Transformed - recent changes
Worried - family bereavement
Too old? - lost dreams
Not a runner? Sure there's 'no way you could run that distance'? Or maybe you've been getting your 10,000 steps a day in but want to improve your general fitness? There may be more to running than meets the eye (both physically and mentally) and plenty of weight loss benefits to boot. So why not go from from non-runner to light-footed enthusiast with the Couch to 5k scheme?
Couch to 5k is a running plan that does exactly what it says on the tin - enabling you to progress from an absolute beginner, to a runner capable of completing a five kilometre track without stopping. Endorsed by the NHS, the programme is broken down into nine separate weeks, with three days of running per week (with rest days in between), and with each week progressing in difficulty. However, the mix of walking and running allows for a gradual build-up of skill that makes the whole thing that bit easier!
Couch to 5k schedule:
See? Not so hard...
The health benefits of running are multitudinous, to say the least. With little equipment needed except a good pair of shoes, running is free, easily accessible and a very simple way to improve your physical health. With benefits ranging from an increasingly efficient cardiovascular system, strengthened bones, joints and muscles, a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease, and improved mood, running is also a fantastic way to shed some of those pesky pounds.
However, whilst it's one of the most efficient methods of burning calories, beating other forms of exercise such as swimming and cycling, running's weight loss benefits are accentuated by a proper diet regime, and plenty of rest. So make sure to catch some z's, and arrange your diet to be high in nutrition whilst low in caloric intake. Of course, make sure to check with your GP before doing anything too drastic.
One gransnetter, Sharon Parry, describes her journey from non-runner to 5k enthusiast. Think you can't run? Think again. Here's how to get there - and don't forget, it's all about the journey, not the destination...
"I have spent almost fifty years envying runners because my body had no 'running mode' at all. I couldn't even run for a bus. Run a 5k? Don't make me laugh!
And I didn't laugh a lot last winter. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and a soup of shifting hormones left me feeling tired all the time with chronic aches and pains. My zest for life had pretty much disappeared when a friend suggested that I started the NHS Couch to 5k running programme. This was the most ridiculous thing that I had ever heard. Or was it?
As a scientist, I already knew about endorphins which are chemicals that can cause a happy feeling. They were in my body somewhere, I just had to get them mobilised and exercise could do this. Out of curiosity, I downloaded the Couch to 5k running app onto my phone (the plan takes you from non-runner to running 5k in nine weeks) and decided to give it a go.
On my first session the brisk five minute warm up walk went well enough but then I had to run for 60 seconds. Yes, a full 60 seconds! I told myself that I could stop after 30, perhaps 20 and, worst case scenario, after 10 seconds.
Hitting the wall
Sure enough, within 20 seconds my throat was dry and I could actually hear my pulse in my ears! But because I could see the seconds counting down I coped. I kept telling myself to do just 10 more and I made it to the 60 seconds. After 90 seconds of 'recovery walking' I was off running again.
Then I learned my first lesson - you cannot run if you don't breathe. I took some big gulps. Then I got a stitch, my Achilles tendon started pulling and my right knee felt as if it was going to give way. Shall I go on?
But I didn't stop and that is when those little endorphins started to work their magic. I walked back in through my front door like I was crossing the finishing line of the London Marathon and have not looked back since.
On week three (which I reached after four months) I finally learned to run. I felt that my legs had started to know what they were doing and I could get into that elusive rhythm.
It's hard but I'm not giving up because I really like these little chaps, the endorphins. I like what I become when they are around and, for me, running is what it takes to make them stay."
For more from Sharon, visit her blog www.aftertheplayground.com.
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