Couch to 5K and Back to Couch Again?

About six months ago, my doctor and I had a conversation about exercise.

Doctor: So, other than the thing on your hip, how are you feeling?

Me: I’m a little rough around the edges, but I think I’m just getting old.

Doctor: You’re 41. That’s not old.

Me: Are you flirting with me?

Doctor: If you’re having joint pain or muscle aches, you might want to ease into a workout routine. Yoga is a great place to start.

Me: Yeah. I know. I once stopped seeing a gynecologist because he looked too much like Jeff and he had his photograph on his business card! Isn’t that funny?!

Doctor: Are you trying to change the subject? Come see me again for your physical in August, and we’ll talk about how yoga is going for you.

Me: This is our last goodbye. I will see you on the 12th. Of Never.

I looked up a yoga class schedule. I did! And the bad news is that school was ending in a few weeks (My excuses smell like fresh lemonade! Delicious!) and I didn’t have a backup plan for where the kids could go while I was downward dogging, so instead of making a few calls, I decided to ride out the summer in the style of a sloth.

Last night it occurred to me that my physical is less than four weeks away. As I sat at the computer researching local frozen yogurt dumps and looking at cute photos of my dog, it hit me: Maybe it’s time for me to do a Couch to 5K program! THAT will impress my doctor! I quickly Googled Couch to 5K and honest to God, my computer crashed. Seriously. This could be a sign. (Confession: I’ve always been slightly afraid that my heart would explode someday due to overexertion. This is why a comfortable couch and a good knitting bag are so important to me.)

This morning, while standing in the shower thinking, I ironed out my Couch to 5K reality. Here’s the thing: I hate to run, and I hate being outside in the heat. Similarly, I hate to sweat, and I hate feeling that parts of me are being jostled. With that said, it’s a nine week program. Nine weeks! That’s the life expectancy of a honey bee in the summertime! If I start “running” during the first week of September, I will be done before Thanksgiving! And forever after!

Me: Will I ever run outside if it’s hot or raining or there’s a chance that someone will see me?

Me: No. BUT, we belong to the J, so I can do this whole thing inside if I want to. And I can keep my eyes closed and PRETEND that no one sees me.

Me: But what’s the fun in that? Shouldn’t I be signing up for a REAL 5K to celebrate being ABLE to run? Shouldn’t there be slow motion finish lines and crying with people you’ve never met but can’t seem to stop hugging because of joy and pain and epinephrine?!

Me: Better yet, maybe I’ll celebrate by getting up at 5:45 in the morning, driving to the J, running five kilometers on the inside track before anyone else shows up, and then driving back home where Jeff will congratulate me with a plate of pancakes. After breakfast, maybe I’ll attempt to do a cartwheel and the girls will hang one of their Little Gym medals around my neck.

Me: Yes. And then I’ll take a nap and give myself the rest of the day off to knit, spin, or whine about how much it all hurts.

Question: Have you done the Couch to 5K thing? If I do it at all, I’m going to do it on my own. I don’t want anyone else to have to depend on me, because I get all flaky when it comes to sweating. (I went to a garage sale this weekend, and as soon as I felt sweat dripping down my back, I flipped out and went home. I suppose I need to work through this “Sweat? GO HOME NOW!” response if I’m going to experience success on the track.) All caps IF I do it, you’ll be the first to know. Because I’ll need someone to give me some music recommendations. And I’ll need someone to step up and say, “It’s okay to quit if you want to.” And then I’ll need someone ELSE to say, “Hey. Let’s go grab coffee and not work out. Because we’re pretty.” It takes a village. ‘ ‘ ‘text/javascript’>

46 thoughts on “Couch to 5K and Back to Couch Again?”

  1. I am in week two of my latest attempt to get back into shape. I feel much the same as you do about sweating, running, heat, etc. The thing is, that I am away from home for five weeks (MRI service school) and I thought, this is the time to make a change. Here in the hotel, I am totally unplugged from any distractions and excuses.

