I started off this year by making a decision to try and really focus on my health and mental wellbeing. My last serious episode of depression was a couple of years ago now, but I felt that in a lot of ways my health and wellbeing behaviours were still primarily a reaction to what happened then – I was still on fairly heavy doses of medication, I was avoiding stress, I had had to work so hard to push through that depression that I just didn’t feel like I could push anymore. I guess I felt like I had reached a good plateau, and was just in a holding pattern.

Don’t get me wrong, I was pretty happy with that! It was a good place to be, and given the dark place I’d come from I knew enough to appreciate it! But as I thought about the new year approaching, I also thought that maybe it would be a good time to reassess where I was, and think about what I wanted.

What came out of this was that I want to try being a little more proactive. I want to focus on the end goal of being as healthy as I can be, given the limitations that I have.

My first step was getting off some of my medication, which I started doing right before Christmas and which is still an ongoing process. I am finally clear of the Effexor, and will now be looking at the Seroquel and Lamictal. I think they’re easier to cut down and stop though, so fingers crossed that it goes okay.

I do realise that the chances of me never needing psych medication again are pretty slim- I have bipolar, I have anxiety, I do suffer with serious and crippling times of depression. The meds saved my life, and if it all goes bad again I’m going to be right back to the psychiatrist asking for prescriptions. But I also feel that getting off the really high doses and giving my liver a break for a while is worth doing.

I also don’t want to just throw the medication away without making some changes towards a generally healthier lifestyle, doing those things that are supposed to help you regulate your emotions and cope a bit better. Even though doing this means doing things that I don’t actually like or want to do!

I mean, it’s easy to tell myself that I need to make sure I spend time being focussed and mindful! I can tell myself to write and knit and read and sleep – all of that is hugely beneficial to my mental health, and it’s something that is mostly pretty easy for me to do. But making myself do the hard things…yeah, not so good at that!

So, hard things…getting off the Effexor. Brutal, but done. Drinking more water – my $3 drink bottle from Officeworks has proved an excellent purchase and I’m actually deliberately drinking water more than I ever have in my life. This has also cut down my diet Coke consumption which may or may not be beneficial- I don’t know how un/healthy that stuff really is.

Which brings us to the hardest one ever for me – exercise. I have always struggled to incorporate this into my life in a way that was effective and sustainable. There have been periods of time when I have exercised regularly (treadmill/ Wii fit/ walking) and felt the benefits, but it always seemed to derail and every time makes it harder to start again.

So once again I’m starting from a base of zero fitness and attempting to improve that, and I figured that this time I may as well try something new – hence the couch to 5k program.

There are a few things about this one that might work for me. It’s a specific, defined program- 3 workouts a week for 9 weeks. My goal is to finish the program, so no matter how much I might hate it I just have to work through it. I can remind myself that every single workout I do is one that I don’t have to do again, if that’s what it takes to get me through.

(Obviously I am hoping to be struck by a magical desire to continue running as exercise once the program is done, but I’m trying not to get carried away. And let’s face it, I’m forty and have never been able to run in my whole life, so my expectations are pretty bloody low here).

The program really is designed for people coming from basically no fitness level too- I’ve read a lot of reviews and while a few people have said that they had to repeat weeks, and that although they finished being able to run for 30 continuous minutes they couldn’t actually complete 5k in that time, basically everyone has said that it starts at an manageable level. So that’s promising for me.

The program is also prescriptive- it tells me when to run and when to walk and I don’t have to think about anything. I am hoping that this works for me- I don’t want to think about exercise.

While losing weight is always something on my mind and something that I very much need to do as part of this healthfulness kick, I want completing this program to be separate from any expectations in that area. Exercise has always been inextricably tied in with weight loss goals, and failure to lose weight tends to make the effort of exercise seem hard and futile. So I want to avoid that here- my goal is to run for 30 minutes/ 5ks, and if I do that at this weight or a lower weight then so be it.

I generally write about everything going on in my life in my journal, but I don’t actually want to put this there yet. Mostly because I am really scared I’m going to fail, and I’m not sure I’m ready to open myself up to judgement about another thing that I am hopeless at. I know that the family and friends that read my journal are really not judging me, and maybe I’ll want to add that level of accountability to things at some point, but for now I’m going to just keep track of things in this document.

