Couch to 5K — I’m running again

I started out enthusiastically running in sub-zero temperatures. I was making tangible progress in a short time. Unfortunately, it didn’t take very long to become sidelined with an injury. I got shin-splints. No matter what I did, they did not heal. Walking down the street became very painful for me, especially when there was any sort of incline.

I took nearly a year to heal. I thought I was in the free and clear and began to run again, only to be sidelined again. I spoke to a friend of mine about this because I was becoming very discouraged. He gave me a foot massage and noticed that he never felt such tight calves. Indeed, not only were they tight, but they had extremely tender parts so sore, that I screamed when he touched them.

I was perplexed by this since I had let so much time go by in order to let them heal. In between the various times of trying to reengage running, I took up biking. Biking is a good cross training sport for running where it works my cardio and to builds up my leg strength. Secretly though, I was crushed and began to believe that I might never be able to run at all.

More time went by. I went through extensive physical therapy for problems with my lower back, hip area that had plagued me since pregnancy. (I’m sure a c-section didn’t help either.) The back pain in itself was another source of pain which I had continuously for more than 5 years. It really effected my sleep schedule as well as my ability to walk and stand for long periods of times. The pain made me feel cautious about performing certain types of exercise.

I decided to go to physical therapy, for the second time. The first time I went to therapy for this, the therapist was unable to solve my problems. This time was different.

My therapist discovered that I had a lot of scar tissue from muscle imbalances and strain. Who knows what initially caused that. All I know was that it wasn’t going to go away by itself, or simply with strengthening exercises.

My physical therapy consisted of a lot of Myfascial massage to break down the scar tissue and return hip mobility to me, followed by some strength training once the tissue was broken down and supple. (I also learned at this time that I had a few herniated disks in my back. I don’t know if the two were related.)

Just as the physical therapy ended, and I was looking forward to training again, I became really busy at work. I spent multiple days in three hour meetings an d the subsequent days catching up on work. I simply could no longer take time out to go to the gym. I was not able to resume a good exercise routine again for more than a year.

When I began exercising again, I was 20 pounds lighter. I was thinner, but also weak. Since I had a little extra money from my tax return, I hired a personal trainer to kick start my training. He taught me all about CrossFit which is simply a lot of calisthenics done intensely in rapid succession. You can get a highly effective workout in only 20 minutes. I became much more toned and strong in a very short period of time. EVERYONE noticed results within a few short weeks. I was very proud of my accomplishment because frankly, that trainer kicked my butt. I earned it. I needed to pat myself on the back for that.

I struggled with trying to incorporate running into my CrossFit and everything else. I wanted to do CrossFit every other day, yet I also wanted to run. For over a month, I ended up doing my CrossFit at home, which is easy enough to do since most of the exercises require no equipment.

For running, I picked up an iPhone App at the Apple webstore called Couch Potato to 5K. It’s great because I don’t have to think. I simply run and the program talks to me and tells me when to run, and when to walk. It even allows me to incorporate my playlists into the audio.

Since I started most of my runs on the treadmill, it was only later when I decided to take my runs off the treadmill and outside, that I noticed that it lacked GPS tracking and a pacer. Both would be useful.

I wake up very early on most days. When I fit it in before work, it frees me up to do CrossFit at lunch, run errands, or meet a friend. (Or in the case of yesterday, work through the whole day none stop dealing with a crisis).

I struggled with the first few outdoor runs because I wasn’t used to dealing with the outdoor temperatures (HOT), or having to manage my pacing. I have since taken an approach of running really slowly. Speed is not that important. Right now, my focus is building up my cardio in order to run without stopping for a sustained amount of time. I’m not quite there yet, but I’ve been averaging almost 2 miles with a combination of walk/run in 20 minutes. (Plus a 5 minute warmup and cooldown.) Yes, slow indeed. But with the problems I have had with my shins, it’s a good to be cautious and to take it slow.

When I run, I think about my form. I have read this is less important in the beginning. I have fears that the shin-splints may have been caused, by poor form and an overly aggressive training in too short of time. I really wish I had an experienced runner look at my stride and tell me what I could improve, if nothing more than to improve my efficiency, and stave off injury. I haven’t had the time to make those connections so I’m on my own for now. I just have to do my best with looking at YouTube videos and thinking about what makes sense to me.

I continue to pay attention to those tender spots I used to feel on my shins and am careful about adequate stretching and rest.

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. My running journey has begun again. Hopefully, I can post about completing my first 5K race.

A SIDE NOTE: Don’t ever judge a book by its cover. You may have seen me exercising, or walking around with my kid, or standing on the train. Just because I appear fit and trim doesn’t mean I wasn’t in pain. I can’t tell you how many times I was standing on the train where I really needed someone to give me a seat because of the pain of my back. You don’t have to look old and frail to have an issue! That’s why I carry a backpack now, no matter how ugly it may look with my clothes. I simply need good ergonomics.