I guess you too have heard a lot of people talking about this couch to 5k app, right? And maybe like me, wondered how it works and if you should try it? Well, here I am, and maybe you will be too, on my very own couch to 5k journey. Because we all know that a little consistency can make a better runner of any of us!
What Is Couch To 5k
Couch to 5K was created as a running plan for absolute beginners, or for those like me, who are starting their running journey from scratch again to build good foundations.
The plan involves 3 runs per week, allowing you to schedule at least one day of rest in between runs, and a different schedule for each of the 9 weeks.
One thing worth noting, is that this programme is going to either build you up to run 5km (without stopping) or 30 minutes without stopping. So your speed will determine which goal you hit. If you’ve completed couch to 5k already and you’re looking to build up speed, these tips to unleash your full running speed are a good place to start.
Getting Prepared To Start Running
A few things to think about before you start the plan:
- download the free app or podcasts
- There are 3 “runs” per week. What days will you run?
- Who will you choose as your trainer? I have Michael Johnson; he came highly recommended lol
- Lastly, your WHY. For me, it’s to challenge myself, get back to running regularly and to feel ready for parkrun when it returns!
Other things that may be worth thinking about are the route you will run and what kit you will wear. I’ve been running straight out of my door and round the block – I think it’ll be useful for tracking my progress. You can download the Strava app free of charge to record your runs – I record mine on my Garmin Vivoactive 3 and the runs then sync to Strava automatically.
Warm Ups and Cool Downs
Now this is one area where the programme really fails in my opinion. Every ‘run’ begins with a brisk 5-minute walk but I don’t think this is enough.
Can You Do Couch to 5k Everyday?
I mean, technically, yes. But realistically, your body needs time to recover to allow you to reap the benefits of your hard work. Basically, overtraining and burnout is not cool.
You can try activities like yoga, Pilates, HIIT training or just walking on the days you’re not running. But make sure you do allow yourself some downtime.
If You’re Struggling With Couch To 5k
If you’re a new runner, then going from zero to running 60 seconds at a time might be hard work. At any point you can repeat any one of the weeks / runs until you feel physically ready to move on.
If tight shins or calves are an issue for you, you might be suffering from shin splints. Follow the exercises I linked above for a warm up pre run and even consider getting yourself a foam roller, rolling your legs for 10 minutes before you run and then after you run.
My Couch To 5k Journey – Week by Week
For your 3 runs in week 1, you will begin with a brisk 5-minute walk, then alternate 1 minute of running and 1-and-a-half minutes of walking, for a total of 20 minutes.
W1R1 – I had planned to start the programme well over a week ago which actually gave me time to get excited! Although I’m not running fit right now, I do have some fitness so the 30 minute session didn’t feel too bad. I managed to run (move faster than my walking pace lol) for the full 60 seconds each time so that’s a win in my eyes.
W1R2 – Completed
W1R3 – Well, it got done. After I overslept, I contemplated putting it off but I knew that would be the beginning of the end for me! I ended up completing the run before the rain, and felt damn good for doing so.
I had a quick look at my Strava to see what my running pace is like and tbh, if I read it right, I’m happy with the paces I have been running (between 5 and 6 minutes per km) even if just for 60 seconds.
I’m currently running in the Adidas Ultraboost 20 running shoes.
For your 3 runs in week 2, you will begin with a brisk 5-minute walk, then alternate 1-and-a-half minutes of running with 2 minutes of walking, for a total of 20 minutes.
W2R1 – This run, although still 30 minutes in length seemed to go much faster than the runs in week one. I think because there are less “running” sets. Anyway, it got done and it wasn’t too bad.
W2R2 & W2R3 – I’m know I’m only two weeks in but I think I’m seeing a pattern where the first run is hard, because it’s new, the second run isn’t to bad, and the 3rd is tough.
My paces were fastest in R2 and I think maybe it’s just tiredness at the end of the week why I end up slowing down.
For your 3 runs in week 3, you will begin with a brisk 5-minute walk, then 2 repetitions of 1-and-a-half minutes of running, 1-and-a-half minutes of walking, 3 minutes of running and 3 minutes of walking.
W3R1 – I actually enjoyed this run; it felt short and sweet (it is about 4 minutes shorter than the previous weeks). The 3 min run didn’t feel as bad as I thought it would – with the exception of when I was running uphill! I’m pleased that my average pace for the whole 25 minutes had improved again from week 2.
W3R2 – I switched shoes for this run and ended up running a tad bit slower than run one but it got done. It’s actually really nice to only be out for 30 minutes – it’s much easier to fit into a jam packed schedule!
W3R3 – I switched back to my original trainers and managed to edge my pace just below run one which was a great way to end the week.
For your 3 runs in week 4, you will begin with a brisk 5-minute walk, then 3 minutes of running, 1-and-a-half minutes of walking, 5 minutes of running, 2-and-a-half minutes of walking, 3 minutes of running, 1-and-a-half minutes of walking and 5 minutes of running.
W4R1 – Well, I had to postpone this run from my usual Sunday morning to Monday morning to give ,my sore back some extra time to recover. Add to that period pain (ladies, have you read Roar!?) and I didn’t have high hopes but I knew it needed to be done.
