What Progress *Really* Looks Like

I realized the other day that I keep making references to my run/walking and the Couch to 5k Program, but I haven’t necessarily talked about it and the progress I’m making in much detail.

I’m a teensy bit afraid that maybe I’ve led you to believe that I go out and run marathons on weekends now (I don’t) or that because I’m at a healthy(er) place in my POTSie journey right now that somehow negates how bad my health was before (It doesn’t).

Let’s take a moment and clear up all the assumptions I’m assuming you’re making about me, shall we?

This is what POTSie Progress actually looks like:

I officially started the NHS (National Health Service-U.K.) Couch to 5k program on October 13, 2014. I heard about the program from my dysautonomia-pal E. who is a wonderful resource of exercising awesomeness. http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/c25k/Pages/couch-to-5k.aspx

I didn’t just pop on a treadmill though.

I’ve been keeping a record of my exercising habits since last January, on a very fantastic Marvel Superheroes calendar I got at the craft store (which reminds me, I need to get a new one for 2015!).

I started (at the end of February- January was rough for me) with a recumbent bike and then a rowing machine, with a spattering of youtube videos thrown in for good measure. (Check out Fitness Blender’s channel for good ones.)

The week before I started, I walked a mile on the treadmill every day to get used to it and find my balance (treadmills can be tricky for balance, at least I think so).

I don’t know if treadmill speeds are universal, but the first mile I walked, I did a speed of 2.5 miles per hour. It took me 24 minutes and 10 seconds to complete.

The following Monday, my first couch to 5K day (Cto5k from here…) my helpful podcast guide Laura instructed me to walk a 5 minute warm up walk (speed of 2.5 mph) then alternate between 60 seconds of running (speed of 3.2 mph) with 90 seconds of walking (again, 2.5mph) and end with another 5 minute cool down walk (2.5 mph). The podcast ran for 31 minutes, and my total distance traveled was 1.43 miles (approximately 2.3 kilometers).

I followed the instructions to do this 3 times (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) before moving on.

The following week, Podcast Laura told me to alternate 90 seconds of running with 2 minutes of walking between my 5 minute walk-bookends. Feeling uber pleased with myself, I upped my speed to 2.7 mph walking and 3.3 mph running. Still good, 3 times a week.

Week 3 brought the challenge of a new pattern: walk 5 minutes as usual; follow the pattern: run 90 seconds, walk 90 seconds, run 3 minutes, walk 3 minutes twice; 5 minute walk. Again, I increased my speeds to walk 2.8mph, run 3.4mph. In the 27 minutes of the podcast, I went 1.345 miles (2.16 kilometers).

My notes on the Friday of that Week 3 simply say “Did whole tape, but very hard, should do week 2 again next week.”

10 minutes into Monday’s workout, my right knee swelled, and I was down for the count.

The next 2 weeks, I sporadically used the rower, the bike, and the treadmill while icing my knee and keeping it elevated at rest. I saw the rheumatologist, who didn’t think it was anything out of the ordinary, thank goodness.

On November 24, I decided to start over. This time, I would do each “week” in the podcast twice, so I would be super ready to move on when the time came. Two weeks of Week 1, two weeks of Week 2, then it was time for Week 3 again.

One workout in, and my knee swelled up again.


Plus, then it was Christmas.

And then it was New Year’s.

Suddenly it’s January.

This past Monday, the 12th of January, I started again.

Back to Week 1 I go. I plan to do two weeks of each pattern again, but make up my own pattern for Week 3 wherein I run for 2 minutes, walk for 1 minute, to see if that helps me get past whatever wall that has kept me from progressing.

Monday was a good day, and in 31 minutes, I covered a distance of 1.728 miles. Wednesday was the same. As I have been upping my speed as I go along, I am now walking at 3.2 mph and running at 3.8 mph.

To review, I am now walking at the speed I was running the very first time I did this.

I’m telling you all of this because it very well illustrates The Way of the POTSie.

If I were to look at this whole thing- the past 14 weeks- the way that 90% of the population does, I would not see any progress. The Cto5K program is designed to take 9 weeks. Logic would say that I failed, because 14 weeks later I am still not past Week 3. It would be easy for anyone to say I didn’t do it “right” or that I didn’t make any progress or point out that I had to restart the whole thing 3 times, like that was a bad thing.

What a POTSie sees is this:

~I restarted the program 3 times. That means that even though it was hard, I didn’t give up. The way I did it the first time didn’t work for me, so I tried again a different way. The second time didn’t work for me either, so I have a plan to make changes the third time.

~The first time I did Week 1, I walked at a speed of 2.6, ran at a speed of 3.2, and totaled a distance of 1.43 miles. The third time I did Week 2, I walked at a speed of 3.2, ran at a speed of 3.8, and totaled a distance of 1.728 miles. The podcast didn’t change. I did.

~My first mile took 24 minutes to complete. My mile yesterday? 17 minutes and 50 seconds. That’s a 6 minute difference, friends.



Sometimes it helps to sit down and spell it all out.

Sometimes that’s the only way you can see your own progress.

If you use the measuring stick of the 90% (really, a made up percentage-but it sounds about right so let’s go with it…), you might find yourself lacking. You will probably get discouraged. It will totally bum you out that your progress is not obvious and neon-bright like “everyone else’s.”

When it comes down to it though, when you measure yourself the only way that matters- the you You are today versus the you You were yesterday- there is so much progress there.

Right now, I am measuring my progress on the treadmill; I’m measure my capacity to exercise in this way.

Another measure of my own progress is “What was I measuring this time last year?”

In January 2014, my goal was to get dressed in real clothes every day. Not clean(er) PJ’s, not sweatpants, but actual, Sigourney Weaver-approved (running joke, see: https://iamchronicallywell.com/2014/07/30/that-time-i-let-sigourney-weaver-tell-me-what-to-do/ ), honest to goodness clothes. I measured things like “I washed my hair today when I didn’t yesterday” and “I wore shoes for 6 hours instead of slippers.”

Yep, that was what I was doing, really and truly.

It’s weird to think about now, because even just one year ago feels so far away.

A lot can happen in a year.

I encourage you to keep track of your own progress, Chronics.

What is your challenge, your hurdle, the thing you are working on or towards?

Measure yourself against yourself. It’s the only comparison that matters.

I would love to hear from you, Chronic friends! Leave a comment below and be sure to LIKE my Facebook page: www.facebook.com/iamchronicallywell


One thought on “What Progress *Really* Looks Like

  1. Breanne says:

    Wohoo! Go you! That’s great! I want to start (modified) Couch to 5K as well, once I get my treatments on track again and regulated. 🙂

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