Well, here we are 4 weeks later – if you haven’t yet read the first instalment in the 3 post series I recommend giving it a read here in case you want some background. For the rest of you – In this post, I will be discussing the Couch to 5k after 4 weeks and reviewing my weight loss, general fitness and how much I am enjoying the experience thus far!
Upon commencement of the Couch to 5k programme I have to say I was immediately apprehensive about the 9 weeks ahead. The first week was structured in an intermittent format consisting of 7 bouts of 1-minute running separated by 90 seconds of rest in between.
My main concern about this structure was founded in the specificity principle of training (which you can read about along with the other essential principles of training here). Intermittent based training is an excellent form of cardiovascular training for so many reasons and has been found to improve many constituents of cardiovascular function such as improved VO2 max, even shown to be superior in some cases to even medium intensity continuous training MICT when factoring in time spent (see here).
However, there are many other factors that do not make interval-based training an appropriate form of training in a 9-week intensive running programme designed to have people with little or no running history running for half an hour, such as running economy and development of the motor pattern associated with the gait cycle of high intensity running compared to sustained medium intensity running,
I completed my next two runs with this in the back of my mind, until week 2 when some interesting circumstances surfaced and I realized what a sceptical bellend I was being…
Ultimately, the reasons that caused me to do a complete 180° were twofold… On the first day of week 2, as we finished our first bout of 90 seconds sprinting I looked over my shoulder to check and see how my girlfriend Laia was doing and I noticed that she had an appearance that would likely occur if Mike Tyson had sprinted past in the opposite direction and delivered one of his famous body shots straight to her stomach, knocking all of the wind out of her and leaving her gasping for breath she could not catch with both hands.
In an effort to keep up with me and run at a high intensity, she had driven herself to the point that I thought I was going to have to call an air ambulance. And suddenly I realized that I had interpreted the goal of these first two weeks completely wrong – at no point did the app say that these intermittent running bouts were to be performed at a high intensity, they were merely to gradually acclimate new runners to a moderately elevated heart rate and give them a rest in between to allow them a few seconds reprieve.
With this in mind we carried out the final two days of week two at a lowered intensity and an interesting thing happened that allowed me to understand the other reason why the program was structured in this way. Laia suddenly became the one telling me it was time to go for our run, or that maybe we should get it done nice and early in the morning so we can start out the day right.
Suddenly it dawned on me how much of an issue adherence is for newcomers to the fitness community, simple goals such as weight loss or improved fitness is not enough to motivate people to do work that makes them miserable. By lowering the intensity and referring more to the individualization principle of training her enjoyment and likelihood to continue with the program skyrocketed.
By the end of this week, my weight loss was minimal but nothing to be sneered at given how I managed to take myself from 90kg to 120kg in the blink of an eye, by the end of two weeks I had lost 0.8kg.
With the first two weeks out of the way and my new founded knowledge that maybe the very experienced Sports Scientists and S&C coaches responsible for the building of the Couch to 5k program had a better idea of what they were doing than me (I know.. Who’d have thunk it!..) it was time to begin the third week of the program.
Given that I now understood where mine and Laia’s fitness levels were at and the disparity between them I considered the possibility that It was better for us to go on separate runs so we could push our own cardiovascular thresholds and progress at our own rates, however, because I wanted to monitor her progress as well as mine (and bloody hell running is boring, sorry to all the devout runners out there… that you have a sickness) I decided it was best for us to continue running together and let her set the pace.
Week three took a similar format as the prior two weeks, with a 90 second run and rest to start and finish the day. However, in between it also included a more lengthy 3 minute run which to my pleasant surprise both myself and Laia could complete with little difficulty. By the end of the week we were feeling motivated in our ability and eager to step up the intensity.
My weight loss had jumped up dramatically giving me a loss total loss of 2kg since I began the program.
By week 4 all of the very short duration running was out the window to my suppressed joy, we were now completing a total of three bouts of running, two of which for 3 minutes and the other for 5 minutes.
This week appeared to cause Laia some mild cardiovascular discomfort, despite the extended rest periods she did not manage to fully recover her breath in between bouts of running. This was an indication to me that we were passed the adherence building stage of the program and into the physiological adaptation phase, despite the increased difficulty we both made it out for the runs every day and walked home with a smile on our faces.
In terms of weight loss, by the end of week 4 I had lost 2.9kg and Laia had lost 1.8kg. On top of this, due to my rediscovered passion for fitness training my diet has cleaned up massively and I’m even feeling like I’m ready to start tracking my calories and macros again.
In conclusion, the first 4 weeks of the Couch to 5k surprised me in how well thought out and structured they were, they covered all bases including not only an appropriately gradual progression for people inexperienced with fitness training or cardio workouts, but the habituation of participants to getting out of the house 3 days a week and putting in some work.
All in all I’m extremely pleased with how this first leg of the Couch to 5k has gone, its allowed me to fall back in love with fitness training again as well as perpetuating my weight loss and nutrition. I cant wait to tell you guys how the second goes, stay tuned for the final 4 weeks!
If any of you are keen to work on your weight loss, increase your cardiovascular ability or just wanted to add to your fitness training you can join me on my Couch to 5k journey by downloading the app for IOS here and for Android here.