Monday, September 15, 2014

Zombies, Run! Exercising after Four Kids!

I have often thought it would be nice to find some kind of exercise or activity I could do to get and stay fit and improve my overall physical health, but I always found that having my kids around made that too difficult, either financially or logistically or both. I also had trouble finding something that held my interest. Simply walking was too boring. I hated running. I didn't have convenient access to a swimming pool, and I don't like swimming anyway. Besides, no matter what activity I chose, I'd have to either find childcare or somehow cart my kids along.

Recently, I committed to trying a "couch to 5K" training program. These types of programs are aimed at sedentary people who would like to work up to running regularly. It sounded perfect to me. I have a double jogging stroller, my older two kids are at school during the day, and I could plop the 3-year-old and the baby in the stroller and go out for regular runs.

The beauty of the couch to 5K program is it's a very clear regimen. There are some variations, but they all use interval training and drills to take you from basically a couch potato to being able to run for 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) in about eight to nine weeks.

I chose to use the Zombies, Run! 5K app for my phone to help guide me through the drills. The app has a back story in which you are the sole survivor of a crash into zombie-infested territory, and you make your way to a safe base. The people there train you to become a runner for them. Being part of a little story makes it more fun, but the training itself is solid.

For this particular program, you do three workouts a week for eight weeks. I've completed the first four episodes so far. The first episode is the introduction, where you learn about your character and do kind of a free walk/run for about 35 minutes. The next three workouts then were training oriented, using this pattern: You walk for 10 minutes to warm up. You then alternate walking for one minute and running for 15 seconds, 10 times. Finally, you take 10 minutes of a free walk/run, where you walk or run as you're able and cool off. Each workout is about 35 minutes. The app can play music from your internal device playlists, but I don't have any, so I set up a Pandora channel of 80's pop music, which is super fun to run to.

The app claims to also track your distance, but I couldn't get that to work on my phone for some reason, so I also downloaded Map My Run, which uses the GPS in your device to track your distance and draws a map of the route you took. It chimes in at each mile to tell you your distance and time, and at the end of a run, it tells you approximately how many calories you burned, how far you went, your mile times, etc. You can share this information to Facebook and other social media if you want.

The combination of the two apps is really motivating. I want to hear the next part of the story, and I want to work up to the next, more difficult, drills. My next training run will have me running for 30 seconds at a time and adds other exercises to the mix. That, combined with seeing my distances increase on Map My Run will be really neat. I'm excited for the first time I break that 3-mile point. So far, my workouts have taken me a little over 2 miles, mostly walking.

Exercise falls under the category of "self care," doing things for yourself that improve your overall feeling of well-being. I think parents often find it difficult to take time for self care because they're so busy filling the needs of the small people they live with, contributing to the family, and taking care of others. Thirty-five minutes a day isn't so much, really (I'm sure I spend far more than that roaming Facebook, for example), and the benefits I reap are great. I especially treasure the times I get to go out without the kids along (when my husband is available to be with the kids, or when we happen to have a babysitter at the house), because then it's truly "me time."

So far, my walk/runs have left me feeling good, energized, and pleasantly tired. I'm more focused when I sit down at my desk to work. I'm happier. I'm more patient with the kids. This is the first time I've actually enjoyed and looked forward to exercising, and especially running!

If you want to follow my Couch to 5K progress, I post a selfie with the results of the day's workout on my instagram feed. Here's today's selfie:

#c25k today was 2.28 miles in 36 minutes, same workout as the two previous. Next workout will increase run time and add a new exercise. Also, my first#zombiesrun mission completed! (Good news, I escaped the zombie. In case you were worried.)

Have you done a Couch to 5K program, or something similar? Tell us about it!

*I downloaded these apps for my personal use and was not asked by either company to endorse or review their products.