zero to 10k run….by a non-runner! #thisgirlcan

December 22 2017


have you ever thought about having a go at running but put it off because "you're not fit enough" or don't know how to start or what to expect?

worried about getting red and sweaty in public? Or your slightly wobbly bits? 

our Active Communities Manager in Arun, Carrie Reynolds, has signed up to the Littlehampton 10k in September, and as a complete non-runner, recovering from a back injury, this is no mean feat.

However, she is committed to training and is aiming to complete the run in under 60 minutes. She also embarks on this journey (coincidently) as The national this girl can campaign relaunches.

Follow her story here as she blogs about her journey.

We hope this entertaining and honest account of what it’s like to start running from scratch will be of some support, we hope that whatever your ability, fitness level, age or size - you will see that women across the UK feel the same as you when it comes to starting exercising.

However, it's time to stop worrying. #thisgirlcan

Run 1 - 1 June 2017

I’m signed up to a 10k – arghhhhh!!! And I’m not a runner! (That's me above with the red face after my first run)

As I planned my first run I realised that following my back injury, I haven’t actually done anything active, apart from walking my dogs, in well over a year! I must be mad, how can I start running?

The plan… just run and see how far I get.

As I started to fill with dread as the day went on, thinking about my impending first run that evening and the fact that I’ll sound like Darth Vader with my breathing!  It was lucky that I talk it through in the office and that thankfully Lee (our our Community Development Coordinator and a runner) was in at the time. He gave me some great advice...

He told me not to "just run and see where I got", but instead to go out for no more than 20 minutes on my first time and to start with 2 minutes running followed by 1 minute walking, for 20 minutes and then stop. there are loads of apps out there that use this same principle - basiaclly build up the length of running slowly.

So I got home, the sun was shining (which helps as I’m definitely a fair weather exercise girl) and off I went! The first interval of running was rubbish, my calves hurt, I went too fast and I almost stopped and turned back, but then my phone beeped to let me know the first two minutes were done…so I carried on…and as I got through section after section it got much easier and then 20 minutes finished in no time!

Run 2 - 4 June 2017

My second attempt was on a Sunday morning (what was I thinking?) and I decided that 2 minutes running duration had been very comfortable, so I was going to up my run time to 2.5 minutes, with a minute walk. I also extended the route to unknown territory which helped, as I was concentrating on not getting lost rather than how much I hated running!

At this current moment I have absolutely no idea why people like running, I’m not finding it fun, it hurts me, I find it boring and instead of spending my run looking at the scenery, as I'd hoped, I spent my time making sure I didn’t trip up! 

When a car goes by I try to look like I know what I’m doing, if another runner goes past I just think “I must be really slow”. I know I shouldn’t care and be all #thisgirlcan but it’s hard.

However, the increased running time felt really good and I was back home by 9am to get on with my Sunday.

Run 3 - 6 June 2017

Today was rubbish, (even with my This Girl Can t-shirt on), well at least that’s how I felt.

It was a real mental battle to carry on as I felt like my whole body was screaming for me to stop and it was sooooo windy my hair was blowing my face!

But then I realised that although my legs really hurt and I was running really slowly, I’d managed 30 minutes in total with 3 minute intervals of running to 1 minute walking! I guess I was hoping it would feel easier, like some sort of miracle that after 3 runs I would be fit enough to run a half marathon!…fingers crossed that the next one will be a lot easier! #thisgirlcan #istilldontlikerunning

Run 4 - 8 June 2017

I just completed run number 4 and I actually quite liked it! Today I ran with a friend and we chatted the whole way round (as much as we could being out of breath), which took my mind off of the task ahead...I even went a little over the 20 minute mark again going for 25 minutes in total! Having a distraction definitely helps, it takes my mind off the running, and being a competitive person, I can’t let myself be slower or look any less able than the person I am running with. So, on Saturday I plan to attempt a 20 minute constant run without any walking intervals, not sure how I feel about this at the moment!

