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Couch To 5K: 8 Week Couch To 5K Training Plan

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Couch To 5K: 8 Week Couch To 5K Training Plan Couch To 5K: 8 Week Couch To 5K Training Plan www.runnerclick.com

Are you interested in running a 5k for the first time or for the first time in a long time? We are excited for you and thrilled you arrived here! The Couch to 5k training plan has changed the lives of countless people, making them healthier, more active, and (likely) happier people.

This Couch to 5k training plan is designed to get you off the couch and ready to run a 5k in just 8 weeks. It is a perfect 5k training plan for beginners because it is a gradual and gentle approach to running.

In just three days of running a week plus cross-training and rest, you’ll be ready to cover the distance of 5 kilometers or 3.1 miles in less than two months. Hopefully, this plan is a safe and effective way to kickstart a healthy lifestyle and get you hooked on running for life!

So, let’s answer all your Couch to 5k training questions and get to the plan!

In this article, we will cover:

  • What the Couch to 5k plan entails
  • How the Couch to 5k got started
  • How to find the right running shoe for you
  • Coaches’ tips for success
  • Race week and race day checklists
  • How to recover properly
  • Preparing for race week and race day
  • The Couch to 5k Plan, and much more!

So, let’s go!

What exactly is a Couch to 5K, and what does the training plan involve?

Thousands of Couch to 5k (or C2k5) training plans are available online with varying timeframes and run distances.

RunnerClick’s Couch to 5k training plan introduces a novice or non-runner to running with just three running days per week.

  • Three times a week, you will run/walk for 30 to 35 minutes. You will begin with 2-minute run intervals followed by 2-to-4-minute walk intervals, depending on the recovery time you need.
  • The workouts are focused on time rather than distance.
  • Over the course of 8 weeks, you will elongate the time you spend running. The walk intervals will also grow for added recovery. At the end, you will be able to run 12 minutes without stopping to walk!
  • It is not expected for you to run the full 5k without walking in this plan. That is a goal to work towards for your next race!
  • On the other 4 days of the week, you can rest or cross-train.

Cross-training activities such as walking, cycling, hiking, swimming, or the elliptical are wonderful cardiovascular exercises that will help you towards your running goals!

Related: The 5k: How long is it & what to expect

Yoga on your cross-training days can be effective for recovery, and strength training can be effective for injury prevention and performance. How you spend your cross-training days is up to you, your preference, schedule, and what you think will help your body most!

Who is the Couch To 5K for?

The Couch to 5k training plan is for people who do not run! The C25k plan is for non-runners or people who have not run in a very long time! Its purpose is to get you off the couch and into a more active lifestyle.

The hope of the Couch to 5k plan is that it will kickstart a healthy, active lifestyle in which you transform from nonrunner to runner!

How long is a 5K?

A 5k is 5 kilometers, 5,000 meters, or 3.1 miles. It is roughly 12 and a half laps around a track. This is the goal distance you will cover in your Couch to 5k training plan.

Related: Race Pace Chart for 5k, 10k, & Half Marathon

A brief history of the Couch to 5K

Josh Clark invented the Couch to 5k program in 1996 without its intention to become the success it is today.

Clark told the BBC that he always thought fitness wasn’t for him. But when he was going through a bad break-up, he started running despite always hating running.

He noticed that after a few weeks, the discomfort of running started to go away. He found running to be rewarding and meditative.

Clark wanted others to have this rewarding lifestyle but without the wall of discomfort. So, he designed a 9-week plan that included run/walk intervals for non-runners. He posted it on the internet and told friends, family, and strangers on the web about it.

About a decade later, Clark’s C25k plan spread like wildfire. Communities sprouted around the plan and helped the concept grow. Now there are podcasts, apps, websites, online communities, and clinics dedicated to his program with lots of variations.

Even the United Kingdom’s National Health Service has endorsed C25k as an official exercise plan.

Thousands, if not millions, have told stories of how the Couch to 5k plan has transformed their lives, helping people lose weight, quit smoking, and defeat health illnesses.

