It’s been a long time coming, dear readers – 8 weeks, 24 workouts, and 16 pounds (7.3 kg) to be exact – but on Saturday, August 19th, I completed my final run using Couch to 5k (C25K) from Zen Labs. C25K, as I mentioned last June, is a running app that can get you off the couch and ready for a 5k in just eight weeks if you stick with it and do the assigned 30-minute exercises three times a week.
I can still use C25K to prepare for a 5k or 10k, but the 8-week preparation program is complete. Theoretically, I can now sign up for a 5k and completely annihilate all the other runners or something.
It goes without saying that I am now a superhuman expert on all things related to C25K, running, fitness, and general wellness. And because I’m such a nice guy (not to mention humble), I’d like to share some of my wisdom with all you commoners out there. These pearls of knowledge will be your guide should you choose to follow in my inspirational footsteps. Take notes. These are:
5 Ways to Maximize Your C25K Workouts
(1) Go to the bathroom before you start your run.
I’m probably putting this one first because I’ve been teaching kids for the past six years. Seriously, y’all, go to the bathroom before you go for a run. When you have to pee, it is physically impossible to focus on anything else. There’s no crying in baseball, and there’s no piss break in C25K. Go to the bathroom!
(2) Focus on building stamina, not speed.
One of the great things about C25K is that it meets you where you are. If you’re significantly overweight (like me) and you’re saying to yourself, “It sounds great, but there’s no way I can run for five minutes,” don’t worry. C25K knows that. That’s why you only have to run for one minute at a time during the first couple of weeks.
One mistake I made as I started becoming more accustomed to running was trying to increase my speed too soon. It was an okay idea at first, but as the workouts became longer I found myself getting tired and wanting to quit. Over time I realized that the most important thing was simply not to stop. To accomplish this, I set three speeds for myself.
Trot (3 mph/6 kmh) – If I found myself sputtering out or wanting to stop, I’d jog/trot for a while until I felt I could start pushing myself again.
Baseline (4.3 mph/7 kmh) – My “just going along” speed. In some of the later workouts (28-30 minutes) I stayed at this speed the entire time, running comfortably.
Fast (5 mph/8 kmh) – If the mood hit me just right – say, if an adrenaline-pumping song came up on my playlist – I’d turn it up and really take off for 4-5 minutes. But afterwards, I’d always come back down to Baseline or Trot so I wouldn’t burn out or stop.
I’m sure this is all Point A /”No Shit” advice to experienced runners, but I just have to make the point. Choose a speed that you won’t go above, a speed that you won’t go below, and a speed right in the middle. You can work on getting faster once you’ve finished the program and go back to the beginning. For beginners, the important thing is to keep on going. You don’t have to set any land speed records; you just have to finish. Stay in your lane.
(3) Download Don McLean’s “American Pie” and learn all the words.
I know this sounds like a joke, but hear me out. As you get into the rhythm of C25K, you start to become less intimidated at the thought of running for two, three, or even five minutes at a time. Personally, I was doing just fine until I was suddenly required to run for eight; that’s when I really hit a mental wall. Eight minutes, man. It seemed so perilously close to the dreaded ten minutes! I just knew I was gonna fail on my first few attempts…until I made an interesting observation.
“American Pie” is 8 minutes and 32 seconds long. And because the lyrics tell a narrative story, you end up paying more attention to the words than to the music (especially during the catchy “Bye Bye, Miss American Pie…” chorus). If you just sing and move along with it, you won’t even notice how long it is. By the time Don McLean gets to “Helter Skelter in a summer swelter,” you’re already halfway done with your run. And when the song is finished, so are you. It’s also nice because it starts slow, moves at a nice pace through the middle section, and then slows down again at the end. Great rhythm for beginning runners. Seriously, listen to this song while you’re running. You’ll see what I mean.
(4) Take your rest days seriously. Oh, and use Instagram.
Just as every good diet has a cheat day, every good exercise program has a rest day or two set aside for lying in bed, reading, drinking water, listening to music, and relaxing. Yeah, I know there are a lot of ‘roided-up bros out there who say things like”Where is my rest muscle and how do I train it?” –
but I’ve found that taking an occasional break from exercise really speeds up my results and helps me stay mentally sharp. Your body needs time to recover from all the awesomeness you’re putting into it. So, take some inspiration from The Big Lebowski. When everything around you (including your leg muscles) is burning out of control, just take it easy, man.
And by the way, in defense of the “‘roided-up bros” I poked fun at a couple of paragraphs ago, I just have to say that weightlifters/health nuts/gym rats/whatever you want to call them are often among the most positive people you could ever hope to meet. Post just one pic of your treadmill screen on Instagram and watch how many likes and “Good job! Keep it up!” comments come flooding in. Some of my greatest supporters during C25K have been people I’ve never even met. I’m grateful to all of them. Thanks Instagram squad!
(5) Don’t worry. You’ll look awesome in the morning.
It’s not something I can explain with any kind of competency, but for some reason I often look and feel bloated after a long run. My clothes are soaked with sweat, and I have to peel them off before I get in the shower, but my belly still resembles that of a pregnant woman or silverback gorilla.
I’ve researched this, and apparently it has something to do with proper water intake and sodium levels. Like I said, it’s not something I can explain with any kind of expertise. The point is, you should drink a lot of water before, during, and after your run. And even if you still look like a gorilla afterwards, don’t worry. The bloating will subside as you sleep and you’ll look awesome in the morning.
So what’s next for me? Run a 5k? Climb Everest? Do a motivational lecture tour? Well, I still have 53 lbs (24 kg) to go before I hit my goal weight. So, to that end, I’m gonna keep going to the gym, running (maybe with the Zombies, Run! app), eating right, and even throwing some weight training into the mix. I’ll keep you posted. When the time is right I’ll even post some shirtless before-and-after pics for everybody to drool over.
Good luck to everyone out there who’s working hard to lose weight or attain a personal fitness goal. Drop me a line if there’s a program you think I might benefit from. And if my advice is worth anything to you, I’d like to state emphatically that C25K has been a great experience for me and I recommend it to anyone who’s willing to give it a try. Best wishes, all.