To learn to run last year I used the NHS 'Couch to 5K' podcast. I found this a fantastic resource so this year after some hibernating and indoor exercise I decided to return to it in order to get back to my 5km distance for the 5x50 challenge at the end of March. It is a nine week plan based around 3 runs a week, although I tend to aim for 4 runs just because it fits better with work. When I did it the first time I stuck strictly to the 3 jogs per week rule and it helped a lot. This time as I am feeling a little more confident so I compressed the first two weeks. I think this is one of the great things about having a set of downloaded podcasts as I have read about people reducing the number of weeks at the start but also people having a few extra runs during a week that they found really challenging. The three runs per week is a good target and really worked for me last year but it is nice to know you can be a little flexible.
I have read that there are a lot of apps for phones that do the same thing. I have a very basic Nokia so it was never going to be an option for me. I found this easy to download and stick on my MP3 player. The obvious benefit being that you don't have to worry about timing yourself and you can just get on and run.
The first week is a 5 minute warm up walk followed by 60 seconds of running and 90 seconds of walking for a total of 20 minutes. The podcast is narrated by "Laura" who has a wonderfully calm and reassuring voice. I was worried at the start that this would annoy me or make me feel patronised but it didn't. There is just the right amount of talking and the updates on how much time is left are really helpful. She encourages and reminds you to keep a steady pace and that you just want a jog. It also give you somebody to mutter at when it gets hard. The challenge in Week One is that you have the most amount of 'stop-starting' of any week. This is great as it allows you recovery time but if by 'Jog 8' you are finding new leg muscles you really have to push to go again. I found that a minute could feel like a really long time. I completed this and felt a lot better after it than I did a year ago so I was happy to move on to week two.
Week two consists of a 5 minute warm up walk followed by 90 seconds of running and 2 minutes of walking for a total of 20 minutes. At this stage you still have more time to 'recover' than to 'run' which is reassuring and with less runs in total than week one you can tell yourself there is less stop-starting. There are more tips in the second week, however, the first one they tell you is wrong as she suggest heel striking - which used to be advised but is now out of date. It is now advised to land on the middle of your foot as suggested on the NHS website. There are a lot of good hints and tips on the website as well as in the podcast.
Week Three is 5 minutes of warm up walk followed by two repetitions of 90 seconds running-90 seconds walking and 3 minutes running-3 minutes walking. This is the week where the recovery time matches the jogging time. This puts more pressure on to recover but it is doable. I really liked this week as the 90 seconds are feeling a lot easier by now and the 3 minutes are manageable. The timing of tips here helps as by the time she has explained a tip then you have gone from 90 seconds left to 60 seconds which makes it fly by. I did this run 3 times.
The music is well thought out, I did not recognise any of it but found out after using Shazam that quite a few songs are available on Amazon. I don't tend to pay a lot of attention when I am running but it is good to have it there. They pick up the tempo of the music during the runs and slow it back down for the walks. I tend to find I naturally go with this even though I did not consciously register it at first. Doing the three runs from each week helps as you start to associate parts of the music with being near the end. I think if I listened to the podcast sat still my heart rate would speed up and slow down accordingly now after hearing it so may times! There are also some great tongue in cheek lyrics in the songs, my favourites being "I gotta run I gotta go", "I can't do this long distance thing" and "Take a little time, don't you move too fast".
One of the things I will say is that when I started I was incredibly self concious; I am not built like a runner and I had to research how to run but I realised that nobody cared. I find that jogging pink faced in hail and grinning like a Cheshire cat, because I cannot believe I am jogging, is character building. I also find that the dog walkers of Lerwick are especially nice and are also out in all weather. I have had lots of encouraging words from runners but those that do it well have the sense to go to the gym in the hail.