    My plan: start slow and keep going slow. I am going for’ lifestyle change’. For me, it’s more difficult to actually get started “exercising in the morning”, so that is the habit I am trying to cultivate.

    I figure that by just doing SOMETHING daily, my body will get stronger and able to do more and more as time goes by.

    Good luck Mrs. Pudding

  2. Okay, well. I run. You know that. I have always HATED running, and now I love it. Which is weird. I did NOT do Couch To 5K, I just started walking/running at my own pace (which is oh, so very slow).

    I have not run since my kids got out of school at the end of May.

    BUT! Starting this morning and running through … uh, until winter break in December, someone at my house needs to be dropped off somewhere every morning at 8:00 a.m. or EARLIER, which means I need to be up way before that, which means that my running thingie starts again THIS MORNING.

    I am wearing my running clothes right now! And then I come here and read this!

    I think THAT’S a sign.

    P.S. It’s okay to quit if you want to.
    P.P.S. I heart coffee.

  3. Last year I found a program like the Couch to 5K in a Runner’s World magazine and it worked for me. I strongly dislike running. Always have. Having and meeting a daily goal and working toward something made it fun. I surprised myself with how much I liked doing it. Maybe you will too.

  4. I did it. Once. Made it all the way to the end, too. Even started to like it. Then, as it does in 10 of the 12 months in Florida, it got HOT and I quit.

    Now? I go inside at a place that promises no judgment – but spells it with an extra E that I don’t like – and play on their machines sometimes instead. Still don’t run the 5k even though I sometimes walk the 5k Loop on the treadmill…

    Give it a shot. You can do anything once. Me? I’m trying to work up the motivation to leave the house for moose supplies. It’s h-o-t HOT out there!

  5. I know it isn’t as cool or trendy or whatever, but if you hate running and bouncing and sweating buckets, why not just walk?

  6. I started it twice. And both times I got to Week Three and then found out I was pregnant. I will not do that again. (Mainly because I have chronic tendonitis in my foot and the doctor told me I can’t run.)

  7. I’ve had SUCH a love/hate relationship with running. And HUGE ups and downs. BUT — I do want to say that I basically did the Couch to 5K program in the summer of 2006 and once I got past the 2-mile mark, something clicked. I felt this KRAZEE pang of pride. Like, “HOLY MOTHER OF GOD, I JUST RAN TWO MILES!” and I had never been that proud of myself for anything EVER. I think that’s the “love” part that has me constantly trying to find good motivation to run.

    But the HATE part. Bah. Some of those things you talk about will fade. But some of them won’t. The trick is if you just have some LOVE to balance it out. So, I hope you experience what I did – that euphoric sense of pride that makes you want to at least keep trying.

    For the record: My husband is embarrassed FOR me when I run. He’s always, “It just looks like you’re in so much pain. You have a very awkward stance.” Hee.

  8. I’m in the thick of the Couch to 5K program right now- in the Georgia heat and all!

    Words of warning: This program does some big jumps, like 8 minutes to 20 minutes!! Are you kidding me? I had to make it a little more gradual…

  9. you’re too funny to run!
    this reminds me: someone asked me how i’m going to get back in shape after the baby comes. (the nerve right?) and apart from breastfeeding i ALREADY DON’T FEEL LIKE DOING ANYTHING. for a few years at least.

  10. I hate running too, but I’m in week 4 of the couch to 5k, and I love the sense of accomplishment. I do 5ks with my mom, so it’s something fun for us to do together. We get to spend the whole day together, exercise, and most of the time support a good cause.
    I found that it’s so much easier to use a podcast specifically for couch to the 5k. The ones I use are from But there are tons out there. It’s a lot easier to have someone else do the interval timing for you and just tell you when to run and walk in the music.
    If you decide to do it, I hope you like it!

  11. Sorry, you lost me at the sloth video. Oh cute sloths….lalalala.

    I used to have “run a marathon” on my life list. I took it off this year and replaced it with something else. The thing is, I don’t like running. Why should I have something on my list that I don’t even like to do. I hate every bone jarring minute of running. But I do love my yoga practice (I’m starting to miss teaching) and I do love walking. I also like the Zumba class I go to once a week. ( I like laughing at my long flailing arms.) I completely agree with your doctor. You need some sort of activity, but it has to be something you enjoy doing. Or you’re not going to do it.

