This post will provide a comprehensive guide for beginners and intermediates who are exploring the Couch to 5K program.

Couch to 5K is an easy-to-follow running program that can help you maintain a healthy lifestyle, lose weight, and build endurance. It starts with three weeks of short jogs (typically 20-30 minutes) before progressing into running for a longer period at a time (5k run).

Couch to 5K Gear Suggestions

  1. A good pair of shoes. Avoid trainers and cheap shoes, as they will feel uncomfortable after a few miles. My first running shoes were those ancient Mizuno’s (yes, I still have them ). They were comfortable and still look decent after over a decade of running. The Mizuno’s are comparable to A-Jays.
  2. A hat, or some type of head gear. While I’ve never had much use for one, it’s nice to have a headband or cap that can keep sweat out of your eyes. There are tons of options for hats: some are even made by Garmin .
  3. Waterproof sports watch with a heart rate monitor (costs $100-$200). These monitors are becoming more and more popular among runners as you can now get watches that link up with your phone. My first watch was a Timex.

Training Schedule

Training Schedule (Week 1)

#Monday: Run for 5 minutes, walk for 2 minutes x 8. Rest for a minute or two after each run and walk briskly between running periods. As the weeks pass, add an extra minute to the running portion and shorten the walking time accordingly. Total workout time should not exceed 30 minutes at this stage of training.

#Tuesday: Rest

#Wednesday: Run for 5 minutes, walk for 2 minutes x 8. Rest for a minute or two after each run and walk briskly between running periods. Total workout time should not exceed 30 minutes at this stage of training.

#Thursday: Rest

#Friday: Run for 5 minutes, walk for 2 minutes x 8. Walk briskly between running periods and rest 1-2 min after each period is completed (for a total of 30 min).

#Saturday: Rest

#Sunday: Run for 5 minutes, walk for 2 minutes x 8. Walk briskly between running periods and rest 1-2 min after each period is completed (for a total of 30 min).

Training Schedule (Week 2)

#Monday: Run for 5 minutes, walk for 3 minutes x 8. Rest for a minute or two after each run and walk briskly between running periods. As the weeks pass, add an extra minute to the running portion and shorten the walking time accordingly. Total workout time should not exceed 30 minutes at this stage of training.

#Tuesday: Rest

#Wednesday: Run for 6 minutes, walk for 3 minutes x 8. Rest for a minute or two after each run and walk briskly between running periods. Run times will increase to 6 minutes by the end of week 2. Total workout time should not exceed 30 minutes at this stage of training.

#Thursday: Rest

#Friday: Run for 6 minutes, walk for 3 minutes x 8. Rest for a minute or two after each run and walk briskly between running periods. Run times will increase to 6 minutes by the end of week 2. Total workout time should not exceed 30 minutes at this stage of training.

#Saturday: Rest

#Sunday: Run for 6 minutes, walk for 3 minutes x 8. Rest for a minute or two after each run and walk briskly between running periods. Run times will increase to 6 minutes by the end of week 2. Total workout time should not exceed 30 minutes at this stage of training.

Training Schedule (Week 3)

#Monday: Run for 5 minutes, walk for 4 minutes x 8. Rest for a minute or two after each run and walk briskly between running periods. As the weeks pass, add an extra minute to the running portion and shorten the walking time accordingly. Total workout time should not exceed 30 minutes at this stage of training.

#Tuesday: Rest

#Wednesday: Run for 7 minutes, walk for 4 minutes x 8. Rest for a minute or two after each run and walk briskly between running periods. Total workout time should not exceed 30 minutes at this stage of training.

#Thursday: Rest

#Friday: Run for 8 minutes, walk for 4 minutes x 8. Rest for a minute or two after each run and walk briskly between running periods. Run times will increase to 6 minutes by the end of week 3. Total workout time should not exceed 30 minutes at this stage of training.

#Saturday: Rest

#Sunday: Run for 8 minutes, walk for 4 minutes x 8. Rest for a minute or two after each run and walk briskly between running periods. Run times will increase to 6 minutes by the end of week 3. Total workout time should not exceed 30 minutes at this stage of training.

Training Schedule (Week 4)

#Monday: Run for 5 minutes, walk for 5 minutes x 8. Rest for a minute or two after each run and walk briskly between running periods. As the weeks pass, add an extra minute to the running portion and shorten the walking time accordingly. Total workout time should not exceed 30 minutes at this stage of training.

#Tuesday: Rest

#Wednesday: Run for 9 minutes, walk for 5 minutes x 8. Rest for a minute or two after each run and walk briskly between running periods. Run times will increase to 7 minutes by the end of week 4. Total workout time should not exceed 30 minutes at this stage of training.

