The Course – 10 weeks

Learn to Run – Week 1

The program is 10 weeks with class after work on Mondays and two more running sessions during the week. Monday always starts with a 20 minute talk on a different running or fitness topic.

There are only 6 in the class and they’re all women as is the instructor. I’m the eldest by about 10 years. Adrenaline and some “way to go — you’re doing it!” endorphins. Happy times.

This week we start with running for one minute and walking for two minutes and do that a total of 10 times. Starting with a couple of minutes of warm up walking and a similar cool down walk at the end means the whole running thing will be over in about 35 minutes.

Omygod, omygod, omygod, omygod, omygod, omygod! I thought I was gonna die! (And at this age that is a distinct possibility!)

What had completely slipped my mind was cardio-pulmonary fitness. I had been all hip all the time and completely forgot how completely, totally and utterly out of shape I was. My fitness level was zero and I had no idea how low zero really was.

And the hip hurt — well not really hurt, it was just sore LIKE EVERYTHING ELSE IN MY BODY. Got home and somehow convinced my poor legs to lift me up the stairs of the deck and get into the house. They were rewarded with an extra-strength ibuprofen and an Epsom salts bath. (I don’t know how or why Epsom salts work, I just know they do. Thank you, Jesus.)

Went to bed knowing I had actually done something and was moving in a good direction … and that I got to do it all over again on Wednesday after work. Oy.

The Rest of Week 1 & Week 2

Survived the first week. It was hard work, but doable and, in my mind, worth it.

If you’ve never been fit, you can’t know how incredibly good it feels to be physically able to do anything you want. So at this stage I’m lucky. Even though it’s been years for me, I remember the feeling and that is what I want again. That is what I’m willing to go through all this at this age and this weight for.

Two more days of 10 sets of running one minute and walking for two minutes. (I have a stop-watch feature on my watch, so I could set it to beep at me every minute. The young ‘uns use their phones for crying out loud. Oy.) I got it done. My legs were wondering what the heck was going on and my lungs just thought I was crazy.

Week 2. Running one minute and walking one minute all times 10. So the recovery time is cut in half. I admit I was intimidated. I felt I wasn’t ready for such a quick turnaround. (From the other side that is practically laughable, but I’m entitled to my feels as I feels ’em.)

The amazing thing is how a single minute can be so long when you’re running, but so short when your walking! Weirdness in the space-time continuum. Talk about relativity!

Survived again. Did not need an Epsom salts bath, but an ibuprofen was welcome. And the next two running days — Wednesday and Saturday — got done as well. It still isn’t easy. I’m constantly reminded how out of shape I am. But my hip is happy and so the break-up with the couch looks like it’s going to be official.

Week 3 – Lord have Mercy!

Run two minutes and walk one minute. Six times.

I remember training for 10K distance. In order to stay physically safe from injury, you don’t want to increase your total weekly distance by more than 10% at a time. This week we’re DOUBLING it! (Mind you if we did 10% we’d be increasing our time by six seconds, which probably won’t aid in the quest for endurance very much.)

Holy Hannah! Two minutes lasts for freaking ever and the one minute walk is only ten seconds long. I am not happy. My middle-age self is putting one foot in front of the other, slowly. It’s a blessing I’m as slow as I am, cuz I really don’t want to inflict anyone with watching me from behind. The one saving grace is we’re only doing six repetitions and not ten. The classes are calculated to include about 20 minutes of exercise, give or take about 5 minutes. But that isn’t what one considers while staring at the stop watch that feels like it should read 1:45 and actually reads 0:33.

Heavy breathing. From day one there’s been heavy breathing, but this doubling of the running time has brought my heart and lung health (and tolerance) to the forefront of my mind. I think of those weight loss reality shows where the poor schmoes had to keep working unless they passed out or started throwing up. I wasn’t throwing up or even close to it nor was I light-headed, so I guessed I was going to live. I had good circulation, I was just really out of shape.

This week brought a new realization to my home life. I had energy. I was getting stuff done around the house without having to nag at myself to get off the sofa and do something. Hmmm. This is a good thing.

