Couch to 10k – Why did I bother?
Looking back 7 years, I was a mid-thirties guy enjoying life to the full. I was not unfit and I would not have called myself a couch potato. My exercise of choice was a few games of golf per week. I enjoyed it for many years and it introduced me to some great friends.
In 2008 I bought a road bike through the bike to work scheme and I was immediately hooked. So much so that my golf clubs have been in storage since. They will come out again, just not sure when at the moment. I always had an interest in bicycles having worked in the Cycle Center in Claremorris so my new road bike got me back out on two wheels.
Cycling really started improving my fitness. The one problem with it is that it is a seasonal sport. Unless you have access to indoor trainers you won’t get much done during the winter months. That got me interested in jogging, a year round activity and so began my couch to 10k journey.
What you need to get started
The great thing is you don’t need much to get going. A decent pair of running shoes, shorts and a light top. I also bought a running watch which can track your distance etc… but then again I am a sucker for gadgets and data. Even though I did not do it, I recommend you sign up to a structured training programme. If you don’t train properly you could injure yourself and this could put you right off running.
The big first step is to get your running gear on and head out. It really does not matter what distance you cover. Once you are out you are now a runner, many people would love to be in your position so don’t worry what anyone thinks. You have now started your couch to 10k journey.
Running my first 10k
I started out by doing 3km runs and I found them a struggle. Mostly down to trying too hard and running out of breath. Within a few weeks I got up to 5km and it typically took me around 35 mins. I kept at this distance for a while as I found myself getting shin splints and so was wary about doing more.
Once I was comfortable running 5km I went straight to 10km. The first time I covered the distance was doing laps around Claremorris athletics track. From what I remember I did it in around 1hr 10mins and I was delighted with my achievement. Couch to 10k box ticked!
Running can put a lot of stress on the body, this is especially the case if you take up the sport in your thirties or older. Bad injuries can set you back months and if left untreated can cause long term issues. There are a number of things you can do to prevent injuries both before and during runs.
- Get a proper shoe fitting done and understand how your feet strike the ground when you are running.
- Introduce stretching to your daily schedule. You could also consider foam roller exercises
- I started hot yoga and I found it to be excellent.
- Make sure you do proper warm ups. Don’t ever launch into a run at full speed.
- Warm up. If you are doing a 10km you need to do a light 1km jog with plenty of stretching mixed in.
- Watch your pace, it is very easy to push hard when you have fast runners around you
- Listen to your body. A niggling pain can be a sign to back off a little
- Don’t forget to breath properly. A bad technique can hold you back
- Warm down. Don’t just finish your run and head home Go for a walk and do some stretching exercises.
- Seek some advice if you pick up a minor injury like a calf or hamstring strain. Over the years I have had numerous sessions with Brendan Fitzpatrick who is a local physical therapist. An injury to a muscle can be down to a lot of factors so it’s important to understand where you have weaknesses.
- Running shoes can wear out so be sure to watch for excessive wear.
- Keep up the stretching!
Tracking your progress
I am a bit of a gadget fan so I am forever gathering data statistics from my cycles and runs. This does serve some purpose in that I can see if I am improving over time. I use a Garmin running watch which cost me around 110 euros. You can use your smartphone to do this but I don’t like the hassle of carrying it around. As you can see in the image below I was taking over 50 minutes to run 10km 2 years ago and I have since dropped down to doing them in just over 40 minutes.
You can also see I have bad days where I have a poor time. That is okay too, life is not linear, we all have our ups and downs. My plan for the year ahead is to break 40 minutes but remember this is my goal, if you want to set a goal look at your own times and pick something attainable. Another popular goal is to run a half or full marathon. I have done half marathons but full ones just don’t appeal to me right now, it goes to show that we all can have different goals.
7 years ago I would never have thought I could be running 10km around the 40 minute mark. The last few years have been a lesson in sticking with it. At times it was a struggle especially when I hurt something. However, it was all worth it for the great feeling you have after a run and the memories of taking part in local events. I just completed the Hollymount 10k run at the weekend. Weather was not great but the vibe in the village was fantastic.
So, get out there and give it a go. Just remember to prepare well and listen to your body.