#Thursday: Rest

#Friday: Run for 10 minutes, walk for 5 minutes x 8. Rest for a minute or two after each run and walk briskly between running periods. Total workout time should not exceed 30 minutes at this stage of training.

#Saturday: Rest

Sunday: Run for 10 minutes, walk for 5 minutes x 8. Rest for a minute or two after each run and walk briskly between running periods. Run times will increase to 7 minutes by the end of week 4. Total workout time should not exceed 30 minutes at this stage of training.

Routes and Maps

While there are multiple options for this, I will give you the most “bang for your buck” option. It is similar to the route above except it will cover from West Hazel Dell to Washington Park (15k total).

Couch to 5K Tips

 – Before I started running, I was never a big fan of jogging. I found it to be boring and inefficient. To me, jogging felt like going on mission control in Star Trek while being chased by the Klingons. Now, I’m not going to say running is exciting or exhilarating but there are a variety of factors that make it better than jogging. I will outline a few below along with some other tidbits.

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– If you have an iPhone, I would definitely recommend the Nike+ GPS app . It tracks your distance and calories very accurately. You can have it play music from your phone as well and even set voice reminders for meeting friends or expanding your distance.

 – I usually run with a Polar F6 heart rate monitor. I feel like it is more accurate than the wrist monitors they sell at Target. I have the classic one from 1995, not the fancy new model that they sell now.  

– If you enjoy running with music, invest in a few pairs of running headphones. It helps to drown out other noises and takes your mind off your surroundings.

– Keep some water with you in case you are running for longer than an hour.

– I have never used a GPS watch to figure out my pace and distance but there are a lot of running watches out there that will do it for you.  

– It is very easy to get sucked into the “runner’s high.” Running can be addicting so if you find yourself overly enjoying your jogging, stick to 10 minute intervals and slowly build on that.  

– If you have knee problems, don’t wear Marathon running shoes. Try to stick to a minimal shoe that doesn’t have a lot of cushion and will give your knees and joints more support.

– If you are having trouble with your knees or hips, consider taking up walking for half the distance. Some people don’t like doing this because they feel like they are not getting the same workout but I promise you that in most cases walking will be easier on your joints than running. – If you can, run on grass instead of pavement.

– Run in the direction that will be easier on your knees.

– If you have the money, invest in a pair of stability shoes.

– If you can afford a good pair of running shoes, I would suggest getting a half size bigger than normal and stretching out the shoes before wearing them for long distance runs. This will make your legs more comfortable and lessen the chance of getting blisters or knee/heel pain when running for multiple miles.

– When designing your route, try to avoid running by busy roads or houses with barking dogs.

– If you get tired, just stop running rather than walking. It doesn’t matter what speed you go at, as long as you are going.  

– Don’t run in the heat of the day, and don’t try to be faster than your body is capable of doing.

– Do I have to race a 5k? No, you can always choose to run farther if you’re not up for the challenge.

– There is no shame in walking or stopping to catch your breath. Some people might yell at you but don’t let that stop you. I always fantasize about punching the people who yell things like “run, fatty” but I’m sure they have a life as sad as my own.

– Find some running buddies to help push you and make each training session more enjoyable.

– Always remember that running is supposed to be fun and not a source of pain or stress. If you aren’t enjoying your run, give it a break for a few days and start again after you’ve relaxed.

– When I did my first 5k, I didn’t really feel like running but the crowd pushed me to do it and they cheered me on the whole time. It was one of the best feelings and I will never forget it. If you have friends that are doing this with you, try to stick with them and beat their times.

– Run on hills or mountains if you can. These will give your lungs a good work out and force you to run faster.

– There are so many options for running materials, but I would suggest a pair of new running shoes. If you get a pair of Nike’s, I guarantee that they are the best for your first 5k. They will help with foot turnover and provide an amazing fit for your foot. If you don’t have the money for new shoes, I would try to get a pair of Nike Free’s. They are similar to the regular shoes but with no shoe strings. You can easily get them at Target or Nike. If you don’t want to spend your first 5k on a pair of running shoes, try to get some white athletic tape and put it on your toes before you run. This will help prevent blisters and give you more support for your feet.

– When possible, try to be running on the city side of the road rather than the country side. There will be less cars on the country roads and it will make you more visible to drivers.

– If traffic is bad, be patient. Your time won’t show up right away and you do not have to go as fast as you can go. – There are so many places you can park your car to run by it before getting in your vehicle. Some of our local parks will let vehicles stay until 9:00am. This gives you plenty of time to run by it before heading to work or school.

– If you are going to run at night, I would strongly suggest finding a local track that is lit up. If that is not an option, wear neon colored clothing and bring a flashlight.

– Do not try to run faster than your body allows. There is no need to exhaust yourself and it can actually cause some serious damage if done too often.

