Back to the Couch

Last week I started running.  Well, jogging really.

I had not planned to tell you about it yet.

I had tried intervals of jogging in the past (which I wrote about most recently here) and was put off from continuing by various aches and pains.  But always in the back of my mind I wondered, intrigued by how many bloggers were having success with the “Couch to 5K”  program, if I could do it too.  If I could run a 5K.  Just me, on my treadmill, alone, not a race, but a 5K all the same.  But because of past foot problems (which you can read about here) I was very hesitant to commit.  I wanted to try.  But not so much that I was willing to risk injuring myself or cause recurring problems.

So I kept my plans a secret.  And I intended to share it on my blog only if I was able to report that I was going to meet that goal.  If I found that it just wasn’t working for me, I would quietly stop, with no need to feel that I had let anyone down.  I was going into it realistically.  It was not that I did not think I could finish the program; it was that I was afraid that it would just be too hard on my middle-aged body and not worth the potential risk.  After all, I was already consistently exercising on average more than an hour a day.  So this was going to be the icing on top of my end-of-the year cake.

I started strong.  Last Monday.  It went so well that I actually accidentally did more jogging and less walking than the plan called for.  But I quickly backed off, realizing that I did not want to overdo things.  My little 5K training was a marathon, not a sprint.  And the next day I felt my legs aching, just a bit, in places they did not usually ache.  But it was a good ache: an “I worked muscles” ache.  Wednesday was harder.  My legs were very sore from walking lunges I did in class the day before and they protested loudly.  But I got through it.  And I felt great.  My feet bothered my while on the treadmill but the discomfort didn’t last once the workout was over.  Maybe I could really do this!  Friday was day three.  I had ridden longer than usual that morning on my bike, but it did not deter me from an afternoon “run.”  Week one of C25K was over and I was optimistic and pleased.

Later that same day my lower back began to hurt.  There was no moment of onset.  Just a gradual realization that something was going on.  I didn’t pay much attention.  I suspected that it was probably the combination of running after the long bike ride; I figured it would be gone the next morning.  But it wasn’t.  And it hurt enough to keep me off my bike all weekend.  And to drag out the heating pad.  And to wonder if maybe I was not going to run that 5K after all.  Today it is noticeably better.  So far.  Knock on wood.  But I am cautious.

So today I am not going to start week two of the program.  Nor am I going to jog at all.  Fingers crossed I will at least be back on my bike.  I am not totally giving up on C25K for myself yet.  But I am going to think long and hard about it.  Is it worth it to me to risk hurting myself?  Do I want to risk giving up my bike riding and other exercise for the potential of running?  Probably not.  But I’ll wait until my back feels 100% better before I decide.  Maybe I will try again.  Maybe not.  Maybe I will wait until after bike riding season is over and just train on days I don’t do other cardio.  I’ll see.  Maybe the back pain is unrelated to the jogging.  I really don’t know for sure what caused it.

So rather than writing a triumphant post about my training, or writing no post about my failure, I am writing about how my couch to 5K experience landed me back on the couch.  I never expected to be disappointed about this –  the idea that I can’t train to run.  Really.  I have never aspired to be a runner.  Yet here I am, sad at the thought of giving up.  Regretting that I won’t get on the treadmill today.  Who is this person and what did she do with the Karen who has never run a mile and didn’t care to?



Filed under exercise

42 responses to “Back to the Couch

  1. D

    Great story! And I see myself in it too – used to be an avid runner & then life & health issues took over. I’m recovering from plantar fasciitis and it’s not 100% healed so I also hesitate about running. I have tried it here & there, little spurts while walking. But I am scared. Good for you for giving it a go!

  2. You know your body better than anyone – if you do restart I would stick 100% to what the C25K says to do time wise with jogging and running… it really eases you in to it. I can never run on the treadmill – first off it bores the hell out of me but also its a mental game and on the treadmill I can barely run 2 miles when outside now I can run 12… it peeves me off! I started as a 100% nonrunner and the C25K changed all of that… thanks for sharing.


