Triathlon? Running

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In my last post, I wrote about how my life was breaking down as I approached 30. I was woefully out of shape and getting bigger and more depressed in equal proportions. A chance dinner with a 40something triathlete friend, and a reflective period back to my fitter days led me to settle on the goal of running a triathlon.

Hear me now: deciding to do something and getting amped for it is one thing. Actually getting off your rear (which is a great thing to do, as we’ve posted before on this blog) and putting in the work is something else altogether.

I wanted to find a sustainable way of getting in shape. I had seen a lot of friends enjoy great success with Crossfit and P90X, but once they got out of those programs their weight came back. I get into habits far too easily, so I sought ways to make fitness a habit I could sustain for years and years to come. And that’s the beauty of the triathlon: running, biking, and swimming are all things I can do for years and years to come.

Before I did anything, I actually did what the commercials suggest and met with my doctor. He reaffirmed my decision to go the triathlon route, as well as a need for me to drop 20 or so pounds.

I knew if I wanted to tri that I would need to conquer my biggest beast, running, so I selected it as a starting point. I threw on a pair of shorts and my sneakers, and immediately sprinted a solid five mile run!

No, it didn’t really happen like that at all.

I made it about a block before my legs began to wobble and my lungs burned. You see, me and running have a long history. Like many American kids, I grew up playing sports that required sprinting. Football, baseball, basketball all require brief, intense periods of sprinting followed by periods of resting.

A coworker heard my plight and turned me on to a program that changed everything: Couch to 5K.C25K is a free, nine week program designed to take you from no running to being able to comfortably cover three miles in 30 minutes. It's only three runs a week, most of which are around 20 minutes. Which is perfect for a pre-work or lunchtime exercise. You can print out their schedule from their website, or if you have a smartphone, download any number of apps that will verbally talk you through the program.

Here's the basic gist: in the beginning, the program has you walk quite a bit, and run a little, over the course of 20 minutes. Over the next few weeks your walk periods increase, as do your runs. Then, as you hit the second half of the course, your walks begin to decline as your runs continue to increase.

I didn’t realize it, but this program was training me to breathe normally during exertion, while gaining confidence with each distance. I remember being intimidated before five-minute runs, then shocked at how easy they seemed.

I recommend using an app that will allow you to listen to music while you receive the verbal cues. There are plenty of free apps, but I recommend shelling out $2.99 for the Ease into 5K app.

One great thing about Couch to 5K is most triathlons offer a “sprint” distance, which is great for first-timers. In a sprint, the run distance is a 5k, which means you'll be right on target with this program.

C25K introduced me to the art of distance running, and now I can run for hours at a time. Running has become therapeutic for me, even. I can listen to music I'm into or sometimes an informative podcast, break a sweat, watch the world pass by, and let the troubles of the daily grind disappear for a bit.

I found out pretty quickly that a decent pair of shoes was worth investing in. I’ve got old football knees and an ankle that I sprained 15 times in one season. I needed good shoes, but I didn’t want to fork out $150 for them. I went into a running store and tried on dozens of pairs. They even watched me on the treadmill and told me what kind I needed based on how I ran.

Once I found THE pair for me, I took note of the model and went home to search for them online.

I found a better price being offered online, and took that price into the store, who was happy to match it. With just an hour of work, I had saved $30 off a pair of $120 shoes.

I ran for a solid six months before picking up the other aspects of the triathlon, because I wanted my lungs to be in great shape for the swim and bike. This also gave me the chance to pick up a few running mates, who like me, were once large-gutted mouth breathers as I had been.

I dropped 15 pounds and felt my energy shoot up. Just three miles gave me a buzz for the rest of the day.

Thanks to C25K, I had my running conquered in just 30 minutes or so a day, and was already feeling great. Would it keep up with swimming and biking? Keep reading to find out!

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