From the Couch to 5k

Couch to 5k

This guide is for those of you that have done very little running (such as using our Beginners Guide) or no running at all. Although a 5k is a short distance (3.1 miles), it is still long enough of a race to require proper training and planning before jumping in.

Although it is entirely possible to enter a 5k and walk or jog your way to the finish, this guide isnt for that type of person.

This couch to 5k guide is for those of you that want to give your best effort and not just show up for the T-Shirt. Leading up to my first 5k, I had just started running again after a 6 month hiatus. Still, at my peak I was only running a few miles per week.

Once I finally decided to take the next step and sign up for a race (A very important part of the process that just might give you the extra motivation to train hard), I had only about 6 week to get in shape for my first race.

Although it does not sound like a long time, 6 weeks is ample time to get your body in shape for a 5k and also happens to be the length of our Couch to 5k training plan. Before we get into the plan, I want to mention a few points:

  • If you need more buildup time, take brisk walks on your off days or a few extra days per week.
  • Make sure you alternate between run days and off days, especially in the beginning, to give your body plenty of recovery time.
  • Good running shoes go a long way! If you find yourself getting leg cramps or shin splints, take a look at your shoes. If they are looking ragged, try getting a new pair. A nice pair of good fitting running shoes makes a big difference.
  • Dont be afraid to work up a sweat. The only way to improve is to work harder than what is comfortable. Dont let comfort get in the way of your goals.
  • Always warm up. Taking the time to stretch and warm up your legs with a jog/walk is important.

Ok, now on to the training plan:

Week 1:
 Day 1: Start off at a nice easy pace an run for 6 minutes at a pace you can handle. Take 2 minutes to walk or jog to lower the heart rate, and then repeat this cycle.
 Day 2: Run for 8 minutes at a pace you can handle and again take 2 minutes to walk or jog until your heart rate slows. Repeat this one time for a total of 20 minutes.
 Day 3: Repeat day 1.
Week 2:
Day 1: Run for 8 minutes at a nice pace and walk/jog for 2 minutes. Repeat once for a total of 20 minutes.
Day 2: Run for 10 minutes and walk/jog for 2 minutes. Repeat once for a total of 24 minutes.
Day 3: Repeat day 1
Week 3:
Day 1: Run for 12 minutes and walk for 3 minutes. Repeat once for a total of 30 minutes.
Day 2: Run for 15 minutes straight and then stop and rest for 5 minutes. Repeat the 15 minute run for a total of 30 minutes of running.
Day 3: Repeat day 1.
Week 4:
Day 1: Run for 15 minutes, slow down to a jog for 5 minutes, and then run for 10 minutes.
Day 2: Run for 18 minutes, walk for 2 minutes, then repeat for a total of 40 minutes.
Day 3: Alternate between 100m sprints and 100m walks for a total of 15 minutes. Finish this off with an easy jog of 5 minutes to keep your heartrate up.
Week 5:
Day 1: Run for 20 minutes straight and then rest until your heartrate returns to normal. Repeat for a total of 40 minutes of running.
Day 2: Alternate between sprints of 100m and jogs of 100m. Repeat this for a total of 20 minutes. Finish this off with a light run of 10 minutes.
Day 3: Run for time: Run for 10 minutes as fast as you can while keeping a steady pace, and track your time. Repeat this once. When you are finished, measure the distance with your car. Use this to try an estimate your 1 mile pace.
Day 4: Youll need this extra day for a recovery run. Jog for 25 minutes at a low pace and focus on breathing and form. Find what works best for you.
Week 6:
Day 1: Go for a moderately paced run for 30 minutes and keep an eye on your time. Measure the distance with your car to see how far you can cover in 30 minutes. This will help you find a managable pace for the race.
Day 2: Alternate between 1 minute sprints and 1 minute jogs. Focus on form and breathing trying to keep your heartrate up the entire time.
Day 3: Repeat day 3 from last week and see if your time is improving. You should be seeing major gains by this point.
Race Week!
Day 1 (Monday or Tuesday): Take a long jog for ab out 25-30 minutes and again relax and work on breathing and pace. Dont push yourself too hard.
Day 2: Taper down to a 15-20 minute jog just to keep your legs ready for the race. This should be a confidence run because by now if you have followed the program you are running great!
Race Day: Go out there and give it your all and have fun! Dont take off too fast, get into a nice rhythm, and then let your legs take you to the finish. You will know how hard to push yourself once your heart slows down from the adrenaline rush and your legs stop feeling like jelly.

Next step: Sign up for another race! Once youve finished this guide, be sure to check out our page on how to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Trainers Note: Let me know how this worked for you and how you finished. I am always interested in feedback from fellow runners.