  12. I have this desire to like running but I hate it. I think I hate it, I don’t want to do it. But I WANT TO WANT TO do it. My only advice is get a bear to chase you.

  13. I did the Couch to 5k thing a while back and my knees fell apart and my doctor told me to stop. And it did NOT take nine weeks. I had to keep repeating a week because I was nearly dead.

    If you don’t get started on this damn yoga anytime soon I shall stop even looking you in the face.

  14. Last year, I completed the 13 Week Learn to Run program. As a person who has also always loathed sweating, exertion, and running in particular, this was quite an undertaking. I never stopped hating it, but it did get easier. By the end, I could run (slowly, painfully jog is more accurate) 5 whole miles without stopping or dying. There was always crying. However, I did complete the Atlanta Peachtree Road RAce (10K) in July 2010, and I can honestly say that I’m more proud of that than most anything else I’ve ever done. I immediately quit running afterwards, but no one can take that t-shirt away from me!

  15. I did C25K the year before last and actually wound up running TWO actual 5K races that fall. I’m a flabby 40-year-old science professor, who likewise hates being outside in general. But I did it and enjoyed it, and still consider myself a “runner” despite the fact that I slack off every winter and basically have to start over again in March. (My problem is not sweat, it’s the COLD. Friends call me HeatMiser, I never wanna seeya day that’s under sixty degrees, and all that.)

  16. Re: Music: Zeppelin’s “Kashmir”, Rocky soundtrack. (No really, it works)

    Also, I found that once you get to about week five, you can bag the “program” and just run, and add a little distance every week or so. And don’t worry about repeating weeks if you have to.

  17. I am fairly certain that for the last…6 (maybe 7) years I have stated on my blog that I do not, will not, can not, run. I look at the couch to 5K thing before every dr. appt. and cusp of shorts season and after careful consideration realize that I will not really do it; I am apparently super resistant to what all the popular kids are doing.
    Anyway – my questions is, if you belong to the J – do they not have yoga or yoga like classes there? And maybe another cardio machine (bicycle) where you could get in a work out while doing something you enjoy to make it not the worst thing ever in the world? I’ve been reading trashy novels on the bike for weeks and when the book is good I go over my alloted time because I can’t put it down!

  18. Well, I’ve never gotten past week 1 of Couch to 5k. I always get to Day 2 and then I’m all “Oh, OW, my hip!”. So, yeah.

    That being said, I do kind of love running when I’m able to do it. Mostly it’s that sense of accomplishment – the “DUDE – I just ran at (insert crazy speed here) for (insert insanely short amount of time here)!” It makes me feel like I’m doing something more than just wandering around aimlessly. Which, by the way, is very hard to do on a treadmill. The aimlessness, that is.

  19. Um, you could turn on the new O.W.N (Oprah Winfrey Network) and watch the yoga show (and/or other exercise shows) in the morning and do one or two positions, while drinking your morning coffee, like I do, and say you’re *trying* yoga….gives your eyes some exercise at least….

  20. what is the J? Jim instead of Gym? A specific kind of gym? We all say the Y around here…didn’t think it was a canadian thing but I could be wrong….

  21. I have a yoga DVD that I do occasionally without having to leave my house! My cat does the yoga with me, and my children laugh at us.

  22. I vote for no running, no jogging, no sweating, no outside. I vote for Pilates. If you don’t want to take a class, they have tapes. And it makes you stronger and feel better.

  23. Running is the coolest sport in all time’s history of its own time and alternate times. I started out just like you too. Nervous. Unsure. Sweat phobias. But then you do your first 5K and you feel good so you wonder if you can go farther, etc. Just this morning I ran 15 miles because I’m training for a 50K in August. DO IT. It makes you all muscled and sexy and arrogant and people hate you for it but you don’t care because you’re muscled and sexy and arrogant.

