"She's going for distance, she's going for speed..."
April 22, 2017 8:51 AM   Subscribe

I graduated from Couch to 5K yesterday. This is awesome! Now... how do I get to where I can actually run a 5K?

I've been doing Couch to 5K since January, and I've gone from the 60 second running intervals being a struggle to jogging a whole 30 minutes yesterday. This is fantastic and I'm super pleased with my progress.

However, I am short (5'3") and squat and have short legs, and am very slow, so I'm not actually running a 5K yet. Runkeeper says I did 2 miles in 43 minutes yesterday (which included the walking warm-up and cool down on each end of the 30 minute jog).

My question is, what's the best way to get to where I can run a 5K - trying to get faster (hoping that will also let me add distance) or trying to add distance (and not worrying about my speed right now?)

I have a race I'd like to run June 3, though if that's too soon of a reasonable goal, there's no lack of races around here in the summer. My only goal is to finish and jog the whole race - I do not care at all what my speed is. (There are people at my gym who walk faster than I jog; I am okay with this.)

Other possibly relevant information:

- I currently gym 3 days a week; in a couple weeks when the semester has ended and I'm on a summer school schedule, that will go up to 5 times a week. I tend to swim if I'm not jogging. I love Zumba but the schedules at my gym don't usually work for me. I am totally open to other activity suggestions that will increase how far I can run.

- I'm overweight (225 pounds) but my numbers are good and I have my doctor's blessing to run.

- I'm eating at about 50 net carbs a day right now, and may go down to 25 for awhile after the semester is over with and I can afford a few days of feeling like I hate everyone. But I feel pretty good at 50 and the weight continues to go down, just more slowly, so maybe not.

- I drink over 100 oz of water a day.

So in sum (rambling is an occupational hazard): do I work on faster first or adding distance first to get to the goal of running further, and for either answer, what are your recommendations for how to get there? Something I can plug into my ears that barks at me "run faster now... now slow down..." would be great. I had a friend recommend the 5K pack on Zombies Run, but other recommendations are good too.

posted by joycehealy to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Well, geez, I'm not a trainer or anything, but I got to losing 50lbs to running 3 miles straight and then all the way to a 19:xx 5k and during the whole thing I never gave a thought to running faster or doing intervals or anything but just keeping running; so I am kind of an anti-evangelist for that kind of stuff, and my answer would be distance. And the only thing in my ear is the dulcet tones of Will Patton reading me a book :)
posted by ftm at 9:00 AM on April 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

The answer is: you can run an entire 5k right now. Any general interest 5k will have a ton of people walking it and you will not be the last person over the finish line by any means.
posted by bq at 9:06 AM on April 22, 2017 [7 favorites]

Yeah, you can do it now. And now is the perfect season where you are. April/May and October make for the best races here. Pick one. You'll rock it. Nice work, btw.
posted by Stewriffic at 9:12 AM on April 22, 2017

You can do it now! You're good. When I graduated from Couch to 5k, I downloaded the 5k to 10k app and worked on my distance to train for a half-marathon.
posted by stoneandstar at 9:19 AM on April 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Well done! I've done the C25K several times in my running career. (I now run marathons, ftr. Watch out - it's addictive.)

You could totally run one now, but if that's too much of a mental leap, just keep doing what you're doing, and make one run a week your "long run". Add 2-3 minutes on every week until you get to 5K.
posted by gaspode at 9:20 AM on April 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

Add distance, no more than 10% per week to avoid injuries. Speed will come the more run, no need for anything fancy until you've been at this much longer.
posted by asphericalcow at 9:34 AM on April 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

I knew I left something out of the original post - I can currently walk a 5K (and way further) without issue, I just really want to jog the whole thing and right now, I'm pretty tapped out on jogging at the end of 30 minutes.

