After not really doing anything active and having a stressful job, Nick Sermon decided to take on Couch to 5K. Since smashing it and numerous marathons, he encourages us all to give it a go.
It’s been some time since I wrote my last article, but during this time I have been impressed by so many teachers deciding to take up running.
So, I decided it was time I shared my story! I like many people would sit and watch the London Marathon and think “I can’t do that”.
However, seven years ago a number of factors started to push me into thinking it was time I needed to do something.
My son was becoming far more active and my job, at the time was particularly stressful and I had also just been diagnosed with a heart condition.
So many aspects of my life had been flung to the forefront of my mind.
So, I said one day to my wife “I am going to start running”. She laughed as the hobbies have been endless during the many years we have been together.
So to prove her wrong, I diligently downloaded the Couch to 5k app and over the next few weeks I followed it religiously. I found that I could now run a 5k and over time it became easier. Now I was confident with this distance I extended it to 10k and for 2 years I would run on my own.
The day finally came that I decided to run a 10k race in the local town. Many thoughts were rushing through my head. Mainly what would happen if I would come last in the race, however I was some way from that as I came across the line in a very credible 51 minutes.
Many more races were to follow, my times improved and I would regularly train during the week. A year past and I returned to the same race but this time I crossed the line in 44 minutes putting me in the top 100!
So now grander targets were conceived and I signed up for Brighton Marathon.
Training for a marathon was all consuming and nothing that I could have imagined. However, the time on the road was an incredible outlet for the stresses of the profession. A long run would allow me much head space and time to think.
The day came and the marathon was an amazing experience. The people of Brighton were fantastic and unbelievably, I crossed the line in 4hrs and 2mins! From starting Couch to 5k only a few years earlier I was overjoyed.
I still wanted more! The big one was in my sights ‘The London Marathon’ and I searched for a charity to support. Being dyslexic, I started to see what options I had. The opportunity for supporting the British Dyslexic Association came up and fast forward a few months I was stood in London with thousands of other runners.
You cannot articulate the experience of that event and it will be with me forever more. I was so proud of the achievement and the money that was raised for the BDA. This started a relationship that I still have with them to this day.
Fast forward to today, I am now privileged to be part of a local running group and to be guided by two amazing coaches. They have supported me to refine my technique and get more out of my running.
So, when writing this article, I asked Sam what advice she might give someone starting (Sam is a published author and running guru. What her husband and herself don’t know about running is not worth knowing!).
So here’s Sam’s bit – @SamMurphyRuns
According to Sam Murphy, co-founder of Running Forever, an East Sussex-based company that offers running coaching, workshops and retreats, a morning run is the perfect way to set you up for your working day. ‘A study in the Journal of Social Behaviour and Personality found that just a 1.5- mile run increased creativity, while researchers at the National Taiwan Sport University found that 30 minutes of moderate exercise optimised mental performance immediately afterwards.’
It can also help you draw a line under a stressful day, ‘Running distracts the brain from work matters, which can help put things in perspective and give you a fresh outlook,’ Sam explains. Green environments, such as a tree-lined park, are the best choice for easing stress – studies show that our levels of cortisol, the ‘stress’ hormone, are lower here compared to urban settings.
Here are Running Forever’s four golden rules for new runners.
- Run slower than you think you can
The way to become a runner isn’t to go as fast as you can for as long as you can before collapsing in an exhausted heap. The key is finding a pace that, for you, feels comfortable and achievable and most importantly, sustainable for a meaningful period of time. We call this ‘conversation’ pace – a pace at which you could chat to a friend. If you can barely utter a couple of words to your jogging buddy, you’re working too hard. If you can yak non-stop, you are taking it a bit too easy. A good guideline is that you should be getting warm and slightly breathless. Gratifyingly, you’ll find that you will be able to increase your pace without increasing your effort level as your body adapts to the challenge of running.
- Walk as much as you need to
So you’ve nailed the conversation pace thing. The only trouble is, you can’t keep it up for very long at first. No problem. Run as much as you can, then walk as much as you need to while you recover and get your breath back. Then repeat, repeat, repeat.
We promise you’ll find that as the weeks progress, you will be able to run for a little longer each time, and that the length of the walking breaks will diminish. We’ve found over the years that this is the best way for beginners to ease themselves into running – and many have progressed within a matter of weeks to completing a 5k race.
Please do not see walking as a failure, or as a poor substitute for running. It’s far smarter to intersperse walking and running bouts from the outset of a session than to stick doggedly to running but have to cut your workout short.
- Do not run every day
Running every day is not necessary – indeed, when you’re starting out, it’s better not to. Take a day off between each running session – that way, you’re keeping the consistency without overdoing things. You don’t have to do nothing on the ‘off’ days, though – you could do a different form of exercise, but stick to something low-impact, like strength training (great for helping you steer clear of injuries), or non-impact, like swimming, to give your joints a break and allow them to adjust to the forces of running.
- Take baby steps
Don’t try to progress too quickly – a sharp increase in mileage is a prime cause of running injuries. You may have already achieved a good level of fitness from a different type of aerobic activity, like cycling or swimming, but you need to allow your body time to adapt to the unique demands of running – in particular, the impact on your muscles, joints and bones (known collectively as the musculoskeletal system). So even if you feel like you could advance your training quite substantially, resist the temptation to ramp things up by more than around 10 per cent per week. For example, if you did 3 miles, 4 times a week (a total of 12 miles) one week, you could up it to 13.2-13.5 miles the next week.
So, if you are running Couch to 5k and wondering if it’s worth it? My health has never been better, my personal stress levels are controlled and I love a sport that I didn’t think I could love.
Keep going, some days will be hard and some great. The weather will always be the issue, but just remember the hardest thing is to get out of the door. You will feel so much better regardless what you do if you just run.
Enjoy the time and it will easily become part of your weekly routine.
So finally, I leave you contemplating a long run of at least 20 miles tomorrow. This is for my prep for Beachy Head Marathon at the end of the month. Currently the last Marathon I will do, but ask me the day after and the answer might be different.
Teachers need their time and this is a great way to get it! Enjoy your running