Week 1/ Day 1
It honestly seemed like a monumental task just to start this, but I really had no excuse to put it off. So I started, and to be honest the first day was okay. I admit I got to twenty minutes and wanted to quit, not in a ‘I can’t possibly keep going’ way, but more in a ‘this is kind of boring and a little bit unpleasant and probably pointless’ way. However I kept going and finished – I felt like I’d done something, but didn’t feel like lying down and dying, so I would have to agree with the reviews that it starts off at a really manageable level, even for the sloths like myself.
I listened to Spotify at the same time and I do wish the instructions on the app were a little bit louder- at one point I kept running* because I didn’t hear the walking cue. And even though I don’t want my focus to be on losing weight, I have to admit that running at this weight is absolutely not going to be possible long term given my arthritis and joint issues.
Since I’m doing this on the treadmill I’m walking at 5k/hr and running at 6k/hr –this is pretty slow and it certainly won’t have me running a 5k in 30 minutes, but my current goal is to finish, not win a race, and for now slow is the way it is.
*Obviously when I say ‘running’ here I am actually saying ‘slow and uncoordinated jogging’. But the app calls it running, so that’s what I’m saying.

Week 1/ Day 2
Two workouts down…twenty five to go.
Today I felt a bit like my slow pace is cheating. Is it? I mean, I’ll certainly not be running anything close to 5k at the end of it. But I cannot really stress enough exactly how fat and unfit I am here (well okay, I could write down the number, but…no, I can’t bring myself to do that) so I think I just have to accept it and stop worrying about how pathetic this must seem to other people.
My real goal is just to get to the end. I suppose if I get there I can start the whole thing over again with the goal of getting faster? But that’s getting way ahead of myself.
I need to make a playlist to listen to while doing this, because as I may have mentioned I find the whole exercise thing to be pretty boring on its own. I have tried a couple of Spotify exercise playlists, but there’s way too much hip hop. I need a dorky playlist full of peppy pop songs.
I’m not going to write in this after every workout either. I’m assuming it will just become routine at some point?

Week 2/ Day 2
The last three workouts I’ve done after getting up early in the morning to do them while the kids are at home. Troy is getting up to go on the Wii, so I guess the idea is that we’re exercising together? I’m not sure that this works for me though- I don’t know why, but that extra hour of sleep just seems so necessary for me! So I guess we’ll have to see whether it becomes easier once I’m used to it, or if I should just sleep in and run after the kids are at school.
I also didn’t want to do it when the kids were around because I am so ashamed of my weight and fitness level. I don’t know, it’s not like they don’t look at me every day and I don’t think they’re actually judging me, but even so.
As for the actual workouts…still lots of little intervals and I’m doing it! I think it’s building up my mental fitness at the same time as my physical fitness – just following the program and believing I can do (since everyone else can, surely I can too?) is making a difference.

Week 2/Day 2.2
All this exercise is obviously getting to me, since I voluntarily did a fourth workout for the week today. I repeated one of the workouts from this week rather than moving on to week 3 – I want to keep the program weeks congruent with calendar weeks, and I think an extra exercise session can only do me good.
I also increased the speed by a tiny bit- just to 5.2 and 6.2, so still pretty epically slow but at least I’m trying I guess?

Week 3/ Day 1
The run sections bumped up to 3 minutes today, doubling the 1 and ½ minutes of last week. Is that how it’s going to work? I assumed incremental increases, not doubling!
I still did it though.

Week 3/ Day 3
I actually feel like maybe I am going to be able to do this thing?

Week 4/Day 1
3 minute run, 5 minute run, 3 minute run and another 5 minute run. I hadn’t looked at the description for what to expect, and when the second 5 minute run started there were definitely swear words said.
It’s funny though, I realised today that when it gets tough I either imagine I am a cool, fit person who is doing this but finding it easy, or else I imagine I am a contestant on the Biggest Loser who has to keep going or be publically disgraced on tv and lose my chance for a million dollars. I mean, hey, whatever gets me through…but it’s kind of ridiculous how totally opposite these imaginary characters are.

Week 5/Day 1
Okay, getting this one done was an effort – I meant to do a re-do of one of the week 4 runs today, since it’s Friday (and I’m trying to keep C25k weeks even with actual weeks so I just do extra one workouts) and I felt shitty (I got my period last night) but for some reason I couldn’t get the app to work properly. So I just had to start week five, which involves three 5 minute run segments- so hard, and for the first time I ever I literally wanted to cry, but I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and got it done. This whole thing just feels like a miracle.

Week 5/Day2
It added a distance to the time of the run today. I’m not sure how this is supposed to work- do I run for the 8 minutes or do I run until I’ve run the distance they say I should have done in that 8 minutes? Or do I just keep repeating the workout until I can run the distance in that time? Is it just a suggestion? I’m so confused. I’m also annoyed that the distance is given in miles – it’s called couch to 5k, so why aren’t they working with the metric system??? I guess at least that’s an advantage of doing this on the treadmill, I can try and figure out converting that to miles instead of kilometres, but then I can keep track of how much distance I am doing.

Week 5/Day 3
20 minutes running in a row, and I did it! I feel like I’m developing super powers or something…how did I ever do this? It was so hard, but it felt so good to have done it!
I’ve decided I won’t worry about the distance element at this point. Just doing the runs to the times is hard enough, so I’m going to keep working on getting that done. Once I’ve done it all I can come back to these weeks and redo them based on time + distance, which will give me something to work for then.