Run 5 - 13 June 2017

beach view from our run today.

My plan now is to run three times a week, every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, come rain, shine or wind! Or whatever the weather throws at me.

But then today, after a long meeting, the last thing I wanted to do was run! I thought I might have got a cracking excuse as I realised I’d left my trainers at home and then had a nose bleed…but  luckily my running buddy for the day, was having none of it and made me go home to get my trainers! This is my first top tip: running with someone does help keep you on track!

We had chosen a seafront run but even with the glorious view (above) I didn’t enjoy it! My preference at the moment is running in places where I’m not sure where I am, so I can get a bit lost and then concentrate on the route rather than the fact my body is screaming at me to stop!

Having been a sports person all my life (tennis club, swim squad, football and netball teams) I find the mentality of running and the only challenge being my own fitness levels an odd one – I guess I’m use to playing sport and competeing against others, so normally I'd not want the game or match to stop! But as we came in to the last minute of today's run I felt a huge sense of relief that I could stop very soon!

But I was also pleased I had done it and not cancelled as I’d tried to!

Big news! I’d just run 20 minutes continuous running! And our 20 minute (continuous!!!) run today got us just short of 2 miles in distance … so I can see that I’m improving even if it doesn’t feel easier!

I’m committed to this 10k in September but at the moment the running still feels hard. I have signed up to our Freedom 2 Run 10-week course, I’m hoping I will learn a few tricks about pace and breathing.

P.S I still don’t like running! But I do enjoy the feeling once I have completed a run #thisgirlcan or should I say this girl is!

Freedom 2 Run session 1 - 15 June 2017

me after my first Freedom to Run session, feeling good. zero to 10k run by a non-runner. how to start running,

So I arrived ready for the Freedom 2 Run course at Littlehampton Leisure Centre and my first thought was "what if this hinders my training?" then "I bet there will be some super fit people there", followed by "should I or shouldn't I count this as a training run", ending on "why is it always so windy when I run?!?"... it's fair to say I was nervous and over thinking at this point! But as my sister joined me on the course it helped me relax a little and motivated me to go.

There were 10 other women of all different ages and all different fitness levels also on the course. The instructor was good at explaining up front what we would be doing that evening, and I liked the fact that she was going to look at our stride and technique, as I was unsure if my technique was any good -  I was wondering if I hadn't been extending my legs wide enough and if I'd been plodding!

The session was a mix of breathing and running techniques, a bit about the importance of warming up and cooling down, and then a mix of walks/runs and sprints. The instructor got me to drive from my hips in the sprints and it really opened my stride out, which then benefitted the jog/run sections! I also learnt about concentrating on my breathing which gave me more in the tank for the longer distance jogs!

I came out feeling really positive (above pic) and I'm really looking forward to trying out my newly learnt techniques on Saturday. Watch this space.

Week 4

As I progress through my journey, I have decided to update this blog weekly, to hopefully show my progress (if I make any) more clearly.

Week four should have consisted of two distance runs and one sprints work out, but it didn’t….

The first distance run was planned for Monday morning with a 7am sharp wakeup call!

On Sunday night I stayed at  my dad’s and had too many G&Ts, However,  a determined me set off at 7 o clock and although it was super-hot (even at that time of day!), and I’d drunk gin… the running actually felt ok.

Back at the beginning of starting running, I had thought that the first 10 minutes of  ache in my legs would improve with the more running I did, but someone has since told me that it will always be there, so on today’s run I put that to the back of my mind and just thought 'if I can run for 30 minutes at least more than half of it might be pain free'... and it was. I still don't enjoy running, but I certainly felt fitter this time, which is a good sign.

The worst thing about the run was that it was along a main road and all I could still think about was the people in their cars, who might be looking at me...but my playlist got me through and as I finished my loop back at my dad’s, I clocked 3 miles. Woo! Massive thumbs up to me!

