Monday, 31 October 2011

How I started running (C25K)?

If anyone is thinking about starting running or is interested in how I started running, then this is how I did it in terms of the programme and equipment/clothing used.

I followed the Couch 2 5K (C25K) training programme over 9 weeks (schedule here) and downloaded the 9 Robert Ullrey podcasts (1 for each week of the schedule) from here.  I then transferred them all to my music player that I would be taking on the sessions.  Then you just start the podcasts in the correct order e.g. Week 1 for the first week of the schedule and then simply follow Robert's instructions  which follow the C25K schedule.  It couldn't be simpler and the podcasts provide tips, encouragement and music to help you along each session.

In terms of footwear, to start me off, I bought some basic Nike running shoes at Brantano's but, if you think you are going to stick with it, then I recommend getting some decent running shoes at the very start as the basic Nike shoes gave me blisters.  I still completed C25K with them but as soon as I moved on to better shoes (Asics Cumulus 12) designed for running and my type of feet (you can find out what type you are here, in my case I am more or less neutral footed) then the Blisters went away extremely quickly and running became easier on my feet.  

Even after a further 350 miles of running so far in the Asics shoes I still have not had any blisters or aches/pains in my feet (after the initial break in period which lasted about a week).  They are starting to wear out now and I'm already thinking about their replacements but, I'm still not getting any blisters so that is a testament to their quality and its why they should be the first purchase of anyone who is serious about wanting to run!

For other clothing, I bought a cheap pair of running shorts and a base layer t-shirt made of wicking fabric which helps to keep water away from the body. After a few more months I purchased some running socks which further helped to keep my feet protected, comfy and blister free.  As I moved into Winter I expanded my running gear by purchasing a long sleeve base layer top, some jogging trousers and for Xmas I was also given a reflective running jacket for those cold/freezing, dark and wet/snow runs.  

Again, its a relatively cheap sport as I still regularly use both the shorts, base layers and socks that I bought early on and as Winter approaches I will be getting out and wearing the jacket.  Like anyone, I have started to refine my running clothing collection as I now require smaller and tighter fitting clothes following my weight loss and the need to reduce other potential running issues such as chafing on the longer runs.  I'm still trying to build up confidence to buy some running tights though...

In terms of equipment, you don't really need anything other than a watch to follow the schedule, but listening to the excellent podcasts on my music player really helped me and it was also fun to track my workouts through the use of the Nike+ app and external sensor (containing a small accelerometer) on my Ipod Touch.  Following each workout, I could then upload my workout data to the Nike+ website which I did from 11 Aug 2010 until 04 Mar 2011 from where I could track my progress.  Other than that, I didn't buy any other equipment such as Water Bottles until I was running for more 30 minutes and in warmer climates.

My top tip if your struggling, is to slow your pace right down, just focus on controlling your breathing (especially if your asthmatic like me), work on the technique that best works for you and do what Richard says.  Then slowly but surely you will move through the schedule (cross off workouts as you go), then before you know; you will start believing that you can complete the programme and you will start to transform into a runner.

I quickly discovered that the Nike+ sensor could only really be used as a guide which is great to begin with but it was not very accurate in terms of tracking your pace/distance, and the data that you could view on the Nike+ website was limited although I do miss the video's from 'athletes' that showed when you reached a particular milestone or had a good run and the community that you could join.

I updated my phone in Mar 2011 so I took the opportunity to move to a GPS based running app  (free) which would be a lot more accurate in tracking my running and could provide me with a lot more useful data.  I was unable to carry on using Nike+ which is tied to Apple devices as I sold my Ipod Touch which didn't have GPS and moved to an Android based GPS phone.

At first I tried RunKeeper and then Adidas Micoach but I eventually settled on the free version of Endomondo which provided the best features, was well supported and was the app that I found most reliable e.g. it rarely lost data, the GPS locked on quickly at the start of runs, it accurately tracked my runs and it was easy to upload my workout to allow me to track and analyse my workout data on-line.  After a few months, I paid a couple of £ to support the developers and to unlock the pro version with additional features on the app and the website.  
As an example of this content, refer to the data I posted in my City of Salisbury Half Marathon Race Report.  This might sound like a lot of faff, but once its all set up its easy and there's nothing like some statistics to help you track your performance, help with your motivation and allow you to see how your running pace/distance develops over the course of your workouts as part of the C25K programme and beyond.  Here is how my running has developed since using Endomondo:

Click to enlarge
Back to the C25K schedule; if you just take it easy, steady and slow, follow the podcasts and the C25K running schedule, then after 9 weeks, you will be running for 30 minutes, 3 times a week and by this point (probably a lot sooner) you will already have a good idea as to whether this running lark is for you and will have started to decided whether you want to maintain this distance or like me move on to the next running programme e.g. the One Hour Runner (OHR) for another challenge.  It's only a shame that Robert Ullrey didn't make any more podcasts as that would have made subsequent running programmes a lot more fun and easier.

So there you go, that's a quick round up of what training schedule I used to start running and the clothing/equipment I acquired in the first few months to get me started.  If you have any questions, please feel free to ask. 

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