couch to 5k running journey
  • 23 March 2021

My Couch To 5K Running Journey Hints And Tips

Ben AustinActive Travel Officer

Back in Spring 2020, I thought I would give the Couch to 5K running programme a go. Previously, I had never been into running and didn’t know how or where to start. With the country in a national lockdown, I was keen to use my permitted outdoor daily exercise in a productive way. I had heard many people tell me how good the Couch to 5K application was and thought that there was never a better time to start my Couch to 5K running journey.

About the Couch to 5K programme

The Couch to 5K programme is a running plan for absolute beginners. The plan involves 3 runs a week, with a day of rest in between, and a different schedule for each of the 9 weeks. Couch to 5K starts with a mix of running and walking to gradually build up your fitness and stamina. You can download the app on Apple and Android phones.

My tips for starting out

  • wear comfortable trainers
  • don’t put too much pressure and expectation on yourself when starting out. Your fitness will build up over time
  • pace yourself, this is really important
  • the Couch to 5K app is really flexible. Pick days to run that suit you. If you are aching from a run, give yourself a couple more days to recover. If you aren’t ready to progress onto the next week, then don’t. Remember, this is about you

My week by week Couch to 5K journey

Week 1:

Week 1 was pretty comfortable. 60 seconds of running followed by 90 seconds walking, repeated until you reach 20 mins. Running for 60 seconds was okay, remember to take your time.

Week 2:

In week 2, I stepped up to running for 90 seconds in amongst sections of walking. I learned that the walking phase was a chance to catch my breath and regain my focus!

Week 3:

Week 3 meant running for 3 minutes without stopping, followed by intermittent periods of walking. Running for 3 minutes felt like a huge challenge, but I kept telling myself to just keep going! The app is really good at keeping you motivated.

Week 4:

Running for 5 minutes without a break! I didn’t think I could do this, so this week was a major step in my challenge to run 5K! This was also the week where my footwear became slightly uncomfortable so I looked at getting new footwear. This helped me a lot and I would definitely recommend wearing comfortable running shoes.

Week 5:

This week involved a run for 8 minutes and another run for 8 minutes, I found this OK mainly down to the fact I really paced myself in the first 8 minutes and took a chance to really focus in the walk and go again! Run 3 of week 5 meant running for 20 minutes. This turned out to be where I had my worse run, it was a miserable day weather wise and I wasn’t in the right mindset to go running and had to stop half way through. But this was okay, not every run can be perfect! I reattempted the run, picked a route I knew I liked and picked a great playlist! I managed to run 20 minutes consecutively for the first time!

Week 6:

This is where I learned that running is not only about what I was able to do physically but was also about challenging my mental toughness. There were a lot of times where I felt like stopping, but I managed to keep pushing myself running by focusing on my end goal.

Week 7:

Another tough week running 25 minutes, 3 times throughout the week. I tried running 3 different routes this week which really helped. Seeing different things certainly helped me remain focused. I always picked different times of the day to run to mix things up and keep me engaged.

Week 8:

28 minutes running! Those extra 3 mins felt much longer when running them! I could feel the aches and pains from running for this long period of time. Good stretching helped overcome feeling too fatigued.

Week 9:

Week 9 was by far the best week of Couch to 5K. This final week involved running 3 times for 30 minutes without a break. At the end of the last run, it was great to reflect on how far I had come and how enjoyable the process was. The sense of achievement at the end was so amazing, it’s worth carrying on even when it feels impossible.

Further Couch to 5K hints

There were many times throughout my Couch to 5K running journey that I felt I could not complete a run. You have to remember, it is impossible to make every run perfect, there will be runs that are good and some runs that are bad. Everyone has bad runs, it is part of the process. One of best pieces of advice I could give anyone who is interested in this programme is to pace yourself. Couch to 5K is not a race, it’s more about building your endurance and stamina. The more runs you complete, the better this will become.

Another big tip I have is to focus on your breathing. Controlling your breathing pattern will help you run more and feel less tired. Also, when running, listen to upbeat music that motivates you. This will really help to keep a rhythm to your runs. If you prefer, NHS Couch to 5K have dedicated podcasts you can listen to for each of the 9 weeks.

Finally, nothing is more motivating than seeing your hard work in progress. I would highly recommend downloading a fitness app on your phone so you can track your runs and see the progress you have made over time. I hope this insight in to my running journey may inspire you to dust off them trainers and become more active through running.

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