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  • Writer's pictureHayley Marcus

How I Went From My Couch to Running a 5K

At 27 years old, today marks the day that I was able to run a full 5K without stopping for breaks for the first time in a literal decade. I am in no way a fitness guru or even anywhere near being good at working out; but the pride that beamed out of my soul today when my tracker hit 3.1 that is priceless. How did I get here? With blood, sweat, and many (MANY) tears. For those of you who follow me on social media, you know that I have been on a fitness (and self love) journey for the last year or so. During the pandemic I lost 40 pounds; and yes I am beyond proud of that feat...but the weight loss didn't come without struggle.

Despite studying nutrition in college, I will admit that I had an extremely unhealthy relationship with food which bled into an unhealthy relationship with fitness. I would chose to starve for a day to fit into clothes and play it off that I was eating "lettuce and air", but really I was getting further from any goal I had without knowing it. Anyone who has researched or studied nutrition will tell you how CRUCIAL getting your daily nutrients in are. I am someone who let the amount of food I ate dictate my confidence. About 3 months ago I decided enough was enough and I decided to start going to the gym again. My main be able to run a 5K again without stopping for breaks.

I downloaded an app called C25K which gave me guided runs to train my body into being able to run 3.1 miles. At first...I ran for maybe 60 seconds without stopping and that would be all I could handle. There were days where I felt discouraged by the amount of time I could run. There were days where I considered running two of the programs instead of one because I wanted a heavier dinner. Looking back now, it makes me both extremely sad to recognize how bad it was and extremely grateful to be where I am. I brought myself to the gym 5-6 days every week and would not leave until I at least got my run in. Yes, there were so many times I almost talked myself out of going and gave myself every excuse why it was a good idea to skip....but they were just that: excuses.

As the days and weeks went by, I felt lighter; and not in weight but in spirit. I felt accomplished. I felt proud that I was actually sticking to my plan. 60 second runs turned into 3 minute runs. 3 minute runs turned into 10 minute runs, which turned into 20 minute runs. Week 7 of my program started the 25-28 minute runs and those really got to me. Mid run I would start the inner monologue on why it would be okay to stop before my timer went out. Was it because I physically could not do it? Not in the slightest. It was 100% a mental war. I was trying to talk myself out of finishing the 25-28 minute runs because I was afraid to let myself down if I PHYSICALLY could not finish them. Last week during my last 28 minute run before the 5K I had hit the 20 minute mark and almost hit stop on the treadmill until "Champion" by Carrie Underwood came on...and if you know me, this is my POWER song. Suddenly the "side cramp" and lack of breath went away. I could breathe. There was no pain. I knew I could brave it. That day was also when my relationship with food changed, and this was solely because my confidence was back.

For me, music was a HUGE piece of getting to my goal. I spent hours making a playlist that would motivate me and also take my attention away from the timer. Dance music is always my go to for runs...but once my power song came on, it became the only song when those negative thoughts started. Today, I walked into that gym and started my first attempt at a 5K with no breaks. I put my usual dance playlist on and was in a groove (despite accidentally picking the squeaky treadmill and being convinced everyone was cursing me out in their heads). I started to get bored with my usual playlist and queue the negative thoughts. I started to think maybe I should just take a walk break and find a new song. I thought maybe 3 minute walk break is fine. The "side cramp" (in parentheses because it; in fact, did not exist, it was mental) started. As soon as those thoughts were flooding in, I put my power song on repeat and started my breathing exercises. The cramps dissipated. I felt a cool air hit me. I knew it was happening. AND. IT. HAPPENED.

I honestly almost cried when I saw the treadmill tick to 3.1 miles. 10 years. 10 years it took to get myself back up and do this. AND THAT'S OKAY!!! How long it took me to do it doesn't matter. My perseverance once I decided to do it is what matters. It is not an easy road, and getting out of your own head is one of the hardest tasks ever, but you my friend...can do it and more. When I left the gym after completing my first 5k in years, I found myself walking with purpose (and dancing down the grocery store aisles). I had a smile on my face and not only because I did it....but I felt so confident. I for the first time in years, felt so much love for myself. I felt the weight lifted off of me. I felt like every single one of us should every day of our lives.

If you take anything from my story, I hope you take away knowing you CAN do whatever you set your goals to be. Find your power song and push yourself. Know your worth and your world will open up.

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