Run two – the very next day on the Tuesday! A colleague from head office was in our  office with me today and had already messaged to say he was bringing his running gear after reading my blog! All morning I was trying to think of excuses not to run, "it's too hot", "I'll go later", "shouldn't I have a day rest?" But  he was having none of it.

Deep down I was probably  a little worried about running with a colleague who runs a fair bit and I was just nervous – but he pointed out that I was being the opposite of a 'This Girl Can' by letting these fears stop me from running, and he was right. So off we went.

He suggested changing things up a bit, I think to help me feel less worried about going the distance and pace,  and we went on to the sand on the beach and did some interval sprints! Whilst I thought my lungs were going to burst out of my chest and I was getting furious with myself that I wasn't regulating my breathing in the jogging intervals, I liked the change in training style.

Plus, I hear that adding sprints into your training can help to improve pace and stamina, as the increase in heart rate improves fitness. We even had to hurdle a few rock pools which added even more fun to the work out and helped take my mind off 1) the fact I was running and 2) that I was running with a colleague!

Sadly I was poorly on Thursday so I didn't get to running club, and all my good intentions were thrown out of the window at the weekend when I realised I had a first aid course all day Saturday and babysitting duties in the evening! Sunday morning was going to be the day, but then I woke up to about 40 bags of garden waste and rubble in my garden where my dad had laid my instead of a run I heaved all of the bags in to the car and took them to the tip. That was enough exercise for one day so the run was delayed yet again!

I tell you about all this, not because I think you'll be interested :-) but as I hope it illustrates a point – life will inevitably get in the way, at times and I was beating myself up, but another colleague told me not to worry, to not let it derail me, and just keep going. Next week I’ll aim to get back to three runs.

Week 5

I finally got round to the run on Tuesday, it was pouring with rain which I love! I love running in the rain, no not because it keeps me cool or anything, but because all I think about is how wet I'm getting, rather than the running!

I decided to go for two just miles and to try and quicken my pace, and I did it!!!! Two miles in 21 that 10 minute mile mark is edging ever closer, just need to sustain it for another 4 miles...hmmmm.

Thursday was a Freedom 2 Run session but I was feeling nervous as I'd missed the week before, but I dragged myself along and there were some new faces when I arrived – which always makes you feel better! The instructor set out the class upfront again... sprints, long runs and interval work was on the cards. Then the instructor took me aside and said she was going to try an push me a little this week, as she'd seen from my previous session I had the ability – I instantly started to get that fear of failing.

The first longer run didn't feel too bad, then we hit the sprint! The instructor motivated me to complete seven sets, and even though my lungs were bursting and my legs screaming, I did it! I was reminded again to drive from my hips to open my stride, and it felt really good. Then onto the second slower, longer distance run and as my fitness level isn’t what it was, I hadn’t quite recovered my breathing from the sprints so found it hard.  The rest of the session continued in a similar way, run, sprint, run, sprint, and I actually ended the session wanting to do more! Now I never thought I'd say that.

Also (this could just be fleeting but) I quite enjoyed it!! Next run planned for Saturday - wish me luck.

I actually ended up running on Sunday 2 July (I can't belive it's July already, means we are getting nearer to September when I have to run 10k - eeek!) and I decided to go off to Swanbourne Lake and take my dog Joey with me. It was such a good idea as he kept my mind off the running, plus the lake is so beautiful! We went off quite early but it was still warming up already - had to be careful with Joey with me.

I hadn't realised how many inclines there were around the lake but the obstacles of tree roots, muddy puddles and uneven surfaces, on top of laughing at Joey as he attempted to chase the ducks and fell in the lake, all took my mind of them and made for an enjoyable run.

I managed two loops of the lake and clocked 2 miles and it felt pretty comfortable, although I was quite pleased to see a friend near to the end as it was a good excuse to stop because my legs had got tired!

But that's another 2 miles done, and my partner snapped this great shot as Joey and I returned home, which proves he wasn't pulling me round!

