Training for my first 5K

My goal is to be able to run the entire 3 miles around the perimeter of Lake Merritt in Oakland, pictured here.
My goal is to be able to run the entire 3 miles around the perimeter of Lake Merritt in Oakland, pictured here.

As much as I love dragon boat paddling, I feel like I’ve hit a bit of a plateau with it. Dragon boating is a wonderful team sport, and it gives you a great workout. I’m looking for something else to do to complement it, and improve my fitness overall. Right now, jogging/running is that activity!

For years I’ve tried to get into running shape, but always quit before I could make any real progress. I had a lot of excuses for quitting — it’s too cold, too hot, too hard, I’m too busy, too tired, out of shape, etc, etc. Well here’s the thing — the weather is never going to be 100% perfect, and I’m always going to be busy, and I may be tired. But I still do my work, and dragon boats, and other must-do activities in spite of that. I’ll just need to add running to my “must-do” list.

I’ve started my training very slowly. I’m in terrible running shape. As of today, I can only jog for about 3 minutes without stopping. Any more, and my body complains. I’ve been training with the Couch to 5K iPhone app, which consists of 27 workouts spread out over 9 weeks, designed to gradually get you in shape for a 5K. I’m on Week 4, which alternates jogging for 3 minutes, walking for 2 minutes, and then jogging for 5 minutes. I have to keep repeating this particular workout until I’m able to jog non-stop for 5 minutes. Sometimes it is discouraging that I can’t do something as simple as jog for 5 minutes non-stop — if I want to do a 5K, I’ll have to last much longer than that. But then I remind myself to keep going. After all, I did want a new challenge!

Yesterday I tried a mental trick during a 5-minute jogging block — I told myself to concentrate on reaching a particular spot up ahead, and then stop to walk if I need to. It actually worked, and I lasted a little longer than I would have had I just thought, “Ugh, I have to run for 5 minutes…how much longer do I have?” It seems like it’s all a mind game. You have to distract yourself from what you’re doing. It’s the same with dragon boats — counting strokes keeps my mind from going into “I-want-to-quit” mode during the 500- and 700-meter races.

I’ve set March 10th, 2015 as my goal for being ready to run my first 5K. That gives me all of fall and most of winter to train. As a longer-term goal, I’m looking at participating in Bay to Breakers in San Francisco in May 2015 — that’s a 7K race! And maybe next summer I’ll train for a half-marathon…and then maybe a marathon in 2016? We’ll see, we’ll see!

The most important reminder for me as I travel along this running journey is to remember to be kind to myself. I can’t let my inner bully awaken, and sabotage this for me. Because I’ve only been training sporadically for about a month, I’m not going to be in 100% tip-top shape right away. I can’t compare myself to other runners. I’m going to get in shape in my own time, when my body is ready. In the meantime, I must be patient and loving. I’m working hard to kill my inner bully, and this reminder is important. I must repeat it everywhere, all the time, until I’m no longer pretending to believe it.

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