Clark says we are born loving to run and believes we can “recapture that love (of running) that we had as kids.”

His program seems to be proving him right.

Why is this plan 8 weeks?

Depending on your fitness level, Couch to 5k plans vary in time depending on your fitness level. Some C25k plans may be as long as 26 weeks, while others written for people who are used to running at least once per week may only be 4 weeks long.

RunnerClick’s C25k plan is 8 weeks long because that has been proven to be a safe and effective timeframe for introducing running to non-runners. Because this Couch to 5k plan does not stipulate running distances or include rigid running timeframes, it is flexible to meet the new runner’s fitness and comfort levels.

The time and distance of running versus walking will vary from user to user, but all beginner runners are intended to complete the 5k distance in the end.

A Word of Caution for New Runners

This Couch to 5k plan is designed for new runners and is meant to be flexible to meet your fitness level. However, you may need to elongate the plan to meet your needs, and that’s okay!

If you find that running three times a week is too stressful for your body, you can back off to two times a week and extend the plan by a couple of weeks. Repeat weeks of running two times a week until it feels comfortable. Then, progress to three times a running a week.

If you are an overweight runner, you are at greater risk for injury. In this case, it is best to begin with, a walking plan plus strength training for two to three months before beginning running. This will help prepare your musculoskeletal system, including your bones, joints, muscles, and tendons, for the impact of running.

Related: Dropped Out of the Couch to 5k?: Here are 3 Beginner Plans

Will training for a 5k hurt?

Running can be uncomfortable when you begin, but it shouldn’t be painful. Sore muscles are common as your body adjusts to the new training stress and becomes stronger. Your rest days will allow your body to adapt and strengthen. It will get easier over time.

If you find that you are suffering from acute pain, take 2-3 days rest and ice in 10-minute increments throughout the day. If the tender area feels better, try walking before running.

How do I adjust the plan for missed days?

Repeat the training week you completed to get back on track.

Do not try to make up running time by skipping walking days or skip a complete week of training. There are plenty of 5ks. Look for one at a later date to keep you healthy and on track with your goal!

It is better to repeat training weeks than skip one to run a certain race on a specific date. The goal is to get healthier, not get injured, and be put back on the couch!

Setting Expectations for the Couch to 5k Training Plan

When you commit to doing a Couch to 5k training plan, you may experience changes including in your diet and energy levels. Here are 7 changes to expect:

1. You may have to say “no.”

Success in running is built on consistency. So, it’s imperative you look hard at your schedule and decide where you will fit your running and cross-training days in. This may mean you say no to other commitments to create that time for yourself.

Running is not something you can just “wing.” That is a recipe for injury. You need to prepare and stick to the plan as best you can. If you fall off, repeat your last completed week and continue.

2. You may have discomfort to start.

Running feels hard to start—even with walk breaks. However, trust that your body will adapt.

It will. This is science! As long as you balance your running days with days of rest and recovery, you will grow stronger and fitter week over week.

Remind yourself that it gets easier!

If you experience pain, not just sore muscles, take a break. Running is a high-impact sport and can lead to running injuries. This pain should be addressed early on to keep it from sidelining you.

3. You may feel hungry.

The more calories you burn, the more fuel your body needs. Be sure to eat enough throughout the day to keep yourself from binging after your run.

Eat three balanced meals with two snacks so that your body is fueled every three hours or so. Eat whole, healthy foods that include healthy fats, carbs, and protein.

Related: Best Protein Cereals for Runners

Some people end up gaining weight after starting to run because they do not eat enough throughout the day and binge later. A small carb-rich pre-run snack of crackers or half a bagel will stave off the post-run hunger.

4. You may need more sleep.

The more you run, the more sleep you need. Be diligent about getting at least 7 hours of sleep a night so that your body has a chance to recover.

This may require you to stop scrolling before bed (which isn’t good for you anyway) or begin your bedtime routine 30 minutes earlier.

