why c25k works (for me, for now)

I’m trying to get back into running through the Couch to 5K running plan. This is less because I don’t have the endurance to run 5K (though, hey, maybe I don’t) and more because, when I just leap into physical things without a progressive plan, I tend to hurt myself. (Sometimes I hurt myself anyway.)

But I think this particular plan is smart motivationally as well as physiologically. It is, admittedly, a little hard to run in stops and starts around the neighborhood—if someone sees you stop, you always sort of have the urge to explain. “No, it’s part of the plan.” But running in stops and starts means

(a) you’re not tired while you’re running, so

(b) you’re running with good form, and

(c) you’re running at speed, so

(d) you’re enjoying yourself, and

(e) you’re associating running with good form, a good pace, and enjoyment.

This would not be the case if you tried another thing that I’ve done before, which is the following: Make a conservative guess at how long you can run continuously, run half that time/distance out, then run back; add a minute to your run out every week or so until it gets unreasonable. If your guess is decent, i.e. you’re running below your capacity but only a little bit, then a lot of the time you’re running, your form is bad and you’re slow and you’re really dragging. And (and this is really the only value added from any of this) you associate the running context with those things.

I honestly think the association with enjoyment may be the least important part of this—I generally find running pretty motivating no matter what, probably because it’s easily the most effective way for me to lose weight. (Actually, the causality there is quite plausibly backward.) But the association of the running context with good form and a good pace is what’s really new for me. All the other times I’ve tried to get into running, I end up sort of shlumping along after a while, because I really want to wring myself out. I’m sure my form and pace will suffer as the runs get more challenging, but I’m also pretty sure they’ll be better than they would if I were just dogging it the whole way.


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