Week 6

Did a very hot 2-mile run on Tuesday evening with my sister Marie and my dogs Joey and Willow.

We ran through one of the private estates in East Preston and we both actually really enjoyed it. The heat wasn't brilliant but the dogs kept us entertained, and we even added another section on to the run to ensure that we hit 2 miles - even though we easily could have just gone home.

I have to admit that I'm now at the stage where I quite like the thought of a run. Yes... I said it!

For those following my journey and feeling like it will never happen for them, it's happened to me and I can't belive it either, so keep going.

I can even say that if I haven't been out for a couple of days I start to get a bit I've changed :-)

My legs felt ok while doing this run too, and so far my back has held up, which was a worry when I first started all this after my injury!

Also, I really thought about my breathing throughout this run, having learnt about slowing it down in my Learn 2 Run programme. I also thought about lifting my legs more in my stride pattern, otherwise I tend to plod. I'm luckily this was very quickly picked up by my instructor, which just shows how valuable these types of coaching sessions are - so if you are able to attend one, I'd highly recommend it.

I think I'm starting to improve. Feeling happy. #thisgirlcan

Week 7

Ok, so I only did one run last week. I had a weekend away in Bournemouth and the New Forest, and while I had every intention of running over the weekend, life got in the way and I was simply having too much fun to stop for a run.

But that’s ok, Im not beating myself up.

So I got myself out this Monday morning for another 2 miles and my pace was a bit quicker which was really encouraging. I had no dogs to take with me this morning so it was just me and my thoughts again, but it’s ok as I actually quite enjoyed the run through sunny Arundel, and the castle is always a great sight.

I'm going to try and up my total distance on my next run though, as I am a tad worried I'm not getting any further with my runs just yet. 2 miles seems to be my limit but I think I just need to plan in longer for run and find a bigger route. I'm sure it's partly planning and partly a mental block - so I'm focussed on overcoming it this week.

I went to run club on Thursday and loved every minute of it! We did lots of sprint work, which I seem to be Ok at, so I came back really buzzing.
I planned to try and get out the next day and tackle the distance thing, aiming to get past the 2-mile mark.... but my hips thought differently!
It seems that as a result of my back injury my hip joints have become really tight and closed, so as much as I enjoyed the sprint work, my hips didn't! So I rested the rest of the week.

Week 8

I did running club again this week and found myself with a huge mental battle, which I'm going to tell you about.

So, the instructor decided we would do timed runs this week - three laps of the lake in ten minutes, and I got scared and started overthinking it!

I was trying to work out in my head what pace I would have to achieve in order to make it, then worrying I wouldn’t make it!

As a result I didn’t focus on the things I should have been focusing on and subsequently I indeed didn’t make it in time. I then beat myself up about it, which effected my running – it was a vicious circle!

I'm also trying to understand my inconsistency. How can one run be easier than another? How can 10 minutes on one run feel brilliant and in the next run feel like hell?

I really started to question my ability, why am I doing this? Why is it this hard? Why do I feel so rubbish at it?

Then a colleague spoke to me and tried to help me work through things, he advised me not to concede to my fear of failure and be led by the end result (in this instance whether I'd make it round the lake in time!) - instead I needed to focus on the things I can control, such as my technique and breathing.

Also to break down the task in hand into achievable chunks, plus he actually reassured me the time set by the instructor for the three laps was actually quite tough! Most importantly he got me to realise that if I don’t succeed at one thing, then to brush it off and focus on the next.

I do really struggle with just letting things go, so I now know I need to somehow learn to just stop, shake it off and start over again, oh and remember how far I have come!

I do enjoy running much more now, and am finding benefits of committing to a run club positive, it’s keeping my training going.

Finally, I found this quote online from the This Girl Can Run campaign, and it really summed it all up for me this week, so I thought I'd share it with you too. Onwards and upwards.

Week 9

I can’t believe it’s week nine already and that the 10k is in like about 6 weeks’ time! Whaaaaaa!

