Lately I have been helping my friend and neighbour, Zoe, with the couch to 5k program. Today, as I am writing this article we have completed week 5, run 3. For anyone that has done Couch to 5k, you will know that this is the session that everyone panics and worries about, because it is the session with the first long continuous run. The session where you run continuously for 20 minutes!!
As we set off on our session this morning, Zoe was visibly nervous. We chatted normally on our 5 minute warm up walk then as the bell rang to indicate that we should start running, she went quiet. She was focused on the job in hand, ready to push herself. I am pleased to say Zoe did brilliantly and completed all 20 minutes, but there was definitely a few dark moments, where I could see she was struggling. Her legs were hurting, her breathing was shallow, and she got it into her head that she needed to stop. But, with a little coaching, and a few reminders that it’s all about mind over matter, and the pain will pass, she dug deep, she continued to run, and most of all she didn’t stop!! And, in the final few minutes she was flying, like a gazelle, and she even admitted, she was actually enjoying it!!!
Something magical happens in that 20 minute run with everyone who completes it. You learn so much about yourself. You learn that you can push your body, to what feels like it’s limit and survive. Not only do you survive, but you adapt and recover fairly quickly and actually enjoy the experience. And then the rush of endorphins you get afterwards makes you feel like you can conquer Everest! It gives you self-belief. And self-belief is the key to any future success. It’s the key to completing the program and becoming a runner!!
The couch to 5k plan is a perfectly constructed plan that has all the elements to create success. It starts slowly, and builds fitness incrementally. It doesn’t overwork you to the point where it becomes too much and you give up. And finally, it has a couple of points in the program where it stretches your comfort zone.
All well made plans have these elements. Slow and steady wins the race, and all that. Small incremental steps build your resilience, your fitness and strength, and confidence. Then the point where you have to stretch yourself is where you absolutely flourish with self-belief. As the saying goes ‘Great things don’t come from comfort zones.” To gain any change or improvement, we have to step out of our comfort zone in to that magical place where self-belief and confidence spreads like wild fire!
Self-confidence and belief comes from small achievements in the area we are working on. Once we know we can do one thing, we have to be brave and try something that’s a little more difficult. We start to learn that if we try hard and persist, we will achieve. And it’s this belief that makes us continue with the struggle when we experience set backs.
Some ideas to help you to build some self confidence in your ability to win at this game might be:
- resisting the urge to order a take away on a Friday night
- going out for a meal but trying a different restaurant with healthier options than your usual haunt
- batch cooking meals for the week on a weekend
- only drinking alcohol for one night a week
- tracking your calories for one whole week, then two, then three
- writing a sensible exercise plan and sticking to it
- swapping snacking in front of the TV for a walk in the evening
- an early morning exercise session a couple of times a week, to set you up for the day, and keep you on track with your food
- always take the stairs instead of the lift
- run upstairs instead of walking
- not buying the treat food, if you know if it’s there you’ll eat it, break the habit in the supermarket
Once you start to achieve, you will start to believe that you can achieve other things too. The most important thing is to start!
Look to your past for some inspiration – what have you been successful at before ? Have you smashed it in an exam, or are you brilliant at art? Write a list and keep it somewhere safe. Get it out and read it when you need a bit of reassurance that you are capable of achieving things.
Take a few minutes to have a really good think about what your strengths are. Write them down and use these qualities to help you on this journey to success.
Once you start to experience some success, the trick is to keep pushing yourself. Don’t let yourself get complacent. You have to keep challenging yourself, to keep the momentum going. Keep expanding that comfort zone, ever so slightly. Challenge yourself to bigger, more difficult goals. This will see your self-confidence and self-belief soar, and before you know it, you will be that person that you always wanted to be.
If you are feeling like you are in a bit of a rut, stretch yourself. Find a way to stretch that comfort zone, build some self-belief and self-confidence and begin to soar!