  24. ONE MORE THING. My Dad said, when I was in high school and hating running but he was always trying to encourage me, he would tell me to buy a running outfit. Go buy something you REALLY like to wear. No matter how much it costs. (Running clothes are stupid expensive.) Because, then at least you have THAT to look forward to.

    For a clueless boy, I found the advice quite helpful and fall back on it to this day. If I’m in a rut, I but a new running outfit. :)

  25. I’m not a runner, and I have not done the Couch to 5k program. But in the last few months I have gone from “Ugh, I’ll exercise tomorrow” to actually looking forward to going to the gym six days a week. And I owe a lot of that to finding the right music.

    Ergo, my suggestion is dance mixes by DJ Inferno (aka Billy Tolly). He’s based in Las Vegas, has been mixing for like 20 years, offers his mixes up to the public for free, and – BONUS!!! (for me, anyway) – he’s also the equipment tech on Ghost Adventures and Paranormal Challenge. (Ok, I discovered the mixes after becoming unhealthily obsessed with host Zak Bagans, but I digress.)

    If you’ve managed to get through the previous paragraph of caffiene-induced stream-of-consciousness, fan-girl dorkdom, and middle-aged hormones run amok, I highly recommend this Website for free downloads:

    Each mix is about an hour long, and they make me want to keep my chunky butt moving long enough to actually benefit from said movement. Yay!

  26. See – I don’t really do things I don’t like to do – so I’m always a bit mystified by the people who run even though they hate it. And I feel sorry for the people I see running that look like they hate it. Thus, I am a usually a sloth (I looked great in that video, by the way – thanks!).
    BHJ had it right about the muscly and arrogant (IF it turns out that you like it…..) so maybe it’s worth a try?
    Right now, I am walking with my neighbor ladies, and that has been good – but it is not as trim-inducing as running.
    When I go to yoga regularly, I am definitely stronger – I can feel the definition…..until I get busy and go back to being a sloth. (What?! Slothdom can be a very busy way of life, doing sloth things… working at a desk, for example).
    I will be most impressed if you do the couch/5k thing. But I think it’s okay if you don’t.

  27. I have done Couch to 5K and I liked it! THen I quit. I hate getting sweaty too. I have some serious sweat. Seriously.

  28. Running. Gross. Yoga sounds like SUCH a better option. Mostly, I’d rather go for a hike or bike ride…I don’t do either of those things on a regular basis, but just sayin’, I’d ‘rather’ :)

  29. There is a great C25K program on itunes, which has British people talking you through the program. It is great. Anything by Pink or Christina Aguilera, Black Eyed Peas will work for music. You can do it!!!

  30. I bought a used treadmill in Feb of 2010, intending to slap my macbook on top of it and make myself walk at half a mile per hour for the full amount of time that I spend dithering around on the internet every day.

    Please note that what unfolded after that was completely chemical, and has nothing to do with willpower or discipline! The first time I felt a hit of serious endorphin elation, I wanted it to happen again ASAP.

    So I decided to make a concerted effort to walk for one episode of a stupid 70s sitcom, a few times a week.

    Then I suppose I developed a tolerance of sorts, and I figured, ok, maybe I can jog a little bit and the elated feeling will come back. 2 minutes of jogging was what I could do before dialing the mph back down for the rest of the episode.

    One day I jogged until the first scene-break where the commercial break would have been if I had been watching real TV and not Netflix. So I made that my routine.

    At that point I sought out a C25k “plan” (if you can call it that) through Because I thought, maybe someday I should buy some sneakers and try running outside? Because I don’t like exercise, but I do like being outside? And 5k felt like an “official” distance, one that would justify the purchase of some sneakers. That was October 2010. I came to think of that first bead of sweat as “liquid virtue” because once it fell, I could count on seeing myself behave better the next day. I started realizing that I HAD to run in order to have any kind of willpower.

