N2R Success Story (Amanda Zickuhr)

N2R Success Story (Amanda Zickuhr)

Amanda Zickhur
N2R Community Member
February 5, 2024

I'm sorry this is so long, but once upon a time, there was a little girl who dreamed of running….haha.

No, seriously, though…

From a very young age, my happiest dreams involved running. I don't remember a time in my life when I didn't have dreams of running around and playing like a little kid, and in those dreams, running was a fun, happy, and genuinely joyful experience.

I played a few sports involving short bursts of running in school, and in middle school, I was diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma. I started tapering off school sports and was done after my sophomore year of high school.

Amanda Zickuhr

In hindsight, I think that the depression, anxiety, and slow weight gain that began then and would affect my entire adult life was related to quitting sports and becoming inactive then. I knew some people in college and at work who ran that made me think if they could run, I could, too. I found my first running plan in a magazine in 1994 when I was 19 years old. I stuck with it for a few weeks. It was too hard for me, I felt like I was dying, my whole body hurt, I was gasping for breath, and I hated it so I quit.

I still had joyful running dreams, though, so for almost 27 years, I randomly continued to try different running plans. The same cycle repeated itself again and again…it was too hard so I quit or burned out because I just hated it, and because every plan I tried seemed to push me into running for too long or too far or too fast too soon, I started to get injured. Often. I hurt a knee and hip in a bike crash, but with running, I hurt those even more, developed painful shin splints, had plantar fasciitis off and on for over 25 years, broke the same toe 5 times, had a collapsed arch, and also had a bunch of babies, hernias, and a few unexpected surgeries.

Some people close to me joked around about all my running attempts and still never becoming an actual runner, so I started to keep my attempts to myself and only ran on my treadmill because I was embarrassed. The happy dreams never stopped, though.

In March 2020, I had a sudden health crisis. I had a racing heart, rapid breathing, terrible hand tremors, couldn't sleep or eat, and lost 22 lbs in less than 2 weeks. I lost all muscle tone and strength, couldn't walk up or down my stairs, shower, or stand for more than a couple minutes without leaning on something or stopping to sit and rest because my legs were simply too weak and shaky. I didn't have enough strength to pour a glass of milk for a kid from a half-full gallon and couldn't lift my own empty dinner plate from the table because of the tremors.

This was not good, especially when everything had just shut down for the COVID-19 crisis. We have 7 kids, 6 of whom still lived here at that time, and 5 were at home doing school online. After lots of fear, appointments, tests, scans, and doctors, I was diagnosed with having sudden onset hyperthyroidism and Graves Disease. Just prior to this, I had been lifting weights 3 days a week and walking for at least 5 hours per week. With treatment and recovery, it was 6 months before I could walk for 20 minutes or 1 mile.

During my downtime, I was very depressed. I started reading about natural movement and switched to barefoot/minimalist/zero drop shoes. It was a perfect time to do that because by June, I was only able to walk for about 5 minutes straight. Happy running dreams now haunted me, and I was so frustrated because I barely had the strength and energy to get through an easy day, let alone exercise. I was on vacation and couldn't do much more than imagine what it would be like to be able to do basic active stuff again. It seemed ridiculous at the time, but I was still reading about fitness and barefoot running, and one day I Googled something along the lines of "beginner's running plan that's way easier than C25K." Somewhere in the late night wormhole I fell into online, I found None To Run. I remember reading comments and reviews from people who failed C25K but succeeded with N2R.

This plan seemed different to me because it started out with only 30 seconds of running, and it had a strength training component. It was also longer than many at 12 weeks. Being free was a huge perk, too. I downloaded the plan and joined the Facebook N2R group knowing full well I was nowhere near ready to start, but I wanted to see what these people were like. I wanted so badly just to be healthy, and I decided on that vacation that if I could get back to being okay, I was going to try N2R.

I stalked the group for months. I kept saying as soon as I could walk a mile, I'd start it, but then I could walk a mile in September, and I was still too scared to start. I was afraid I'd fail, and I had already decided that this was THE last time I'd EVER try running. I was almost 46 years old, and it was time to be realistic about the probability that running was not for me. I sat on the sidelines and watched people start and finish the plan. I watched people overcome their own fears. I watched them get injured and return to running. I watched them struggle. I watched them quit. I watched them start over. I watched them repeat weeks. I watched them surprise themselves. I watched them succeed. And so many of these people were overweight, injured, very busy, overwhelmed parents, self-proclaimed failures…people like me.

My first N2R run was Monday, November 23, 2020 on my treadmill. I was tired, and it was a very busy time. On Wednesday, I got up, got my kids to school, and went to an early morning appointment and completely forgot about the running program I had started just 2 days ago. I was so mad at myself. I was determined to do this whole 12 weeks, and it was going to be my absolute last-ditch effort, so that night, I plugged every single run into my calendar like important appointments. I set the printed plan out in 3 different places in my house so I could REALLY start again on Monday, 11/30.

