And some things I found useful
It’s a great programme and it works. It’s designed to have you exercising vigorously for the 30 minutes recommended for health and it’s vigorous from the beginning. However, you can do it as slowly as you need because anything is an improvement on what you were doing before!
•Listen to Laura and trust her. When she says “brisk walk” she means it! There’s no set speed to reach but it’s best to make your walk fast enough to be just short of breaking into a trot so that the walking parts are used to build stamina as much as the running parts. The run then has to be just a little faster.
•Exercise on your “rest” days: swim, cycle, walk, dance, anything except run.
•Don’t be tempted to stay on a week until it feels easy. If you’ve done a week, no matter how hard it felt, you will be ready for the next one. The way to improve stamina is to push yourself a little bit more each time and the programme is designed to do that. Trust Laura: she WILL get you through the demands of each week.
• About week 4 Laura will tell you how to breathe efficiently and it’s best to master that as soon as you can. Breathe in by pushing out the stomach to drop the diaphragm and expand the lungs, then breathe out by pulling in the stomach to raise the diaphragm and squeeze the lungs. Most people, when they are asked to breathe in, suck in the stomach and raise the shoulders but that doesn’t increase lung capacity so practise the way described here. Don’t worry about the “four steps to a breath” rhythm Laura mentions. That’s faster than I could do- just go for what’s comfortable for you and fit your breathing to that. Practise “belly breathing” during your walking parts and on your day-to-day walks so your body gets used to it. You will increase lung capacity, strengthen chest muscles and abs, help to avoid stitch and improve stamina.
•Stitch is caused by a diaphragm going into spasm so take control of your breathing to help avoid it. It mostly occurs on the right side because that’s where your liver is and it will be bouncing against the diaphragm causing strain. Although you don’t want to run soon after a meal, try to have something to drink some time before starting your run since that will also help prevent stitch.
•If you are counting calories there are lots of gadgets, apps and on-line calculators which will tell you how many calories you are using. There is not much difference in calorie expenditure between running 5k and walking 5k so make sure the calorie content of any recovery drinks or snacks are taken into account.
•Whatever effects you hope to get, give it time. Nine weeks isn’t very long to build muscle or stamina or convince the body or mind that you have a new hobby and it’s got to become a habit. It will always be vigorous and if it ever gets to the stage when it feels easy, it’s time to increase pace, choose a more challenging route or run for longer so that you can continue to benefit from the exercise value.
•Wear a comfortable pair of running shoes. The price and brand name aren’t important, but comfort is. To avoid wear and tear on joints unused to exercise, try starting in a wet park, canal towpath or on a treadmill and choose a flat route. After a run, take a hot shower or bath to help relax muscles. If you can’t do that straight away, (because you drive to your running venue, for example) then massage your legs and keep them warm.
•Be kind to yourself. Don’t run through pain. Use ice and rest if you are unfortunate enough to get a muscle injury, but don’t go in for cold baths or showers as a matter of course. Warm your muscles and keep them active to avoid stiffness the next day. Refer serious problems to a Doctor.
•Relax when you are running. Don’t have tense knees, arms or shoulders. Don’t hold on when using a treadmill. Breathe steadily . When you have reached your rhythm, focus on relaxing and enjoy the feeling. That’s what’s going to get you out of the door the next time.
•There’s no need to repeat a week even if you think the runs went badly. If you did them, you are ready to move on. Just slow down next time and try the “brisk walk” tips. If you are injured, don’t run. If you have to miss many runs because of injury or illness, where you start again will depend on how fit you were when you were forced to stop. The fitter you were, the faster you will recover fitness when you start again. You may not be able to complete the whole 9 week programme at the same speed you started at. That doesn’t matter. The podcasts are designed to have you running for 30 minutes and you will be doing that by week 9. Keep calm, Slow down and Carry on!
•Run because you want to. There are lots of reasons for starting c25k but it is hard work and you have to want to do it. When it’s over, you might decide running is not for you, but, then again, you might decide that running gives you just what you need and you go on to greater things! There are lots of inspiring blogs here telling of people whose lives have been changed by the programme, and most agree that it took determination, stoicism and tenacity. There will be runs which go well and those which don’t (especially as you get to the weeks where all the runs are long) but remind yourself of what got you going in the first place and put bad runs down to experience and just carry on.
•Use the blog. There are lots of people here to give you advice, encouragement and help.