Okay, peaceing out again. :)
posted by joycehealy at 9:40 AM on April 22, 2017

It's been a long time since I did C25K, but I seem to recall that around Week 3 or 4 the program starts to give the option of measuring your intervals by time or distance, with the assumption of a 10 minute/mile pace (e.g. "Jog 1/2 mile (5 minutes)"). In your position I would go back to that week and repeat the training program using distance instead of time, so that by the end of the program this time you are actually jogging 5K. If you're not running on a track, RunKeeper should be able to beep at you for various distances.
posted by telegraph at 9:47 AM on April 22, 2017 [8 favorites]

Taking the 5K to 10K plan as a basis would likely be a good way to get your intervals up to where running a 5K is possible. It's been awhile since I've done it, but I have coached beginners in longer distance cycling. The numbers/intervals are different, but the theory is the same - build speed and endurance not by going out to your longest point every time, but by mixing longer and shorter intervals (and also mixing effort levels, making sure to have the recovery days built in there).

I was trying to make an educated guess about how fast your running pace is based on your ~45 minute/2 mile walk/run number. Maybe 12-15 minutes per mile? One thing to be aware of in a competitive 5K is that you may find yourself a bit in no-man's land - the competitive runners are running 5-8 minute miles depending on age and a lot of other factors, and the walkers are going 18-20+ minute miles. Not a problem per se, but as I wound up my 5K career (because I was always so damn slow and got into this pace, I found it a little unnerving sometimes when support vehicles and volunteers would start shadowing me; they'd focus on me because they saw me as a struggling runner, not a casual walker, and I couldn't seemtogetthemtogoawaydammit

Some possible solutions here:

- strangely enough, BIGGER events may be a better fit because you're less likely to wind up alone. Or recruit some friends to go with you. You mentioned you run about as fast as some people walk, so maybe look for events that are "race-walk" friendly if you can find them.

- wouldn't be wrong if you did some events on a run/walk basis (run some intervals that are consistent with where you are in the training plan) so that you're familiar with what all goes on at these events. They can be kind of a circus and adrenaline rush can take you out faster than you intended (and then leave you in a bit of a tired/cramped mode the rest of the way).

- be aware that progress isn't linear, and the rate of improvement invariably slows. Don't be put off by that, and don't try to power through bad weeks and risk injury. You didn't say if you're working on weight loss, but if you are, then you're building a machine that has a lot of power and the speed will come, especially as you lose, if you do some faster intervals.
posted by randomkeystrike at 10:10 AM on April 22, 2017

Distance first, speed later. The C25K guidelines say to run as slow as you possibly can during the program, and in my experience it helps. I've been trying to get my running mileage back up to where it used to be; at first I ran at my old speed and kept burning out at the one-mile mark. I slowed down and started around the middle of the C25K schedule, and I've made much more progress.

Races are usually super supportive environments, and everyone cheers everyone on no matter how fast or slow. The adrenaline often makes you run a little faster, too - my best mile time (by over a minute!) was at a race.

Also, check the elevation of the race course before you commit - you probably want something flattish for your first 5K. I once made the error of training on flat land for a super-hilly race and it was rather unpleasant.
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:06 AM on April 22, 2017

Parkrun? There's one in Durham, and there's likely to be the full range of times there. You can check out the latest results page to get an idea of the spread of times. Best of all, it's free!
posted by car01 at 12:15 PM on April 22, 2017

Are you only jogging on a treadmill? If so, get outside! Different routes are great motivation to go farther.
posted by galvanized unicorn at 1:34 PM on April 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

I used the 5k Pacer app for this purpose and liked it. I definitely found that I prefer working on speed to increasing distance but you might just want to try each strategy for a week (an app like this vs. something that's a 5k-to-10k plan) and decide which you like better.

