I wanted to do some exercise, given it was a year and and half since I stopped doing regular workouts. My main goal was to feel healthier and fitter and knowing I could run for 30 minutes would be proof, to me, of good health. So I signed up for the Couch to 5K program, which takes you from “couch potato” fitness levels to running for 30 minutes in 9 weeks.
The following is a week by week recount of the whole program, which I started at the beginning of the year. I am very grateful I took notes along the way, because I can look back and see the progress and remember how I was doing along the way
How it works
There are plenty of apps, I used one from the UK NHS. Every week there are three planned runs: initially it will be alternating walking and running, building up to 20 minutes of running continuously. They recommend having rest days in between runs, to avoid injuries and improve fitness. If you cannot finish a run, it is obviously OK to stop and it is advised to repeat it before moving on to the next one. I personally really liked having a structure and slowly building a habit.
First run was interesting. I found the first few rounds simple, but I hadn’t properly considered the fact that there were 8 rounds in total. I simply slowed down during the last two. They say the first run is the hardest, and that was now done!
The second and third run were quite easy, it was nice. Mixing up walking and running is good to switch things up a bit. I did notice the third run was harder, because it was very cold day [beginning of January].
A slight increase in running time at the start of the week. Not particularly challenging. The app gives you tips along the way and this week’s one was focused on breathing. I didn’t always remember to do it “properly”, but I tried to do so if I was feeling tired.
Tip: Something which I find useful is accountability and motivation. I joined a facebook group on running and found it inspiring to see others pushing through and becoming better. I rarely use facebook, but I made it a point to check out the group if I wasn’t feeling like running. It helped for Run 3, since it was a gloomy day and I was considering skipping the run. I also started updating a friend who is also running, so we could motivate each other and keep each other accountable.
Run 1 felt harder, running in intervals of 1.5 and 3 minutes instead of only 1.5. I was glad I did it! The hardest run for me is always the first one of the week, since there is a jump from the previous one. Once I complete it once, I know I can do it again.
Run 2 and 3 were easier, it’s actually impressive how much you can feel the difference.
Tip: I read online to “run with your hips”: they should be “driving” each step, you shouldn’t be bent forward. This is also similar to the advice that reminds you to look forward, keep your head up and stand tall. I recommend this if you are a beginner.
Heard many people find this jump challenging and have to stop and repeat Week 3 runs before trying again, so I was a bit worried before going out. They also encourage you to “trust the program” and knowing that it had been created by experts did make me feel better. I also knew I could stop and repeat WEEK 3’s run if it was too hard.
Knowing this, I still did not go out running when I was supposed to. I wasn’t feeling well the day I was meant to go. The following day I was busy and then didn’t want to go outside in the dark.
Week 4 run 1 done! I was feeling a bit worried and I postponed it… I was meant to go a few days ago but didn’t, partly for actual reasons, partly from procrastination. But! I did it! I found it easier than W3R1.
So for anyone putting off a run, especially if starting a new week, I will repeat: trust the program!
A friend encouraged me to go and helped me figure out the best time for me to run and avoid excuses/reasons not to go
I didn’t run for six days because I had pulled a muscle and wanted to fully recover. I found myself itching to go for a run, though, which was a pleasant surprise.
Run 3 was harder than the second one. Probably because I started too fast on the first two runs. I need to be careful to not repeat this mistake in the future! Although it was really nice to see how much progress I made, the first run today felt like a breeze, while two weeks ago it felt challenging.
Week 5 is different from the previous ones since all three runs are different from each other.
The third run will be 20 minutes of continuous running! It seems a lot and definitely an achievement, I couldn’t wait to try
The first run went well, easier than the last run of the previous week somehow. It might be related to the time of day, this time I went at 1pm, the other run was in an empty stomach at 8 am.
Second run down! 8 mins running, 5 walking and then another 8 running. Felt good, slowed down a bit at the end, although I learned my lesson and try to keep a steady pace rather than starting off with too much confidence. Next run is 20 minutes straight, no breaks. It feels like quite the step up, but I’ve been surprised by the program so far so I’m actually looking forward to Sunday.
I injured myself (not running), but I had to take a few days’ rest to avoid making things worse. I was quite gutted to be honest, I was looking forward to seeing if I could run 20 minutes.
I did the 20 minute run and I was pretty chuffed! I went slow and steady and it was easier than I thought.
Tip: Listen to a podcast. If you listen to music you will tend to match your pace with the beat of the song, so be mindful of that. There are playlists that have a specific number of bpm for this reason!
Having a podcast to pay attention to will distract your mind from the physical exercise.
I was travelling and then I got sick, so I didn’t run for a month. I picked up very slowly and went for a couple 5 minute jogs.
I then decided started back with week 5, since it had 5 minute runs to begin with, which I know I could do.
It was satisfying to see I had not lost all my fitness and everything went pretty smoothly. The increase in the long run’s time was absolutely doable.
From now on it’s continuous running, gradually increasing the time every week.
The program has already worked and built up a good foundation, so adding 3 minutes is not a big deal at this point. I always try to remember how good I feel afterwards, thanks to the endorphins and satisfaction.
Nothing new to report. I will say I have noticed some days I felt in better shape than others – I used the slow running technique went I was getting tired, which is a great way to be able to run for longer.
The satisfaction of running 30 minutes straight is definitely cool! I texted a few friends and I was buzzing 🙂
Final tips from a C25K graduate
- Trust the program
- Go slow
- Listen to a podcast or music if you want to be distracted
- Stop if something hurts
- The most difficult thing is getting out the door
- Accountability and encouragement
- Have a goal based on performance
- Repeat runs if you can’t finish one. Also good to keep this in mind if you stop running for more than 2 weeks
- Buy a good pair of shoes. You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars, but proper running shoes will help avoid injuries
- Enjoy running! Be proud of how far you have come! Enjoy the process and celebrate what your body can do