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  • Suzanna Kempner

Couch to 5k

I. Do. Not. Run. I do not. I can brisk-walk my way through an entire day on the flat, downhill, uphill, in heels - walk I can do. But I do NOT run. I used to be able to run (16th in the South East Under-11s Cross Country Championship, yeah, that’s right, touch me) but it’s been 2 decades and I have resigned myself to being unable to run.

In 2010 I graduated from drama school and went from 7+ hours of full-on exercise a week to a hefty zero. 5 years on I knew it was time to get off my arse and do something. And I’m doing it! I’m doing the NHS Couch to 5k. It’s a podcast which builds you up from a non-runner to someone who can run 5k (about half an hour of continuous running) in 2 months. And if I can do it ANYONE can. “Oh that’s easy for you to say, Sooz - you’re already thin!”. That’s what I mean! If I can, anyone can. I have NO incentive to exercise beyond being fitter and YAWN, what a borefest health is.

So I got my nifty Asics trainers, my 90s-tastic Adidas trousers and an ex’s t-shirt chopped up to be like something a cool girl would wear and left the house, headphones a-blasting. And yes, I'm aware that my iPod in my pocket looks like I have a man's penis. Har har har har har etc.

Here’s what Couch to 5k entails: the podcast is about half an hour and Laura, your earnest personal trainer tells you when to walk and when to run while music plays. That’s literally it!

Week 1 - Day 1: The sun was out and at 11am I set out with my iPod Classic in my pocket (it only plays through one headphone but that’s OK). You run for 60 seconds at a time and then have a 90 second brisk-walk recovery. This is repeated 8 times. I stuck to a 0.3 mile circuit that goes past my house and is super-residential and ended up doing 7 loops. I got a sweat on and my lower-legs were hurting a bit and I was quite breathless by the end but it was totally doable. I CAN run! For one minute at a time. One of the things that puts me off exercise is the searing pain you get for the days following a first workout and having to do more working out while feeling like that. Good news! The day after my first Couch to 5k run I felt an encouraging ache in my thighs and arse and couldn’t wait to get further into the program because maybe this running lark would even TONE me.

Day 2: I decided to be more adventurous with my route. I’d run/walk up the long road that runs through the estate my house is on and turn round after the 4th of the 8 runs. I found it totally doable. I can’t say it was actually fun but the way it was doable felt fun…if that makes sense. And 30 minutes is a cinch. I got home and looked to see how much ground I covered - 2.4miles. That’s less than a mile off 5k so I think I’ll be able to run a 5k in 2 months, all sweaty and slow and mucusy. What's with the mucus your face produces when you run? I disgust me.

Day 3: Decided to gun it a bit today. It’s my last run of the Week 1 program and I wanted to see what happen if I pushed my luck. I’ll tell you what happened: I got a damn stitch. I remember those from school. It was no biggie (walk with your arms up to get rid of a stitch according to Mrs Wheeler at Oakwood School in the 90s) and I’m looking forward to week 2 of Couch to 5k. Next week I graduate to 90 second runs. If all goes well I might even treat myself to a new pair of ridiculous running trousers.

Laura thinks I'm doing really well too, she keeps telling me so, the legend.

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