Unfortunately I didn’t make it to running club this week as work got in the way, which was a real shame as I do find these sessions teach me a lot and are helping me to improve… but I did get two good runs in.

The first was quite amusing as I decided to take both of my dogs out for the first time! Possibly not the best idea in hindsight as whilst Joey will just run and run and run, Willow, who is 5 going on 85 is a different dog all together!

I managed to get to a mile and then I had to take her back home as she was tired, but Joey and I finished off the run with another mile and we went much quicker! I have to say I was really pleased with myself as once I got home I could have just not gone out again, but I really needed to – and so I went. I’m pretty sure the old me would have parked on the sofa with Willow!

The second run of the week was in Bournemouth at the weekend and I ran 5k……yes I did it! My first 5k.

It was from Boscombe Pier to Bournemouth Pier and back again and I seemed to just be able to go for it, and before I knew it 5k was in the bag. I am very chuffed.

I really enjoyed it too as my legs and my breathing felt really good and just right – like all my training just came together somehow. There was a lot of action on the beach, including surf schools, so I do think this helped distract me but even so I am now certain I’ve improved. Which is a massive confidence boost.

I do have to be honest with you all, I’m struggling with the commitment to running at the moment, only because both work and life are really busy and I’m tired.

I’m finding it hard to choose running when I’d rather just sit-down and have some time to relax….well I did say this would be an honest account :-)

But I know with the 10k on the horizon I can’t give up. I guess I’m the perfect example of how tough it can be to fit sport into everyday life, but I’m not going to quit now and am pleased you are all here on this journey with me. #thisgirlcan

Week 10

Another two-run week this week, however I feel I'm really starting to make some real improvments now.

I managed one 5k run and one just short of 6k run….go me!

So I now feel I'm really starting to get there towards my 10k goal. I'm still finding it tough to find  running time with it being very busy at work and home at the momentn, but I will crack on, and it is my aim to get three sessions in again.

For both runs this week I ventured off in to the Arundel Estate which is simply beautiful and both were on glorious days - sunny, blue skies but not too hot, so perfect weather for me, and I now know I much prefer off roading and enjoying the countryside views when I run.


I didn't make it to running cub again this week, which is a shame as I know that it really helps with technique and tips but I'm still trying to put into practice all I have learnt so far, so it's been worth it!

Next week I'm going for 7k without stopping…let's see what happens. 

Week 11

So, no running I’m afraid this week, a knee niggle has reared its nasty head. This is the first serious challenge I have done since my back injury so there was always the chance this may happen.

However, I am remaining positive and decided to do some swimming to supplement my training.

And after chatting with a few people I found out that swimming is actually really good for runners and in fact it is great for “runners knee” – now I’m not saying that’s what I have, as I’m not really sure what the problem is but all I know is that my knee is hurting a bit when I run. 

However, for any of you who have also started running and may have also experienced knee pain, you may be interested to know that Patellofemoral pain syndrome —otherwise known as anterior knee pain and runner’s knee—is the most common running injury and apparently accounts for around 20% of all running injuries!

Google it and you will see that swimming is a good thing to do, so without knowing it my decision to swim was a good one and I manged to swim twice in the week.

I went to our pool at the Littlehampton Swimming & Sports Centre and got a total of 100 lengths in… and really enjoyed them!

I actually  learnt to swim at a young age at the pool and it was nice to be back swimming there. It was also really lovely that half way through my second swim a gentleman stopped me and commented on my stroke, saying it looked effortless, which really made me smile…

Mainly because I (as you readers will know) have admitted that at times I’ve been struggling with the running and that I can be quite competitive, often beating myself up when I’m not doing something really well! That man’s comments made me realise, it really doesn’t matter if running isn’t my thing, there will always be other activities that you are naturally better at.

