Thursday, June 11, 2015

Couch to 5K

Brisbane and I started the Couch to 5K running program last week. For those unaware, this is a fitness training program designed to gently ease the most sedentary person into the world of exercise. The idea is to go from "running makes me feel like I'm going to die" to "I can run for 30 minutes straight without passing out" in 9 weeks. In theory.

I've always been a fairly active person, and to be honest I really like running. I'm just terrible at it. Really, really terrible. In my defense, I have a whole lot working against me.

My knees are genetically horrible in a way that wasn't fixed by surgery, so they balloon up if I run in sneakers on pavement like a normal person.

Last year my pulmonologist decided I don't actually have asthma after all, and instead I have something called "restrictive lung disease" that is probably related to my autoimmune issues. This means my lungs are operating at about 60% capacity.

I also have exercise-induced acid reflux, which is without a doubt the stupidest health problem ever. Instead of getting massive heartburn and reflux symptoms when I lay down, I get them when I move around. Sometimes it gets bad enough that I end up puking stomach acid. There are not enough antacids in the world to mitigate this, and none of the other meds I've tried have helped.

At the age of ten, Brisbane needs to stay active in order to remain as comfortable as possible for as long as possible. Light jogging on unpaved surfaces is really good for conditioning, but most surfaces tear up his feet. The paw pad issue is part of the reason he has gained so much weight, waiting for them to heal made for some very sedentary weeks.

The only surface that doesn't damage Brisbane's paws or offend my touchy knee cartilage is deep, dry sand. Coincidentally, this is also the most labor intensive running surface ever. Hence the Couch to 5K plan. Ideally we should be running three days a week for longer intervals each time.

Last week we did Week 1: Day 1, which consists of a five minute warm up walk and then alternating 60 seconds of running with 90 seconds of walking. This set off my reflux so bad I started to wonder if I was actually having a heart attack (I do have medical clearance to run around on the beach like a total dork in case anyone was wondering. Brisbane does, too.) Then we took a few days off for various reasons, and today we did...Week 1: Day 1 again. Briz seemed to enjoy it more this time. Ru ran circles around us and flitted across the sand like a little pixie because he has almost no bodyweight to move around. I am slightly less refluxy than I was last time, so I think we'll move up to Week 1: Day 2 for our next run.

I don't know if we'll ever run marathons, but I'm going to celebrate any sign of improvement because I have a lot I'm working against. We may not ne running 5K in nine weeks, but we'll definitely have made some progress by then.

What sort of activities do you do with your dog?


  1. This is such a great exercise plan, Rachel! I just went and got a gait analysis done today and for now, I am only supposed to walk... No running yet as my heart and lungs won't take it. I am in pretty bad shape. However, I can walk a lot, and I should. So this is what Bruno and I will be doing a bunch. Also, light hiking. We have a small hill here in my area known as Kennesaw Mountain that is hikeable. We have other hikeable hills known as mountains that we will work on. So walking is our best friend for the few months to come. Do you have recommendations on waist leashes or any other leashes that do not need to be hand-held?


    1. Good for you! I haven't had a gait analysis done yet, but I probably should. I love listening to music while I'm walking, though when I hike I prefer to just listen to nature. When I'm running I always tell myself that no matter how slow I go, I am still lapping everyone on the couch. (Saw that quote on a poster and thought it was awesome) This helps when I am slowly jogging down the beach and someone powerwalks past me.

      For hands-free leashes, I really like the Ruffwear Roamer because it is stretchy and versatile. Ollydog's Mt. Tam leash is similar, stretchy and goes around your waist. Dr. Sophia Yin uses The Buddy System leash in all her videos, that one has an adjustable length but isn't stretchy. I just saw a Hurtta leash at Petco recently that is worn on your hand like a fingerless glove so you can push a baby stroller while holding it.

  2. Yeah, I will definitely work up to being able to jog and run. The gait analysis was pretty eye-opening though. I found out that if I had been raised with some sports and exercise in my life, I would have made a pretty good sprinter, because my form in fast running was naturally the best between slow walk, fast walk, slow run (jog) and fast run. Oh well. Maybe I can work up to that too.

    As for hands-free leashes, I found one by Fusion Pets K9 Hands Free Fitness pack that comes with waist attachment, stretchy leash, water bowl, harness, bag for storing the kit, and a little S-shaped carabiner. It is on a mad sale, so I may just have to get it and try it out. :)