My Couch to 5k: the beginnening

If you’ve read my blog for a little while, you’ll have learnt that I am pro body acceptance and anti body negativity. Body acceptance, for me, involves honouring one’s body and loving it for what it can do and not treating it too poorly because it doesn’t look like other people’s (amongst other things). Body negativity covers dieting, negative self talk and shaming other people’s bodies to make yourself feel better (amongst other things).

Bridge to Brisbane 2009

One of the things I always wanted to do, but worried that I couldn’t, is run. Last year, in my year of being awesome to myself, I started to believe I could run! Sure, running in public as a fat person is scary and fraught with anxiety, but it was an issue I had to confront if I wanted to achieve my goal. I started by meeting a personal trainer and telling her about Health At Every Size and encouraging her to incorporate HAES principles into her ethos. Then I bought a pair of skins and walked the Bridge to Brisbane in a tutu! I’d heard of Couch to 5k a couple of years ago but instantly dismissed it because I didn’t know what my body could do, and then I forgot all about it until I was looking for iPhone apps late one night a few weeks ago. I came across the C25k app and it was decided – I would achieve my goal to run.

In the last year, even though I had a great foundation of self esteem, I became more comfortable with my visibility as a fat person. Running challenges how comfortable I am as a fat person making herself visible, because fat people are not perceived as being able to run or being interested in their health (I know this to be untrue, but do you?) I want to run down a busy main road and not worry about cat calls or abuse, because I am running for me. It’s important to mention that I’m not doing this for weight loss. Running has always been something that has intrigued me, and when I see people jogging along the road I feel pangs of envy. I enjoy moving my body – yep, even working up a sweat – but I am not interested in competitive sports, so activities like walking and swimming have always appealed to me. But running… running involves pushing through mental barriers, physical stamina, breathing correctly, and best of all… moving swiftly!

If you’re not familiar with the Couch to 5k concept, it is a nine week programme that has three sessions per week. You start with a five minute walking warm up and then do a 60 second jog followed by a 90 second walk. The jogging interval is repeated for 20 minutes, and concluded with a five minute cool down walk. Every week the intervals are stepped up until you hit Week 7 when you’re running for 25 minutes. In the final three weeks you work up to running the whole 5k!

I started the first week of the Couch to 5k programme last week and probably got a bit too ambitious – I did two sessions in two days without giving my body a chance to rest. So I left the third session of the first week until today. Upon reflection, it’s been quite amazing to see the improvement in my body: my bones are getting stronger and I have more stamina! I am aiming to repeat Week 1 again, just to make sure I am physically and mentally prepared for the next week’s challenge.

I am hoping to blog about my Couch to 5k programme weekly – to reflect and encourage myself, and maybe a little bit because I want you to hold me to my commitment! If you want to join me in the C25k there are a heap of resources on where you can download an iPhone or iPod app or find a podcast. There’s also heaps of tips and support at Cool Runnings too!

My tips for starting Week 1 of the Couch to 5k:

  • Wear skins – lycra tights that allow your thighs to glide past each other. You will regret the epic chafing if you don’t wear lycra! Mine are from Target, I found them in the men’s section!
  • If you have an iPhone or iPod Touch (I think) you can download the C2Ck app; if you have an mp3 player you can download any number of podcasts that have music playing between the intervals; and if you don’t have either, go buy a stop watch with a countdown timer.
  • If you’re using the Apple app – don’t lock your screen. It’s a pain in the arse but apparently Apple won’t let programs run in the background. I learnt this the hard way and pretty much walked my whole first session wondering when I’d have to run!
  • Take it easy, and jog at your own pace. Even if that pace is slow.
  • If you can’t push through a tough jogging interval, walk through it. Just keep moving.
  • BREATHE! Even if you have to breathe loudly. It’s your right as a human being.
  • High five yourself when you’re finished each session!


  1. I know you don't know me, but I am so proud of you!(btw,been following your blog for a while because I adore your fashion sense!) As someone who is working toward becoming a personal trainer, I am thrilled to know that someone else is pushing more trainers to incorporate HAES principles:) , and that there are still people out there who appreciate the personal mental high of running/exercise,and don't see it as purely a way to lose weight lol.Happy running!

