At the beginning of 2018, one of my New Year’s resolutions was to run a 5K. I fulfilled this resolution by running in the Love Your Heart 5K in New Braunfels on February 10. I have never been someone who runs for exercise, nor have I enjoyed running, until now!
I started training for the 5K on January 2, and was able to run the entire distance of the race, 3.1 miles, without stopping or walking, by January 26. I found a really simple workout plan in an article written by Jeannette Moninger on The Today Show website. The article, Couch to 5K: How to Train for a 5K in Just 6 Weeks, outlines a straightforward 3-day-a-week, 6-week training schedule and provides additional tips to help readers prepare to run a 5K. You can read it here.
Jeannetter Moninger’s first piece of advice is to “Buddy Up.” I did some virtual buddying up with my sister, Lisa. She’s an accomplished 10K runner and runs in the Capitol 10,000 every spring in Austin, Texas. In addition to being a runner at heart, she is also very patient and encouraging by nature, so I knew I would have a good motivator by my side. We friended each other on the Map My Run app which allowed us to see each other’s workouts and share fun and encouraging comments during the 6 weeks leading up to the 5K. Lisa was the one offering me the encouraging words; she did not need any encouragement from me as she was running the distance of a 10K just days before the 5K race! I found the advice to find a buddy very helpful during my weeks of training. Sometimes in the middle of a run or before even lacing up my shoes to go for a run, I would think, “I can’t do this anymore; I’m just gonna stop,” or “I don’t really feel like it today.” But since I knew Lisa was using the app and waiting to give me a fist bump emoji after my run was posted, the accountability forced me to follow through with what I had set out to accomplish.
The next step the article suggests is to “Get the Right Gear.” I already had a decent pair of running shoes and workout clothes. However, since we live in Missouri and I was embarking on my 5K adventure in the dead of winter, lacing up for an outdoor run was not always feasible. The piece of gear I needed was a treadmill!
Getting the Right Gear: We returned home from Christmas in Texas after a two-day drive on December 30. The day before New Year’s Eve 2017 was a bitterly cold one for St. Louis. Our house had been empty for nearly two weeks, and it was a bit on the chilly side when we walked in the door. Getting everyone back in the car to drive across the Mississippi into Illinois and buy a treadmill from a Sear’s Outlet seemed like the perfect thing to do while we waited for our home to warm up! And that’s exactly what we did.
In the hotel the night before, Michael had helped me look online for a reasonably priced and well-made, well-reviewed treadmill. The one we found was in Fairview Heights, Illinois, about a 45-minute drive from our house. We were at the Sear’s Outlet for over an hour after testing out the machine. Michael basically had to load the beast into the back of our Armada by himself, which was quite a feat. The outside temperature had dipped below 10 degrees by this point. So there was poor Michael, heaving a giant (225 pounds!!!) yet fragile piece of exercise equipment into the back of our car, while little Michael and I strolled through the store, and our house heated up back in Missouri. When the treadmill made it into our car, we could not close the trunk. We had to make the drive back home with the trunk open, held together with some twine that Michael arranged in such a way that so that it was not actually holding any of the treadmill’s weight.
Below is a picture of my new “workout gear” lying face down, right next to little Michael in the back of our car. I took the picture from the front seat. From where I was sitting, I could easily see the yellow lines on the highway out the open trunk door as we made our way back home on this very cold night.
Here’s a picture of our car thermometer during the ride home.
Once we had the treadmill thawed out and inside the garage, we enjoyed dinner inside our now warm house. For the next few days, Michael became very well acquainted with my new workout gear. He moved it out of the garage, across our front lawn, and down the steep hill to the basement all by himself. Fortunately it has wheels! Then, we discovered the basement bedroom where we were going to put it was not really the best place for it. We planned to use that room as a guest bedroom, and the treadmill would take up too much room. Now he had to get the beast all the way back up to the front yard, up the steps, into the first floor of the house, and then on up to the second floor and into its home in what is now my workout room and office. He also had to take my very heavy metal spin bike on a similar journey, but that is a story for another day.
