Couch-to-5K or 5K-to-Couch? Decisions, decisions.

I really wanted to title this post “Butt Weight, there’s more!” Because it’s about running and why I run and my weight, and, you know, butt weight, there’s more. But then I thought that title might be mean to me, and I’m trying to knock that crap off. So, well, this is the conversation I had with myself abou tit:

But it’s funny!
But it’s mean.
Butt it’s funny!
Yeah. I totally saw that. Knock it off.
Fine. Forge tit.
I think you meant to type forget it.
Oops. Those t‘s and the tricky space bar always mess me up.
You’re the most immature person I know, Beth.

So I didn’t do it. Kudos to Mature Me! Woot!


A few years ago, the Couch-to-5K running plan changed my life, although, lately, I’ve been working very, very hard at perfecting my own special invention, the 5K-to-Couch plan.

In case you’re not familiar with it, Couch-to-5K is the remedial learn-to-run program for those of us who always, always came in last in the middle school, one-mile, around-the-track, yes-you-have-to-run-even-if-you-fake-cramps, President’s fitness challenge run. When I was a kid, I could take you DOWN in sprints. But an endurance run? Anything without the words “-yard dash” in it? Nope. None of that. Not even a tiny bit.

The President’s fitness challenge taught me one important life lesson: to detest running. And also to hate chin-ups, or, in my case, chin-up, singular, with my PE teacher lifting from underneath. Come to think of it, I hated all the kinds of sit-ups, too, where I wasn’t allowed to cheat by rolling on my back, lifting my feet, and pretty much just rocking on my hind-end in a general sit-up-like motion ’til that part of the class was over. So there were three important life lessons I learned before entering high school.

Honestly, the fitness lessons from early in life worked well for me until after college. I was neither in nor out of shape, thanks to an OK metabolism and a meh-attitude about buying bigger jeans. I got by fine. Then along came life as a mama and, as bonus gifts, I found myself with whole lotta extra pounds and no time to exercise. I know that sounds like an excuse, but I’d like to present to the jury infant twins, the need to advocate for my kids with special needs, a desperate sleep deficit, and pots full of room temperature, off-brand mac-and-cheese that weren’t going to eat themselves.

I started running when my youngest turned two.

I know. WHAT?

But I did.

At that particular point in life, I was beginning to suspect that it was a bad sign to find myself regularly out of breath while walking to my mailbox, so I thought I might give running a try.

Desperate times, friends.

You guys, C25K starts with 2 minutes of walking and 60 seconds of jogging, and then it repeats, and I will NEVER forget those first 60 seconds because I was ECSTATIC to discover my body could do that. Sixty seconds! IN A ROW!

OK. I just reread that, and I think maybe it sounds sarcastic or like I’m making fun of me, so let me just say. I’m not. I was stunned. Amazed. Thrilled. Hopeful. And I was not more proud even when I crossed the finish line of my first 5K race, slower and more pathetically shin-splinty than any of my friends. The truth is, no accomplishment, no completed goal, can match the terrifying courage required to take that first, lonely step. That step is success.

Over the last year, trying to juggle a job, kids, marriage, and increased writing put running on the back burner. I wasn’t happy about it, but I was intentional about it. I sacrificed my body on the altar of Other Things, and I was OK with the choice. For the short term. But I knew all the while, from the beginning ’til now, that it would have to change.

It’s a funny thing, making real life choices that cause various measures of good and harm. It’s the constant cost/benefit analysis of being human, I suppose. Magazines, movies and books rarely tell us that every decision comes with a cost. But, of course, when you’re a mama and you choose every day between reading another Dr. Seuss book and allowing yourself to go potty, you know it’s true. (You also know you can read Dr. Seuss to your kidlets while you’re sitting on the potty because you’ve tried it and the cost is only dignity which is probably long gone and an easy price to pay, but still… decisions = paying a price. Sure enough.)

So it’s time. My brilliant 5K-to-Couch plan is at its end, and Couch-to-5K is coming back. In part, I’m making this change because it’s time to be a better mommy, and running, it turns out, delivers a mind-blowing endorphin release that ushers me back to gentleness and kindness from moody, mama angst. My kids need me to run.

Do I regret my time with 5K-to-Couch? Nope; I refuse to regret doing what I needed to do.

That’s the thing I’m learning about this life. It’s not about making it perfect or even about balance. Not at all. This life with kids is too extreme — too full of rapid change — for perfection or balance to grow deep roots before they’re dislodged by another lifequake. And that’s OK. It is. We mamas learn to manage every day with new rhythms, using what works and discarding what doesn’t. Today, running is my rhythm.

These are my feet, under my desk.

And they are not going to run themselves.

So off I go, friends, to tackle C25K.


Here’s to life, and to new old rhythms.



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33 responses to “Couch-to-5K or 5K-to-Couch? Decisions, decisions.”

