Reasons for Regain #3: I mastered the 5K to Couch plan


Many of you are probably familiar with the Couch to 5K plan. It’s a workout plan that helps you go from spending most of your time on the couch to completing a 5K, usually within 8 weeks. I instead mastered the 5K to Couch plan in which you start out being able to run a 5K and slowly become less and less active until you’re spending most of your time on the couch.

When completing the 5K to Couch plan it’s important that you drop off your activity gradually over a long period of time. If you’ve gained momentum by exercising regularly, stopping all at once is like slamming on the brakes and being thrown full force against your seat belt. It’s pretty hard to ignore. There were a few times during my weight-loss years when I’d have to take several days off from exercising because of an injury or illness, and it drove me nuts. I really wanted to get out there and continue my successful routine, but my body was not having it. Once I recovered, I would get back on the trail or the treadmill as soon as I could. If you’re going to stop exercising regularly it’s much more effective to press the brake slowly so you ease to a stop without hardly realizing it.

Obviously I never intended to undertake the 5K to Couch plan. So what set me on that path? A few things:

Overdoing it

In 2008 I ran a half-marathon, and although I am incredibly proud to have run those 13.1 miles (ok, I might have walked 1 or 2 of them), it was WAY TOO MUCH RUNNING. Near the end of the program I had to run 45 minutes straight in the evening. I had to run 10 miles at 8am on a Saturday morning with my running group. It was kind of awful. I learned that I am not a long-distance runner. The longest race I would consider running after that experience is a 10K, which is about 6 miles.

Once the half-marathon was over my running dropped off because I was so sick of it. Something I’d previously enjoyed for its meditative properties became work I wanted to avoid. I love chocolate cake, but if I had to eat an entire chocolate cake everyday it would become sickening after awhile. The same goes with running.

Using injury as an excuse

A few years ago I developed tendonitis in my right foot. It took awhile for me to get it diagnosed as tendonitis because I kept waiting for it to heal on its own, and then it took me awhile to get a doctor’s appointment because I’d moved and wasn’t established at any medical practice. The tendonitis made it painful to walk, so I stopped walking unless I had to.

What I should have done was to find some activity to supplement walking, which had now become painful. What I actually did was nothing. I do recall riding my bike a few times, but it was a pain to carry it down from my second-floor apartment, which is a completely lame excuse, but evidently not lame enough for me to use on myself! It’s important that you find exercise you enjoy, otherwise you’re less likely to do it. Walking and running have always been my favorite thing, and I never managed to find anything I liked as much as that.

Comparing my current self to my past self

Once the tendonitis healed I did start walking again, but I was frustrated by the fact that I got exhausted sooner and could not go as far as I could previously. When you’ve previously been able to run 3 miles without breaks it seems pretty pathetic when you’re breathing heavily after walking just a mile. It’s like you’re a bird with a broken wing, frustrated that you have to walk when you used to be able to fly. I kept comparing my current self to my past self, which made me feel discouraged. I should have just gotten over it and focused on the positive aspects of the experience. I was out there! I was walking again! I could become more fit even if I never became as fit as I once was. Instead I was just hard on myself for the fact that I couldn’t have run a 5K anymore if I tried.

So, those are the big reasons I ended up doing the 5K to Couch plan. There might have been others, but those are the ones I’ve been able to identify upon self-reflection. So where do I go from here? Well, I suppose I could do the Couch to 5K plan, but a doctor told me I should not run because of problems with my knees. So if I were to do that it would be the walking version, not the jogging version. I’m considering doing the Up and Moving program that my friend Shauna recently launched on her Up and Running web site that runs online running courses for women.

I think the key is to do it slowly, just like it started, but to be consistent. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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  1. kathy says

    Through my experience with weight loss, I have found out that exercise is a minor issue. Of course exercise is necessary for muscle build up and cardiovascular health. Good luck! Looking forward to more posts.

  2. Gina says

    That couch is trying to take over me,too. Thanks for the heads up. Gotta keep moving. Time to go back to tracking food, too. You are not alone. Let’s go!

  3. says

    I’m having trouble with that last one at the moment. Dance (at home in front of the Xbox) is my exercise of choice and I used to be able to do an hour or more at high intensity. Now, 20 minutes at low intensity is exhausting, and that is depressing and de-motivating. But I’ll stick with it.

  4. yazz says

    Hey Jennette :)

    I’ve been a silent reader since my flatmate in 2008 bought a glamour which featured your blog, please forgive me that I never dared post anything! Too shy for the internets 😀

    I was just wondering: In the “before”-time, you were running and walking, but also doing Pilates and Weightlifting. Where did that go? If I remember correctly, you started Pilates at a weight not lower than now, so it should still be possible?