– I can’t stress this enough: If you are finding yourself getting tired or bored with the track, just slow down and walk for a little bit. Your heart rate will decrease and so will your breathing. Try to stay as close to 60% of your max heart rate (the number that appears in the middle of your heart rate monitor) as possible, but if you feel like walking, don’t be ashamed. 

– I would recommend taking 2 or 3 rest days per week after you have done your long distance training runs. This will help you recover and not become injured.

– If you need to go to the bathroom, don’t hold it up on the run. Just hold it until you are at your destination or get back home. I will just assume that by this time you have been reading this whole thing without going to the bathroom. That is the hardest part of running, not having to go. If you need to go really badly, try a sports drink. This will give you more energy and help to keep you warm during your run.

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– When in doubt, take a break and walk until you are clear headed again. I guarantee that once you’ve done it, you will get addicted to it and can’t wait for the next run.

– Make sure you stretch your muscles after running. This will help prevent injuries while preventing tightness in your muscles. 

– You don’t have to sign up for a 5k race to participate. If you want to do some running, by all means do it! There are plenty of places that allow you to just run a few miles and this is a great exercise for beginners as it will build up their endurance.

– If you end up running in a race, don’t worry about what others are doing. If you find yourself pushing too hard to keep up with someone else, back off and do your own thing.

FAQS

How can I run faster?
You can’t run faster per se, but if you build up your endurance, you will be able to run longer distances. For example, if you can run for an hour, you should be able to push yourself to the finish line in a 5k event and win it.

Do I have to buy expensive running shoes?
Not at all. I remember when I was a kid, my parents used to buy me cheap shoes from Big 5 sporting goods and they always worked for me. If you don’t have the money to spend on Nike’s, try getting Asics or even some of the knock-off brand names. They all usually work well except for those new Nike Free running shoes that give you blisters. I’ve tried them and their just not worth it for your first 5k.

Will my knees get hurt?
Yes. If your knees get damaged, then you will have to slow down and walk. While this is not great for a 5k, it can help prevent injuries for longer distances (Marathon).

Can I run after I graduate college?
You can absolutely run after you graduate. While the majority of runners start as children, many of them end up running in their 40’s or 50’s and running is a great way to stay in shape and enjoy running while keeping your body healthy.

Can younger children run?
Yes, but they will have to be supervised by an adult and go slowly. They should not be running ahead of an adult or without the supervision of a parent.

Do I have to like running?
On the contrary, you don’t have to like it but it is an effective way to get in shape and stay active while still retaining your mind’s ability to focus on other things.

Why do my feet hurt after a run?
It’s pretty obvious that your feet hurt after you finish your run… So be patient with your feet. If you run too much, the muscles and tendons in your feet can break down and become injured. They will get better and better over time.

What is the difference between a 5K and a 10K?
A 5K is 3.1 miles (or about 4.8 kilometers for non-US residents) while 10K is just over twice as long, or 6.2 miles (or 9 kilometers).

Why can’t I just run around my neighborhood for my first 5k?
If you are not sure what your body can handle, it’s better to start slowly with a walk/jog versus running around your neighborhood and then decide how fast you should be running from there.

Do I have to pay for the program if I want to use it?
No. The program can be found on the internet in numerous places, (like this website) and is free to anybody who wishes to use it. It is a simple training program that requires little money and can be done by anybody with proper motivation.

How long does it take to run a 5K?
The answer depends on the runner. A race can be as quick as 13 minutes, or as long as 30 minutes, depending on the runner. Most beginners will take about 23-24 minutes to run 3.1 miles, so plan accordingly. One way to avoid “hitting the wall” is that you need to gradually build your endurance up by walking and then transitioning into a light jog for several weeks before starting the program.

What kind of exercises should I do before the program?
It is recommended to build up your endurance by running, walking, or jogging around for at least 30 minutes a day for 3-4 days a week. You may also wish to lift weights regularly to help tone your arms and legs so you can be better prepared for running later on in the program.

What kind of benefits are there to running?
In addition to keeping you in good physical shape, you may also be able to sleep better at night, and thus have more energy during the day. You’ll be able to relieve stress and keep your mind healthy by being active. Your heart will become stronger over time as well, so that it can better handle a tough race or workout when the time comes. If you are a woman, you may benefit in avoiding certain unwanted conditions.

What kind of disadvantages are there to running?
While running can help keep your body healthy and fit, it can also put a lot of stress on your legs and feet from time to time, which is why it’s important to slowly ease into the program at first by walking. If you are into running, I strongly suggest buying some decent pair of running shoes. I have provided a link to a page that can help you find cheap running shoes for your first 5k. If not, try picking up a pair of Nike Free’s or Asics.

Can you run too much?
Absolutely not. This is just as bad as doing nothing at all. If you have done nothing or are planning to do nothing in the future, don’t worry about it too much. Just be patient and take your time.

