I’ve tried to do the Couch to 5K running program from CoolRunning.com several times now. While the first couple weeks are pretty easy for me, the next couple are always harder. Much harder. Harder like after I finish the workout, I’m not actually sure I can walk back to the locker room without collapsing. I always burn out around Week 5.

I want to challenge myself, and I’m afraid of going too easy on myself.  (Dear potential employers who find this page: That’s my answer to the “What’s your greatest weakness?” interview question. I know it sounds like I’m saying “Well shucks, I just work too hard,” but I’m getting to why it actually isn’t great.)

I hear successful runners talk about pushing themselves to the point of nausea or collapse like it’s just what you have to do to get a good workout — so I think “Come on, you should be gasping for breath! Otherwise you’re just coddling yourself!” Which is all very powerful and goal-oriented and success-driven, until my body literally cannot handle it anymore. Then not only do I not accomplish my goal, but I end up sick or injured, and miserable.

So I’ve been dreading and procrastinating making Yet Another Attempt at Couch to 5K. I know I should exercise. And I really want to succeed at running. But I’d been starting to feel like I was just setting myself up for failure.

I bring this up, because I just saw another article via CoolRunning.com titled “Learn to Run in 4 Simple Steps” that suggests a different method: running from within. I know, it sounds like it’s going to be woo-based. It’s not.

With this method, you set yourself a total workout time — say, 30 minutes. Within that time, you run and walk at the intervals that work for your body. Run until you hit the point of breathing hard and being physically uncomfortable. Then walk until you catch your breath. Repeat until workout time is up.

I can tell this isn’t going to match up to nice, tidy interval times on a predefined schedule. I may not always make steady progress day to day: maybe I’ll be able to run an 8-minute interval on Monday, but on Wednesday I’ll only make it to 6 minutes.

When I was trying to do Couch to 5K, I thought a day like that meant I was failing at the program. Hey, I did those intervals once — why can’t I do them now? Do I have to go back and do last week all over again?

I got discouraged by these normal ups and downs, because the program didn’t account for them. I didn’t realize I should expect them. Maybe it will get me farther in the long run (no pun intended) if I let myself be a bit more flexible (er, also no pun intended).

Here’s the first good sign: I’m actually excited about trying this “running from within” method. I can’t wait to see what happens. I’ll let you know how it goes.