My 10-Month Couch to Half-Marathon Journey
DISCLAIMER: OK, first off all I'd like to say that I'm not a personal trainer or a doctor. I'm not saying everyone should go out and do exactly what I did to get from the couch to a half-marathon in less than a year. I just wanted to write down how I did it if anybody was interested. Proceed at your own risk! Although, I'm sure your health will be the better for it!
The Journey Begins--November 2009
Let's just say that I've never considered myself to be overweight or obese. Just out of shape. I'm 5'1" and at my heaviest I weighed just under 135 pounds. People would look at me and say, "You don't need to lose any weight!" But I knew better.
I was 33 years old and after being married for almost 10 years, I
had definitely entered my COMFORT ZONE. I was content to eat fast food
several times a week and after working long shifts as a veterinary
technician, I only wanted to plop down on the couch when I got home. It
was a vicious cycle of eating crappy food, feeling tired and taking naps
. . . that repeated itself over and over again . . . day after day. Life was good, but it was also very boring.
One morning while getting dressed for work I had a hard time pulling my scrub pants over my thighs and I knew I needed serious intervention. Since I'm not the kind of person who just eases her way gently into a project, I knew I wanted to try P90X. In fact, forget the word TRY. I was going to DO IT!
That was the week before Thanksgiving 2009. Before starting P90X I wanted to get my diet under-control first. So for the next month or so I said NO to fast-food, pop (regular AND diet), and any other food high in calories but low in nutrients. I also got my portion sizes under control. Doing that I managed to get myself down to 123 pounds. Did you know that 80% of your body composition is determined by what you eat?
My Training Tools
P90X Round 1
My P90X journey officially began on January 4, 2010. My husband had done P90X before so I pretty much knew what to expect. In fact, I had done (or attempted to do) two of the workouts before: Cardio X and Ab Ripper X. I thought Cardio X was insanely difficult (looking bad I think that's rather sad) and Ab Ripper X darn near crippled me the first time I did it.
I knew I was ready though. It's hard to explain but something just clicks in your brain when you KNOW it's time to make a change. So I pressed play for the first time. I blogged about my experience during the entire 90 days and you can read the first post here : My P90X Experience-Day 1
I didn't lose a lot of weight doing P90X but I shrank a lot (see my before and after pics below). And my energy level went through the roof. I followed the Classic plan for the first 60 days but then did Doubles for the last 30 days.
I had so much energy after my first round that I decided to go for a run (Forrest-Gump-style) to see how far I could go. I didn't make it across the country but I did make it 3 miles. The last time I attempted to go running I only made it 1/2 mile. At that moment I made the decision to run a half-marathon (remember when I said I never ease my way gently into anything?).
P90X Round 2 (Insanity Hybrid)
I started my second round of P90X on April 19, 2010. For a couple weeks I experimented with some of the different Insanity workouts to see which ones would work out best with my hybrid Doubles program. Instead of doing Cardio X every other day which started to get really boring I substituted a variety of Insanity workouts for Cardio X. All I can say is that Insanity really lives up to its name! It was also around this time that I made the decision to become a Beachbody coach.
I did a P90X/Insanity hybrid program for 5 weeks and then it was time to start my half-marathon training. So, instead of doing Insanity I went running for my cardio workout. I originally had intentions of doing all three but that was just TOO much. I completed my hybrid program in mid-July and then I started focusing on training for my long runs!
I used an 18-week training schedule which was based on Hal Higdon's half-marathon training guide. I remember starting in May and thinking the end of September was sooooo far away. But luckily I listened to some good advice I received from one of my running friends who told me that it was better to start training sooner rather than later. Originally I was going to follow a 12-week plan that I found, but decided that 6 extra weeks of training wouldn't hurt.
Training during the summer was pretty awful, especially since we had really humid weather this year in Michigan. But I think it helps your performance to train in not-so-pleasant temperatures, as long as you stay hydrated. The most challenging part of my training was experimenting with different methods of refueling. I tried GU a couple times and really hated it. It gave me a stomach ache. But I might not have been drinking enough water with it. I also tried Fig Newtons and didn't like those either. I finally settled on Life Savers but you have to be careful with those so you don't choke on them!
Capital City River Run
For my first race I ran the Capital City River Run in Lansing, MI on September 26, 2010. I can't say that I followed any particular strategy for the race--my goal was simply to finish. However, I managed to record a very respectable time for my first half-marathon: 2:08:51.
At the start line I made sure to find the 10:00 minute pacer. A pacer is a runner that usually volunteers as part of the group that organizes or sponsors the race. They run the race using a pre-determined pace such as a 10-minute mile, 9-minute mile, etc. One of the nice things about pacers is that they can prevent you from going out too fast at the beginning and expending all your energy too early.
So, I began the race slightly behind the 10-minute pace group. About 2 miles in I had slowly made my way to the front of the group, and after 3 miles or so the leader of the pace group was behind me. The leader of the pace group was dressed up like a pirate, and every so often he would yell ARRRRRGH! This was kinda nice because throughout the entire race I was able to tell how far ahead of the pace group I was based on the sound of the pirate.
This worked out perfectly. The 10-minute pace group finished right on time at 2:11:05 and I was 3 minutes ahead. Three minutes doesn't sound like a long time, but it is when you're running!
I ran the race with my sister and we stayed together for the first 3 miles but she started to pull ahead of me. The entire race I was distracted because I kept trying to look for her. I never saw her again until the finish line but she finished only 39 seconds in front of me! Hopefully I can convince her to run my next race too because I think knowing that she was in front of me really motivated me to push harder!
The weather for the race was PERFECT. The morning was pretty chilly but once we got running it was nice. When the race was over my family was there to greet us and my other sister had made us chocolate chip cookies! I really wanted some water, but the cookie hit the spot too!
I don't think I'm ready for a full-marathon just yet. Those last 2-3 miles were really tough! So my next goal is to do a half-marathon in less than 2 hours. I know I can do it! My plan is to start Insanity in November and then when that's finished start another training schedule that includes more speed work and tempo runs.
So there you have it. That's exactly how I went from the couch to a half-marathon in less than a year. If I can do it, you can too!
If you'd like start your own couch to 5K, 10K, or half-marathon journey I'd love to help you! I will walk you step-by-step through the process exactly how I did it. All you have to do is contact me and we can get started today!!