Hannah Hillyer is training for her first marathon this year- even though she hasn’t got a ticket yet and can barely run 5k without stopping for a break. Read her weekly running diary here on IMAGE.ie where she'll be taking you on her journey to find the perfect sports bra, the best running apps as well as discussing all the pains and gains that come with a vigorous training program.
When you're starting out it can be hard to know how exactly to begin running. As we've already discussed on Image.ie it is really as simple as putting one foot in front of the other- but once you've done that, then what? How long do you run for? When do you stop? This all depends on your current fitness level, but for almost all beginners a couch to 5k training programme is the easiest way to start the process.
Related: IMAGE staffer Hannah Hillyer will run a marathon this year, and we'll be following her every step
How does it work?
Couch to 5k stops you from burning yourself out too quickly. It can be easy to shoot out the front door and run until either your legs or breathing give out and you return home feeling entirely defeated and exhausted. Running like this can be really demotivating and can also lead to injury. The couch to 5k method is set up in intervals of running and walking to teach you to pace yourself through a 5k. If you're a beginner, this distance can feel daunting, but this app helps you to build up the distance slowly.
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How much running/walking?
Every workout you do over the nine weeks will start with a brisk five-minute walk to get you warmed up. I like the inclusion of a warm-up walk as it's less jarring than just running straight out into the cold. It also gives me time to do my usual faffing about with headphones, fixing my clothes and trying to decide what podcast to listen to.
You will be running three times a week over this period with the length of running time increasing week on week. Your first three runs will alternate 60 seconds of running with 90 seconds of walking for 20 minutes. It's timed perfectly, just as you're running out of steam you get to walk for a minute and a half, which greatly improves your recovery time too. As you move through the training the length of time spent running gets longer, followed by a longer period of walking. This soon tapers off and by week six you'll be running for 5-8 minute stretches with short walks in between.
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Download the app
Couch to 5k apps are a dime a dozen, one needs only to search it on the App Store to see how many options are out there. Many of them are free to download but some you will have to pay a few euro to unlock the rest of the training programme after a few runs. As it's not an app you will look at regularly - you will just open it, hit start and be on your way - you really don't need anything too fancy or hi-tech. Plus, once you have completed your 5k programme you'll more than likely delete it (and replace with a 5k to 10k app of course).
C25K is the 'official' couch to 5k app and is the one that I use. There is a free version with ads but you can upgrade to C25K Pro for $4.99 if you'd prefer to be ad-free. The only negative is the voice coach that tells you when to walk or run, but I have yet to find a running app that doesn't have a coach with an irritatingly chipper American accent, so don't let it put you off.
Just keep going
Each week you'll find it a little harder, but as you've been eased into it slowly, with the length of running time gradually increasing, it feels achievable. There will be runs that feel awful and you'll think you couldn't possible run for more than three minutes, but the following week you could just as easily find yourself pelting down the road surprised it's time to start walking again so soon.
I am currently halfway through a couch to 5k program, although I tend to run through the five minute warm up and cool down as I feel my body is ready for more. I'm sticking to this to get myself back into the habit of running 3/4 times a week and following a routine. Every time I get to the end of a week and feel it getting easier, the next week is a new challenge, but already I can feel my body and fitness level changing which is the best motivation of all.
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