But next week is running for 3 minutes. And my inner self started to freak out a little bit. Then I remembered I used to go for a run for a couple of hours so why was I so scared of 3 little minutes? Because it was an increase of 50% over this past week? Yeah. Because the heart and lungs would have to work that much harder? Yeah.

I ran my 2 and 1 homework with a new appreciation in anticipation of the 3 minute milestone!

Week 4 – It CAN be done!

Three minutes. One hundred eighty seconds. One minute in-between each of six repetitions.

At this point, it’s a battle of the legs against the lungs. Who’s gonna poop out first? What I have to try to remember is not to try to keep up with the rest of the class. Not only are they younger, but they have all been involved in other exercise, so they can move faster than I can. One lovely lady stays back with me from time to time to converse — and I quickly learn distraction is my best friend.

I’m surprised that I can do this. It’s hard, I won’t lie. My legs are complaining like a whiny child and my breathing is crazy. I stay aware of both to ensure I’m not overdoing anything. Even though it’s only been four weeks, I’m liking the knowledge that I’m working towards this and I’m pretty sure if I stick with it I’ll be back to calling myself a runner in no time. I do not want to risk having to start over yet again by being silly here.

By the end of the week I can tell that my body has finally recognized that we’re exercising on a regular basis going forward. This is not a phase I’m going through or something I’m going to chicken out on. I know the first weeks are where the really hard work happens and by next week things will feel a bit easier because this base is being built now.

We’re still climbing, but each week the mountain is a little less steep.

Week 5 – Can’t Believe I’m Doing This

Four and ones. I don’t know if I feel it’s getting easier or if I’ve utterly surrendered to my running fate and just don’t care anymore. only a 33% jump this week — and that percentage will keep shrinking — so 5 reps of this somehow seem not too horrible.

I’m still incredibly slow. I’ve figured out that in the years of no exercise I have actually forgotten how to run. My ankles no longer have that spring in them, the muscles that lift my legs to go up stairs are not strong enough for repeated lifting over a few minutes. My version of “running” is more like a bouncy walk or shuffle. The instructor actually walked beside me as I ran.

I don’t mind being this slow at this point. It’s still work! All of those muscle things will strengthen up over time. Right now I need to work on the fitness part and be able to breathe throughout the run and build up the thighs to endure the distance.

I’m getting into things so much, that on my Saturday run I even threw in an extra rep of 4 minutes to make it 6 in preparation of next week and 5:1s.

Week 6 – Over the Hump

This week, we run five minutes with a one minute walk and do that four times. The end goal of the course is to run ten minutes with one minute walk, so this is our halfway point.

My runner’s attitude has started to return. The body has realized now this is not a passing fad and we are actually going to get fit — and actually are so much more fit than when we first started this thing. I was terrified of running 3 minutes and this week I’m actually looking forward to running 5! Go figure.

Throughout this process, I have not hurt myself at all. My legs are sore after the exertion, but that’s not surprising and it’s also not crippling. Easily taken care of with an ibuprofen or Epsom salts. I suspect it’s lactic acid build up which indicates that the muscles are, indeed, working and strengthening.

At this point, too, I am not puffing and panting until the second half of the reps. The first couple I am able to chat if there’s anyone with me to listen and chat back. The last couple I’m sucking air like always, but the lungs and heart are also learning how to get fit. The improvement is starting to be noticeable.

Week 7 – There is light at the end of the tunnel

Two young ladies dropped out 2 weeks ago; we’re down to a class of four. I can’t believe I have come this far. (Or that I’ve survived this much, frankly.) This week we run 6 and 1s three times. The six would be really intimidating except for the three times. When I catch myself thinking about the 6, I remember the 3 and things calm down.

Not to say that running 6 minutes three times is easy. The first one I always find myself looking at my watch part-way through to find out when this new, longer time will end. The first one always feels like forever. But when you get up to 6s you can remember 3s and wish you were back there again. The dreaded, anxiety provoking 3s. The 3s where I thought I wuz gonna die just thinking about them. How easy they seem now. Just as 6s will in another few weeks.

