Monday, March 21, 2011

Couch to 5K: A Review, Plus Random Intruding Thoughts on Fatness!

Well, at week 7, day 3* of the 9-week training program, I ran 5 kilometers.  Not "a" 5K - not an actual race -  but 5K nonetheless, and at the respectable speed of a just-under 10 minute mile.  So I suppose that I have technically completed the goal and now I'm just working from running for 25 minutes to running from 30 minutes over the next 2 weeks.

Wheeeeeee!!!  I'm really quite proud.  Running was such an ordeal from elementary school onward that it means a lot to me to be able to run 5K (around 3 miles) without it being some sort of gasping hour-long affair.  Lesson for parents:  if your kid is having problems with the yearly physical tests, maybe have them do that stuff all year long?  I easily could have started running way back in 6th grade and have saved myself years of shame, had someone merely suggested it to me.  Things like simple solutions to embarrassing problems rarely pop into juvenile brains without some well-placed adult assistance.

So how did I like the program?  For reference, it's here.  I liked it A LOT.  It's really more of a walking/jogging program than a running program, and it's very gradual.  That said, I didn't exactly start out completely on the couch - I have been walking at least 12 miles a week for some time, pretty much always with a (now 22-pound) baby strapped to my back, and often with two rather heavy bags of food.  Still, running for 60 seconds that first week was quite taxing.  I found it easier once I got to week 4 and instead of cycling walk X seconds/jog X seconds, it was just BAM BAM, do this repertoire and you're done.  (All workouts last 25-30 minutes). 

The equipment required to run is fairly minimal.  A good (ideally, a great) sports bra, comfy pants/shorts that won't ride up, and decent shoes.  I started running with ancient (though not completely dead) Adidas Supernovas.  I realized they were impeding my attempts to strike more with my mid- to fore-foot (which is a lot better for my knees, it seems), so I switched to Brooks Green Silence shoes around week 5.  Looove them.  Though they are on the minimalist side, the ever-improving nature of running shoe technology means that their support is better than what I was getting from my monstrously huge and heavy Supernovas that were manufactured in 2000, and the Green Silences are incredibly light.  (Technically, you should go to a running store and get fitted for shoes, but I was far too timid about being a novice runner to do so.)

You can't swing a cat (not that I would) in Georgetown without hitting two or three runners now that it's springtime.  It is such a yuppie endeavor.  I do understand that, from the $100 equipment investment to the required leisure time, along with living in a safe neighborhood and being physically able, I am privileged to get to do this thing that I now love to do.

I am a recent Fat Acceptance/HAES convert. So please believe me when I say I did not start running to lose weight.  Possibly just to ensure that I ignore the scale, the Bee broke it a few weeks back, and I don't think I'm going to replace it.  My clothes are a much better gauge of any changes in my body, especially with the growing muscle mass.  I have lost about 1.5 - 2.0 inches from my waist, hips, and chest, and my abdominal muscles - while still hiding underneath chub - are better defined than they have ever been (you just have to poke around a little to find them).  (The fact that my boobs do not fluctuate with the rest of my body is pretty mysterious, but I assure you it's true; I guess I just don't store excess fat there, so there's nothing to lose in spite of the fact that they are, erm, largish?)  Walking everywhere had already made my calves pretty impressive, but running has done the same thing in a shorter span of time for every muscle from my stomach to my heels.  I have also lost fat from my arms and face.  It's weird.

Am I thin?  Do I want to be?  I guess the answers are maybe and not necessarily.  It doesn't really change anything - the Bee doesn't say, oh, Mommy, your waist-to-hip ratio is better so now I'm going to sleep all night; no one at the bank gives me free money; I am still a shy homebody.  I do feel healthier than I have in years and have finally found an activity/hobby (for running geekery is rampant) that I enjoy and can see myself doing for a long, long time. I have also found that I am more genuinely and enthusiastically hungry, which, considering how much I already enjoyed cooking and eating, is really quite amazing.  I am not oblivious to the fact that I only hopped on the body-acceptance train after losing about 20% of my body weight (by doing nothing more than following the well-known weight loss plan "Get Pregnant and Have a Baby.")  I think I am a happier and kinder person for having jumped on Fat Acceptance, and it's certainly a better attitude to share with a child.  And who knows, I could be fat again, these things do fluctuate, and it will be nice to not have to deal with so much self-loathing.

Final verdict:  if you've always wanted to be a runner, but were terrified/embarrassed, give the C25K program a try.  One of my favorite things is seeing people with a wide variety of ages, shapes, and abilities who are just out running because they enjoy it.  Sounds cheesy, but it's totally true.
*I took a week off due to The Worst Cold Ever, and then re-ran all three days of week 6.