Couch to 5k: Hope for the Novice Runner

I have had a few people recently ask me what training plan I used to run a 5k, and I realized I hadn’t actually devoted a post to this, so here you go. Forgive me if this is duplicate information for some of you, but I wanted to share it in case someone reading this is thinking about running and trying to figure out how to get started.

I used a plan called Couch to 5k (it’s also often called C25k). The plan is nine weeks long and assumes that you’ve done little to no running before starting. I was definitely in the no running category. The plan is easy to follow in that it is broken into three sessions a week, so you’re not running every day and feeling overwhelmed. The plan also makes use of run/walk intervals until the walking times decrease gradually and then are eliminated altogether. At the end of the nine weeks, the plan calls for running 30 minutes or 3 miles, thus making one prepared for a 5k race. The plan begins very gently, with 60 seconds of running and 90 seconds of walking for 20 minutes. Some people find this very easy, others find it difficult. The first week wasn’t terrible for me, but it definitely was challenging because I seriously had done very little running EVER in my life. In fact, every week was challenging for me, but some more than others.

The great thing about the plan is that you can cater it to your needs. For example, when I did week 4, I realized that the end of the week was harder than the beginning was, and that was the first time I’d experienced that, so I opted to repeat that week. That ended up being a good decision, and it allowed me to really gear up for the weeks after that, which get progressively harder due to the increased running time and shortened walking breaks. Theoretically, you could even begin the plan in week 3 or 4 if you already have been running some, and if you want to run more than what the plan recommends on one day, that is also a possibility.

The plan also gives you the option of running either for distance or for time. So on day 1 of week 5, you could either job a 1/2 mile and walk a 1/4 mile or jog for 5 minutes and walk for 3, which could end up being greater or less than the distance proposed depending on your pace. I started out running by the time because it was easier to measure and I didn’t want to get caught up on my pace, but around week 7, I think, I started running for the distance, since with my slower pace I knew I couldn’t run a full 5k in 30 minutes. I started measuring the distance of my runs and even tacked on extra distance in week 8 so that I ended up being able to finish the plan in 9 weeks though I had repeated a week early on.

Obviously, I highly recommend this plan. I never thought I would be able to run any kind of distance at all, but I followed the plan, persevered, and I ran in my first race! If you’re thinking about giving running a shot, definitely check out the plan!

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8 thoughts on “Couch to 5k: Hope for the Novice Runner

  1. Hey congrats! That is awesome! I think becoming a runner is all about planning and mental prep! So kudos to you for doin' it and succeeding!

    About your quinoa question on my blog — yes, it should be with the rice.

    have a great one!

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  2. I think I printed this off in college…and then lost it. And then printed it off again last year…and then promptly lost it again…maybe the third time's a charm?

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  3. Good job! I think you'll find running addictive after awhile. As a runner for many years, I love the way I feel after I run.

    Remember, it's not about SPEED. It's about getting out there, having fun, and accomplishing your goals. A 30 minute 5k for a new runner is a tough goal. So if it takes 35 minutes, or even 60 minutes, who cares!!?? It's about meeting your goal.

    You might want to check out the Jeff Galloway philosophy of running at some point. I use this now to up my mileage without getting injured… or hating the run b/c I'm in so much pain. He advocates run and walk ratios, e.g. Run 3 minutes, then walk 1 minute. Repeat. Check it out. http://www.jeffgalloway.com

    Keep up the awesome work!

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