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  • Writer's pictureEmma Carpenter

How to go from couch to 5km to a half marathon

I will be honest and most people who know me or have known me in the past would know that I would never ever say I enjoyed running. My exact quote would be "do you really ever see a happy runner?" Reading this whilst I am typing this I can see where I was going wrong. 1. My mindset was negative. 2. I didnt know how or want to start. 3. I always had a negative experience with running. You guys reading this now are probably thinking yep I tick all those boxes, or yep I just hate running. This blog post may not convert you and it is true unless you have a specific goal, you used to love running or a drunken night you and your friend booked onto to a race,(Don't worry we have all been there including me) there are some many other ways to get active. What I am going to give you today in this post, is the fundamental changes you need to make to go from couch to 5km to a half marathon.

Firstly how did I get back into running? Well to be honest since becoming a personal trainer I have gained a lot of clients that want to run a half marathon. Not 1, not 2 but 10 of my clients wanted to do the Colcheter Half Marathon. They wanted to meet new network of runners and they wanted to lose weight. So in the new year that's when I put forward the idea of Muscle Mind Wellness competing in the Colchester Half Marathon May 2023. So there was my first start block to getting back into running. I had a goal, no it wasn't a week away, when we booked on it was 20 weeks until race day. The 21st of May this year. So my first advice for you reading this is firstly set yourself a goal. Be smart about it and be realistic. If you suddenly think I am going to do a half marathon in 6 weeks time, you are setting yourself up to fail and setting yourself to have once again a negative experience of running. I did the Colchester Half Marathon around 7 years ago, I booked it, had my Gall bladder removed in the December and raced in the March, I am convinced, actually no I know that is what started my negative mindset to running as the race was horrendous I struggled, cried and was convinced people were lying to me about where the finish line was. So set a goal whether it be to run a 5k, go to a park run or being more adventurous and doing a half marathon. If you have never run before or done races I would give yourself a minimum of 12 weeks training, ideally 16 weeks especially for a half marathon.

Think to your self:

1. What is my goals?

2. Is it realistic?

3. What time frame am I going to give myself?

4. Have I got a plan that will make sure I achieve my goal?

Right you have picked your goal, you have given yourself a realistic time frame, the goal in itself is realistic. Cool they are all ticked off. Right now I need to think about my plan. Heck what is a plan? How do I know if it is right for me? Do I have to get up tomorrow and run 5km without stopping? Why have I done this to myself!?! Right stop, breathe and calm yourself, it is true when people say "run your own race" don't try and run for someone else or keep up with the pb group of (personal best) runners at the front. First thing I want you to do is download the couch to 5km app. This is free and you get a programme for all levels, beginners, intermediates and advanced runners. This will give you a time frame where it uses varied training techniques. Interval training is normally the one they go for, like run for 1 minute, walk for 2 minutes etc for say 15 minutes. They will progress so either the time you run starts to increase and your walking decreases or the distance starts to increase ever so slightly. Tweak it, if you need to walk more than run that s fine, you want a positive experience out of this, you don't want to do what I did in my first half Marathon then be put off running, trust me it sucks. Another way you can do it is google. Type in "16 week plan for a 10km run for beginners." There is so much stuff that will

come up on google which you can use as a guideline to know where to start, then you can tailor the plan as you go along and learn what works and doesn't work for you. Lastly if you really want to achieve your goals but are not convinced by the app or by google then that is when you reach out to someone like me, as a running coach or join your local run group. Run groups are fab for getting back out there as they have run leaders who have run many races and can help you with your plan and dos and don't s to getting back into running.

Right you have got your goal, you have got your plan and you are ready to start. I would highly recommend getting running trainers fitted to your feet and finding out how you run. I hear you "doesn't everyone run the same?" The answer... no. I run extremely flat footed, my trainers I wear on the heel as all my energy drives into the ground, I didn't have calves and I was constantly battling on and off with shin splints. Some peoples Gate (how they land and stride) is different from Karen's down the road. So people roll inwards, roll outwards, are flat footed like me, pigeon toed, penguin feet, toe runners, have no arch I could go on and on with this list. I recently got new trainers that force me to run like you should and use my toes not just the base of my heel. It was a game changer for me, I no longer have to wear compression socks when running, the run feels easier, my shins have thanked me and finally my calves are working like they should. You can get your gate measured and get suitable running trainers by going to places like footlocker, runners world etc. This will save you from waking up and walking like john Wayne or preventing yourself an injury.

Now what I have said above I have given you tools you need to get started, get the ball rolling, discuss your plan and right footwear. I will attach below the 16 week plan I gave to my clients who are doing the Colchester half marathon with me. Now physically I can run a half marathon, people find the physical side the easier part, what people find hard including myself is the mental side. That mental block, the wall, that mindset. Trust me negative mindset will not get you round that race without crying. It is true, your brain can be your most impressive tool but also your most detrimental. Your brain will give up way before your body does. So I have clients that like to go running a lot and they are always like, "Emma I seem to run for longer when with you" or "I run better in a group" I am exactly the same, I like running in a group, why? Well because I hate being left with my own thoughts. I self sabotage and am just damn right mean to myself. So next time you are out training I want you to use these key techniques I use for myself and my clients:

  1. If you walk, that's fine, don't punish yourself for it, say okay, right where is my point I will walk to and then start running again? I have not punished myself for stopping, I have a visual aid where I am walking to and then I have the cue to start running again, all positive.

  2. Every time you feel the need to stop or walk, I want you to think in your head, okay I am struggling, lets try 8 more strides then re access how I feel, okay right 7 more strides and then I will re access and so on. This makes you focus on your stride, focus on trying to work through it and doing it in a positive matter. If you then feel you really do need to walk for a bit then use technique 1,

  3. Put some badass music on, an inspirational podcast and keep saying to yourself. I can do this! What have a achieved on this journey so far? Why am I doing this? I ran this route last time I can do it!

I have a lot of clients say people say to me " get out of my own head" but I don't really know how or what that means? This saying is you have hit a mental block, a wall, a change in mindset so when someone says "get out of your own head" see that as right my mindset isn't right, I need to change it. Right let me use the some techniques to help shift that mindset into a more positive frame of mind.

Another key part of being able to enjoy running again and achieving the goals you set is to listen to your body. You need to incorporate rest days, don't stress if you can't get out for that run as work or something has come up. If you are flexible, go with the flow and rest enough you will soon learn that you don't need to hate running, you don't need to punish yourself and you can achieve your goals without stressing and overthinking and rushing. I used to be the women who would hate running, say "you never see a happy runner" and have a tantrum when my partner dragged me out of the door to run. I changed my approach, I planned, set realistic goals, used a plan tailor made to me, had the right equipment and technique, rested and listed to my body. Now I am the person that will choose to go for a run, sign up for races to do for me, not just for clients, heck the other day I ran at 5am before work! Before if I was running at 5am 100% run the other way as something would of been chasing me haha!

So the saying is true, fail to prepare, prepare to fail. Plan, set realistic goals, use the techniques above, have a good tailor made programme and do it because you want to not because you have to! Now you have finished reading this blog you should have some tools you can use to get from couch to 5km to a half marathon. Right I am going to leave you with some things to think about like I do with every blog I write. Do you enjoy running? Have you ever hated running and now love it? Do you have techniques that work for you? Have you had a baby and have started to run again? Have you managed to shift your mindset? But remember guys "let's keep it real"

Colchester Half Marathon 16 week prog
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