Thousands of people across the UK have tried the Couch to 5k programme, and have seen themselves go from couch potato to dedicated runner in just over two months.
Late summer and early autumn is a great time to get started – the weather is cool and comfortable enough for running around outdoors, and you can still take advantage of the bright mornings and longer evenings to fit in your training.
Ready to run? We share tips to help you try the incredibly popular Couch to 5K running programme, what it is and how you can plan for success.
What is Couch to 5k?
The Couch to 5k running programme was devised by the NHS and is designed to help people get fitter. Over the course of nine weeks it takes people who are unable to run and trains them so that they become confident runners.
The programme involves three runs a week, with one rest day between each run day. They gradually build up in difficulty, and for most of the programme there’s a mix of walking and running. To start with, you’ll be walking more than running, but as the programme progresses and you build up more fitness and stamina, the length of time you run for overtakes walking until you’re running the equivalent of a 5k, without interruptions.
The Couch to 5k programme is followed via an audio podcast, meant to be listened to on an MP3 player as you run. In it, a narrator lets you know when to run or walk, and gives you encouragement and tips. The podcast also features music to help keep you moving.
Why should you do it?
Many people can benefit from running. It’s a great form of exercise, and compared to going to the gym it’s cheap, too. It’s also easy to fit into your normal routine – you could run in the morning, at lunchtime, or evening, as suits you.
Running can help to improve your health and get you fit. It can strengthen your heart and lungs, decrease your risk of heart disease and help to manage your blood pressure. There’s even evidence that it can improve bone density, helping to protect against osteoporosis and other bone diseases.
The exercise helps to burn off calories, so it can help you to shift any extra weight that you might be carrying. If you eat healthily while you do the running programme, you’ll be even more likely to drop a few pounds.
As well as improving your physical health, running can lift your mood, relieve stress, and for some people even help with depression.
It’s not just that, though. If you take on a challenge like Couch to 5k and succeed you’ll feel a real sense of pride in your accomplishment. Whether you start the programme as a true couch potato or as a keen walker who never thought they would be able to run, you’ll be amazed at yourself after nine weeks. Sticking with the exercise, pushing through mental barriers, and feeling fitter at the end will give you confidence in yourself.
It’s a good idea to check with your GP before you take part in any new exercise programme.
Top 5 Tips for Running
If you decide to take up the Couch to 5k challenge, there are a few things you can do to increase your chance of success.
- Get the right gear. Running doesn’t need to be expensive, but at the very least you must have proper running trainers. Go to a sports or running shop and get a pair properly fitted.
- Dress for the weather. Think layers, hat and gloves in cold weather, a cap and water-resistant jacket in the rain, and sunscreen and cotton in the sunshine.
- Stretch after your run.
- Run with other people. Make the challenge more fun by taking it up with a friend, or joining a running group.
- Let people know you’re doing it. You might get more tips from friends,
Above all else though, follow the podcast. Don’t be tempted to skip weeks, ignore the advice, or listen to your inner naysayer.
Download the podcast and read more about the programme on the NHS Couch to 5K website.
Have you ever tried running?