I’ve spent years saying I hate running; excuses like ‘I’m just not built for it’ have passed my lips many a time. The truth is there’s no physical reason that an industrial strength sports bra and a decent pair of trainers can’t take care of. I’m now at the half way point in a 10 week ‘Couch-5K’ programme run by Live Active Leisure, and I’ve learned a few things along the way…
Live Active’s Couch-5k programme is adapted from the NHS version. There’s a group class one evening a week, with two ‘homework runs’ to do in between times. I knew that I wouldn’t ever stick at it if I tried to do this on my own so attending a class has been perfect for me. Classes are held at the George Duncan Athletics Arena (behind Perth Grammar School) where the special so called ‘tartan-track’ provides a comforting surface to run on, absorbing some of the impact.
Your lungs, knees and ankles take most strain when running and the programme is designed to gradually build strength and stamina across these areas, rather than exhausting any one in particular, potentially leading to injury and reluctance to ever set foot on a running track again. We follow gradually increasing intervals of running/walking during the 10 weeks and it’s incredible to see how pace and distance just increase naturally without it being the focus of your attention.
The Couch-5k is taken by the one and only Dave Thompson, a bit of a #LiveActiveLegend himself, and as the man who’s been running the Perthshire contingent of Jog Scotland for over 15 years there’s not much he doesn’t know about running. For a man who thinks nothing of a wee 6 mile jog home after work he’s very humble about his abilities- but I have a sneaking suspicion he could put the foot down and lap us all without breaking much of a sweat. Dave’s passionate about teaching beginners, and one of the benefits of running at the back is getting to hear all his great stories!
There’s a Facebook group been set up to compliment the class where all 12 of the participants have been actively sharing their homework run experiences, finding a jogging buddy, and posting questions for Dave to share his pearls of running wisdom. It’s a great group of people, of mixed abilities, and a really supportive environment.
I’ve also roped in my friend and neighbour to do the homework runs with me- she’s a complete beginner too- and it’s a great distraction from the running to be able to chat about everything from swapping granola recipes to planning our celebration for reaching the end of the 10 weeks!
Humans have three speeds; walk, jog, run. As I’m constantly telling my toddler, make sure you master one before moving onto the next. As beginners almost all of our running at class is known as a ‘Tempo Run’, or ‘comfortably hard’. This kind of workout is crucial to build strength and stamina, which leads to upping that all important fat burning number; your metabolic rate. Which leads me nicely onto my next point…
At work I’m known for my love of ‘Buzz-word bullsh*t’; whatever circles you move in there’s always jargon flying around and the running world is no different. Yes we learn a lot about technique at class, and it’s relevant for Dave to mention the correct terms for what we’re doing, but really, there’s no requirement to get hung up on or even remember it. No one cares whether you know your ‘Tempo runs’ from your ‘Negative Splits’, or your heel flicks from Intervals. All that matters is your increasing form, confidence and breathing (definitely breathing, don’t forget to do that!).
I’ve become a convert- turns out stretching after exercise isn’t actually a waste of time. In fact, it allows the body to cool down helps your heart beat return to normal. A good stretch breaks down the lactic acid built up in your muscles and means a shorter recovery period so you’re good to go for your next outing! I notice a huge difference the mornings after I stretch well, in particular the three flights of stairs up to the office become a mere Munro rather than my Everest.
Let’s be honest here- like many people I have a desk job and plenty of other commitments and responsibilities. I want to be able to run 5k, but I’m not signing up to a Marathon anytime soon. I lead a relatively healthy lifestyle and eat well 80% of the time so have no intention of putting myself under any pressure to be ‘perfect’. So as I stood in line at the chippy in my gym gear following the Week 2 class I held my head high; this is, after all, what us athletes call ‘carb-loading’ (my new favourite bit of jargon).
Five weeks ago I professed to hate running, and while I’m still in the early stages of a courtship with it, things have definitely changed. I’ve been out running in the rain, I’ve done high knees in the snow, heck I’ve even laid down on a cold wet track to stretch what I now know are my hamstrings. Everyone in the group has their own reasons for starting; for some it’s weight loss, others a milestone birthday or quitting smoking. Whatever your motivation the emphasis is about improving at your own pace (quite literally), getting fitter and having fun.
The course is free for Live Active members, or £45 for non-members, and considering most people already have some leggings and a pair of trainers in the back of the cupboard I’d say that’s a pretty good investment.
As the old saying goes, I may be slow, but I’m still lapping everyone on the couch.