    If you were to incorporate those things back into your day, they could help you stay ‘on the wagon’ if your joints and tendons don’t feel like walking and running.

    I hope you’ll find a way to get some of the endorphines that have been missing you :)

    And: You still rock. You might not be at your thinnest or fittest right now, but there was a time when you couldn’t walk down 4 flights of stairs without shredding your knees. And now you’re beating yourself up over not being able to run an untrained-for 5k. When you started your weight-loss journey, it wasn’t about running a half-marathon (or 5k or anything at all), but about being able to participate in life. And from what you’ve been posting lately, you can still do that! Way to go! Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be more active, or cook more, but even though you regained some you’re nowhere near where you started. And now you’ve got the skills and knowledge to make healthier choices :) (Some of them I learned from you! Thank you for blogging!)

  5. says

    Consider swimming laps regularly, no impact at all, great exercise. We just taught a 21 year old to swim a very nice crawl/free style in three trips to the pool over the holiday weekend. Also kick boards are a good option. I remember a super nice indoor, community pool in Chapel Hill. I am sure there are others thru the universities.

  6. Donna says

    I look forward to your progress. I know you are an inspiration to many — you should be an inspiration to yourself. :)

  7. says

    I got seriously off-track with exercise the last few years and I’m trying to get back to doing at least something daily. And I feel so much better. Maybe we can challenge each other.

  8. Caroline says

    Ditto everything!! Long time lurker but I just had to say thank you for this. I just signed up for Up & Moving today. It happened so slowly I didn’t even realize it until I felt like crap and couldn’t do anything anymore.

  9. says

    Don’t forget, you have friends just up the street with a pool! Anytime you feel like getting a little swimming exercise and a lot of poolside lounging, let me know.

  10. says

    5K to Couch — that cracked me up! :-) I, too, have problems with my knees so I’ve always avoided jogging. Then I discovered the mini-trampoline — it’s awesome!

    I fast-walk/jog in place while I watch TV, and it never hurts my knees or back. It also burns more calories than regular walking, which is a plus. It’s my main exercise in the winter here in Illinois, and I love it. Just thought I’d throw it out there since you said walking/running is your favorite type of exercise. :)

  11. says

    This is exactly the problem I’m having: I regained about 30lbs when my doctor changed up one of my medications, and now I’m at a point where I’m like, “Ugh, look at what I could do when I was 30lbs lighter! I could walk further without all the heavy breathing and the pain and-”

    And instead of, y’know, going out and doing shorter walks every day like I used to, and not buying junk food to eat while I sit on my butt doing nothing instead of going out for those wee walks, I sit on my butt and watch movies or play my video games and buy the junk food and eat terribly. And complain that I’m still 30lbs heavier than I was last year.

    I was looking at the Up & Moving, too. Since I’m not a runner, it seems like a really, really good idea.

    Fingers crossed we get our butts off the couch soon!

  12. DCrunnergal says

    I can totally relate to this! I USED to be a runner. I started out slowly, mostly just doing 5ks. Then, after being around other runners, I’d start to feel like I wasn’t a REAL runner unless I did a 10k, then 10 miler, then half, and eventually, i started training for marathons. I really liked feeling like a runner and being a part of the running community, but training for marathons really made me hate running. I gained a ton of weight while training, which made it even harder to train. I got injured each time and only managed to finish one, which was so miserable, I sort of stopped running altogether after that. I’ve tried a few times to get back into it, but at a more reasonable level, but it’s just not sticking because it doesn’t feel as good as it used to when I was first getting started. I can’t quite give up my identity as a runner, even thought I’m really not, so I keep telling myself that I’ll drop the weight through diet (as in how I eat, not some actual fad diet) first and then start running again. 2.5 years later, it still hasn’t happened.

  13. JenFul says

    @yazz – Sorry to take so long to respond to your kind comment. It’s nice to know that the interview I did for Glamour way back when lead to a new reader. I never know if that stuff is worth it or not, but now I have my answer.

    Anyway, you’re right, I could still be doing weights and Pilates. I got lazy with that stuff, and probably should have incorporated new routines but instead just go bored with the ones I was doing. The Pilates gets a bit depressing if I compare myself to the old me that could do the teaser pose, but I know I shouldn’t compare like that.

    Thanks for de-lurking!

  14. JenFul says

    @Everyone – Thanks for all the encouragement and support!

    @Caroline – I hope you enjoy the Up and Moving program. I’m signed up too but haven’t started yet.

  15. yazz says

    @JenFul – That stuff was worth it 😉 To me at least!

    So, any plans to incorporate some non-running routine back into your day?

    I think it’s always waaay easier to get back to being able to perform a movement than learning it all new. At least you know what you should be doing, coordination-wise! And in a few weeks or months you could say you can to that teaser pose again!

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