I got this. Once the first rep is over, the trick is not to stop to walk early during the last rep. The middle reps I can usually get through by grumbling in my head and generally wondering how much more I can take, but the last rep my legs are ticked off at me, my lungs are ticked off at me and it’s really only my jackass stubborn streak that lets me fight through it.

And, frankly, while I match the instructor walking in the first one or two sets, I’ll bet she could pass me crawling on the last one. By the end, I’ve redefined the word “slow.” And that’s totally OK. I’m heavy and I’m older (in 3 months I’ll celebrate my 60th birthday). I will never get back to running a 9 minute mile like I could in my late 30s and 40s. I will crack open a bottle of bubbly if I can do a 12 minute mile at this point – and I may be 63 before I’ve built up to that. (And at some point I’ll have to try to convert distance to km as is now the custom, apparently.) Oy.

Week 8 – Jumping by Two

You’d think we’d be running 7 and 1 today. When I first took a running class, that was how things were done, except in the old days all times were run with six reps instead of the current variable rep limit.

This week we’re running 8 and 1s, and I must say I am a little intimidated. But that is tempered by the past 7 weeks’ experience. In not quite two months I have gone from a couch spud who needed to stop to rest during a spirited walk to someone who, last Saturday, ran an extra set of six minutes just because I could. It is amazing how quickly the body adjusts to accommodate the new demands.

More than the distance, or maybe in addition to the distance, the hard part is trying to ignore the passage of time. I’ve started wearing ear buds with my aged MP3 player to distract me. The rest of the class is usually way ahead of me, so I’m always being left to run alone. (There is one lovely lady who, a few times, ran with me to chat even though she was capable of keeping up with the lead group — always welcome.) This is why I say this class is not meant for all ages — running alone while seeing a group ahead of you laughing and talking and enjoying their efforts is, frankly, cruel. If I did not have the history I have; if I did not have the motivation I have, I would have dropped out to make up with my sofa for the rest of whatever. In the ten mile class, I saw a lady who I assume was about my age — and in that class was obviously fit and not overweight — who was running at a relatively slow rate compared to the others in her group. That implied to me that speed is affected by age. If I can improve to her pace, I will be a happy camper.

Eight minutes is a long time. But I do notice, when running on my own on my previous routes, that I’m covering some impressive distance. And music really helps. I do keep my volume set low enough to hear traffic and even to hear footsteps coming from behind as a safety measure. Funny when people yell “Good morning!” thinking I can’t hear after I’ve greeted them in a normal tone

Eight minutes! I did three sets on my own on Saturday. And of course I brag about it on social media. Darn right I brag. I’ve worked hard and earned the right. Next week we do 10 minutes running and 1 minute walking which is the goal for the course. Bring it on!

Weeks 9 & 10 – The Big One!

Ten and 1s! The goal for the course a week early. (We had class interceptions with a couple of long weekends so it worked out we got here early.)

Knowing today is the establishment of a new base level provides enough adrenaline that there is no fear of the ten minute span. That and the fact we’re only doing 2 of them. I have my tunes on. My playlist was created well over 10 years ago, and with my lack of exercise I’ve not heard it for a very long time, so the entertainment is augmented by the surprise of the next tune. Very cool.

A lot of celebrating for the whole group when we get through this. I am the only person in the class, including the instructor who took a week off to run a race, who attended every class (and lead it the week the instructor was away). So I secretly applaud myself for my wherewithal to hang in there and get it done. I am officially back in the running world and a happy camper.

The final week is a repeat of this one, so I suggest we add a set and make it three reps of 10 and 1 so there is a continued growth to the last class, and we do.

Full disclosure at this point, the class ended August 12, 2019. I have been writing this blog well after the fact and enjoyed looking back and reliving the terror and intimidation of the class. Haha!

The next couple of posts will cover my ongoing progress and come up to the present in short order. Spoiler Alert. Today is October 9, 2019. I can run 40 minutes non-stop and just ran my first five set 10:1. =^D