It's been four days since the start of the , and even as my body aches from reactivating my muscles, I am already looking forward to Thursday's second group run.
Last Thursday's orientation included a placement run – an easy, no-pressure .4-mile loop – that left me breathless and straggling in the rear of my group of the 100+ participants.
It was a humbling wake-up call. But I have assimilated that I'm in simply horrible physical shape, and ready to change that.
I see value in the method of training laid out for us on Day 1. I also see that, although I've always been a solitary runner and exerciser, this group dynamic will, I think, be good for me.
I'm eagerly tackling the Week 1 "schedule" – a series of 20-minute walks, runs and cross-training – determined that the more I stick to the training, the faster I will go from feeling like I'm going to collapse postworkout to feeling energized. As a lifelong fitness buff, I do know there is light at end of this pain tunnel.
I joined the six-week Couch to 5K training program when a colleague asked if I'd participate and chronicle the training as a lead-up to in September. The training program, and the Brooksie, have grown in popularity every year. Last year, 80 people participated in this 5K training; this year, 120 people have signed up so far.
The goal is to prepare all of us for a June 5K race – and that we will then go on to the Brooksie half-marathon training that begins in early June. The 13.1-mile race is Sept. 30.
Organizer Sue Barnes, who led the Day 1 placement session, told more than 100 participants at the that the groups into which we were being placed would become our families, and that we'd all find a great deal of support there.
After just 20 minutes with my group, I could tell this was true.
There were only a handful of us, helped through our first 20-minute walk-run by three "team leaders" – Jen, Jeff and Peggy – and an obnoxiously loud timer that helped us to know when to walk and when to run. The team leaders were terrific – running alongside us, keeping us talking, giving us tips.
Enthusiastic and inspiring, the leaders told how they became involved in the program. Many started out like us as training participants, went on to run the 5K and the Brooksie, then came back in subsequent years to help others.
My fellow training partners consisted of three women all involved for different reasons, all of us eager but nervous. One hopes to inspire her children; another is recovering from surgery. Yet another has kids in college and early adulthood, and we compared lives as I navigate my own daughter's senior year of high school.
We started out as a "1/1" group – that means you walk for one minute, then run one minute. But the leaders told us we could drop back to a 45-second interval if that was more comfortable. We stuck with one-minute intervals, but five minutes into our first-night run, I cannot lie: All of us were waiting for that one-minute beep. And all of us were grateful when the last beep went off, signaling the end of our first run.
The Couch to 5K program is based on training developed by Jeff Galloway, a former Olympian who has coached thousands of runners and walkers. The program alternates walking and running, with the idea that "walk breaks" keep muscles resilient and reduce the chance of injury.
I can already tell it's a method suited very much to me. Before my recent long period of inactivity, I used this method – without knowing there was a name to it – while running on the treadmill.
The fact that you stick with the same intervals throughout the training and even the 5K race surprised me, though.
We all got a little packet of materials, and I'm reading through the tips on nutrition, hydration and clothing. I've taken comfort in this tidbit: "Whenever you begin new exercise your body's fitness level will actually dip a little while you acclimate to the new demands you're putting on your body."
Oh, good! So THAT'S why I feel like hell!
"Hang in there," the packet goes on to say, "and before you know it, you'll pull out of that dip and begin to feel stronger than before you started."
Phew. OK, then, onward. Run/walk Monday, cross-train Tuesday, rest Wednesday – and show up, ready to go (and remembering water this time!) Thursday at .
Hope to see you there!