  1. Butt weight! There is always more…

    In shape, out of shape… ROUND is a shape! There are 4 different sizes of clothes in my closet for a reason.

    good writing, love the honesty. No wonder Amanda (among others) adores you. :o)

  2. This is hilarious! I lost count of how many times I started laughing out loud (but not too loud, because I didn’t want to disturb the sleeping kiddos) while reading it. After I got about halfway through, I wanted to read it aloud to share it with my husband, but he’s waiting, a tad impatiently, for me to come to bed so we can get some precious sleep before the kiddos get us up in the morning. Thanks for this humor and for the inspiration.
    “This life with kids is too extreme — too full of rapid change — for perfection or balance to grow deep roots before they’re dislodged by another lifequake. And that’s OK.” I love that. It IS okay. Thanks.

  3. I have been toying with the idea of C25K. Seriously. But(t) I don’t want to lose my breastisis. I keep telling my husband that I need to stay fat for HIS pleasure……this comment may actually contain TMI……….sorry.

    • Bahahaha!

      Some of us, um, don’t worry so much about losing too much in the booby department. I have acres to strap down before every run lest I bruise myself. Having less to go bump, bump, bump would please me. But I can understand not wanting to lose good friends to exercise. Thanks for the laugh, Cathie.

  4. I’m in! I need to do this for me and my girls. My 10 year old just started girls on the run where she is training to run a 5K in November and I plan on being there running with her. Thanks for the motivation!

  5. I started C25K (for the third time – this time I’m going to finish!) on August 6.

    I decided that I wanted to run a 5K before my 50th birthday – I wanted to celebrate by doing something I’ve never done before. I’m astounded by how much I LIKE running – that was an unexpected bonus!

    I think it’s a fabulous program and I’m glad I found it!

    Thanks for sharing your experience!

  6. My very favorite quote from my C25K running coach (I took the class twice):
    “If you run, you are a runner. It doesn’t matter how fast or how far. It doesn’t matter if today is your first day or if you’ve been running for twenty years. There is no test to pass, no licence to earn, no membership card to get. You just run.” — John Bingham

  7. I just started C25K a few weeks ago and I love that I could see the tiniest bit of results after just the first few runs. Its not an easy thing to get up and Just Do It, but we are SO worth it, don’t you think!

    When I’m huffing and puffing away on my next C25K run, I’ll send a little prayer up for you – that you get that little burst of runners energy just when you feel your about to hit the wall.

    Good luck to us both!

  8. I have only *only* two kids. Well, who knows, me having two could equate you having five … we all have our own strengths 😉

    Anyway – like you I started running when my wee one was a toddler (18 months rather than 2, but that is because it correlated with spring). I started because I felt unhappy with my body, unhappy with my mental/ emotional state and I was finally ready for a change. I saw a sign, joined a local run club (because I will not work out alone apparently, as my dust treadmill could attest), and started with the 5K group.

    Best. Decision. Of. My. Life! Well, no, that is a bit much, but it is something I am sooooo happy I did and have never looked back on. I enjoyed it (eventually) even if just for the alone time and company (as in time away from kiddies and time with adult friends).

    Anyway, I went from 5K to two 10K sessions to training for a half marathon. We run as a group twice a week and allegedly on our own once or twice a week as well. I was never able to do that (refer to me never exercising alone comment!). I don’t run in the winter as, like a bear, I vastly prefer hibernation. But otherwise the way I have been able to maintain it for the last 1.5 years,is to treat it with as much respect and priority as my kids activities. Tuesday night and Sat morning are MY time. The get every other weekday night and Sunday. Luckily we managed to avoid conflicts in schedule, but it did come close last year with m eldest’s dance schedule nd yet – I made it work and made sure I didn’t cave.

    Becuase my health is as important as theirs. Because with the influence of only my example and dedication, my eldest who was somewhat but not overly active joined a run club of her own this year – with the realistic mindset that though only a select few can win the race, everyone can participate in running for health. Because like you, I am happier and a better Mom when I get some alone time in the form of exercise. Because when my kids grow up and perhaps become Moms themselves, I want them to still try to be the healthiest and happiest they can be and to not think their life stops when their kids life began.

    Good luck on your scond journey!!!

    • YES, YES, YES. I LOVE all of your becauses, Kande. Well said. And thank you for a) sharing your inspiring story, and b) being candid about how you’re disciplined AND how you hibernate… I think it’s so helpful when we know how to give ourselves a break and when to pick the baton back up and keep running. I just love this.

  9. Hooray!!! I’ve started it again too with Catherine Hockett, we are almost done with week 2. You were my inspiration to ever do it in the first place Beth Woolsey, you rock!!

  10. I think we share the 13 yr old boy brain because I thought your Butt weight title was fantastic. Altho I have at least 19 yrs on you I also have many of those extra pounds as well. I detest running. It puts me into asthmatic fits. I’d rather breathe. Go figure. I just wanted to say GOOD JOB!! Its way better to tackle this particular challenge young. Which YOU are! I would suggest grabbing one of the older kids to accompany you. They may hate running too but they would love being your support & having 30 min of your time, alone. And while you run you can’t make direct eye contact so you dont see the eye rolls (or they dont whatever)
    I just know my daughter started running with my way too skinny, physically fit sister and they have great conversations & sometimes none at all. Who would of thought you could ‘talk’ and run? not me. I cant manage to breathe & run – so I found someone who can!
    I think we may just need to start this old fat mom into a walking program…ok I’ll do it. you twisted my guilt. I’ll get right on it. Really, I will.