  2. Hi, it's my first time commenting here. Congrats on doing the c25k.

    I started on the C25k program a couple of years ago and it's great. I think just about everyone I know that has got into running and stuck to it, started with that program.

    Since then I've done heaps of running, including a half marathon. I still can't/don't run 2 days in a row though – well sometimes I do but it's a morning run the first day and a late run the next so at least 36 hours recovery. It's just too hard on my body otherwise.

    I'd add to that list – make sure you have shoes that have been probably fitted for your feet/running style. It makes a huge difference in preventing injuries.

  3. Love the tutu :)

    Congratulations on starting the C25K, I started it last year but was a bit scared to go past level 2… I think I should start again! Your post has motivated me to go out and buy some skins (gotta keep those thighs chafe free!) and get that app and start running around the oval again. I look silly when I run and everything just wobbles everywhere but I think with some good music you can block everything else out :)

    Good luck with it! :)

  4. Hi Natalie,

    Good luck with C25K! It's one of the best things I could have done for myself, physically and mentally. It really forced me to challenge all the preconceptions I had built up about myself in terms of what I thought I could and couldn't do.

    Re the iphone app: I've never had a problem with locking my phone. You can't exit the program, but pressing that top RH button will lock the screen and keep the app running.

    My tips for using the app:

    1. Start up your music
    2. Start up the C25K app (making sure that your ringer is on – otherwise you don't get the audio prompts!)
    3. Lock the screen, and put your phone away so that you're not tempted to watch the countdown


    When you get to the 25-30 min runs in the final weeks, turn your ringer OFF! Believe me, you don't want to hear the “you have reached halfway” audio prompt – it's depressing as hell. The phone will still buzz at the beginning and the end.

    I hope this helps! Feel free to browse the C25K category on my blog to see my posts about it along the way – especially if you ever feel discouraged. It's a rollercoaster, and there will be days that you come home elated and others when you just want to die

  5. Ahh I haven't had music playing because I've been doing the sessions with my husband and I didn't want to tune out and ignore him! Maybe having the music running lets you use the C25k app in the background? I've only had my iPhone for a couple of months so I'm still figuring out things like this!

    I got a stitch in one of my first sessions and I was literally like “NOOOO” *shaking my fist at the sky* I thought it might be related to my breathing, so I've been focusing on that!

  6. This is awesome – exactly the kind of thing I've been looking for. I might even hold off on the gym if I can pull this off. Thank you!!!

  7. The app really helps! I think if I didn't have my iPhone it wouldn't be half as enjoyable – I just don't have to worry about counting down or checking a watch and I can focus on how I'm moving. Plus, exercising with music definitely does help you block the world out! It's amazing for me because I've never experienced it before :D

    Don't worry about looking silly either, I figured out that I couldn't run at a fast pace in my first session and consciously decided to run really slow to work out my natural rhythm. It felt SO silly at first but now I'm starting to find my rhythm and work out how I'm meant to run!

  8. Horah! Welcome!
    I'm glad there are a few people reading who've done it before and have gone on to do longer runs. I did a 10km fun walk last year and I'm hoping to do more this year, even running them :D

    I got new shoes last year – they cost me a pretty penny but I am glad I got them now, because my old ones would have hurt me so bad.

  9. You should definitely give it a go! I've never really liked gyms because I like being outside and fairly solitary when I exercise, but the barrier to entry is pretty low. You just need decent shoes, some appropriate clothes and something to let you know when the intervals are changing!

  10. Yeah – ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to be able to run. I always came last on Sports Day and Cross Country. I was unfit and overweight and uncoordinated. I was just about to join a gym which I know only had 50/50 chances of working. I think I'm going to give this a try first and see how I go! What the hell. New year = new start, huh? :)

  11. I describe it as locking the screen, not running the app in the background.

    You can test it out before your next run – just open C25K, click “start”, and press the silver button on the top-right corner of the phone. Click it again and it'll take you straight back to the app and you'll see that the timer is still running.

    As for the stitches… they SUCK. I eventually realised that I wasn't relaxing my abdominal muscles enough when I ran. As I lost weight my posture improved, and I began to hold myself differently. The end result was spasming from my angry diaphragm.

