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After jogging sporadically for years, I tried jogging six days a week for three weeks using a Couch to 5K program. It did not go how I expected.
Jogging is the only exercise I’ve ever been able to do with some kind of consistency. I’m slow, but it seems to agree with my body, I guess, in that I’ve never gotten injured.
I’ve never jogged more than a few times a week, though. Even for the half marathons that I’ve actually trained well for (two out of the five, I’d say), I’ve always kept the training light. Because I’m lazy. Not lazy enough to skip it altogether, but too lazy to do the four or five that were always on the schedule.
At one point a few years ago I jogged eight miles without stopping. I was not fast, but I was moving. That same year I jogged a 10K that was ALL hills. Not even exaggerating a little. There was no flat ground whatsoever, but I did it.
So I was pretty mad at myself that I’d let my fitness level slide this far in so short a time. I started a Couch to 5K program, something I’ve done probably a dozen times before. But I had never started one this out of shape or this big. And it was really, really hard. Way harder than I ever remembered it being before. The first workout was just brutal. I felt like I was going to collapse my legs hurt so much. And this was from a combined eight minutes of jogging, with walking breaks in between! How the hell had I ever jogged eight miles?
In a moment of insanity brought on by oxygen deprivation from that first workout, I decided to go balls to the wall and do it six times a week instead of three. My goal was to jog a 5K race that I’d signed up for a while back. The race was in five weeks, so I figured that if I did the C25K double-time (the program is normally nine weeks long), I would even have a few days to spare before the race.
I’ve never exercised six days a week in my life. Ever. But a Couch to 5K is not an outrageous amount of exercise. If you’ve never done a C25K, the program is pretty great. It’s designed to ease you into it starting with one-minute bursts of running, and before you know it, you’re running for more than three miles without stopping.
I usually do my own distance-based program, but I’m between running apps (long story), so I bought the official Couch to 5K app. It’s not ideal because the workouts are designed around time, not distance. The end goal of the app is to run for 30 minutes straight. Of course, it takes me 40 minutes to finish a 5K, so the program wouldn’t actually get me there, but it would get me close. And it wouldn’t be much of a time commitment. Even with the warm up and cool down and some stretching after I get home, I’m done in 35-45 minutes. And only 20-30 of that is real exercise.
So how did I do? I lasted three weeks. Honestly, longer than I thought I would. In three weeks I worked up from barely being able to jog for a minute, to 22 straight minutes. I did it rain or shine. I did it when the temperature was already over 80 degrees before 7am. I did it first thing, before eating anything or even drinking a Diet Dr Pepper. I would get up, put on my workout clothes (if I hadn’t slept in them), use the bathroom, drink half a glass of water, and go.What happens when an overweight, out of shape woman jogs six days a week? via @AmyOztan Click To Tweet
And I learned a few things.
1) Doing the same exercise every day, I was always in pain. I figured it would go away in a week as my body got used to it, but that never happened. My legs were sore all the time, except on Monday mornings, because Sunday was my day off from jogging. But all the other days, sore. That did not feel good. I’m hoping that in the future if I mix things up with different exercises, I can give other body parts a chance to hurt.
2) The amount of exercise was not really enough to cut into my day, so I can’t use time as an excuse anymore.
3) Going early is my only option. There were just a couple of days where I couldn’t exercise first thing, and those jogs almost didn’t happen. Trying to make them happen kind of ruined my day. Getting it over with early feels good.
4) I don’t own enough exercise clothes. I actually own more cold-weather stuff, because all of the half marathons I’ve done happened in February, so my training was going on in the cold. But I only really had two summer outfits. And I kept forgetting to wash them. A couple of times I threw them in the wash in the morning and didn’t wait for them to dry all the way. It wasn’t comfortable, but I figured that I sweat so much they’d be damp soon anyway.
5) I actually made a huge difference in my fitness level in only three weeks! How do I know? Because I started the program over this morning, and that first workout (alternating one minute of jogging with 90 seconds of walking) seemed so, so much easier than last time. And I was faster. That was encouraging.
6) The Couch to 5K program is totally doable if you’re as out of shape and overweight as I am. Look, I’m no doctor, so this is not advice for you. I’m saying that for me, being at least 60 pounds overweight, it’s doable and beneficial. Obviously check with your doctor, yada yada yada. But if you’ve never jogged and want to, this is a great way to start.
7) Public accountability doesn’t work for me at all. I’ve attempted other workout plans where I posted everything, and it didn’t matter. This time I stayed pretty quiet. My Couch to 5K account isn’t private, so my log was viewable, but I didn’t post on social media after each workout. And yet I stuck to it anyway. I know that posting publicly works for some people. I might do it in the future, just for fun. But it’s never helped me reach a goal.
So why did I stop after three weeks? My left knee was killing me. I just weigh too much right now to put it through that much jogging that many days in a row. It actually felt fine while I was jogging, but going up and down stairs started to really hurt in the third week. So, I took week four off, did just a couple of workouts in week five, and ended up skipping the race anyway, because I swear that it was supposed to start at 9am when I signed up. Not the 7am I saw on the schedule when I went to look for packet pick-up instructions. I just didn’t feel like getting up at 5 on a Sunday.
Like I said, I started the program over this morning, and my new plan is to still exercise six days a week, but to alternate the Couch to 5K plan with walking and biking, to give my knee a break. The program will be winding up in the middle of November, at which point I’ll probably switch to indoor exercise until spring.
So couch potatoes, rejoice! You can make a difference in well under an hour a day. But you have to get out there.
Want some of the things that make jogging easier? This is the key holder on my sneaker (last time I checked it wasn’t available, but this one looks similar), and these are the amazing bone-conducting headphones I jog with.