For me, doing some sprint intervals (which the app above has as part of your plan, but you can also just do them on your own) really changed my perspective on how fast I was capable of going, which gave me a better sense of how to "ration" my speed over the course of 30 minutes, if that makes sense. Doing sprint+walk intervals might seem a little bit like going backward after working up to 30 minutes of running with Couch to 5K, but to me it was weirdly freeing to realize that it wasn't just "walk speed" or "jog speed," but varying degrees of running speeds to choose among.
posted by Owl of Athena at 3:47 PM on April 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm in a similar place as you and when I asked on Reddit (r/running is pretty nice!) they said distance for sure, but to build slow. Don't add more than 5-10% more distance per week. I had thought when I started that I'd end up with a 30-minute 5K since that's kind of what the program implies, but obviously that didn't happen for me either. If you think about it, 3 miles in half an hour is 6mph, and there's no way I can even flat-out run at that speed -- you're probably in the same position. I signed up for a 5K in September with some coworkers and I'm super psyched. Good luck with yours!
posted by possibilityleft at 3:53 PM on April 22, 2017

I'm currently doing a couch to 10km program and I'm not sure that I'll actually be covering 10km at the end of the program. At this point, I'm just going to roll with it and see what happens.

I'm my case, I'm aiming to do 12km fun run, so my plan was to continue adding distance until I reach my goal and then increase my speed. The only "speed work" I do at the moment is a 30 second sprint before the program's cool down starts (quote marks because I'm not convinced that one 30s sprint really counts as speed work!)

Good luck!
posted by eloeth-starr at 4:10 PM on April 22, 2017

I'm not actually running a 5K yet.

Then you really haven't "graduated" from C25K, because the last step is to lengthen 1 minute at a time until you're jogging 5K. That's really the last step, and you can just do that. You aren't done until you're done.
posted by Miko at 10:09 PM on April 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Congrats on completing C25K (I finished last week as well!)

I also am in the position of being able to run 30 minutes straight which makes me extremely happy, but am not hitting the 5k mark either.

Since your goal is actually distance and not speed, then you should focus on that. Add small increments of time weekly until you hit 5k.

You are already at 2 miles, you aren't far off your goal at all.

After you are comfortable running 5k, you can work on your speed.
posted by Julnyes at 8:04 AM on April 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

In the question of speed versus distance, can you do a shorter run (let's say 100-200 meters) at a dash considerably faster than your current long pace? If so, then the reason you can't keep up that pace is the lack of cardio.

There's three ways to increase distance for cardio. 1) Start doing a long run once per week. This run will be between 1.5-3x your normal daily runs. It shouldn't be more than 50% of your total weekly mileage. 2) Start increasing your normal daily distance. 3) Start running more days per week.

For all three methods of increasing distance, look to increase distance no more than 10% of your previous distance. Similarly, every 4-6 weeks have a cut-back week which is bwtween 40-70% of your previous week's distance (on the next week, aim to match the 10% rule against the previous non-cutback week).

Repeating what you should already know; during the above runs, it should not be difficult to speak a short sentence. I give you permission to talk to yourself. Another way to consider is how much you're breathing. You should not have any problem getting in air, and an inhale should take 2-3 foot steps, and exhale also 2-3 foot steps. I.E. a full inhale, exhale cycle should not be less than four foot steps. If you're needing to breath more than that, or at any time feel out of breath, SLOW DOWN.

A tiny, tiny bit of speed/neruomuscular work should also be safe to add. Once per week on a non-long run try some strides. You can search, but essentially slowly over 5-10 seconds work up to about 95% effort of as fast as you can run for about 10 seconds. Then over 5-10 seconds slowly slow down. Walk, or a *very* easy jog, until you feel fully recovered (likely 30-120 seconds). Repeat that 6-10 times. Do this at the end of your workout so your muscles are definitely warm. Don't do this if your legs had any twinges, or aren't feeling great that day - anytime that you exert yourself hard you increase your chance of injury).

A small thing to work on with your running form, is how many times per second are your feet hitting the ground? If you're doing a slow jog, it might be as low as 140-160 times per second. Aim to increase your leg turnover to 180 times per second. At first, you'll do this by taking smaller steps so you can keep a high cadence, but as you strengthen you'll be able to lengthen your stride (do this by pushing further back; your leg should be landing under your center of mass; *not* in front of your center of mass). There's lots of free metronome apps on android; some of which are also add free.
posted by nobeagle at 9:15 AM on April 24, 2017 [2 favorites]

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