In March, I shared my experience of joining parkrun as a way to get myself moving more, which naturally developed into an urge to learn to run.
As well as continuing with our parkrun visits, my partner (Dave) and I joined a Couch to 5k running group in Haverfordwest and found the whole experience to have a considerable impact on us, both physically and mentally.
Now four and a half months on and running (best described as a slow jog) distances up to 7.5km, I truly enjoy having this hobby as part of my lifestyle for numerous reasons.
Here’s why I recommend doing Couch to 5k:
1. It dispels the ‘I can’t run’ myth
Many people I’ve spoken to about my new hobby tell me they ‘can’t run’. They’ve perhaps tried and failed previously or they’re harboring negative memories from being pressured to run too fast/far at school. I resonate with both of these as I was that person, until January 2019.
Despite doing many active sports for most of my life, I found running (and cycling uphill) was the one thing that triggered ‘exercise induced asthma’ best described as being unable to take a full breath in when breathing heavily and eventually running out of oxygen. The physical obstacle this presented along with being overweight and the anxiety of ‘not being able to breathe properly’ was (and still is) a huge mental challenge.
Following an NHS proven programme of short walking/jogging intervals (on your own or with a group of like-minded people) helps the body slowly adjust to the goal of running 5k after nine weeks.
As weird as it feels to me, I am now able to say I can run.
No matter how far from reach running more than a minute or two comfortably you may feel right now, there’s a high chance you will be able to say you can run too after completing Couch to 5k.
2. It’s good for your physical and mental health
As Lisa Purcell from the British Heart Foundation shares in the NHS Couch to 5k video, running can help you prevent and manage a number of health conditions including; sleeping pattern, body shape and appearance, weight, stress/anxiety and concentration levels.
The training framework of Couch to 5k enables a sensible build up of intensity and duration for anyone new to running, providing a safe introduction to the sport.
Lisa also shares that physical activity halves the risk of coronary heart disease. The more activity our body undergoes, the stronger our heart.
Running has added an extra dimension to how I feel emotionally. Focusing on my breathing means I am more mindful about the task in hand, giving my chattering mind a rest for that short period of time.
I’m also noticing that I feel completely rejuvenated and able to focus on my work much easier after breathing fresh air and increasing my heart to a higher level than usual.
Previously walking and yoga has proved to be the most effective for me in terms of ensuring my joints and muscles are stretched and my ‘desk posture’ is corrected.
Now I’m running regularly, I’ve noticed an obvious improvement in my agility. Aches in my neck and lower back are thankfully occurring less often.
Read how these people overcame depression, anxiety and OCD through running.
3. Group support increases confidence and motivation
The Couch to 5k programme schedules three separate runs per week with a rest day in between to help your body slowly adjust to the activity.
A huge benefit of running with people in a similar position to you means you build confidence in your abilities and benefit from a safe space where you can chat through thoughts, concerns and successes as a team.
Similarly, adding set training sessions to your diary for these sessions introduces a routine, which myself and many of my new running buddies have highlighted as a huge motivator.
Fitting three sessions in between work and normal life at first felt like a chore as other things take a lower priority, yet once I was settled into the first couple of weeks, I found myself looking forward to the next meet so we could aim for the next goal as a team.
Since finishing Couch to 5k in March, I’m still in touch and run with those I met at the start, which is a lovely way to extend my social circle.
4. Running becomes a habit for life
As with most activities, if you choose to learn a hobby or sport for a personal reason and not because someone or something has pressured you to do so, there’s a high chance of continuing with it long term if you genuinely enjoy it.
If (following some of the early discomforts whilst your body adjusts) you enjoy progressing through the Couch to 5k programme, it’s very probable that running will become part of your lifestyle.
Apart from a comfortable pair of trainers, running doesn’t require additional kit or extensive travel to a specific location to do it.
You’ll find you start to look for places, pathways, interesting views whilst you’re out and about as a place to simply run. And due to it’s simplicity, fitting a run into a busy lifestyle becomes easy.
5. Running is a great way to fund raise
One of the things that prompted Dave and I to do Couch to 5k was our urge to feel more agile and increase our fitness in time for completing Kapow, a charity 5k inflatable obstacle course hosted by Paul Sartori Foundation. We raised over £300 and had a hilarious day with Team Life Seeker on the 4th may.
Being able to join this event and knowing we were also doing good work fundraising for those in need was a nice motivation.
So when we had the opportunity to join a group of friends raising money for Ty Hafan children’s hospice in aid of Belle’s Story (on behalf of Cardiff Rotary Club), we agreed to enter the Cardiff Half Marathon in October. Sheepishly I might add as we have LOTS of training to do!
Suddenly, another dimension has been added to our regular lives in that we have an important goal to reach, both for those that use the services of TY Hafan and personally, to feel healthy enough to complete the 13.1 mile distance.
Be warned, Couch to 5k can lead to serious addiction and lots of good work along the way 😉
If you are considering learning to run, I hope the above has helped provide some food for thought. If you’re unable to run for a medical reason, then walking is the next best thing and parkrun welcome brisk walkers to enjoy the course too. Check out our local meets in Haverfordwest and Colby.
Try Couch to 5k
The One You Couch to 5K app gives you a choice of coaches and helps you track your progress. This is the app mostly commonly used for either learning alone or with a group.
Join Couch to 5k in Pembrokeshire from 3rd June
Local running group Pembrokeshire Harriers are running another Couch to 5k group support programme starting 3rd June in Haverfordwest and Pembroke for just £10. This is the group Dave and I joined and benefited from greatly.
Get in touch as follows:
This story is part of the Life Seeker newspaper