5. You may feel more energized.

Running gives you a mental and physical boost. When you couple running with eating and sleeping well, you may find you have more energy, creativity, and productivity.

6. You may lose weight.

When you begin running and begin building more muscle, your resting metabolic rate will increase, so you burn more fat. This sets you up for losing weight as long as you eat well and don’t over-eat.

Avoid making the mistake of overestimating how many calories you are burning (roughly 100 for one mile of running—fewer calories for walking).

7. You may get hooked.

The runner’s high isn’t a myth. It’s a real phenomenon. Running releases the feel-good hormone dopamine.

Once you get past the first couple of weeks of potential discomfort and wondering if running is for you, you’ll likely start feeling that runner’s high and meditative state that Clark felt.

You’ll begin to see and FEEL your progress. And you MAY want to keep going even after you’ve completed the Couch to 5k training plan!

How to Stay Accountable in this Couch to 5k Running Plan

Accountability is key for success in training for a 5k! Thankfully, there are several ways to hold yourself accountable. Below are 10 ways to help you on your way to success for this Couch to 5k running plan.

1. Chart your progress.

Use a running log or a running app like Strava or Map My Run to chart your progress. It’s very gratifying to visually see the work you’re putting in and the advancements in your fitness.

This will help you want to keep the momentum going, especially if the going gets tough!

2. Remember your why.

Write down why you want to start running in the first place and keep it handy for when you need extra motivation. Think deeply about this why.

Do you need it as a stress relief to be more patient with your family? Does running make you feel better about yourself and what your body can do? Do you want to be healthier for your kids?

This intrinsic motivation is a powerful tool in keeping you working towards your goals.

3. Put it on the calendar.

Before you begin this Couch to 5k training plan, look at your schedule and write down when you plan to run. Make sure those in your life know your plans and respect your goals.

It may help to block off the time on your smartphone calendar with a reminder. Elevate this time to meet other important commitments such as work functions or kids’ activities.

4. Reward yourself.

Celebrate small successes with a reward such as a massage or a new pair of running gear throughout the training plan. This will help keep you motivated to tackle the next chunk of the plan.

For example, after the first two weeks of the plan (one quarter), go to your local running store and invest in a new cute running tank!

Related: Life Expectancy of Your Running Gear

5. Tell your friends.

It’s hard to back out of a commitment with an audience. Tell your friends and family what you’re doing and allow them to cheer you on.

Talk openly about your running, brag about your accomplishments, and be proud of how far you’ve come. This will keep you going and may inspire others to live a healthier lifestyle!

6. Run with others.

Running with other people is one of the most powerful ways to stay accountable. Ask a friend if they will train with you (lots of runners become runners this way!) or join a running group.

There is a chance the race you want to run has its own running group you can tap into! Running stores often have running groups with run/walk divisions you can join, as well.

7. Set process goals.

You’ve already set the big goal to complete a 5k! To make this goalless daunting, set process goals along the way. Process goals are smaller goals that help you towards your big goal, to do the 5k!

These goals can be to run three times per week, cross-train two times per week, eat healthy, sleep well, foam roll every day, etc. Write these down, and chart your progress! And celebrate your success!

8. Come up with contingency plans.

Life happens and can disrupt the best-laid running plans. Be prepared with a backup plan for when you will get your run in.

Can you run at a different time of day? Can you swap your run and cross-train days? Can you access or purchase a treadmill?

Having a plan B will help you stay on track for when something pops up!

9. Move on from a bad day.

Bad days happen to good people! Don’t let one or more bad days hold you back from where you are going!

So what if you skipped running for three days and ate a lot of chips? Repeat your last running week schedule and get back on the running wagon.

Your body is resilient! Let your mind be resilient, too!

10. Envision your success or failure.

Think about how amazing and proud you will feel when you complete this Couch to 5k program. And think about how disappointed you would feel if you didn’t. These strong emotions can help power you through the finish line.