The first two runs literally felt like I was dragging my legs behind me and eventually, they started to loosen up and feel less heavy. I covered my longest distance so far in Couch to 5k of 3.69km so that is a win.
My tip for this run is to bring your pace right down in order to keep running for the 3 and 5 minute intervals. I figured that by run 2, I should have much more energy and hopefully be able to cover a bit more distance….
W4R2 – The heat ramped up this week and as much as I tried to get out early I only made it out the door around 10am. For a change of scenery, and a guaranteed flat route, I went over to my local parkrun venue. I’ve missed parkrun a lot and due to bad weather over the winter, we haven’t been able to run the usual course for a while.
W4R3 – The weather was still super hot and due to time, I stuck to my precious route of running round the block. Was super tough in the heat and with the added incline but I’m just glad to have completed it! Week 5, here I come!
There are 3 different runs this week:
Run 1: a brisk 5-minute walk, then 5 minutes of running, 3 minutes of walking, 5 minutes of running, 3 minutes of walking and 5 minutes of running.
Run 2: a brisk 5-minute walk, then 8 minutes of running, 5 minutes of walking and 8 minutes of running.
Run 3: a brisk 5-minute walk, then 20 minutes of running, with no walking.
W5R1 – Managed to hit 4km today in 31 minutes which is good progress. The inclines on my route are ruining me but I know they will make me stronger overall!
Thankfully the weather was cooler today, although once we got moving, it felt hot as ever.
W5R2 – This run ended up happening a day late due to feeling under the weather. Or it could have been a combination of being unwell and my mind playing tricks on me knowing the runs were 8 minutes long today.
But I needn’t have worried. Before I knew it, we were 4 minutes (half way) into the first run and it was feeling good. The last minute was tough as it was uphill but I managed not to stop.
I barely looked at my watch in the 30 minutes – I didn’t want to be focusing on pace and pushing myself too fast. Running close to 4km has me feeling confident I’m on the right track to run 5km in 30 minutes. Let’s see how run 3 goes first though…
W5R3 = Wasn’t half as bad as I imagined. I’d read how minutes 8-10 would be awful but to be honest, it wasn’t until the last maybe 3-5 minutes (on an incline) that I started to struggle.
I made sure not to look at my watch / pace through-out and focused on keeping moving, with just the app updates on time left. Some positive self talk helped too; mostly about trusting the process and the power of choice.
I’m looking forward to week 6 though – it’s the final week with intervals. I feel like I still have some work to do in order to reach 5k in 30 minutes but there are still 4 weeks left to go.
There are 3 different runs this week:
Run 1: a brisk 5-minute walk, then 5 minutes of running, 3 minutes of walking, 8 minutes of running, 3 minutes of walking and 5 minutes of running.
Run 2: a brisk 5-minute walk, then 10 minutes of running, 3 minutes of walking and 10 minutes of running.
Run 3: a brisk 5-minute walk, then 25 minutes of running with no walking.
W6R1 – My schedule now means that I have to wake up even earlier to get my runs done but this morning, I just couldn’t face it. I did get out around 5pm though, which was perfect timing.
Week 6 Run 1 was a welcome interval session after 20 minutes straight. I tried to push myself in the running intervals to work on speed before run 3.
W6R2 – I had to modify this session a bit in order to hit two goals with one run. I needed to complete a Coopers Test – running as far as possible in 12 minutes. So I made the first 10 min run 12 minutes, took my 3 min walking and then did 8 minutes for the second interval. It seemed to work okay!
W6R3 – The first 25 minute run on the plan and tbh, having completed 20 minutes I figured it couldn’t be that bad. As much as I wanted to run on my favourite flat route, time meant it was easier to run my loose round the block.
This means inclines. But I know it will make the flat routes more enjoyable. I focused on taking smaller steps and leaning a forward a bit on the inclines, focused on my breathing and just put one foot infront of the other.
When this run was over, my main thought was that I need to run 25mins a couple more times at least to build my endurance… well, you’ll never guess what week 7 is about…
Week Seven – In Progress
For your 3 runs in week 7, you will begin with a brisk 5-minute walk, then 25 minutes of running.
Week Eight – Coming Up
For your 3 runs in week 8, you will begin with a brisk 5-minute walk, then 28 minutes of running.
To be completed…
Week Nine – Coming Up
For your 3 runs in week 9, you will begin with a brisk 5-minute walk, then 30 minutes of running.
To be completed…
I’m gonna be updating this post as I go along, so if the full 9 weeks aren’t discussed above, it means you’ve caught me while I’m still completing the plan. And in that case, feel free to share your own tips and experience with me in the comments.
If you’ve completed couch to 5k then this next section is for you…
What To Do After Couch To 5k
Firstly, congratulations on graduating from the programme!! …It’s a big deal so I hope you celebrated. I guess your next steps are to either work on improving your speed or to continue building up distance, maybe to a 10k?
The 10km distance is one I’m well versed on, so you’re in the right place if you wanna know how to run your best 10k. I’ve also got a basic 10k training plan based on two runs a week – so you can start to think about cross training, strength training and working on your core (or just being busy!).
Have you completed the couch to 5k plan before? What distance are you working on now?