  3. I’ve tried jogging several times, it’s the ONLY exercise where I’ve been able to consistently find that “runner’s high” “endorphin rush” thing – until I found jogging I thought it was bunk.

    But it’s REALLY hard on the body, and especially so if you’re heavier, and add to that injuries (and age) and we have to be careful.

    The only way I managed not to get injured is doing C25K and in fact doing an even-slower, often-repeating-a-week-or-more version of C25K. If you listen to your body during the exercise session your risk of injury skyrockets, because the pain comes once the injury is in place.

    Over 3 years ago I had a herniated disk and I did C25K anyway. I’ll never know which pieces of my exercise program brought which elements of the situation into crisis (I was also doing strength training) but that mild back ache from the herniated disk (which had bothered me enough to go to the doctor and all the testing, including MRI) suddenly had me with sciatica – and a few weeks later unable to walk, having steroid infusions, jacked up on painkillers and frantically planning surgery.

    The surgery worked – no more sciatica – but it left me with a permanent weakness in my back and a risk of future injuries should I make jarring movements (when they cut out the harming part of the bulging disk, it can never fully heal, because the membrane does not rebuild).

    So very reluctantly I’ve agreed to let the jogging go. I figure if I ever get my weight down really substantially I can go and talk again to my surgeon to see what he has to say (although he was pretty clear…)

    Bottom line : jogging can be great exercise and can be that push to the next level, but it can also be harmful to your body, and if you think you’re on the injury path, by all means, GET OFF IT.

    Perhaps a significantly reduced C25K (30 seconds jogging every 5 min) could get you enough heart rate boost to make a difference and be a safe starting point?

    • Karen

      Yikes! Thanks for sharing your story Sarah. I hear more tales about damaged knees and feet from runners. And then I hear the tales of runners who can’t wait to get back to it despite injuries. Still deciding. Sigh.

  4. Ewa

    Not that I have all the answers but maybe a treadmill is not such a great idea. I know my posture and gait is totally different on a treadmill and outside. Trails are even better than pavement since you train more muscles at once. The key is to start easy, very easy.
    And if running does not work for you, biking is a great exercise too judging by those amazing bodies I see cruising past me every weekend when I run.

  5. MB

    I’ve been having a similar experience getting through the C25K due to an ol’ skiing knee injury. Maybe the old Karen and the old MB are hanging out together and wondering where we’ve gone ….

    Glad to have found you through the Hot 100. I’m looking forward to making some C25K progress but, like you, I’m not going to risk getting injured to do it. Good luck!

    • Karen

      Funny you mention the challenge because this c25k was in the back of my mind to start at the same time. (Well, once I got back from out of town last weekend.) I toyed with adding it as a goal but really worried about being able to do it. Looks like I was right.

  6. I have minimal support for this couch to 5K thing. When people learn that the training is everything, and running a race, goal or not, is unimportant. Almost everyone who does this quits after the 5K. It’s a running version of a two week starvation diet. Training equals a lifestyle, sustainable change.

  7. Jo

    I found that the C25K was too aggressive for me. So I am walking outside, and adding a spring or jog here and there. It’s working so far, with no injury, and I am able to keep up the run for longer. I try to listen to my body, and if it says no run today, we just walk.

  8. I also was intrigued by the thought of C25K, and read several books on running, and then started running laps at the gym. I didn’t last long until my one foot started to hurt, and I was also disappointed, even though in gym class, I was always last chosen. . .but I can walk several miles, and I also started doing Zumba, which I never imagined would be possible.

    • Karen

      I was always chosen last too! I am sure I wrote a post about that way back when I first started blogging. I tried Zumba two or three times while on vacation in June. It was fun but I felt very uncoordinated:(

  9. sunnydaze

    Good for you for trying to switch it up. I’ve tried jogging many times, it is really hard for me. Somedays I’m able to do it, sometimes not. Like you, I have to listen to my body. I think it is too hard on my knee.

