Justin Tadlock

Twenty Minutes

I reached for my stopwatch. It was bouncing in my pocket as my legs churned and my feet pounded the pavement. I managed to dig it out.

20:05.

My arms shot into the air to signal victory. It was an involuntary reflex.

My pace slowed to a walk. I had done it. I finished a 20-minute run and was still standing.

If someone had told me that I’d complete a run of this distance in February of this year, I probably wouldn’t have believed them. At just over 300 lbs., walking for 20 minutes was a chore. There I was, a little over six months later, drenched in sweat with a smile on my face.

I had put my body through an intense week of training and finished my first long-distance run in years. But, I was smiling.

I’ve never been a long-distance runner (anything more than a 400-meter sprint is considered “long” distance to me). I hate any tests of running endurance. I naturally lean toward sprinting, but for a split second as I looked at the time on my stopwatch, I was a runner.

The idea of running without a clear-cut objective (e.g., scoring a touchdown, fast break to the hoop) has always been foreign to me. At that moment, I understood. I understood why people put their bodies through this. Understood why I have three sisters that have partaken in this insane activity. Why I won’t let myself fail to reach the finish line.

Running is tough. I wasn’t smiling because it was easy. I wasn’t smiling simply because I had finished. I was smiling because I had a complete moment of clarity. It was a feeling of mind and body coming together to make me whole.

From the couch to 5K

Several months ago, I was introduced to a program called Couch-to-5K. The idea is just as the plan says: get you off the couch and running a 5K. For the Americans out there, that’s about a 3.1-mile run.

I didn’t jump right into the program the first day I heard about it. I waited until I felt the time was right. I’m just now starting week six of the nine-week program.

Don’t let the title of the program fool you. If you’re 100 lbs. overweight, you most likely won’t be able to hop off the couch and breeze through it. For someone without any regular exercise, it will probably be a nightmare. I simply cannot recommend it for couch potatos. I love the program, but I’d rather you know what you’re getting yourself into if you want to go for it.

My recommendation is to start with resistance/strength training. Yes, that means lifting weights. In fact, I recommend that for everyone. But, if you’re a couch potato (like I was six months ago), don’t start running. Start lifting weights three days a week and walking three days a week. You can thank me later when you do decide to try Couch-to-5K.

If you’ve been regularly exercising two or three months (minimum), I highly recommend giving the program a shot, at least if you’re interested in running a 5K or just want some fitness goals to shoot for.

Although I haven’t completed the Couch-to-5K running plan yet, it’s been great so far. I’ve got fewer than four weeks left, but I finally feel like finishing is a realistic goal.

Are any of you trying Couch-to-5K or a similar program? If so, what has been your experience with it thus far?