Once the treadmill was in its permanent home, I was able to begin my 5K training. The article’s third piece of advice is to “Start Slow and Steady.” That is exactly what I did. My first workout was nothing more than a 10 minute jog, increasing to 13 minutes on the second day, and then 1 mile on day 3 of week 1. The first two weeks of workouts were the most difficult for me. I was not used to running, and I had not been walking or biking for exercise since early November. I had to get used to exercising in general again, and in addition, figure out the running thing. And figure it out I did! After completing Weeks 1 and 2, I found that the more I ran, the more I enjoyed it.
For me, the most essential part of the article was tip number four, “Use a Training Schedule.” The article provides the training plan below.
Moninger, Jeannette (2016 August 26). Couch to 5K: How to Train for a 5K in Just 6 Weeks. Retrieved from https://www.today.com/health/couch-5k-how-train-just-6-weeks-t102265.
In addition to following the schedule above, Moninger suggests doing some cardio that won’t wear out your calf muscles on the days in between runs. I tried to exercise at least 5-6 days each week and rode my stationary bike or walked on the non-running days. The wintry weather we had the night we brought the treadmill home fortunately did not linger much into January. During most of the weeks of my training, I was able to complete at least one of the runs outside. I would start at our house, run through our small subdivision, continue on the trails through our woodsy neighborhood park, and then back home. I loved doing this, and it felt great to be outside, running! Michael watched little Michael for me whenever I wanted to do an outside park run. When I ran on the treadmill, I always used at least a low incline, and this made the outdoor running feel like less of an effort than the treadmill. In addition, the park trails contain a few very steep and not so short hills, which also helped me prepare for the actual 5K race. I had walked the Love Your Heart 5K the previous year, so I was familiar with the route and knew there were one or two hills to conquer, one of which was right near the end!
My favorite day of training was the last day of week 4, which I completed on January 26. Michael watched little Michael and the weather cooperated, so I was able to do a park run from our house. The schedule said to run 3 miles, but obviously I wanted to prove to myself I could make it the mere .10 of a mile more and accomplish a 5K run. I completed a 3.16 mile run in 35:19 minutes with an average pace of 11:11 minutes a mile. My Couch to 5K resolution was fulfilled in 4 weeks instead of 6! After this awesome run, I continued to follow the training plan for the last 2 weeks of the program.
Moninger’s final piece of advice is to “Prepare for the Big Day” by eating a smart breakfast with some carbs and not too much protein or fat, giving yourself plenty of time to get to the starting line, staying hydrated, and then celebrating the completion of the 5K. My parents were there to help me prepare. On the day of the race, we fed little Michael breakfast in the morning and drove over to where the race started at Landa Park. My mom and dad walked the 5K with little Michael in the stroller so that I could run the race with Lisa and my two nieces, Sarah and Mary.
Here we all are before the race. Little Michael was ready for his nap! He was wearing his “I’m Heart Healthy” medal from the 2017 race. Walking with Oma and GroBpapa wore him out, and he ended up sleeping for about 40 minutes.
The day of the Love Your Heart 5K was a very happy day for me. I ran the race with my virtual running partner actually there in the flesh, and we shared a real fist bump after crossing the finish line. Lisa and I finished the 5K in 32:55 minutes with an average pace of 10:06 minutes per mile. Lisa was a terrific running partner throughout the race, helping me pick up the pace going up the hills and then again for a final burst as we neared the finish line.
Having my mom and dad there, completing the race while watching little Michael, was very special for me.
When the race ended, little Michael was wide awake and ready to do some walking himself. My dad brought him a new medal for the 2018 race.
My 2018 5K adventure could not have gone any better! I accomplished what I set out to do, and it has left me with a strong drive to continue my running journey. I am grateful to Michael, my sister Lisa, and my parents for encouraging and supporting me in this fun endeavor.