And, I promise, the pride you feel for what you accomplished will have a lasting impact on yourself—and those around you. It is the ultimate, life-changing runner’s high!

Related: Fun Run Events to Invite Your Friends to Join

Pick the Perfect Running Shoe for your 5k

When you decide to train to run or run/walk a 5k, you can’t dust off your old tennis shoes from the 2000s to do it. You need to get equipped with the proper running shoe for you to make the journey to better health more pleasant and injury-free.

We have a complete guide to help you choose the right running shoe for you, plus our top running shoe picks for 2022.

But some things to consider when buying running shoes are:

  • Do you like cushion?
  • Do you overpronate?
  • Do you need breathability?
  • Do you like your shoes to be light?
  • What is your arch type?

If you’re brand new to running, you should go to a running store and have a knowledgeable salesperson guide you in what kind of you shoe need. This person should watch you run and walk. Then, they can guide in what shoes will work best for you.

For example, someone who overpronates needs a stability shoe. Someone who makes more ground contact with their foot strike needs more cushion.

If you don’t have a reputable running store near you, you can also use our guide and order shoes from a site with free returns.

Pro tip: most people need to go a half size up for running shoes from their normal shoe size.

Top 6 Tips from Running Coaches for the Couch to 5k

We’ve asked certified running coaches what tips they have for Couch to 5k runners, and here’s their advice:

  1. Be consistent.

The easiest path to success in this sport is being consistent with your running. The easiest path to failure is being inconsistent. So, make a plan and stick to it! You will see your fitness increase, which will help spur your motivation!

2. Listen to your body.

Running will make you sore, and it will challenge you, but it shouldn’t be painful. You shouldn’t have intense aches and pains in any one area. So, if you do, it’s time to take a break and reevaluate your training.

If you feel fatigued or sick, it’s okay to take extra rest and adjust your schedule. Running is about consistency, but it is also about flexibility. The goal is to get healthier, not get hurt.

3. Don’t compare yourself to others.

It’s good to be competitive with yourself and others, but only if it positively motivates you. We all cross the same finish line.

Stay in your lane and run/walk at a pace that best suits your body and your life. Don’t let what other people are doing diminish your success or motivation.

4. Stick to the plan.

Many people will catch the running bug and do too much too soon. Your cardiovascular system develops faster than your musculoskeletal system. Therefore, if you run more than the training schedule dictates, you’re at risk of injury or burnout.

Stay patient as your body adapts. The faster times and more miles will come.

5. Don’t skip the warm-up or cool-down.

Warming up and cooling down allows the body to get ready and recover from running. So do it! Aim to walk for 5 to 10 minutes before and after each running session to allow your body to regulate its heart rate and blood flow.

6. Cross-train and strength train.

Cross-training and strength-training are wonderful ways to keep your body strong against the impact of running. It can also help strengthen your cardiovascular system to develop your running further.

Cross-train on your non-running days. And aim to strength train two times a week, focusing on strengthening your legs and core.

Related: 6 Weeks to Prepare for Your 5k

What to do on Race Week?

You’ve made it to race week! Congratulations! Now what? Here is your Race Week checklist:

  • Stick to your running plan. Don’t do more or less than what is on the schedule.
  • Review your progress. You’ve come so far!
  • Visualize yourself crossing the finish line with the crowds, your friends, and your pride!
  • Do light stretching, foam rolling, and gentle walking on your rest days.
  • Make sure you know the race logistics.
  • Make a playlist to keep you pumped before or during the race. Here are 10 songs great running songs for your race day playlist:
  1. The Dog Days are Over by Florence and the Machine
  2. ‘Til I Collaspe by Eminem
  3. Can’t Hold Us by Macklemore
  4. Shake it Off by Taylor Swift
  5. Blinding Lights by The Weeknd
  6. Happy by Pharrell Williams
  7. Eye of the Tiger by Survivor
  8. Pump it Harder by Black Eyed Peas
  9. 99 Problems by Jay-Z
  10. Firework by Katy Perry
  • Nail down your breakfast. Eat what you typically eat on run days about two hours before the race. Hydrate with water and an electrolyte drink.
  • Decide how you want to celebrate!

