The Pulse
3:03 pm
Fri November 1, 2013

My First 5K

I'd like to share a personal experience, about getting back into an exercise routine after giving birth this past July. In a word, it's been tough.

Add to that recovering from an unexpected C-section, less time to myself, and no budget for a gym membership, and I've got some pretty good reasons to procrastinate. But there are many more reasons to exercise than not to exercise, and we seem to hear about more by the day. Check out some great reasons here.

So I decided to start something. And this weekend I'm running my first 5K. The baby weight is far from gone and may never be entirely, but I am feeling stronger since I started exercising again. And perhaps the strategies I've been using can help someone else. If you've got tips or words of encouragement for others, please share them in comments.

So, I've been using an app on my smart phone to train for a 5K. I'm not endorsing any products here, but I'll say it's been really helpful for me. It's called Couch-to-5K and it's free, but there are other apps out there, as well. And you don't need an app to try this. But here's what's been helpful:

  • Have a goal: The training lasts nine weeks and the app includes a button that lets you look up 5Ks happening in your area in the next several weeks. About six weeks into my training I registered for one, and I find having a goal has really helped keep me motivated.
  • Ramp up: The training starts you off slowly, combining walking and jogging in varying intervals for several weeks until, toward the end of the nine week training, you're running nearly the full 3.1 miles (or 5K). I liked being able to ease into a routine without injuring myself.
  • Multi-task: This particular app lets you listen to whatever music or podcasts you like in the background, so I use the 30 minutes I run/walk to catch up on shows I love (like This American Life and others you can hear on this very station). I also happen to have a giant dog who loves to run, so I often take him with me, getting us both out for some exercise at the same time.
  • Acknowledge your progress: This app shows me how far I've run since I started the program, and features a graphic of a bar that fills up as the weeks progress. It seems silly, but filling up that bar, getting it to the nine-week marker, has helped motivate me.
  • Take in the beauty: If you have the opportunity to exercise outside, whatever kind of exercise that might be, I recommend doing it in a beautiful or interesting place. It doesn't have to be the bucolic countryside, but the route I run on rural roads is always gorgeous, changing with the seasons. I notice something new each time. And watching for wildlife distracts me from aches and pains.

What to do when it's too dark to run, or I'm tired after a long day, or no one else is home to watch baby while I exercise, or I just can't seem to find the time between working, caring for family, keeping up with chores, etc.? I don't know. I'm still playing it by ear. The other night I got home too late, and it was too dark to run on the roads, so I ran around our yard with a head lamp strapped to my forehead. A bit kooky, perhaps. But I got a run in.

Just thought I'd share a bit about my journey and reach out to anyone who needs a little encouragement or can offer some encouragement in return. With all the news about Obamacare and health insurance, perhaps it's helpful to remember that health isn't solely in the hands of your provider or insurer, but in our own hands, too.

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