    • Thanks, Mary, for sharing my adolescent boy brain. It’s good to not be alone. 😉

      I have a good friend who told me when I started that 75% of the battle was lacing up my shoes and walking out the door. He was right. For the first few weeks, that was ALL I committed to do. Shoes. Door. I only turned around and came home twice. 🙂

      Also, talking and running? I STILL don’t know how people do that. I can barely walk and talk.

  11. You are so encouraging and so often seem to write exactly what many of us need to hear at exactly the right moment. After a winter and spring of regular exercise, including a 5-K race in May where I actually ran the entire thing, my exercise regimen went out the window for the summer. I was contemplating my lack of regular exercise this morning as I was getting ready in front of my bathroom mirror, which was reflecting more of me than I really wanted to see. Thanks for reminding me to be kind to myself, to find today’s rhythm, and to take that first step again. I hope your run today was a good one!

    • Aw, thanks, Amanda!

      It has taken me years (YEARS) to discard my all-or-nothing approach to exercise and eating and chores and, and, and… that permission to myself to get back out there and keep trying in fits and starts without berating myself for failing? So very helpful.

      Sending love to you as you find your own rhythm…

  12. I was the kid who hated running all through childhood. I did it when I HAD to but it was last in a long line of activities to choose from by choice.

    Now? I crave it. Lately, not so much, as I have had a huge case of the forget-about-its but I can tell that I need it. And that feeling of “oh my goodness, I CAN run without dying” is such a good feeling to have.

    That 30-60 minutes is my freedom from everything. I can’t think about anything except breathing and not falling on my face. Half the time I can’t remember what music I ran to. So it’s nice to temporarily forget about all the stuff I constantly worry over: the fact that my house looks destroyed by the time my husband gets home even though I swear I cleaned it 3 times today; the fact that I am frustrated by not being the “ideal” applicant looking for just part time work; the fact that I feel like a massively sub-par mom because a large part of me is miserable being home day in and day out while knowing it’s a huge privilege to be able to stay home in this economy.

    Guess it’s time to dust off my motivation and create some new old habits myself.

    • I KNOW. Right, Kayla?? This craving-it thing is WEIRD. And awesome. And WEIRD.

      You nailed my running experience. It’s meditation, somehow. And so serendipitous. I never would’ve expected what running’s come to mean to me.

      Glad to have a fellow runner who gets it.

  13. Except for the part about liking sprints, your school PE experience sounds very familiar. 🙂 I like what you say at the end about it not being about perfection or balance, but about adapting. I like that a lot, because sometimes (although I have zero kids), I find myself wondering where my nice familiar rhythm went.

  14. Love this, I am a skinny mini, not to brag, because I am so totally not bragging. I hate it, clothes are hard to find, and people think I neglect myself to stay thin. Plus I’m president of the itty bitty ahem, breast committee It is natural, but my point is that though I am skinny, I am WAY out of shape. I went to a Zumba class with a friend a couple weeks ago, and I didn’t make it through, I felt sick and dizzy, and I was 76% sure I was going to die if I went on. But I guess if you can find time to do all you do daily and still run some, surely I can find time to do something. Maybe not the running yet because I have one little one at home with me all day still, but something.

    I detest running as well though, Beth. My feeling is that running is used to run FROM something, possible TO something that’s important, I never got the just running to run. But I know I need to do something too. Skinny doesn’t mean neglecting ones self, but it also does not mean in shape sadly 🙁

    • Yes, I DEFINITELY couldn’t start running ’til my babies were 2. I just didn’t feel like I could leave them yet. I know mamas who implement awesome exercise programs for themselves while their babies are still tiny – and they amaze and impress me. I’m not that mama. But I AM the mama who totally gets that “I need to do something” urge, too. For me, it was running because I didn’t have to research gyms or pay membership fees or, you know, GO there… for other mamas, having a childcare option at the gym while they work out is the perfect solution. We’re all different – thank God there are lots of options!

  15. You know how sometimes you read something right when you are supposed to. Right at the moment the circulation is being cut off in your thighs because of the too tight jeans you insist on pretending you can still wear, so as to not discourage yourself even further from where you were to where you are. Well, reading this is that for me. Thank you.

  16. Butt weight! Forge tit!

    Hehehehehehe 😀

    “We are but(t) dust.”

    “There’s a but(t), and it’s a big but(t)…”

    And so on.

    Also, loved this post. Inspirational. I too need to get my butt in gear. I’ve been walking to and from nursery with a one-year-old strapped to my back, and my glutes are complaining which I’m going to chalk up as progress. You’ve given me an important bit of encouragement to keep going. And you’re so right about the first step. Well done on taking it.


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