Dapeng Li

Hungry, foolish and passionate – yet another software developer.

Running: From Couch to 5K


This post is about running – about how I changed from a couch/chair potato to a C25K graduate. I’ve just started running but think it’s a good time to write down how I got here.

Goal – why I wanted to run

I had cold almost every year. Although being a non-smoker and sober human being, I’m not that healthy – back, neck, lung problems annoy me sometimes. Recently I was reading the book The Power of Full Engagement, and suddenly I realized I’m progressively losing my physical capacity. I want to be more healthy, I need to renew and rebuild.

I love soccer, someone said soccer game is played by 22 players who badly need rest while watched by tens of thousands of people who badly need exercise. I play soccer too, but was always the one who can’t catch breath after half-time. I want to enjoy the game, I need stamina.

Last but not least, I have a goal – a number to run in my mind and I’m not there yet. When I’m there, I’ll reward myself with something I had been longing for. I want to live that moment, I need to start now.

Strategy – plan & preparations

What you really need for running is just apparel and moving your footsteps, however, there’s a lot more you can do to make running enjoyable.

Beginner’s start: C25K

As a beginner, you want but cannot change from a couch potato to a 5K runner overnight, you need a plan which moves you forward with sustainable pace. Luckily, there are some programs out there just for this purpose. The one I adopted is C25K (Couch to 5K), the goal of the program is to help you achieve non-stop running for 30 minutes or 5 kilometers in 9 weeks, for each week you run 3 times, each time the workout is 30-40 minutes long. At the beginning it’s basically walking for xx minutes and running for yy minutes, with your progress, the walking time will be decreased and running time increased.

Terrain: Road, Track, or Treadmill?

All should be fine. I prefer running outside so I just run on the road near my apartment, it’s about 700-800 meters/lap.

Shoes: more important than you thought!

People walk differently, so as how they run. Depends on how much your feet roll when landed on the ground, there are basically three pronation types – normal pronation, underpronation and overpronation (see image below, from Runner’s World Wiki). Here’s a good explanation on pronation from Runner’s World website. What you should know is: you need a particular type of running shoes for your pronation type. This is important, because running with the wrong types of shoes can lead to injury, which arguably is the biggest frustration for runners. If possible, you should consult a professional running store to determine the best shoes for you. I didn’t have the chance to visit a professional store, I did my research and chose Mizuno Wave Creation 11 (picture below) and I’m feeling OK with it so far.

PronationMizuno Wave Creation 11

Apparels: cotton isn’t king

Cotton apparels are not the best choice for running. They’re comfortable when you’re dry, but will cling to your body after you sweat. Much better choices are choosing the ones with “moisture transport” technologies like Nike FIT series or Adidas CLIMA series.

The following are not essential, but worked very well for me:

The iPhone pack: C25K app, armband, headphone, and music

There are applications on iPhone/iPod Touch for running, some of them track the distance/time/route of your runs, some build social network for runners, some provide audio guides when you’re running in programs like C25K. I used Nike+ GPS which falls into the 1st and 2nd categories and Get Running which is a dedicated C25K app.

Nike GPSGet Running

I used a Belkin iPhone armband to attach the iPhone on my arm. It’s not convenient nor comfort to have that piece of metal/glass in your pocket.

I used a Sennheiser sports headphone when running. It’s designed for runners, so it won’t move around when you’re running, and kind of water-proof.

The following are really not essential (when you have all the above), but they worked equally well for me:

I went further down the “feeling like a pro” or I-suck-but-the-gears-had-to-be-great tunnel and purchased a Garmin running watch, which also comes with a chest band. When running with the band wrapped around your chest, you can read your heart rate instantly from your Garmin watch.

Implementation – how it works for me

On a normal and beautiful summer evening, I arm myself with the gears above (running tee, shorts, shoes, armband, iPhone, chest band, watch and earphone – it’s not easy, but you’ll know if you missed anything…) and go downstairs for my run (let’s say it’s the 7th week of C25K). I switch the Garmin watch to training mode, so it will recognize my chest band and start looking for GPS signals, then I start the Nike+ GPS app, Get Running app and music playback. Following the Get Running app, I start the workout with a 5-minute brisk walk, after that the app notifies me I should run now for 10 minutes, then a 3-minute walk and another 10-minute run. During the run I frequently check my heart rate to make sure I’m in the zone – which means between 140 to 180 bpm if I had a good rest the day before. After the running, Get Running will prompt me for a 5-minute cool down walk and stretch. At the same time, Nike+ GPS was tracking my running distance/time/speed, and will log the run in my history, better yet, you’ll hear encouraging voices from athletes after finish. I remembered my first run with it, after which I was exhausted, but then I heard “Hi, this is Lance Armstrong. Congratulations, that was your longest workout yet.”, it made my day.

Besides the workout three times a week, I recently played soccer on Wednesdays as cross training.

Review – lessons learned

  • I recommend reading a book on running before your start, here’s a good book on running.
  • Before started C25K, I walked and slightly run for about 2 weeks, 3 times/week to prepare myself for the program.
  • Some running weeks are pretty challenging, for me they are the 3rd and 4th weeks. If you feel the running assignment too demanding, you can always repeat the running assignments of last week. It’s a 9-week running program, but you can tailor it to suit your situations, and take your time.
  • Stick to the schedule, even when you feel a little tired – on some day you just don’t want to move, however, once you started running, you’ll feel much better. Well, it doesn’t mean you have to grind no matter what, you have to make your judgment call, especially when you’re sick.
  • When sick, consider applying the “neck rule: symptoms below the neck (chest cold, bronchial infection, body ache) require time off, while symptoms above the neck (runny nose, stuffiness, sneezing) don’t pose a risk to runners continuing workouts.
  • Morning runner vs. Night runner: I personally feel morning runs draining, perhaps because metabolism of my body kicks start too slowly in the morning, anyway, most of my runs so far are between 20:00 and 22:00.
  • You’ll need momentum: try announcing your C25K plan to your friends. Apps can help as well: Nike’s running site has some challenges you can take part in (I’m in the “211 miles in 2011” challenge), it also has a ‘level’ system, which uses different colors to reflect the total distance you had run (I’m into 140km, the color is orange, when I finished 250km, I’ll be green).

Nike Running

Another sprint – what’s next

A general suggestion for new runners like me is to build mileage base without rushing too progressively. So currently my plan is to keep the 30-min/3 times/week run for the next couple of weeks.

Jeff Galloway is an Olympian and running coach, he is a big advocate of run/walk/run system, there are 5K and 10K apps licensed by him, I’m considering trying them out.

Bridge to 10K is an app designed for C25K graduates, it takes you 6 week to reach 10K. Yeah, sounds good.

OK, that’s my story of running, so far. I’m looking forward to reach my first 10K this year. If you have any stories about running, share them. Enjoy.Smile

Written by Dapeng

June 29th, 2011 at 9:24 pm

Posted in Running