    I never, ever, in a million years, thought I would ever say this, but. Last weekend I ran 10 miles. It wasn’t even for the first time. And. In no less than full running geek regalia. I have wireless bluetooth headphones so I can advance to my “power song” without taking my phone out of the pocket. The phone that tracks my mileage and speed and route. I have “running shoes” (more than one pair!) and socks to go with them.
    Shorty shorts with built in underpants that I can’t tumble dry with my other clothes. One day I stopped mid-run to peel a soggy $20 out of my shorts waistband pocket in order to buy a bottle of water at a gas station, and the clerk shamed me into going to the running shop to buy one of those belts with the clip on bottles. I am an addict, falling straight down into the abyss. Wondering when I will hit rock bottom.

  31. I’m like that little sloth baby that can’t even maintain a seated position holding a stuffed animal–ohhh, sitting’s too hard, I’ll lay down now . . .

    I’ve got those same aches and I know exercise helps, but like you I hate the hot, sweaty, jostling around, and boredom that goes along with it. That said, the other night I dreamed I was out running and it was awesome! and then I woke up and heard that it was already nearly 80* and I realized that I’m me and there’s no way I’d ever go running.

  32. The only thing I hate more than running is people who love running. And say things like, “I just don’t feel right when I miss my Sunday 10k”.
    However, here in Niagara, at the end of August we have this – You run to stations which give you chocolate. At the end, it’s a chocolate bonanza. That’s right – if you visit the page, you may also see words like martini. This may just be enough to get my arse off the couch….

  33. How about this: I’ll do it if you do it.

    I’m out of shape, overweight, and 4 months post-partum. I go back to work August 1, so I’ll have childcare for both of my guys.

    I was in this state of slothfulness 10 years ago, and I trained for (and ran!) three marathons. But that was 10 years ago. I think 5K is something I could do now.

    Let me know when we’re getting started!

  34. This might not be what you want to hear, but if you hate running and sweating profusely, why not try something that you actually enjoy, even a little bit? Walking is great, especially if you’re just starting a work-out routine, or some Pilates or Jillian Michaels DVD’s that you could do at home would be a good place to start. I too despise running (another thing we share, along with hating summer and being a newish vegetarian, among many other traits) – it just hurts me. Once when I was trying to start a couch-to-5K-type program and was in such pain that I was asking my internist about it, she looked at me funny and told me just not to run. She thinks running is too hard on your body and she’s a doctor. There are so many more enjoyable ways to exercise. But that’s just my opinion, and if you *want* to start running, then go for it, girl! I’ll be so proud of you! I really wish I enjoyed it, but it’s just not meant to be. The main thing I wanted to get across in this hot mess of a comment is that I believe you need to find a way to exercise that you’ll stick with and will actually like doing, or what’s the point? If you go in with the idea that it’s a temporary thing just to lose weight and you despise every minute of it, then that’s not going to be a positive new life change. Find something you’re going to get a kick out of! And don’t end your sentences with prepositions!

  35. I wish I could edit my comment – phooey! I want to go back and fix two things. 1. I know you’ve lost 15 lbs. and don’t need to exercise to lose weight – that was just an example of why *some* people do the Couch to 5K, and 2. The last sentence was a joke that I meant to put in parentheses since I was the one ending the previous sentence in a preposition. SIGH, I am such a mess today!

  36. I don’t think I can ever get into running. My brother does half and full marthons, but not me. I tried the Zumba for the Wii and really liked it. I need to get back to it. Let me know if you start something. I would be happy to be your online motivator if you will do the same for me. :)

  37. I have lost wt by eating fruits/vegs and taking a walk everyday like clockwork. It is not that long, but tough-up a very steep hill. Ok, well and good, but one thingI notice about people who lose wt and begin to exercise, they all run marathons.. enter the Olympics, win the Presidential medal of something wonderful and start a religious movement. So far, happy to say nothing like that has happened to me. Maybe Oprah’s friend Bob Greene will come live with me since Oprah is gone. He probably has nothing to do now.

  38. YES! Do it! I started in January when Happy Surprise Baby #3 was four months old. I had always hated running, but wanted to love it. I had to get over a hump, and one day (maybe six weeks in?) I really did love it. After running and then showering I felt AMAZING.

