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Retro: Couch to 5k

One of the things I wanted to do this year was to write more. After writing my last post (which sat in my drafts for weeks), I wasn't sure what else to write about. So I thought why not write about what I've been up to lately. And I am SO HAPPY to say that I just completed the NHS's couch to 5k programme. I am so so so so so proud of myself. For the last decade or so, I've completely written off running. My back hurts and I've got big boobs and I had less than 0 inclination to run. However, as the end of 2023 was approaching, and I looked back on my years goals, I realised I met my goal of getting back into weightlifting. I was regularly and consistency going to the gym and I had made so much progress. My fitness, however, was on its arse. And despite regularly walking and going to pilates and yoga, it was not improving. I wanted to step it up, and to be totally honest felt quite crippled by my inability to run even 5 meters. I was inspired by others to give running a good go. I'm a way off running 5k in 30 minutes, but I honestly don't care. And I'm sooo excited to continue running.

Realising things

  • Sometimes you have to run through the pain. I've got a sore back and have had a sore back since I was about 13. Running and walking uphill are two of the biggest triggers. This pain was the main reason I put off running for so long. However, I have seen a million specialists over the years, had several x-rays and MRIs and fundamentally, we can't find anything structurally wrong. This (and a conversation with a bad ass physio) led me to believe I might need to push through the pain somewhat. When I started the programme I told myself to give it a couple of weeks and if I was in too much pain I would stop. But I found that if I warmed up correctly, after about 5 minutes or so, even when running uphill, the pain diminished. Huge success

  • Similarly, after a couple of weeks, and for a couple of weeks I started to get shin splints. Really, other than resting and using compression socks there is no way round these. It required some pushing through, and now I no longer have them when running

  • REST. Rest is so important. I learnt never to run on back to back days and if I wanted to exercise afterwards, to do something else

  • It took me about 6 weeks to realise the reason I was getting really bad pins and needles which sometimes ended up with my feet going completely numb, was because I was tying my laces too tight. This was quite a shock to me because I generally consider myself a fairly intelligent person. Why did it take me so long to work that one out?

  • Data. I use an apple watch to track my activity. Something I became quite obsessed with was IMMEDIATELY checking whether my 'fitness' had increased or decreased once I finished a run. At first this was quite exciting, as it was steeply rising. And then my 'fitness' started to decrease. This made no sense as I was definitely getting fitter. It became really disheartening. Until I learnt that the data is wildly inaccurate and your VO2 max (what apple uses to determine fitness) can't really be measured outside of a clinical setting. So I stopped looking at it, which made me feel a lot better. The other stats, like pace and stuff, I enjoy investigating

  • The programme enable me to continue exercising when I'd usually stop (i.e. when I travel, which is a lot of the time) - taking my trainers abroad has enabled me to continuously exercise rather than having a massive break

All the gear, no idea

Not only am I immensely proud of myself for completing the programme, I'm also really chuffed with myself for not immediately buying ALL THE THINGS. But obviously I had to treat myself to some little bits hehe

  • I got myself some new leggings once I realised the ones I wear for the gym are too big for me really (as in the second I start to run, they completely fall off). I've stuck with lulu who produce the bestest leggings on the planet imo. I've tried all (yes all) the others, and honestly it is SO worth investing in lulu's

  • Not all sports bras are made equal. Lemme tell you. Finding comfortable sports bras as a BBG (big boobie gal) and as someone spiritually allergic to under wiring, is near impossible. I had some luck with M&S ones and in other instances I double up on my old school Tala ones. Once I realised I'll be running a lot slower than I intended, I realised I didn't actually need super duper strong sports bras. I imagine that'll change if I want to keep progressing

  • Running shoes. I was really keen to buy new trainers that weren't directly or indirectly supporting Israel. This was quite hard considering how many shoe manufacturing plants operate on illegally occupied land. I ended up with some Asics (I found less bad stuff about them online, but still don't feel 100% certain) for road running. And I already had some Nike trail shoes for off road stuff. These were advertised as waterproof and they are 100% not waterproof

  • Compression socks. They helped with the shin splints

  • This lulu running vest. I hate getting hot, so didn't want a jacket but I did start this programme in the depths of winter, so I needed something. And they had a banging sale on after Christmas (and I did get a lulu voucher for Christmas, so does this even count as a purchase???) Honestly a god send. The right material around the neck as well

  • My sister got me a little band to put my phone in, which I highly recommend. Especially as my phone fell out my pocket during week 2 or week 3 and I only realised once I finished the run hehe (luckily it was still where I had dropped it)


  • Go slow. Especially at the beginning, run as slow as you physically possibly can. Its so much better and enjoyable and means you'll be able to complete the runs, which gives you so much motivation to continue

  • For the first couple of weeks, run in whatever trainers you work out in. You won't be going far. Once you've completed a couple weeks of the programme, you'll start to get a feel for which terrain you prefer running on. This is when you can start to think about investing in some new runners

  • Don't rely on your fitness, measured by whatever device you use, to provide you with an accurate reading. And the readings aren't particularly helpful, unless you're training to become a professional athlete. The point of the programme is to get you off your arse, and that alone is enough

  • 9 times out of 10, I did not want to run. 10 times out of 10 I felt SO good after the run

  • The NHS/ BBC Couch to 5k app is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO good. Download it and have a little look around if you are thinking about starting to run

  • Run outside! God, the best thing about couch to 5k was that it got me outside. And if you're running in the dark PLEASE wear bight colours and reflectives. When driving it's impossible to spot someone if they're in dark clothing

  • No music is better than bad music. There are so many shite running playlists on Spotify. But honestly, running with no headphones on is really nice too


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