Getting into shape but where to start? Couch to 5K addition!

How many of you have a similar schedule to mine filled with work, children, family and chaos? With such a hectic schedule, how many of you find that self-care, particularly fitness, takes a back seat? Know that you’re not alone. It is so easy to become bogged-down by your chaotic schedule where at the end of the day your energy is zapped and all you want to do is sit for 10 minutes and have some “me” time. Am I right? Trust me, there are days that I get home and see the millions of “other” things that need to get done and sometimes exercising doesn’t rise to the top of the list. That said, we all KNOW that fitness and self-care is not selfish and that it’s an absolute must for our overall physical and mental well-being. So…how do you do it? Simple, choose what’s important and make the time! Break it up into 10-15 minute increments; wake up earlier, workout on your lunch break. Find the time, schedule it, and make it a priority. I know…way easier said than done, but trust me, you’ll be so glad you did!

You Have to Start Somewhere!

The fact that fitness is important isn’t breaking news. We all know we should be exercising; however, for some, it can be intimidating. You don’t want to join a gym because you feel like you need to be already “in-shape” or don’t want to feel like you’re being judged by the other gym-goers. You don’t want to start on an exercise program because, again, you need to be a bit more in shape to be able to do it. It’s the classic inner battle where you can always find an excuse NOT TO do something. The secret is focusing on the excuse TO do something! It can be frustrating, intimidating, and quite honestly, discouraging to have the desire to get into shape but to feel a bit helpless as to the best way to start.Trail running and resting on the trail

Well…all of us, regardless of fitness level have needed to get into shape. Whether that’s training for an Ironman triathlon, running your first 5K, or simply walking around the block to begin building endurance. Rest assured we’ve all been there. So…where to start? First off, baby steps! Think Bill Murray in “What About Bob”! Rome wasn’t built in a day, thus your fitness won’t either. It will take time, commitment and effort; however, the rewards are tremendous.

Beginners guide

Before you jump right to exercising, you should establish a fitness goal (disclaimer part: you should consult with your physician prior to starting, but don’t let this be a deterrent!). Break up your ultimate fitness goal into smaller, short-term, achievable goals where ongoing progress is measured to track how you’re doing towards your ultimate fitness goal. For this week’s post, I’m going to focus on running, particularly your first 5K. However, I should state that there are so many more ways to get into shape such as yoga, cycling, swimming, CrossFit, circuit, etc.…even just going for a walk is better than doing nothing at all!  Personally, running and circuit training are my “things”, that’s what I know best; however, apply my advice to whatever exercise you choose. The principles remain the same.

Couch to 5K: Your long-term goal is to run a 5K in 10 weeks, however, your short-term goals focus on specific training techniques to help build your fitness level and endurance so that you can achieve your long-term goal. Also, to help, I recommend finding a training buddy that has a similar goal. This technique helps on those days when your motivation is lacking – ultimately it’s your “accountability” buddy. For me, my training partner is my four-year-old Doberman mix. If I don’t run with her…well…let’s just say she can get a little cranky. 

Running with your dog or dog as a running partner

Example training plan:

  • Short-term goal: Break your training into two-week increments and focus on short-term strategies to build fitness and endurance.
    • Weeks 1-2: Three days a week, walk outside, on a treadmill or track for 30 minutes. The first five minutes and last five minutes should be dedicated to warm up or cool down and the 20 minutes in the middle should focus on a brisk walk or a light jog. Don’t feel pressure to run the entire 20 minutes the first day. Simply do your best and bounce back and forth between walking and jogging.Family fitness walking path
    • Weeks 3-4: Four days a week, walk outside, on a treadmill or track for 36 minutes. Same technique as above. Try to jog or run as much as you can but when you feel too tired, walk until you have recovered. The goal is to complete this workout four times per week for the full two weeks.Women's fitness and staying hydrated while running
    • Weeks 5-6: Four to five days a week, walk outside, on a treadmill or track for 40 minutes. Jog or run for 30 minutes, retaining an easy pace and don’t push yourself. When you feel too tired, walk until you have recovered. The goal is to complete this work out four to five times per week for the full two weeks.
    • Weeks 7-8: Four to five days a week, walk outside, on a treadmill or track for 46 minutes. Jog or run for 36 minutes, retaining an easy pace. At this point, you should be able to jog or run while holding a conversation. Jog or run until you feel tired (at least 2 minutes). When you feel too tired, walk until you have recovered and then resume jogging or running. The goal is to complete this work out four to five times per week for the full two weeks.
    • Weeks 9-10: Five days a week, walk outside, on a treadmill or track for 50 minutes. Jog or run for 40 minutes, retaining an easy pace. Jog or run until you feel tired (at least 3 minutes). When you feel too tired, walk until you have recovered and then resume jogging or running. The goal is to complete this workout five times per week for the full two weeks.Women's fitness and using a fitness tracking watch
  • Long-term goal: Sign up for your first 5K and continue training up until race week, then taper by running shorter distances and reserving energy for the actual race. By focusing on short, two-week increments, you are building a foundation to sustain you through the race. Additionally, it allows you to track your progress along the way. By the end of week 10, you should feel confident that you could run the entire race. Even if you cannot run the entire race, you can use the run/walk technique, which will allow you to comfortably, complete this great accomplishment. Oh, and the most important part…CELEBRATE your achievement!

Keep Moving

Now that you’ve completed your first official 5K, what’s next? I can tell you that maintaining your fitness is incredibly easy; however, trying to get it back after settling into old habits, well…. that isn’t so easy. Running, in particular, is very unforgiving. Taking off a few weeks can certainly affect your performance and how you “feel” during and after your run. To maintain your running fitness, I suggest running 3 times per week.  I prefer a Monday, Tuesday, Thursday schedule and then in-between I focus on circuit and strength training. When I’m training for a race, I run four to five days per week with my Monday run focusing on recovery, Tuesday intervals (oh boy…. these hurt so good.), Thursday, distance mixed with some tempo (about 25-30 seconds slower than your 5K pace) focusing on anaerobic activity, and Saturday strictly endurance (aka distance).Running with your dog

Finding time to fit everything into the day is the challenging part. As mentioned before, I suggest finding a training partner or coach to help keep you accountable. In addition, using your calendar to block out time in your day for exercise helps too. That way, you commit…you see it…you’re reminded of it…and…you follow through!

What fall 5K have you registered for? A Turkey Trot perhaps? There are always winter running circuits too. Tell me what your next race is and how your training is going. Leave a comment below.  Happy running!

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