Forgive the wordy post but I had a message from one of you which shared the common problem of feeling a bit lost after week 9.
I think it's a common issue. We all get so caught up in the rhythm of the Couch to 5k plan and then when it finishes - you're left missing the structure or the goal to aim for.
Anyway, I've had a think and wrote a list of tips that I found helpful. Perhaps you can all chip in, with your advice too?
- Starting earlier weeks of the plan can be a good strategy - espeially if you're feeling 'afraid' of the 30 minute run. I know in the past when I've slipped up and missed a few runs, I can feel nervous about whether or not I can still do the full 30 minutes. Of course you can - this is just your brain playing tricks on you, but it's much better to give yourself the permission to do a 20 minute run and build up from there - than to keep putting off your run because you can't face a full 30 minutes.
- If you did Couch to 5k runs on certain days - stick to them. I used to religiously run on tuesday, thursday and sunday, and after week 9 had ended, I stuck to those days. It helped tell my brain that this was part of my routine now - and I was less likely to start slipping out of the habit of running.
- During the plan, I had stuck to the same route each time so when I graduated, it felt like a bit of a treat to plan and explore a new route. It also helped to have a change of scenery.
- For me, music is a vital part of my running and when I finished Couch to 5k, I really enjoyed creating my own running playlists. Everyone is different but I have always needed something fast and energetic to run to. And a newly created playlist always feels like a treat. Not everyone is the same though - maybe you'd prefer to listen to the radio, talking books, or maybe - you just want silence!
- I started to use 'mapmyrun' to see exactly how far I was running. As most of you will discover - the name 'Couch to 5k' is slightly misleading since you focus on running for a set amount of time rather than a set distance. I quite enjoyed the nerdiness of keeping a log and seeing if I could beat my last time.
- I found that I had absolutely no idea of my own pace. Even now - I can do a run and have absolutely no idea how quickly I've done it. I did some work on trying to improve my pace by including pockets of faster running in my run. Our new podcast series (launching in May) will really help with this.
- Is there someone you could run with? Once I had 'learned' to run and finished Couch to 5k, I used to run with my boyfriend (who was already a keen runner). I found this useful because if one of us couldn't be bothered - chances are, the other one could - and would drag us both out! You also get to have that nice chat afterwards about which bits you found hard or even just the things you saw along the way.
- This may not apply but if you run in a gym - I really recommend breaking out and trying the outdoors. I find it waaaaay more interesting. In fact, I just can't have a good run on a treadmill.