Related: Your Ultimate Pre-race Breakfast Guide

What do I do the morning of my 5k?

It’s now finally racing day! We are here to help you get ready! Here is your race day checklist:

  • Lay out your clothes the night before, down to the bib being pinned on your shirt (if you have it already).
  • Give yourself ample time to get to race to register (if you haven’t already), use the restroom (several times), and line up at the start.
  • Get in the port-a-potty line at least 30 minutes before the start. Get in line even if you think you don’t have to.
  • Give yourself at least 15 minutes to get to the start.
  • Do some light stretching and jogging before you line up.
  • If you like music, listen to that playlist to pump you up!
  • Repeat mantras that help you keep going during the race, like “This is tough, but I am tougher!”. Remember your why! And how hard you have worked for this day!
  • Take in water at the water stops, especially if it is a hot day!
  • Plan a meeting spot after the race with your loved ones so that they can find you easily.
  • Celebrate!

How do I recover from my 5k?

When you have completed your 5k and celebrated your achievement, it’s time to rest. Take at least 3 days to recover before running again. You can do gentle walks, yoga, light stretching, foam rolling, and take Epsom salt baths.

Then, hopefully, you will begin thinking about your next running goal!

Now, here is our full Couch to 5k Training Program!

Couch to 5k Basic 8-Week Plan

Recommended Duration of Walk Intervals based on Run Time

Running for less than 1 minute: Walk for as long as necessary
  • Running between 1-4 minutes: Walk for 1-2x run duration
  • Running between 4 minutes and 1 mile: Walk for 50-100% run duration
Run over 1 mile: Walk for 25-50% run duration
Week 1Rest / Cross-Train30min total: Run 1min Walk 1-2minRest / Cross-Train30min total: Run 2min Walk 2-4minRest / Cross-TrainRest / Cross-Train40min total: Run 1min Walk 1-2min
Week 2Rest / Cross-Train30min total: Run 2min Walk 2-4minRest / Cross-Train30min total: Run 3min Walk 3-6minRest / Cross-TrainRest / Cross-Train40min total: Run 2min Walk 2-4min
Week 3Rest / Cross-Train30min total: Run 3min Walk 3-6minRest / Cross-Train30min total: Run 4min Walk 3-5minRest / Cross-TrainRest / Cross-Train40min total: Run 2min Walk 2-4min
Week 4Rest / Cross-Train30min total: Run 4min Walk 3-5minRest / Cross-Train35min total: Run 5min Walk 2:30-5minRest / Cross-TrainRest / Cross-Train40min total: Run 4min Walk 3-5min
Week 5Rest / Cross-Train35min total: Run 5min Walk 2:30-5minRest / Cross-Train35min total: Run 6min Walk 3-6minRest / Cross-TrainRest / Cross-Train45min total: Run 5min Walk 2:30-5min
Week 6Rest / Cross-Train35min total: Run 6min Walk 3-6minRest / Cross-Train35min total: Run 8min Walk 4-8minRest / Cross-TrainRest / Cross-Train45min total: Run 7min Walk 3:30-7min
Week 7Rest / Cross-Train35min total: Run 8min Walk 4-8minRest / Cross-Train35min total: Run 9min Walk 4-8minRest / Cross-TrainRest / Cross-Train45min total: Run 10min Walk 4-8min
Week 8Rest / Cross-Train30min total: Run 12min Walk 3-5minRest / Cross-Train30min total: Run 12min Walk 3-5minRest / Cross-TrainRest5K RACE!

Race Day Strategy

  • By now, you will have a pretty good sense of your comfort zone.
  • If you feel capable of running the entire race distance, go for it!
  • If not, that’s perfectly fine too! Just use the ratio of running to walking that you were most comfortable within training.
  • Remember: everyone crosses the same finish line, no matter how they get there or how long it takes!

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