Couch to 5K
Sometimes personal trainers will find themselves working with clients who already have a reasonable level of fitness but simply want to make improvements in particular areas. Other times a fitness professional will be helping a self-proclaimed “couch potato”, who has never really exercised, or someone who used to exercise but has got out of the habit.
In those cases, the Couch to 5K programme (C25K) can be a useful starting point, or can work alongside a programme devised by the personal trainer.
What is Couch to 5K?
The idea behind Couch to 5K is that someone who is not used to exercise can start a programme of walking and running, and gradually condition their body in order to build up to being able to run five kilometres.
Anyone working with a personal trainer would normally have their fitness levels assessed in advance of any training (see our blog on The importance of fitness testing), and will be put through a gradual training programme, with steady increases in difficulty as they achieve each stage.
Conversely, many people who decide to get fit under their own steam will simply set off running one day, without any thought or preparation.
The disadvantages of this are:
1. They risk injuring themselves
2. They can easily lose motivation and give up if they find it too hard at the start
Couch to 5K encourages a slower, more manageable start to exercise. Because it’s broken down into achievable bite-size steps, you can quickly feel like you're making progress.
Who is Couch to 5K suitable for?
Couch to 5K is suitable for most people, even those who are not particularly fit. If you can walk comfortably for an hour, then you can start Couch to 5K. Otherwise, you should build up your fitness levels by walking for shorter periods until you are able to walk for an hour.
If you have a specific injury or condition, you should check with your doctor before taking on Couch to 5K.
How long does it take to go from Couch to 5K?
This can depend on the programme you’re following but a standard example would be walking and running three times a week for eight or nine weeks, increasing your distance gradually.
Where do I find a Couch to 5K programme?
There are several versions around that you can follow, for example, online articles found on fitness blogs, podcasts and apps that can be downloaded on to your phone.
Anyone on Facebook can join the C25K group for encouragement and support. It allows you to see how other people are progressing and what they have gone on to achieve after completing Couch to 5K.
Any tips to help you succeed?
There are several ways you can help yourself to achieve Couch to 5K. They include:
1. Warming up before your run, for example by walking and carrying out dynamic stretches (see our blogs on Flexibility and warming up and How to avoid cold weather injuries), then cooling down and stretching after your run – this will help to avoid injuries;
2. Pushing yourself, but not so much that you risk an injury or becoming demotivated because you’re struggling;
3. Taking advice from a personal trainer or fitness instructor on your running technique – this can make a significant difference to the effectiveness of your training and, again, help to avoid injury (see our blog on 5 common exercise injuries);
4. Improve your diet (see our blogs on Do you know your macronutrients?, What are minerals and why do we need them? and The benefits of reducing sugar intake) – eating the right kind of food in the right balance should positively impact your ability to exercise;
5. Make sure you remain hydrated while running as this can help your performance (see our blog on The importance of hydration).
Even those who already run on a treadmill as part of a gym session or training programme with a personal trainer may find it useful to follow Couch to 5K in order to increase their fitness levels.
A personal testimonial: “I would definitely recommend it. As someone who has never in her life been a runner and never run for 30 minutes solid, I was doubtful I could do it, but I have now run 5K in just under 37 minutes and I’m aiming for a 9K chocolate run in April!” Sarah, Huddersfield