Thursday, June 2, 2011

Elite Therapy's Couch to 5k Program = Success!

On April 5th, 2011, seven individuals braved the snow showers and 20-degree wind chills to gather at the Mansfield University track for the first training session of Elite Therapy's Couch to 5k Program.  One of them knew what to expect as she had participated in the Fall 2010 program; the other six were about to embark upon a new journey.  I remember telling the participants on that first day that the weather would only get better from there on out.  Boy, could I have been more wrong!  Those readers living in the Northeastern U.S. understand exactly what I mean by that statement.  We had a very rough spring....actually, I hesitate to call it was more like an extended winter with soaking rains.  Nonetheless, every Tuesday evening for eight weeks the Couch to 5k participants met for their weekly workout.

The first workout involved alternating 60 seconds of jogging and 90 seconds of walking for a total of 20 minutes.  Everyone was able to complete this first challenge -- some more easily than others, but they all knew that they had a long way to go before being able to successfully complete the Bridgman 5k on May 30th, 2011.  The Bridgman 5k has a reputation for being the toughest 5k in Mansfield, PA.  Although the first two miles are downhill and flat, the last mile is straight uphill....certainly not the easiest course for someone's first 5k.  But the participants persevered.  They slowly built up to being able to run 15-20 minutes continuously on the track, and that fitness was then taken to the next stratosphere once they began performing 20-30 minute continuous runs and interval workouts on hilly roads (total of three running workouts per week).  Come race day, they were ready to accomplish something that only eight weeks before their bodies and minds would have rejected at the mere thought.

May 30th was something the last two months had not been -- humid.  The participants were properly hydrated, however, and were not going to allow Mother Nature to detain them from reaching their collective goal.  After warming up, they toed the line with a definitive plan in their minds.  They were to pace themselves early in the 5k by relaxing on the downhill, allowing gravity to help take them down the slopes.  My hope was for them to save energy for the uphill last mile.  Knowing that this long hill would be the toughest point of the 5k, I stood along it and encouraged them as they ran by.  Each of the participants followed the plan to a "T" as they all finished between 31 and 45 minutes.  What a tremendous accomplishment for a group of individuals with little to no previous running background!

 Couch to 5k participants and me after the race

Bridgman 5k web site: 

The intent of Elite Therapy's Couch to 5k Program is to promote health and wellness in the Mansfield community free-of-charge.  Couch to 5k programs can be implemented anywhere though -- all you need is hard-working individuals who share a common desire to be healthier.  One of the most important aspects of the program is the team camaraderie that is generated.  The quote "Many hands makes light work" certainly holds true: the participants always found it easier to complete the workouts when they were running together with their teammates on Tuesday evenings.  Many of this spring's participants are already looking forward to Elite Therapy's next offering of the Couch to 5k Program.  Such anticipation to participate in another wellness program is a success in and of itself.  As a physical therapist, I know that I hope to continue helping individuals become healthier and reach their fitness goals!

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