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Last month (April 2019) I started a Couch-to-5K program (C25K), intending to prove to myself that despite my historic hate for running, I can actually do it and not die.
I’m pleased to report that, five-and-two-thirds weeks through, I have not died. In general, I’ve exceeded even my own expectations about running. By far the biggest factor in this exercise (pun intended) that has made the difference is a good sports bra.
With a heavier endowment than I would like, I’ve always found it difficult to do any kind of running or jogging—sometimes, even skiing becomes uncomfortable with the wrong sports bras. I’m hesitant to get sports bras online because I’m never sure they’ll fit right or be worth the hassle to return if they don’t. Plus, sports bras are hella expensive!
In any case, a sports bra was one of the pieces of running gear that constituted my Christmas present from FIL, and while it’s not a perfect sports bra, it’s made all the difference in my comfort while running.
Lessons I’ve Learned in the Past Month
- Running is easier to start when you’re already kind of in shape
- My breathing pattern while running came naturally
- Self-talk is just as influential as physical ability
- I like flat routes but hills are okay if I time them right
- Stretching is important
- Creative insulin management and rolls of Smarties can keep my blood sugar flat the entire time
- 20 oz of water is barely enough to keep me hydrated for a 30-minute outing
Let me unpack some of that.
Running is Easier When You’re Already in Shape
I’ve been doing 2-3 minutes of “exercise” in the morning since November 2018. Just a plank, some pushups, lunges, and squats. That helped get my body out of the sedentary and lazy mode—those first few days, my thighs were burning from the squats.
But it helped when I went skiing last season, which in turn helped me when I started rock climbing again. So I’ve been slowly becoming more and more active since late last year. Slowly increasing my level of activity helped take the shock out of starting to run.
I found the first couple of weeks of C25K surprisingly manageable. I’ve read Reddit threads where people have to repeat days because they just couldn’t complete them properly. So far I’ve not had that issue, and I think it’s partly because I’m not really starting from square one. Rock climbing, skiing, and walking around the nearby park primed me for the next stage of intensity—running.
I’ve heard that breathing is important while running. Mainly, keeping a consistent breathing pattern helps with endurance. I’m not sure how I would have fixed this if I didn’t do it naturally. It probably would have involved intentional breathing—thinking about it for every step.
My natural breathing pattern while running is two breaths in and two breaths out timed with each step. In-in, out-out. In-in, out-out.
I tend to breathe into my stomach anyway, but sometimes I have to consciously choose to breathe into my stomach instead of my chest (shoulders lifting instead of stomach going out). Into the stomach gives a deeper breath and lets me go for longer. Shallow (with the shoulders) makes me feel like I’m going to start hyperventilating at any given moment.
I use a specific breathing technique to help lower my heart rate, though it’s pretty difficult to do right after finishing a run.
Self-Talk & Hills
If you tell yourself you can’t run, you probably can’t. I spent the preceding months telling myself that I was going to run, and if I was going to run, that meant I couldn’t say that I don’t run.
Self-talk is probably just as influential (if not more so) than actual physical ability. There’s a small hill on my route that I usually hit right when I’m starting the last running segment. Starting running at the bottom of that hill is hard because at the top I’m breathing heavily and it’s not that great.
But if I tell myself “This is horrible, I wish I didn’t have to do this,” then the experience would become so much worse. I would feel pretty tempted to just quit running. I don’t know that I “like” running yet, but I’m careful to monitor my self-talk so that I don’t sabotage the commitment I made to do this program.
Self-talk is also what helps me push through those hard parts. On that hill, all I have to do is tell myself it’s just a few more steps to the top. Just a few more steps to the top. And what do you know? Eventually, it’s just a few more steps to the top! And after I reach the top, it gets easier, and I can go longer and farther than I maybe thought at the bottom of the hill.
Stretching is Important
This should be a no-brainer, but the first couple of weeks I just kind of forgot to stretch when I got back. This meant I woke up with tight muscles, and it was a little uncomfortable to walk. Then it clicked that I should probably stretch when I get back, and since then I haven’t had any problems.
Apparently, stretching after exercise helps to decrease the risk of injury. I know that after rock climbing, my forearms and fingers are super tight and it feels great to stretch them out. It’s no different then, with running.
Creative Insulin Management & Smarties
Besides the whole sports bra thing, another reason I haven’t tried a program like this before is because of my diabetes.
I’ve known for years that cardio causes my blood sugar to drop—sometimes sharply—and what’s more “cardio” than a C25K program?
So far I’ve only had a couple of instances when my blood sugar plummeted (for lack of a better word) towards the end of the run. Both times were because I had “active insulin” from being higher than preferred all day. I carry Smarties with me so I could somewhat arrest those drops.
The solution has been to entice my blood sugar up a bit about an hour before the run, turn my insulin off half an hour before the run, and let it ride. Usually, it falls a bit, but when the run is over it swings back up (sometimes higher than it had been).
Exercise + diabetes is weird. It’s all about guess and check, trial and error, and figuring out what works for my body. It’s also kind of interesting to know that rock climbing, running, hiking, walking, and skiing all affect my blood sugar a little differently.
Well, phase 2 is next—C25K is an 8-week program and I’m only about halfway through it. My intention is to keep going, sticking with Monday/Wednesday/Friday run days even through travel plans.
It’s a little hard to believe that I’m already halfway through. I’ve been thinking about this challenge since I first decided to do it back in August 2018. Thankfully, I made it easier on myself by getting into relative shape with walking and rock climbing first!
Here’s to the next month—I’ll be racing at the end of it!