Goodbye Couch to 5k, Hello Merf to 5k!

I was pretty excited to get to the gym today to start week 4 of Couch to 5k. Week 4 is a big leap from week 3. Week 1 has 8 minutes of running. Weeks 2 and 3 each have 9 minutes of running. Then week 4 jumps to 16 minutes!  W-h-o-a! Approaching the treadmill, I did not feel that calm, confident feeling from last week. Instead of “Christine, you can do this!” I was saying “Look, don’t push yourself too hard. Do what you can…”

I wasn’t able to do the week 4 routine. There you have it. But it had nothing to do with my (lack of) positive thinking and everything to do with my heart rate. I’m just not physically ready to run five minutes at a time. After about three minutes of running, my heart rate hits 180, and I have to slow down to a walking pace to bring it back down.

I think Couch to 5k just isn’t the program for me. See, it’s based on time. It is designed in intervals of walking and running, based on time. Three minutes running, two minutes walking, five minutes running, etc. The program takes for granted that I will be able to do that!

Since my heart rate is the culprit here, I have decided to design a new program called “Merf to 5k”, whose routines are designed around heart rate instead of time. On the Merf to 5k program, I will walk/run a 5k during each workout. I will warm up for five minutes, then run (fast or slow, doesn’t matter!). Once my heart rate gets too high (>175) I’ll walk until it comes down to the 150’s. Run to 175, walk to 150’s, and so on and so on until I get to 3.1 miles.

I’m no fitness expert, but this seems to make more sense to me, considering my own personal situation and my own personal limitations. I’ll be able to track my average speed, average heart rate, and time, and hopefully watch all those numbers improve. And at all times, I’ll know just where I am in terms of completing a 5k.

I’d love some feedback/input on my new program. Do you think it makes sense? Do you think it will help me reach my goal of running a 5k this summer?

This entry was posted in c25k, fitness, health, merf to 5k, run. Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Goodbye Couch to 5k, Hello Merf to 5k!

  1. Hannah says:

    I don’t think I should be giving input into the exercise program, considering my complete lack of fitness know-how (and know-did :P), but I think it’s awesome that you’re adapting the program to suit precisely where you’re at in your life 🙂

  2. Mike says:

    It’s a great idea! Heart rate training is really popular and you can find lots of articles on it. Don’t worry too much about spending a lot of effort finding your max heart rate like some of the articles will tell you. You probably already have a pretty good idea of what your max HR is and just by wearing a HR monitor. By doing a hard interval workout you can find out for sure. 🙂 If you do HR training though, be cautious to not be over cautious on a hard workout day. It’s ok to spike near (or up to) your max HR for a little while if your intent is to push it on a hard interval. Good luck, you’re doing great!!

  3. That sounds like a very good plan to me!

  4. I tried doing the couch to 5k and got bored… I really think it’s a boring program. It’s kind of slow… Love your new idea 🙂

  5. Priyanka says:

    Only you can decide what works best for you and I think your plan looks fabulous (I am no expert though). Good luck with this plan, i know you can do it!

  6. I definitely think this sounds like a good plan! Heart rate is still really important, and I think it’s a good gauge of fitness. Good luck!!

  7. LOVE this idea! I work on the C25K program every spring and struggle with the bigger jumps in time as well. Mike has a good point too though. Good luck with the new program.

  8. I’m not at all an expert on fitness (rather the opposite ;)), but I very much believe in the importance of accounting for individual needs. The 5K programm is designed for … nobody actually, like the food pyramid. 😀 It aims at some iluusionary and actually non-existent “average” person. There’s no feedback, no regarding how you feel with it, just instructions how to do it. If you’d torn your sinews, the programm would still say to increase the amount of running in the next week.

    What you did sounds very sensible to me! I also think it’s brave (don’t laugh) because it’s hard to defy “official” recommendations, especially if you’re not an expert in that area, if you don’t feel well with them. If heart rate is what you have to account for (while it would be something else for somebody else), then I think it’s a great idea to do that! 🙂

    Actually, I’m planning to get into running or serious walking myself. I know I *can* do it in theory (get into it, not run already), it’s just so hard for me to establish that damn routine. You know, pulling myself out of my regular stuff and just go. I know it would be so good for me! And I really want to do it! So perhaps it would be a good idea to do as you did, and use my blog for motivating myself by publicly announcing what I’m planning to do, so I don’t have an excuse not to do it? We could be virtual training partners! 😀

  9. Allison says:

    Im a big advocate of heart rate training. In all honesty your body may be able to sustain a higher heart rate for longer periods of time. My heart rate is always higher than most but I can sustain it. For example, I usually run half marathons at a heart rate around 180-183!!! But that is what works for me. I find that any time I am above 187, that I need to slow down and recover a bit. Genetically you might just run a bit higher.

  10. I think that totally makes sense! and everyone is different, so a one size fits all program doesn’t really “fit all” you know?

  11. I think it makes perfect sense! go girl go!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ❤ =) I'll be cheering you on all the way!

  12. It sounds great! You need to do what works best for you and makes you feel comfortable. I know when I first started running, instead of doing it by time intervals, I would focus on my route run to a focal point, catch my breath, and run to my next focal point. It kept me focused, I was comfortable, and before you I knew it I was running a 5km….

  13. LauraJayne says:

    I think the most important part of a running training program is doing what you are capable of. A training plan should be nothing if not flexible, and listening to your body is the best way to prevent an injury! It sounds like you are doing exactly what you should be – when I started, I set a goal of simply running every day – and whether that was for three minutes, or one minute intervals – I just did it! Eventually I was able to work up to a continuous run, but walking is still an important part of my long runs and races – so don’t feel like you are failing if you are walking – you are just doing what is healthiest for your body! Great work!

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  15. I think it’s a great idea. Everyone’s different, which is why I don’t rigidly follow training plans. My sister did the Couch to 5k and really struggled with some of the weeks- it’s a huge jump in running some weeks! You will do awesome on the Merf to 5k plan 🙂

  16. I think this is a great decision! Instead of giving up, you’ve designed a way to succeed for you. I totally admire your dedication and drive to do this! You can train by time, miles, heart rate, the point is that you’re training! Best of luck!

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