How many 5K races are there?
There are a few different distance races that you could compete in to qualify for the “Athlete of the Year” award. The “Full Marathon” is 26 miles, and is the oldest running race in the world. This is a tough race, but if you’re able to run it, it’s great experience for a future 5K. The “Half Marathon” is 13.1 miles, and this race is fairly easy to run, but I would suggest running a few miles FIRST if you want to go into the Half Marathon race. The “5K” is 3.1 miles (about 5 kilometers) in length, and qualifies you to run in the “Athlete of the Year” race at your local running store. The “10K” is about 6.2 miles (about 10 kilometers) long, and is a very nice distance as well.

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What are the benefits of running a 5K?
Every runner is out there to run for themselves, to improve their times, to get fit, or to have fun. Running 5K’s are great for your health because it can help lower your cholesterol level and also help protect you from heart diseases, obesity, diabetes and some cancers. It also helps you look better and feel better about yourself in general. 

What are the disadvantages of running a 5K?
The only disadvantage that I can think of is that you might be sore after a race. It’s normal to be sore if you’ve never run before, but after the first race, your body will adjust and this won’t be an issue anymore. 

How much time did it take to complete the program?
The program should take about 3-4 months to complete. You may only be running for 30 minutes a day initially, but it will gradually increase over time. Some people take 6 months or more, but this is not practical if you are working or in school. 
 Can I maintain my current lifestyle after completing the 5K program?
Yes, you can stay active and healthy as long as you want to. It is recommended, however, that you keep a routine and do some kind of exercise every day. This could be running, or swimming, or walking. 

How long before I can run a 5K?
There is no one answer to this question. Everyone has a different situation in their life and thus they train differently. It could take anywhere from 2 months to 12 months for someone to get started with the program depending on how long it takes them to build up their endurance. However it is also important to remember that you should not rush into a 5K race! It’s best to run the race before you start training for it and find out what your limits are.

Does Couch to 5K work for weight loss?
Yes, it does! Many people who lose weight in a dramatic and fast fashion do so because they started running before they were fully prepared to run the distance. The same goes for 5K running. You need to start slowly and build up your endurance first before you attempt a 5K race.

How long does it take for Couch to 5K?
This will depend on how well you can handle the program. Remember, this program is not for beginners who have never run before. It is intended for people who are already fit enough to run around for 30 minutes a day, but they just don’t have the endurance or motivation to run more than that.

Is Couch to 5K good for beginners?
Yes, it is. As I mentioned before, this program is not intended for beginners, but for people who are already fit enough to run around for 30 minutes a day. However, if you can get yourself into shape and build up your endurance by just walking and jogging around for 30 minutes a day regularly, you should definitely consider the Couch to 5K program!
For those who have never run before, I recommend running or jogging around your neighborhood with an adult every day for at least one full month before jumping into the program.

Can you do Couch to 5K if you are overweight?
Yes, you can. The program works whether you are overweight or underweight. It doesn’t matter if you are on a diet or not. 

What about the Couch to 5K program for women?
Yes, there is also a women’s version of the couch to 5K program available online here . The women’s program is the same as the male’s, but it just changes some of the workouts and adds extra workouts for different parts of your body.

What are some good shoes to wear for Couch to 5K?
You should definitely get a decent pair of running shoes if you are planning to run faster in the future, or complete a 5K race. There are plenty of websites on the web that can help you find some good running shoes for an affordable price. The Nike Frees and Asics tend to be popular choices for beginners. Regardless of which brand you choose, make sure they are running shoes made just for your feet. Put your running shoes through their paces by running a few times around your neighborhood. The longer the run, the more comfortable and durable the shoe will be. Do not go for a pair of capris if you plan on running in them because they simply won’t last you very long!

How should a beginner run a 5K?
It’s best to start running on a day where you have time to spare, and that is when you are not busy with something else. If you don’t have that much time, then just run around your neighborhood for a few weeks. Once your body is used to running, then start doing some light strides and build up your speed over time.

Should I be running or jogging while performing Couch to 5K?
You should start off running at a slow pace, and then transition into a light jog after awhile. You will eventually be able to run a 5K race, but it may take several races or months before you do.

What is the best distance to run while running Couch to 5K?
The ideal distance would be 3.1 miles (about 5Km or 1.9 miles). Anything shorter will not help your endurance, and anything longer will be too much stress on your body, especially if you have never run before.

Should I walk or run during Couch to 5K?
You should start off by walking for the first few weeks, and then transition into light jogging after that. You can keep running until you reach the end of the recommended time every day, but you should never run past that time.

When do I start running in Couch to 5K?
You should gradually build up your endurance by walking around for a few weeks, and then transition into a light jog for several weeks before starting the program.