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Couch to 5k and beyond

Yesterday, I finally stopped doubting myself.

Yesterday, I firmly believed myself when I said, "I'm a runner." It took a while to accept what I had become and believe that I could really do it, but I'm here.

I'm not fast and I'm not amazing, but I can do it.

It all started March 1, when I decided to take my fitness to a new level. Workouts in my living room weren't cutting it, and I didn't have a treadmill, so I forced myself out into the snow to start the Couch to 5k program.

About six weeks in, I finished my first 5k. Yesterday, after 12 weeks of preparation, I finally ran the RBS Memorial 5K in Edon. Yes, it's the same 5K that I've walked for several years, including in 2012 when I finished dead last amongst the walkers. It was definitely a turning point for me.

Now, I am by no means a running expert or a fitness professional. However, I'd like to offer my own tips and experiences as a rookie runner and a Couch to 5K graduate.

• Run three times a week - no more, no less. I followed this rule diligently in my training. Sometimes, I wanted to sneak in that fourth run, but I held back to avoid injury. And, obviously, sometimes I didn't want to go at all. But I kept telling myself "A bad run is better than no run at all," and it pushed me to finish. I never, ever have regretted a workout thanks to this rule.

• Have the proper gear. You don't have to spend a lot of money to get a decent pair of running shoes, so don't try to get by with the same pair of tennis shoes you've worn for three years. Your feet deserve better. Next, find some clothes that make you feel comfortable and free. Even in the winter, I didn't want to be weighed down, so I invested in clothes that were both warm and light.

• Don't let your stats define you. I previously tracked all my runs with a Couch to 5K app, and now I use the Runtastic Pro app on my iPhone. While technology is helpful and can push you to meet your goals, it can also be disheartening. Don't get down if you have a bad day, and DON'T compare your stats to someone else's. When you're just starting out, you've got plenty of time to catch up to the pros. By running standards, I'm slow. But when I start feeling sorry for myself I just think of how far I've come.

• Reward yourself. I set mini goals for myself throughout the last 12 weeks to keep me going strong: New shoes, Bluetooth headphones, new workout gear and (coming soon) an iTunes gift card for a fresh music playlist. All these things are motivating to me AND make me want to keep running.

• Sign up for a race - or three. For me, taking the plunge and registering for races pushed me to keep going. Also, I signed up with friends so the peer pressure would keep me from dropping out. I've already run two traditional 5Ks this year. This coming weekend, I am running a Warrior Dash (a 5K with mud and obstacles) and in August, I am running in Color Me Rad (where you get blasted with color powder along the course). I think another race might happen in July, just because I'm having fun with it all

• Be social - because even if you train alone, there's an entire nation of other runners out there. Even though races are technically competitions, I've come to learn runners are just a friendly bunch of people who like to support each other no matter how fast or how slow they are. At races, it's not so much about winning or losing, it's about not being alone for the journey. My sister likes to high five people as we cross paths at races, and I got several "great jobs" and thumbs ups from fellow runners at both of my 5Ks. Running is a mental sport, as they say, and we are all insane.


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