    If you get into trouble, just let it allll hang out and stop worrying about how your stomach looks. And BREATHE!

  12. How GREAT do you look in your lycra and tutu! :D First time reader, first time commenter who has wanted to get fit for years now. This sounds like just the way to do it!

    Thanks for the inspiration. Following your beautiful blog, now too. Thanks to Dragonflysakura for the introduction. ; ]

  13. Hi!
    I am so glad you posted this! i was just looking at the cool runnings site last week, and was looking at starting this myself!
    I went for a long walk/jog yesterday to get my body back into the spirit of moving a 5k run is one of my new years resolutions!) I found this really interesting website about natural running (aka chi running, newton running, evolution running etc) which looks interesting and it talks about modifying your gait for longer distances instead of speed- i tried some of it and it made a bit of a difference…

    anyway, I am looking forward to reading about your C25k! keep up the good work!

  14. Woohoo I'm not the only Aussie fat doing this, I'm up to level 2, I'm so not a jogger but I'm learning, the iphone app makes much easier, but I also have downloaded the podcasts from here which have been uber helpful too.

    good luck and I'll no doubt see you on the marathon circuit. (i'm assuming there's an Australian marathon circuit)

  15. I am intrigued. I would LOVE to be able to run, I've been totally shite at running my whole life (even as a skinny, it little kid I was a crap runner). I've gotten my fitness up so high this past year but I'd love to be able to run or more than 500m without wanting to collapse.

  16. Yay! I'm following everyone else and saying that this sounds exactly what I need, AND I've always wanted to be able to run, too! I have a treadmill in my house and I've just recently been trying to actually use it. I think being able to run would feel way better than losing ten pounds since it would be for ME :D *goes to download app*

  17. Hi Natalie,

    It's absolutely brilliant that you've started to run! :-) Running is definitely for everyone, not just the super healthy, marathon running elite!

    I think you're running with an iPhone? You might be interested in another Couch to 5K application called “Get Running”. I wrote it last summer to get myself running, and I think it's quite a bit better. For starters – Get Running _does_ let you lock your iPhone while you're running, if you want to. It's also got a few hundred studio recorded prompts that it coaches you with as you run, giving you encouragement and letting you know where you've got to.

    If you'd like to give it a try, there's a free version (Get Running Lite). It's complete except that it only has the audio coaching for week one.

    Very good luck within your running, and keep on going – it was a few weeks after I finished (the 30 minute runs) that I got to the point of really enjoying every run, rather than just doing it out of commitment, but it really is worth it.

  18. I've also started the programme this week. I have completed week one, and will try week 2, but am aware that I may need to repeat a week here or there. I am also doing it at the gym on the treadmill in air-conditioned comfort.

  19. Hiya, I follow you on twitter (@stillpixels). I've just started a new “healthy me” philosophy for the year and you've inspired me to give running a go, especially with that app. Anything that involves an iphone app is a winner for me! Plus I've always been dreadful at running and kinda would like to be able to if y'know, I was in some kind of chase or life threatening situation!

    Anyway, I was thinking about getting a personal trainer myself, but I'm not keen on one of those hardcore bitchy types who makes you do things you don't enjoy. I want someone fun and who'll listen to me when I want to target specific areas. Where'd you find yours and got any recommendations?


  20. I began running as an adult a few years ago, out of a similar discovery: that I COULD. After running a little bit here and there, but never getting much more than a mile before quitting, I discovered interval walk/running with Podrunner intervals. (You can find it here: I took a long time with each “week” … sometimes doing a given week for two or three weeks before stepping up the interval. There are now three Podrunner Interval programs: to 5k, 8k and 10k. I eventually worked through them all, though the longer distances do take a toll on my joints, and developing celiac disease hammered me down to nothing. I'm now healthy again and working my way back up, and running three miles some days, five miles once a week or so. Definitely believe in taking a day off in between runs, and just walking when the joints are complaining. (Ice is the best thing for achy or strained anything; not heat. ;)

    I like running in capris and “bike shorts” for the chafing thing … I pick ones that have a pocket in the back for my iPod. (There are various “Body Glide” products out there that help with chafing, too … can be worn with or without the nylon.)

    I love your blog, and will join those sharing on FB. All the best!


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