Week 6/Day 1
After doing the 20 minute run last time I saw that it went back to intervals (5 minute/ 8 minute/ 5 minute runs with walks in between) today and thought oh yeah, I got this…but it was still hard. Still doing it though!

Week 6/ Day 3
I completed this today, which was running for 22 minutes without any walking. I looked ahead and realised that there are no more interval workouts – it’s all just running further in increasing amounts of time until I can run 5km. I am feeling pretty demoralised by this, as I am going to have to really increase the speed of my run to reach that and I don’t think I’m anywhere close to being able to do that. Which is actually really stupid…I ran for 22 minutes! I should be happy with myself, not feeling like a failure because this 22 minute run and 10 minute walk (5 minutes warm up/5 cool down) only takes me a bit over 3km!

I redid week 6 this week (doing two of the day 3 workouts) but increased my speed to 5.4/6.4 kph. I think I’m going to just keep working on that, running 22 minutes continuously at that speed until I can do it without feeling like crying, at which point I might try and add a couple more minutes.

I’m basically just repeating the week 6 workouts of C25K- I can do the 22 minute run but just can’t seem to get past that. I don’t know, I’m feeling somewhat discouraged…I think just because the way the rest of it is I was making progress every week and now I feel like I’ve just come to a screaming stop. There’s nothing I can do about this except keep working at it, but I do feel a bit low.

I ran 2.5km this morning. I was working on distance rather than time (I had told myself that I had to do 2k but then I kept going) and when I looked at the clock I realised that I’d just run for 25 minutes, which is 3 minutes longer than the 22 minutes that have been killing me. Yay, some progress again! So that was a .5k warm up walk, 2.5k run, .5 cool down walk – I still don’t enjoy it, but it is becoming a habit and surely it’s doing me some good.

I ran for 25 minutes this morning. I’ve done this a few times and think it’s probably time I bumped up my default run to this instead of the 22 minutes. It’s still so hard, but I just have to keep telling myself that I CAN do it and keep going with it. I am still not exactly enjoying all this running, but there is a certain level of satisfaction in the achievement of just doing it. And getting up early is starting to become a real habit and feel slightly easier.

I’m still getting up and running on the treadmill, and today I reached a new milestone of running for 30 minutes without stopping. I’ve also increased my speed to 6.6 k/h. After several weeks of sticking with the same 22-25 minute runs at 6.4k/h it feels good to have a measurable improvement. I still don’t think I exactly enjoy running, but there is a certain grim satisfaction in knowing that I’m actually doing it.

Today I did 32 minutes at 6.6kph – so pleased with that! It’s sometimes easier to go further when Troy isn’t on the elliptical beside me because he stops sooner (the elliptical is harder work) and makes me want to quit! Having said that it’s also harder to actually get up and out of bed when he’s not there doing it too, so I’m sure it all evens out in the end.

I ran for 4km this morning! I’m so happy with that, and I honestly can’t believe that I am able to do that. I also looked back today and realised that I didn’t start doing this until almost mid-March, so it’s only been three months and not actually the whole half year that I have been thinking. That’s not bad progress, considering the extremely low level of fitness I had at the start (and I really can’t stress enough that it was terrible). The other reason I felt so good about today was that I didn’t even finish it feeling like I wanted to cry and collapse- I actually stopped because I had already been running for .7km with one of my shoelaces undone and flopping around everywhere and I figured I’d pushed my luck enough with not getting it caught in the treadmill and breaking both the treadmill and my legs, not to mention my shoe was starting to fall off. Once I stopped to do up the shoelace it caught up with me and I couldn’t start running again, but I was still happy with the 4km.

I increased my run speed this morning and did three kilometres at 6.8km/h, which took (I think) about 27 minutes. I’m getting there. At that speed it will apparently take me about 45 minutes to run 5km, which was the original goal of all this running…I think I’ve still got a way to go.

I got up and ran on the treadmill again this morning, after not doing it for most of the school holidays. Ugh. I knew it would suck so I thought I might as well just go the whole hog and make it suck even more by increasing my speed to 7km/h. I did twenty minutes running and walked before and after, so it wasn’t too bad. I’ll just have to get into it, and now that I’m running at that speed it means I should eventually be able to do a 5k run in about 45 minutes (I think) which seems like a respectable goal. Of course the most I’ve ever run for is four kilometres, and I’ve only ever done that once, so I’m still a long way from that so-called respectable goal.

Increasing my run speed to 7km/h has been harder than I thought – I am definitely feeling it in my legs the rest of the day. It’s probably not surprising, considering that I probably only increased it to 6.8 the week before the school holidays and then slacked off for a week and a half. If I look at it that way then it’s probably a reasonably hefty jump in the challenge factor and i shouldn’t feel discouraged by how hard it is.