Couch to 5k Running Program

Most people can’t just one day wake up and go run for 30+ minutes without falling on their face and being forced to crawl back to their apartment, fainting and falling into a river, or experiencing massive discomfort in some other way. While our bodies are generally built to be able to run (cavemen had to run from stuff all the time), they need to be conditioned to get used to running (caveman toddlers had to run from stuff, too, so their bodies were used to it). Makes sense. Running is great exercise—it works just about every muscle one way or another, and other than a good pair of sneakers, you don’t need any equipment (well, a treadmill, if you don’t enjoy running in the cold/rain/elements).

I think that a lot of would-be beginners are turned off from running because they decide to dive in and start running by just running for as long as they can, and taking that as a starting point (when I tried that, I was huffing and puffing after about 2 minutes, and thought, “well, there goes that!”). Running is HIGH intensity workout and it asks a lot of your body–of course it’s going to tire you out quickly, if your body isn’t used to it! The Couch to 5k program brings you to that “oh-my-goodness-I’m-going-to-die-I-have-never-worked-this-hard-in-my-life-why-am-I-even-trying-to-run-this-is-crazy” point, and then tells you to stop and walk. Then it brings you right back to that point (but the second time, you’re thinking, “I did this already—I can do it again!”), and, through these run/walk intervals turns people into runners.

Couch to 5k (or C25K) is a 9-week beginner running program which uses run/walk intervals to slowly condition you from running for 60 seconds at a time to running 5 minutes at a time to, finally, running for 30 minutes.  Your heart rate stays elevated the whole workout, but you build up your endurance (both of your heart & your legs) gradually until you are able to just go out & run without stopping. C25K is a really reasonable way to introduce your body to running.

Plus, isn’t the name great? It is.

There are numerous free C25K podcasts which will tell you when to run & when to walk (I used these ones, which were just lovely). I did most of my C25K runs on a treadmill because last year winter outside running frightened me beyond belief, but of course they can also be done outdoors.

My Official C25K/Beginner Running Tips & Pointers

Get Fitted For Sneakers. Everything about how your muscles react while you run is dictated by the impact caused when your foot hits the ground (at least in my non-medical, non-validated, official opinion based on WhatMakesSenseToMe™). It’s crucial that the shoe you run in is appropriate for your foot and for the way you walk/run. When I was running on a random sale-rack pair of sneakers, I had insane pain along the sides of my legs when I ran, and as soon as I switched to appropriate shoes, BAM, pain gone. You can get fitted for sneakers at any running specialty store (google them) and generally, unless things are on sale, should expect to pay at least $80 for a good pair of sneakers. But they’re worth it – you can run 300-500 miles on a pair of sneakers, and 300-500 painless miles is worth a LOT more than $80!

Nothing should hurt when you run. Your muscles will feel tired, eventually, but there shouldn’t be any pain. If there is, something isn’t right (and it’s probably your shoes). There is a lot of discussion out there about at what weight it is healthy to run (in terms of joints & pressure and all that stuff), so if that’s a concern for you, I suggest you Google. And if things hurt and you think weight might be a reason, hold off for a bit. Walking, elliptical, bike, etc, are all GREAT forms of exercise, too.

There is no rush. Listen to your body. Only move on in weeks when you’re ready to (I did week 4 for about 5 weeks). You get stronger by easing into things & letting your body adapt to them, not by just forcing yourself to do things before your body is ready. If your muscles are sore, take a day off. It’s more important that you take care of your body than that you strictly follow a running program.

Stretch! Do it! Click here for good guideline running stretches (with a little Conan cartoon man doing the stretch-posing). Or, if you really want to spoil yourself, check out this site re: foam rollers — aaahhhh.

Time spent moving is more important than distance moved. Your heart & muscles know that they are working hard for 30 minutes – they don’t really care how far they’ve made your body travel.  Distance and speed are relative and depend on about seventy million different things. There’s no use comparing yourself to other runners you see out there (unless you’re faster than them, of course, or better dressed) – everyone comes to this sport for a different reason from a different walk of life, so focus on yours. Gosh, I’m getting preachy and corny here…

Have Fun! –if you don’t feel totally awesome after your runs, maybe running isn’t your workout. And that’s totally fine!

Be proud for attempting this, or any fitness program! You’re amazing, and that’s the fact.

Have any of you done C25K before?—what did you think? Do you have any tips to add?

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2 Comments to “Couch to 5k Running Program”

  1. thank you! i am going to print this out to help me with my goal of learning to run!

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