out that might help too - that advice came from my jog scotland leader. Once I start pushing myself though, that goes out the window and I am mouth breathing only. He also says that you have to keep control of your breathing - by slowing down if necessary - otherwise your body goes into a bit of a panic and you will stop and walk.

    I still struggle for the first 10 minutes on roughly half my runs and I still get out of puff sometimes too!!! That said, the rest of the time I seem to go pretty well... :) :)

    Agree with Toonlou24 that being well hydrated makes a difference and I always struggle running in the heat - just as well I live in Scotland!

    Not sure if any of this helps, but just to say you are definitely not alone and you know what? It's definitely worth keeping at it. You will get there!

  • All of it definitely helps. I will try the breathing Wednesday night on my next run. I'm definitely going to drink more too as that's something I don't do , I'm quite sure. Thanks for the reply!

  • Hi Rich

    I can only repeat what most other people have said, I'm 53 and have only just graduated but I have taken roughly 18 weeks from starting to get to wk 9 as I felt my body needed a bit more time in between to recover and also other commitments mean I can only fit two runs in most weeks, and yes the first 10 minutes are hideous and from what I gather that never gets any better... Keep going and don't be afraid to repeat runs if you feel you are struggling with a particular one, us over 50's have to stick together

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