So, I’m not going to get caught up with the fact that running might not be my thing and it may not have been as easy as I expected (having come from a sporty background) – I’m just going to complete this zero to 10k challenge and accept that I may not be super quick, nor can I go for miles and miles, but just to be proud that I’m doing it at all.

My colleagues have also reminded me that this is exactly what the This Girl Can message is all about – it’s not about being the best or perfect, it’s about getting out there and giving sport and exercise a go… whatever you do and however good you are, you are better than the person sat on the couch!

I’m going to try and run again next week and depending how my knee feels, I’ll see how far I make it. 

And I’ll leave you with this article I found online about Why all swimmers should be swimming.

Week 12 and 13

So it has been a tough couple of weeks for me as I have the dreaded runner's knee.

If you are interested in what causes it as I was, then basically it is down to overuse. In many cases patellofemoral pain syndrome (runner's knee) is caused by any physical activity that puts repeated stress on the knee, exercises like running and jogging, squatting and climbing, and it can often be caused by a sudden change in physical activity, which is why a lot of new runners can find themself suddenly in pain.

Hmpffff - whatever the cuase I'm feeling really fed up!

I got some advice and this is how you fix runners knee:

  1. Rest knee
  2. Ice knee to ease pain and swelling
  3. Wrap the knee
  4. Elevate leg on a pillow when you're sitting or lying down
  5. Take NSAIDs, like ibuprofen or naproxen
  6. Do stretching and strengthening exercises,especially for the quadriceps muscles

So for that last two weeks I have been sticking to this while doing some swimming to try and keep my fitness levels up, however, I even had to limit what I did in the pool, to ensure I wasn't kicking to hard and making my knee worse - so I mainly did a lot of upper body work. I have also been doing some stretches for my quads.

I have found that a side quad stretch is a good way to do this without putting pressure on the knee:

To do this stretch; lie on one side while keeping the bottom leg straight and bending the top knee so your foot is by your butt. You can hold the top foot with your hand, and pull it closer. You should definitley feel this stretch in your quad!

I'm going to attempt a little run next Tuesday evening after work to see how my knee feels, so please wish me luck.

Week 14

Hello everyone, so week fourteen was due to be my second to last week before the 10k event next Sunday (10 September) and after much rest, icing and some gentle swimming and stretching I attempted a training run on Tuesday (29 August).

Things started well and not only did my knee feel ok, but the running didn't feel as hard as I'd expected it too after time off.

I hit the 5k mark happy, when my knee began to niggle and unfortunatly I only made to about 6k before having to stop, which was frustrating.

I made an appointment with a physio and unfortunatley I was advised that I need to rest fully in order to recover the knee, so I will not be running the 10k event as hoped :-(

It's a tough conclusion to this journey and this blog as I know many people have been following my story, but I am not too sad and I feel I have acheived a lot - not least demonstarting a real to life experience and the realities of starting running! 

This blog also supported the This Girl Can campaign and I have certainly proved I can!

OK, so I admit that running may not be "my thing" as being sporty I expected to find it a lot easier than I did, but I have really enjoyed it, especilaly when running outdoors in the countryside with my dogs (well not Willow she was rubbish, but Joey was great).  

This journey has also helped me to reawaken my love of swimming and has really helped me to be more active after my back injury which is a massive positive, but mostly I hope that I have helped to inspire some people to also give running while supporting other newbies along the way.

The objective of blogging about my journey was never really about the final destination but more about the journey, so thanks for coming along - and for those in and around the Arun area, you will still see me out-and-about in my trainers (once my knee is fully recovered) because ultimately being a This Girl Can means being an active women, doing my thing no matter how well I do it!

I'm going to leave you with my fave pic of Joey and I returning from our run on week five with smiles on our faces.

Carrie x

Week 15

I just wanted to wish a big GOOD LUCK to everyone running this Sunday!!! 

At the Chestnut Tree House Littlehampton 10k Run

Carrie will continue to update this blog with regular updates about her journey to her 10K race - so check back for her next installment!

Has Carrie inspired you?

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