  10. Biz

    I did the Cto5k a couple years ago – and after I ran my 5k quickly realized I hated running, so I don’t!

    I like to do hill climbs on the treadmill, the bike machine, and actually rode my bike outside this summer.

    Hang in there, I wouldn’t consider it a failure not to move on to week 2 – its more important to listen to your body.

  11. Sarah is right, running/jogging does put a fair amount of strain on the body. This is more of a problem if you’re not used to that level of exercise or have existing conditions. The repetitive impact from each step can quickly cause damage (I learned that the hard way).

    Start super slow and wear good shoes. Is your back condition something that could be improved with strenghtening exercises? If jogging is the cause of the pain, then I would say just abandon it completely. It really isn’t worth risking a long-term injury. Especially since lingering back pain is a truly miserable experience 🙂

    • Karen

      I was just telling my husband today that maybe the back pain is a sign that I need to work on my core muscles more! And while I have “good” shoes, they are probably ready to be replaced. I think the prudent me will stop jogging for now and maybe try again later in the year when I am not riding my bike the same day for more than 2 hours first:)

  12. Hi Karen —

    Sometimes the things we want to do — doesn’t want a thing to do with us 🙂

    Picking the exercise that feels right, and natural and fun is the way to go.

    So often, I have visions of how great it would be to be a certain type of athlete — but it usually falls back to the fact that I hold those athletes or those sports in higher esteem than others 🙂

  13. Karen, I think you know your bod & if you feel that your back is not up to it right now, than see what happens. I commend you for trying. Maybe you need more core work or maybe your form was not quite right as we tend to tighten or stiffen up sometimes when jogging rather than a more looser movement.. hard to say. It might even be related to your feet or past injuries as a back issue can come from a lot of different places including the neck, knees, muscles that are out of whack like a stronger quad than hamstrings.. all kinds of tings. Also, the right shoes are HUGE…. so who knows.

    BUT, listen to you r bod & what you feel is best for you. There are some things I don’t do because I know the risk of injury is too great & I want to be able to sustain long term…

    • Karen

      I think you are right with any of those things contributing. I will probably never know. I think I will be smart and give it up for now and try again after I have: replaced my shoes, gotten back into yoga and pilates and worked my core, quit my outdoor biking for the season…

  14. I was never a runner or a jogger. As a matter of fact, while all the other teens were running around the track at my high school, I was exempted from PE for my asthma. I do consider it somewhat miraculous that now I’m such a workout maniac (after age 40) and so I never question what my “type” of exercise is; I’m just happy I found something I love so much and want to do 6 days a week!

  15. I, like you, have HORRIBLE back aches. I finally went to the doctor about it earlier this year and I actually have a terminal problem called Pars Defect. According to my doctor, my issue gets worse if I don’t exercise at all(even though it often hurts a lot after bike riding!). I have been doing PT for months now – strengthen my core and hips – and it really hasn’t alleviated the problem. That said, I’ll continue to run, bike and do my PT until I am crawling!

    It’s ok (and smart) to lay off if it hurts too much. See a doc if it keeps up.

    • Karen

      Yikes! What I like is when a doctor can at least tell you if exercise is going to worsen things. That is what I kept asking when I had broken my arm and wanted to work out.

  16. I tried it and it just didn’t work that great for me- I can run- but just not long periods of time it seems.

  17. Honestly, I think it’s awesome you tried. I think it’s awesome that I try (it’s an annual event now :)). Not every sport or activity is for everyone. You didn’t fail to do anything. You just tried something that didn’t work for you. Big difference.

  18. I really hope your back continues to feel better! I noticed you replied to someone else about strengthening your core muscles and I believe that is the single most important thing you can do for your back.
    Good luck with everything and thanks for sharing that. It might give me the confidence to try something different too.

