Beginner 5 km – Week 1


As I said in my last post, I am back on a 5km programme. In some ways it is incredibly frustrating. It seems a bit pathetic to find myself here, with 4 marathons under my belt, struggling to run for any time or distance even at snail’s pace. But it’s fine. I can’t do anything about that. In other ways it is quite nice. There is no pressure to work for distance now. There is no pressure to do anything at all. So here are my reflections on week 1 and my thoughts on week 2 coming up.

The first run was running for one minute and then walking for 1 minute and repeating that 10 times. The day I did that was hot and humid but the outing itself was fine. I essentially did the first part of our sheep loop, turned round after 6 runs to leave a little extra walking at the end to cool down. The next two runs were both running 2 minutes and walking 4 minutes repeated 5 times. The first one of those I did with Kath on Friday when it was even hotter and more humid than run 1. I used the same route. I found the 2 minute runs up the slopes annoyingly hard but overall it was pretty easy. Yesterday I did run 3 – which was the same intervals as run 2 – and went a fair bit further by just increasing the walking pace I think. I might have been running slightly faster just because it wasn’t as hot (in fact it was bucketing it down).


I have enjoyed those three runs. I haven’t gone anywhere exciting on them – while a bit boring the out and back road route I have been using has a nice mix of gentle down and not too ridiculous up (almost no flat) so makes sure I don’t just run on the flat or downhill. I really noticed that two minutes uphill wasn’t easy. Clearly I have been avoiding running uphill! But I also noticed that 4 minutes seemed like a really long recovery time and that I didn’t really feel like I needed that at all.

I have also been doing a workout plan on the Nike app. I have done 2 endurance and one mobility session this week. I quite like them but I do think they have funny ideas about what beginner level is. In many of the workouts there are several moves that I can’t do fully. I reduced the level of the plan from the lowest intermediate to the beginner level as a result and the plan changed to reduce the overall number and duration of workouts and seemed to change some of the individual exercises. The mobility session I did today was much more doable all round. However, looking ahead, tomorrow’s session includes things like plank leg raises and side plank leg raises… I am not sure they are really beginner moves – I’ll just be trying to stay in plank/side plank for the given duration.


So next week then. The Nike plan has 4 session. 2 endurance, one mobility and one strength. I think each of them has at least one exercise I will need to modify but we’ll see how we go. The runs next week should be absolutely fine. The first two are running 3 minutes walking 3 minutes four times and the third is running for 5 walking for 3 minutes a total of three times. For the first two I think I will stay on the same route – it’ll make me run the hills and should be good for an out and back over that time/distance. For the final run next week I might have a re-think.

I’ve also been doing a bit of yoga. I actually really like it when I can get my backside off the sofa! Some mornings I have just done a few gentle back bends and forward folds with one or two downward dogs to plank and back strung together in fairly random sun salutations and other days I have actually followed one of the routines from the yoga studio app. My current favourite for a grumpy back is the morning stretches routine which has lots of happy baby in it and for later on in the day I am enjoying the Rodney Yee hip opening routines.


So all in all it has been a pretty good exercise week. I’m sure the physical and mental benefits will come. I feel positive about both the running plan and the Nike app plan. I am conscious though that I am not really moving much other than when I specifically do some exercise – working at home eliminates walking for the bus/ from the train etc. Anyway, some movement is better than none! I haven’t been taking pictures while out and about so you have all 4 of our cats, in age order, dotted throughout instead. Oh and we’re not talking about the scales, they’re refusing to budge.

I don’t remember the beginning

I have had several conversations (face to face or virtual) recently about starting running and about my running journey and about how the hell I got to be someone who can run several miles without walking and who isn’t scared of taking on distance. I hadn’t really realised I was no longer scared of distance. I noticed at Endure24 that I felt like I had a right to be there whereas at a 5k or 10k road race I’d feel like an impostor and I’d feel apologetic for my lack of speed. At some point on this journey I must have realised I can do distance – it may involve lots of walking and it will never be fast but I will get there.

But how did I get here? I can trot out advice about starting running that is sort of based on my experience but only sort of because to be honest, I don’t really remember. I remember starting (at various points in my life but particularly around January 2015) a fairly typical couch to 5k programme. I’ve never finished one. The last iteration I hated. I felt miserable before a run, during a run and mostly also after a run. I wanted to do it to get fitter and shift the substantial extra weight but I hated it. Instead of giving up I looked for something else. I tried Jeff Galloway’s method of run/walk. Somehow this really helped. I don’t know what my first intervals were – I want to say 30 seconds running, 30 seconds walking but from nothing that actually sounds like quite a lot of running. I think if you’re going from no running at all even 10 seconds and then walking the rest of the minute is great.

So why did this work for me? Less pressure I guess. There wasn’t this constant ‘next time you’ve got to run for longer’ feeling. It was always – ‘you’re going out for 30 minutes and doing your thing’. I soon found that I was running faster, walking faster and overall going further in the 30 minutes. At some point I must have upped the running and played with intervals but I don’t remember how incremental this was or what we did – some of this may of course be in the early blog posts (haven’t gone back to look – I’m interested in me not really remembering). I remember for quite a while working with 3 minute running and either 30 seconds or 1 minute walking but then beginning to struggle with that as the distances increased and settling on what became my favourite of 2 minutes running and 1 minute walking. It’s what I come back to now when I am struggling – whether mentally or physically.

More recently, and I think this is a strange and tentative new found running confidence, I have wanted to run more consistently without walk breaks. It’s not that I don’t like run/walk or think it’s cheating – it’s not and I’m often faster doing run/walk than running consistently – it’s just that it feels like that’s next in my journey. I also feel like I want to be less regimented. I do often still walk a bit even on shorter runs but I run more by feel now. I use landmarks to determine my intervals and somehow that feels more relaxed than being ruled by the beep of a watch.

So do I have advice for anyone starting out? Yeah I do – it’s bloody hard and you have to try and enjoy it and the way to enjoy it is to rid your head of unrealistic expectations. Running for 30 seconds or even 20 or 10 sounds like nothing but it isn’t nothing. It’s a very very big something. Go out for 30 minutes and take each minute as it comes. Depending on your level of general fitness try running 10 seconds, 20, 30 or even 40 and then walk the rest of the minute. If you can do that comfortably for each of the 30 minutes, try upping the running bit next time. See how you go. Don’t feel like you have to keep increasing the running portion. Settle in at an interval you like and go with that for a bit. Don’t get too competitive,enjoy being outside, learn to look around, learn to smile while you’re running, give yourself permission to stop to look at something interesting. It’s not about getting through it or getting to the end of your 30 minutes having covered as much distance as possible – it’s about learning to love running and doing it for you. The rest will follow if you want it to – but it’s taken me this long to figure out that maybe I don’t care if it doesn’t. I like stopping and watching a heron on the canal bank and I like it far more than seeing a fast time on my garmin at the end of my run.