Hey couch potato, we’re talking to you! Have you ever thought about taking up running only to be sidelined because you have no idea where to start? Then this may be just the program you’re looking for.  

The couch to 5K, or C25K for short, is one of the most popular 5K training programs out there. It was designed by Josh Clarke, a runner who wanted to be sure nobody went through the same pain he did his first few months of training. He says too many people “have been turned off running” by simply trying to do too much, too fast. The premise behind his program is simple, to get you off the couch, out the door, and completing a 5K in 9 weeks (without getting injured or exhausted). Sound good? Here’s what you need to do to get started.

Pre-Run Tactics:

Before diving head first into the C25K program, here are five things you can do to help ensure you successfully complete the program.

  1. Commit – Make a commitment to follow the training schedule to the end. Find a time in your calendar for your 3X a week runs and block it out.
  2. Register For A Race – The C25K program takes 9 weeks to complete. Look for a 5K in your local area 3-4 months from now and sign-up! You may want to look for one that is on easy terrain (i.e. not too hilly).  
  3. Tell Family & Friends – Let people know you’ve signed up for your first 5K, they can cheer you on and hold you accountable.
  4. Find a Running Buddy – Training is more fun with a friend! Plus, on those days when you’re less than enthusiastic, knowing someone is waiting for you may be the push you need to get out and run.
  5. Buy Good Shoes – You need to purchase a good pair of running shoes designed for your arch and stride type. If you’re not sure what type of shoe you need, go to a local running specialty store to get properly fitted. You also need good running socks. Look for socks that are seam-free and wick moisture so you don’t get blisters.
young woman runner running on city bridge road
Getty Images


The C25K Program:

Just how far is a 5K? It’s 3.1 miles. Before you balk at what seems impossible today, know that this program is specifically designed to help you complete your first 5K without killing you in the process.  In fact, it might be more accurate to call this a walk/jog program, because that’s what you’ll be doing as you gradually increase your fitness level.

Each training session should last for 20-30 minutes, and be done 3 times a week. That’s not so bad, is it? Two days a week you should do 20-30 minutes of strength training exercises to help keep you injury-free, then the remaining 2 days are recovery days.

Run For Time Or Distance

You can approach the 5K running program in one of two ways; you can either run for time or distance. Either one works just as well. Choose whichever option is the easiest for you to keep track of. You can say “I will run as far as I can for 20 minutes” or, “I will run 2 miles, however long that takes”. If you go with the distance option, you can use a fitness tracker or marked course to measure (and it’s not important if you’re not 100% accurate). The key is to gradually increase distance or time until you reach the 5K mark.

You might get impatient and want to skip ahead, but if you are new to running, we don’t recommend doing this. Sticking with the plan will build your endurance and get you to your goal, injury free. If, on the other hand, you feel like the program is becoming too strenuous…it is totally okay to repeat a week and stretch it out. Don’t move on to the next level until you’re sure your body is ready. Sore muscles? Work out the kinks with this sturdy foam roller.

Are you ready to get off the couch and start the C25K program? Grab your running shoes and get going!

Has anyone completed a C25K training program? Any tips for someone who’s just starting out? Share your experience inour Health Community.