Monday, November 15, 2010

Couch to 5k

Thanks to a great tip from a friend (and bridesmaid!) I'm starting the Couch to 5k program. For those unfamiliar, it's a series of escalating walk/jog routines designed to have you running 3 miles (5k) in about two months. I've been walking a lot lately and trying to incorporate jogging into it, but frankly I'm just not disciplined enough to make my own routine as I go along and stick with it. So last week I did the first session.

Turns out I suffer from the same delusional arrogance that probably afflicts many people who've been practicing the 'couch' portion for the better part of the last decade. Until I moved to New York, I was playing tennis with some regularity and occasionally getting into the gym (free at my old job) but I can't claim that exertion, or any effort lasting beyond a few seconds at a time, was ever my strong suit. And for the last 4 years I have increased my daily walking thanks to NYC commuting, but otherwise, I've just been honing my couch/channel surfing/snacking skills. Still, I stupidly thought that not only would the first week be a breeze, but I imagined myself flying through it and getting to the goal weeks ahead of schedule.


The first week is three sessions of running (jogging) for 60 seconds followed by 90 seconds of walking, for 20 minutes total. (You can measure by distance or time.) This sounds like child's play, right? So I walked a few blocks away (brisk 5 minute warm up and cool down are part of the plan, too) to a fenced empty lot in a quiet part of the neighborhood circled by sidewalk I could use as my track. It's just an overgrown patch of gravel and dirt but it’s in a quiet area. Wouldn't want any pesky scenery distracting me from my goal!

I did the 1st Run for 60 seconds, using my BlackBerry's stopwatch feature, without any problems, although the last few breaths felt a little wheezy. Still, I felt fully recovered by the end of the walking portion.

2nd Run- a little tougher. Starting to find this ugly loop monotonous already. I'm in the Hasidic part of South Williamsburg now and the only people sharing this stretch of sidewalk with me are a few men in shtreimels and the occasional kid, so it's a good spot to run despite it's lack of visual appeal- they don't raise any eyebrows at my ugly sweats. Unlike my last walk/run over the Williamsburg Bridge, during which at least 3 B-burg girls gave me full up-and-downs while I huffed and puffed down Broadway. Yes, I exercise in H&M leggings and baggy sweatshirts (or the equally fetching combo of Michael’s sweat pants and a Lady Gaga t-shirt). If I, like you, skinny hipster chicks, were on a leisurely stroll to brunch at Egg I would indeed be dressed differently. Sheesh.

3rd Run- yikes. I've been counting in my head just to distract myself, first to 50, then to 30, but now I'm down to 1 through twelve. On this run I have to dodge a hideous part roach, part cricket, part bumblebee thing that crawled onto the sidewalk. Yuck. This time I'm panting before I'm halfway through. The 90 second walk isn't enough for me to catch my breath either and stretches to 2 minutes.

4th Run is torture. My counting is down to 1-2-3. I guess physical exhaustion has become mental as well. I encounter the creepy pinky finger-sized roach/bee again. He hasn't moved since I last saw him but scuttles a few inches when I approach, then rests. Perhaps he's on a Nest to 5k program?

Nevermind him. I'm dying. I make it the full minute, panting the whole time, and realize I might not make it the whole 20 minutes. The program said not to push yourself too hard in the beginning but I hate to be a quitter. I give myself an extra 45 seconds of walking before I start Run 5, but I still don’t make it to the end. The only plus side of quitting is that I won’t have to see the insect beast again, but otherwise I feel pretty defeated. I check my watch and realize that I still somehow made it almost 15 minutes, so I shouldn’t beat myself up, but wow. I don’t live in the best part of town, but the walk from the subway to my apartment is short and I always figured that if I was close to my house, I’d at least have a shot at outrunning an attacker. Now it’s clear that a toddler with a butter knife could take me down in less than half a block. This is not a comforting realization.

I stumble home and lay down for half an hour, fighting nausea. At least Day 1 is over. It’s a 9 week program, at three days a week, so- 26 to go!


  1. This needs to be saved for all posterity. You are hilarious.

  2. A toddler with a butter knife... now THAT'S writing straight from the heart. You inspire me in so many ways. <3