What is 'Couch to 5K' and how does it work?

What is Couch to 5K and how does it work?

The Couch to 5k running programme is an app / podcast based training delivery method for running. It's a great way to start run training, and this programme will assist in improving your fitness by steadily increasing the distance that you are able to run. It is all about using a walk / run plan for 9 weeks, where you will eventually get to the point of being able to run a 5k comfortably.

Who is Couch to 5K for and what are the benefits?

It is for anyone who wants to get fit, lose weight, improve their body strength and mobility and enhance their well-being. The benefits of running are well known and any moderate exercise done daily may help in keeping unwanted illnesses away.

But make sure you are prepared, the problem with running is that people think they can just chuck on a pair of old trainers, open the door and start running. Which is very true, but it's worth considering a few things before you go outside and start your running journey.

  • What condition are your trainers in and how long have you had them?

  • Have you got any long standing injuries that may hamper your ability to run an extended distance?

  • Have you stretched and warmed up enough?

  • When was the last time you ate and have you had plenty of water?

  • Are you going to run by yourself or with a partner?

  • Where are you going to run? Have you got a pre-planned route?

  • Are you going to use a running app, such as Strava to record your run speed and distance?

  • Is your route likely to be hilly, flat, or busy with pedestrian and road traffic?

You may well ignore these questions but if you do not consider them it may cause you problems down the line. I probably ignored some of these questions in the past and as a result I have had my fair share of injuries, loss of motivation and I have definitely got lost which ends up disrupting my run. By being prepared and making sure you know exactly what you are doing, you are more likely to hit your short, medium and long term goals.

The couch to 5k will hopefully get you ready to run, it will shape your body and mind in the right way and you will progress instead of stagnating and potentially giving up before you have begun. The

training progress should be steady as your body needs to adapt over time. You will be using muscles you may not have used for a while, you may become breathless and you will certainly get fed up and frustrated at times.

If the programme is a bit slow then do not worry, it will speed up and as you get fitter, things will get easier and you may be able to increase your distances quicker. However, I have been running for some time and I still have days when I have no energy, everything hurts, I want to give up and I think “why am i doing this”. Be patient, stay positive, dig deep, and you will get there. About 4 years ago my wife would not have even run for a bus. Don’t get me wrong she was fit but she certainly did not run or even like running. In 2018 she completed the Virgin London Marathon. So this shows that a person can progress and hit their running and fitness goals with a bit of determination and commitment.

Couch To 5K - Running Tips

Make sure you buy the right trainers - Go to a running shop and get some proper advice on what trainers to buy. There is plenty of advice out there and there are prices to suit all budgets.

Stretch all the major muscle groups - Do this before and after exercise. Do your best not to injure yourself before you have even begun.

Get a massage - If you do start increasing your running distances and your muscles are giving you problems, book a sports massage and get the muscle tightness and toxins banished.

Take up Yoga - It is a well known fact that Yoga is great for mobility, flexibility and body strength and posture, all things that will aid your running. Yoga class finder.

Be careful after a break - If you have to miss a few runs gradually ease yourself back into running after the break. Start with running half the distance you would usually run. Be careful not to run too much, if you have done a lot of running and you feel tightness, strains and minor injuries then take a break.

Drink plenty of water - Hydration is vital, especially as you will lose fluid through sweating. Headaches and nausea will be a sure symptom of not drinking enough, and stay away from caffeine.

Eat a well balanced, varied and nutritious diet - make sure that you obtain all the good nutrients and micro nutrients. Eat plenty of protein and up your protein percentage as you increase your distance and effort. Consider good quality protein supplements within 15 minutes of finishing your run. If eating carbohydrates, give your body plenty of time to digest before you run.

Remember your core - Core exercise is vital for strength and posture, and a strong abdomen will support the rest of the body.

Take a look at a standard programme below. Begin the program by making sure that you can walk comfortably for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Walk daily and consider walking to work, to the shops or just round the block on your lunch break. Try and walk at a good pace and use a fitness tracker to record your speed and distance.​

Couch To 5K Running Program

Week 1 Day 1 – Run 1 min, Walk 2 min, x8

Day 2 – Run 1 min, Walk 2 min, x6

Day 3 – Run 1 min, Walk 2 min, x10

Week 2

Day 1 – Run 2 min, Walk 2 min, x7

Day 2 – Run 2 min, Walk 2 min, x6

Day 3 – Run 2 min, Walk 2 min, x8

Week 3

Day 1 – Run 3 min, Walk 2 min, x6

Day 2 - Run 3 min, Walk 2 min, x5

Day 3 - Run 3 min, Walk 2 min, x7

Week 4

Day 1 - Run 5 min, Walk 3 min, x4

Day 2 - Run 5 min, Walk 2 min, x3

Day 3 - Run 5 min, Walk 3 min, x5

Week 5

Day 1 - Run 8 min, Walk 3 min, x3

Day 2 - Run 7 min, Walk 2 min, x3

Day 3 - Run 8 min, Walk 3 min, x3

Week 6

Day 1 - Run 9 min, Walk 3 min, x3

Day 2 - Run 8 min, Walk 2 min, x3

Day 3 - Run 10 min, Walk 3 min, x3

Week 7

Day 1 - Run 15min, Wk 5min, x2

Day 2 - Run 15 min, Wk 5 min, Run 10min

Day 3 - Run 20 min, Wk 5 min, Run 15 min

Week 8

Day 1 - Run 20 min, Wk 5 min, Run 15 min

Day 2 - Run 10 min, Wk 3 min, Run 20 min

Event Day – Run 5K non-stop

"I've done the Couch to 5K... What Next?"

Go and run one of the Parkrun events. They are free and well organised timed 5K runs in open green spaces around the UK. The runs take place every Saturday at 9am. They can get busy so give yourself plenty of time to get there and warm up, ready for the start. There are course directions, marshals and pace timers to assist. Some Parkruns also do a Sunday kids Parkrun, which is a 2K course and is great for getting kids into running.

See the Parkrun website for your nearest event

Plan your next running challenge. Try progressing up to 10k, a Triathlon and beyond. Look to sign up to other planned running events, this will help you to stay motivated. The last thing you want to do is take a break and then have to start all over again.

Find an event near you at Find a Race.

A change of scenery. It is always good practice to run on lot’s of different terrains and in different areas. I like to take trainers when I go away, it is a great way of keeping your exercise going and you will see new places at the same time. Go to the Run Together website to find running routes around the country.

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