  19. When I tore my acl, one of the interns told me on a follow-up visit, “OK, it’s time to start running now.” Since I’ve always been a good patient, I thought, OK, but secretly grumbled because I hated to run – everything about it. When my real doctor came in, I mentioned the previous conversation, and he asked if I was a runner. I said no, and he said, don’t start now, and by the way it’s horrible for your knees and ankles. Whew, he gave me permission to get my aerobic exercise in other ways…I here by give you the same permission. 🙂

  20. Genie@dietof51

    I admire you for trying! It’s hard not to want to try–with all of the runners loving it so much–but I seem to resist….

  21. I’ve always wanted to do a couch to 5k program but my knees always remind me why that’s not a good idea. Unless, I want to stay hopped up on Goody powders.

  22. Kat

    Karen, I think you are wise to listen to your body. I did the c25k last spring and ran in my first 5k this past june. Since then, I have had 2 injuries and have not been running much. I have been listening to my body and am not going to run until I feel strong enough.

  23. I’m impressed with you for trying! I don’t have the guts, for that very reason; I figure at 59, my window of opportunity for running is long past. 😉

  24. I am sorry to read (and from your comment on my blog today) that you are back to the couch. Hopefully you can get back on your bike soon. I want SOOOO much to start that couch to5k program precisely because so many bloggers write about it. But, I know I am not ready. Too hard on my knees with all that extra weight. But come about March 1 and I am trying it. Rest up so you are ready to get back at it.

  25. I totally understand keeping it under wraps–I hate disappointing too! I give you kudos for setting out for the 5K–it sounds like you were making big progress before the back trouble. That stinks! I hope you get better fast and hope you are able to make a decision that satisfies both you and your body. Hugs!

  26. Well it was a noble attempt, but seriously, you do not want to risk hurting yourself. I could never jog either, by the way, and I just power walk instead.

  27. I wonder if you stretched a lot before and after the running?

    I had MANY back problems – and they’re worse when I run…believe it or not, the cause of it is my glutes being tense.

    I have to stretch them out each night and before and after my runs. My back pain is virtually non-existant. That may help you considerably if and when you choose to run again. Of course, I have no idea if our back pains were or are around the same place.

    Having said that, I think it’s wonderful that you’re honoring your body by listening to it – and by stopping an activity if it gets out of control.

    • Karen

      I never thought of it being glute tightness. (Sounds funny because my glute are pretty jiggly!) That might make sense because that Wednesday for my second run my glutes were pretty sore still from the lunges. I do stretch afterwards but not usually the glutes and I KNOW I never stretch enough. Thanks for the tip.

  28. Starting too much too fast is often a problem. I normally have that problem and have burn out. Give yourself a few days off from jogging, and see how it goes. See if you can comfortable bike ride, without too much pain and see how that goes!

  29. Karen, you are smart to listen to your body when it tells you to stop. When you are ready, you’ll pick it up again slowly. And as for your question about yourself, you are an “A” student who has found another mountain she would like to conquer. 🙂

  30. I think this has all been addressed in the comments already, but: I hate my treadmill after running outside, it’s downright uncomfortable, running outside is so much better, easier on me. Also, when I have aches like that it usually means I need core work. Good luck!

  31. i haven’t read the “couch to 5k” program, but i know many bloggers have been talking about it. good for you for listening to your body, it’s something i really need to work on (sigh…) oh – and just for a bit of trivia: they say taking quick, shorter strides is better than longer ones. it’s more efficient and easier on your mucles and joints. good luck to you, girl, you’re gonna rock it! 🙂

  32. Ugh, sorry to hear about your back! I hope it gets better soon, and you are able to get back to jogging! 🙂

  33. Karen — you know I’m drawn to the C25K also. I envy Tish and her running every day. But if I start it again, I’m going to do it very slowly. I think you do need to listen to your body and do what’s best for you. I don’t know that I’ll ever be a runner, but I can still be in shape.

  34. Pingback: Waisting Time , Archive » Hot 100 – Week 10 (and 9) Update

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