I finished the plan in February 2021, a few days after my 46th birthday, and I moved straight on to the 5k plan. I was able to do the 12 week plan as written. It wasn't always easy, but I made it my priority for 12 weeks. I got up very, very early sometimes to get it done, and I definitely complained sometimes, but I made no excuses. I did the work. I did all the strength training workouts. I took all the advice. I slowed down as the running times increased, and I built the endurance to run for 25-minutes straight without being out of breath.

For the first time in all of my attempts, it was manageable, it was fun, and I absolutely fell in love with running. I was as shocked as I was thrilled. N2R is different. It enabled me to become the runner I literally dreamed of being. I have never been more proud of my own commitment to something in my entire life than I am of committing to this 12 week plan. I will also never be able to adequately convey how thankful I am for finding N2R and Mark Kennedy and this group of amazing and encouraging runners. None to Run has completely changed everything about my life for the better.

I've been running for a little over a year and a half now. I've been injured and recovered and returned to running. I run 4 days per week, I still do the strength training workouts 2-3 days per week, and I generally stick to a schedule similar to that of the 5k or 10k plan. I ran my first entire 5k ever in March 2021 at age 46. At age 47, I ran my first entire 10k ever in April 2022. I've run 5k more times than I can count now, and I can run comfortably for as long as an hour and 40-minutes straight.

I love to run.

My Graves is in remission, I'm not on any medication, I'm so much stronger and more cardiovascularly fit than I've ever been in my entire life. I've lost over 25 lbs. because I've naturally changed my diet to be more healthy in order to feel good while running. My energy level, confidence, and self-esteem have grown exponentially, and consistent running works better than anything I've ever tried to manage my depression, anxiety, and my life in general. Running with N2R is the very best thing I've ever done for myself, my health, and my overall well-being. Running is a gift I give myself every time I set out, and the habit has become a lifestyle that I love.

My best advice for anyone just starting out is to fully commit to and prioritize this program in order to set yourself up to succeed. Yes, it's 12 whole weeks, but it just might be the 12 weeks that makes a difference for years to come. Put your runs into your schedule like the important appointments with yourself that they actually are. I realize that it's hard fitting one more thing into a very busy and often changing schedule, but when you do this one thing for yourself first, everything else gets easier and seems better. To create a consistent habit, you have to make changes. Once the habit is established, though, it gets easier and easier until it becomes a lifestyle. It's worth it. You're worth it.

Also, take the best advice the group regularly has to offer and JUST SLOW DOWN. If you think you're slower than slow, you still have room to slow down some more. Slow down your walk intervals, too. Only your warm up walk needs to be brisk. If that's your running pace, too, that's perfectly okay. We are all different. Your own pace will increase naturally over time with more running, but that time is measured in months, not weeks or days. Nobody in the group is competing with you, and there is no reason to even compete with yourself while you're focusing on building endurance and creating a habit. Just show up for yourself and do it.

The whole point of N2R is what sets it apart from other running plans - some of which you, like me, may have failed or bailed on already - and that is to run SLOWLY in order to build endurance. It's not a distance-based couch to 5k plan. It's a no running at all to running for 25 minutes straight plan. Distance doesn't matter. Speed or pace doesn't matter. Building time gradually matters. There will be people who are obviously faster than you, and there will be people who are slower than you. It doesn't matter. Nobody is timing you. Nobody is chasing you. Nobody is laughing at you. Nobody is racing you. Nobody is judging you. Just run. There is no real way to measure a fun & happy pace on any app you use, but I promise you that it exists, and that pace always feels so much better than an "I'm dying & can't wait to be done" pace.

Do the strength training. Period. You can't skip part of the plan and expect to succeed. It's important.

Don't look ahead and worry about a future week or length of run. You're not there yet. You will get there one run at a time, just like everyone else. When you do look ahead anyway and start freaking out, stop that. You're not there yet. Slow down. When you get there, you will be ready.

It's absolutely okay to repeat and modify weeks or make your "week" longer than a calendar week, but as an overweight, over-injured, middle aged mother of many coming back from a debilitating health crisis who did it all as written without any issues other than - yes, sometimes it felt very challenging - I think the plan is so well thought out and very carefully and intentionally designed in such a way that anyone really can do it. Just SLOW DOWN. That usually solves all problems.

Share your runs and your stories along the way in the Mighty Networks (or Facebook) group. It might help to keep you accountable, but it might also inspire someone to start or to keep going. I have been positively influenced and felt genuinely and encouraged and inspired by countless members of the N2R groups. I continue to stay active in the group not to draw attention to myself, but because there is nothing I love more than seeing other people do well and surprise themselves along the way. If I can inspire one person to start or to keep going or to try again, it feels like I'm paying back just a tiny bit of the encouragement I've received from runners in the group. You might start out wondering if you can do it at all and end up being the reason someone else starts. My husband and a couple friends started running with N2R after seeing that I could.

I still have happy dreams about running all the time. The difference is that now some of my best dreams are of runs I've actually done, and some are of runs I know I will be able to do someday.

You can do this!

Have fun running!!

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