    I did a variation on the C25K, and ran my first 5K on Mother’s Day. I felt invincible! I ran my second 5K on July 4. I’m already planning my next one.

    Knowing you can run three miles if you want to feels SO great. (Please note – I run a 10 minute mile. It doesn’t matter how fast you go – if that little hop is in there, it’s running.)

    I recommend purchasing a decent pair of shoes — two months in I went to a running store where they watched my feet while I walked and I discovered my feet are “severely pronated.” One $90 pair of Mizunos later, my feet were very happy.

    Some songs from my running playlist:
    Florence + The Machine – Dog Days are Over
    P!nk – Get This Party Started (I’m Coming Out)
    Citizen Cope – Let the Drummer Kick
    ColdPlay – Viva la Vida
    Kanye West – Stronger (explicit lyrics, please)

    ALSO! Think how great it would feel to run with your girls. I admit that is part of my motivation in all this – I have three boys. There will be no bonding over pedicures for me – so we will bond at the track, where they will lap me and think it is hilarious, but they will not realize that getting them strong enough to lap me was the point all along.

  39. I am SO not a fan of exercise – join Curves and ended up talking with all of the ladies instead getting any serious workout done – although – it did get me in shape for baby number 2 and I did workout while pregnant until put on bedrest – ugh ! But now my lazy butt is TOTALLY into ZUMBA!!! As a usic teacher – how could I not be! It is offered through the park and rec – and I stand in the back – just like I did back in the 80’s when I did aerobics and looked like a fool. BUT zumba is all based on dance steps and with a good teacher – it makes sense. I ordered a box set and the kids zumba with me at home – it is so much fun! And yes I sweat, but any exercise that actually makes you smile can’t be all that bad – so with this and my quest for veganism – I should be pretty healthy by my next check up at Christmas!

  40. I was never a runner. I’m in my early thirties and hadn’t run a mile since sixth grade, and then only with tears and much drama. I’m on week 6 of c25k, and I can tell you that while I still don’t like running much while I’m actually running, I can’t wait to go running every day, and I feel fantastic (not to mention a bit holier-than-thou) afterwards. Do it, you’ll love it.

    Oh, and music wasn’t distracting enough for me–podcasts (Radiolab is my new favorite) totally do the trick.

  41. LOVE C25K. LOVES. I hate running and I’ve actually learned to like it!

    My only tip: dont even from the beginning, give yourself an “out” or a “It’s okay if I dont because…” Because that just opens the door for excuses. And you’ll never get there.

  42. I was out last week so I missed the Couch to 5k lovefest. I hate to run. I hate all exercise. Seriously. However, I work out with a trainer once a week for $35 and he makes me do some exercise the rest of the week or that one time is harder. Did I mention I hate to sweat – and I’m a sweaty girl? I don’t glow or perspire, while walking the dog I usually have drippy sweat on me. Ew! So, I’ve realized that sweating isn’t as gross in workout clothes – underarmour because it makes me feel tough and stuff. Good luck either way and you can eventually get over the sweat phobia.

  43. I always hated running. Then my daughter signed up at school for the Girls on the Run program, and I thought we’d do this whole ‘bonding’ thing if I forced myself to train for a 5K, too. I did, and was successful. We ran that 5K one November. To my utter astonishment, I did not stop running. I found that I liked it.

    I didn’t do the C25K program, but I knew I needed something to keep my legs going. Music! I’m really, REALLY weird about rhythm so I knew I had to find music where every beat corresponded with a foot hitting the pavement. Through much trial and error I found the music that worked and started with 1 mile. I worked up from there. Had to change the music as my legs got stronger and I lengthened my stride. I found that running on a road or track is MUCH easier than running on a treadmill.

    So. Good luck! You can do it, and from someone who never ran at all before that first 5K, I can tell you that finishing that first race is an incredible feeling of accomplishment. Really heady, y’know? And finishing with my daughter was even cooler.

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