At least I didn't leave it to the last week
May 4, 2010 6:12 PM   Subscribe

5k in 5 weeks for the physically unfit?

At the beginning of this year I got really motivated to get back in shape. I did the DailyBurn weight loss challenge (Came in ninth! Woo!). I started going back to the gym. I signed up for a 5k with ample time to complete the Couch to 5k program. Then I got very busy with school. Well, now the semester is winding down and I have five weeks until my 5k. My primary goal at this point is to able to run/jog without walking. Can anyone give any advice to ramp me up these next few weeks? Most plans I'm finding on google are all about increasing speed, or assume a basic level of running fitness.

More special snowflakeness: I'm still overweight but I'm fit enough to do most levels of cardio activity for long stretches. I'm 24, female, 5'3" with short legs and a naturally high heart rate. Running has always been difficult for me, even when I was skinny, in shape and 18. I'm willing to put a lot of effort into these next weeks. Diet, exercise, training with lions chasing me, you name it. Currently I can run about half a mile straight, but it kills me. On the other hand, I can ride my bike or hike for hours. Metafilter, train me! (please?)
posted by lizjohn to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Does music help you run? If you have any anxiety-related fitness issues (failing in front of people, etc.), it might be worth looking into.

The best way to get to 3 miles is, from what I've read, to set out to do 3 miles every day. Walk when you can't run, but make sure you reduce the walking gradually.

I would personally set out to do 4 miles, just so you show up at the race without the idea that you're going for your max distance.

5 weeks ought to be plenty, but you said you're busy with school. Can you run or at least get outside once a day?
posted by circular at 6:17 PM on May 4, 2010

I should mention that when I say "from what I've read," I don't mean "I have never gone 3 miles before." :)
posted by circular at 6:18 PM on May 4, 2010

Couch to 5k. It's a 9 week plan, but I imagine if you are dedicated enough, you could do it in 5. It worked for me.
posted by kjs3 at 6:29 PM on May 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

I was at about the same level of fitness about a year ago. I did the Couch to 5k, and it worked for me, though I did have to repeat a few weeks. I think the key thing, especially if you are struggling to complete half a mile, is to slow down. Make a conscious effort to run slowly - even if it feels weird or unnatural.

If you prefer not to follow the Couch-to-5k strictly, run-walking in general was really helpful in training - especially if you take breaks to walk before you necessarily need to and keep the breaks short (say, 1 minute to start).
posted by prex at 6:45 PM on May 4, 2010

I have the same problem running: high heart rate and I burn out really fast. prex is right: slow down. Slooooow waaaaay dooooown. The only way I can keep myself on the right pace is to wear a heart rate monitor and stay in my target zone. Which means running really, really slowly. Embarrassingly slowly. But, if I stick to my zone, I can run forever. Slowly.
posted by rebeccabeagle at 7:45 PM on May 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Since your goal is to avoid walking during the 5K, I second prex and rebeccabeagle. You may still be able to do it! I am overweight but have completed a 5K at least once without really training at all in the weeks beforehand.

However... it isn't necessarily a good idea, and it depends on your own body - one of the big issues with trying to train too quickly is that your joints may not adjust as quickly as your heart or your leg muscles. So even if your heart is fine, if you push yourself to run too far, you could hurt your ankle. Be careful, use good judgment, and be willing to stop workouts early if you feel like you can't handle it.
posted by tantivy at 7:51 PM on May 4, 2010

Do as much of Couch to 5k as you can. I don't think I'd finished the program when I jogged in my first 5k. I think I was up to about 2 miles a week before the race and the sales lady at my local running store said that most people who can do 2 on their own can manage 3 on a race day. I was surprised to find how much of a boost I got just from running around other people and knowing that the race was my chance to prove what I could do. YMMV. But I would advise agaist pushing yourself too hard in the upcoming weeks. Challenge yourself, but don't put unnecessary stress on your body.
posted by Terriniski at 8:45 PM on May 4, 2010

Pushing too hard too fast is a recipe for shin splints and muscle soreness/potentially serious joint and muscle injury. I would do as much of the Couch to 5K as you can (including rest days), and then see how it goes on race day - you are not a "failure" if you run/walk or run/jog (in fact, you may wind up with a faster time).

WRT the biking/hiking but not running for hours on end, there is a principle of exercise called the Specificity of Exercise Principle - it basically states that in order to get better/stronger at a particular activity, you need to do that activity - increases in functioning/endurance/strength for other activities won't necessarily carry over.
posted by purlgurly at 9:43 PM on May 4, 2010

One other thought - the generally accepted rule for increasing your mileage is no more than 10% each week.

In case I haven't been emphatic enough, please take rest days and be smart about your training. :) I had to go out with an injury last year when I had planned to run a half-marathon (because I got busy and fell behind with my training and then tried to play "catch-up") - it took *months* for my injury to heal, and I'm only now getting back into running. You do not want this to be you!
posted by purlgurly at 9:49 PM on May 4, 2010

You WILL complete the 5K, but you also probably WILL walk a little. That's a good thing. Set a realistic interval goal for yourself -- let's say you start week 1 of the C25K program now. In five weeks, the program will have you comfortably alternating 5 minutes of running with 3 minutes of walking. So revise your thinking and make your goal to stick to this interval during the race. The worst thing you could do as you take these first steps towards becoming more physically fit would be to overdo it and burn out.

Let's say that realistically you run a 12 minute mile right and walk a 15 minute mile. If you follow the 5/3/5/3/etc interval scheme, then you'll finish the race in less than 40 minutes, a totally respectable time for a first go. You won't give yourself shin splints or keel over from exhaustion, and you'll be able to walk the next day. These are all positive things.

Think of this race as a "midterm" in your C25K program. Sign up for another race now for the actual time when you will finish the entire program. Remember to keep both your long and short term goals in mind -- fitness is a progression of these small steps taken over the rest of your life.
posted by telegraph at 10:56 PM on May 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

What it comes down to is drive; how hard are you willing to huff and puff during your run?

Thats all.
posted by hal_c_on at 11:19 PM on May 4, 2010

I am nearing the end of my couch-to-5k program, and the biggest thing I've seen is that a lot of the distance barriers are mostly mental. The biggest difference from the first day to my last was my attitude (and willingness to run through cramps). Slow down, rest well on off days, and you can totally do it in 5 weeks.

And really, walking a little amount won't be the end of the world. Even a well-timed 30 second break can give you more than enough of a rest to finish the race.
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 6:50 AM on May 5, 2010

Well, the 5k was last Sunday and I did have to walk and run. I am proud of my initial stretch of over a mile straight, but the 103 weather was quite a killer. Slowing my run makes a huge difference. I am amazed how setting the treadmill down just a few tenths of a mile can equate to almost double the difference. Next step, heart rate monitor! Thanks everybody!
posted by lizjohn at 1:31 PM on June 8, 2010

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