Running. It’s simple.
One foot in front of the other, just quickly.
What could be more complicated? Everyone can run. Right?
Yes. Yes they can. Kind of.
Every year hundreds of thousands of men, women and children take up running in an attempt to live a healthier life. Lose weight. Keep young.
But, the problem is, most of those attempts don’t last.
After a few weeks, maybe months, trainers are relegated to the bottom of the wardrobe. Never to be seen again.
And that doesn’t help with fitness goals. Any fitness goals.
Because you have to actually run. You have to strap those trainers on, regularly, to see those benefits.
And how do you do that?
Well, I’m glad you ask. Because I’ve got some tips for you. And spoiler alert, yes, one of them is getting a couch to 5k. But for a few reasons.
Let’s find out...Is Couch to 5k Good?
But, before we get into the nitty gritty about running, couch to 5k or anything else. How about we talk about the benefits of running.
Because we all want to know that right? And I think it’s important you know what you can expect from running.
Ok, I haven’t got the statistics to back this up, but I’m pretty sure most people start running because they want to lose weight.
To be fair, I think that’s most people’s reason for doing any exercise.
I might be wrong. I probably am.
But, running at the end of the day is exercise. And any exercise is going to help you burn calories. But, running on it’s own isn’t going to help you lose weight.
Any exercise program, whether it’s couch to 5k, strength training, or crossfit. They are only part of the story when it comes to weight loss.
They have to be paired with a healthy diet.
If you’re not going to change the way you eat, you’re not going to lose weight, lose fat, lose the baby belly. No matter what you do.
It’s just not going to happen.
So, if that is your only reason for running. Tackle the diet first. You’ll start seeing some improvement and you’ll not only feel more motivated to take up exercise, it will be a little easier for you.
The main benefit of running, and any other exercise, are the health benefits.
Your body needs to move.
It’s designed to move.
Our lives these days are all about sitting. Being still for long periods. In the car. At work. In front of the telly.
A sedentary lifestyle. Most people have fallen into it.
But when you start moving, start exercising, especially cardio exercise:
The walls of your heart become thicker and stronger so you pump more blood with every stroke.
You develop more red blood cells, improving your ability to transport oxygen around your body.
Your lungs effectively become bigger.
Less waste products are produced (particularly lactic acid).
In short, you become healthier. Your resting heart rate becomes lower, and so does our blood pressure.
All great things.
I’ve put this separately to health benefits because I think there’s an important distinction with mental health.
Let me explain.
When you exercise, certain physiological things happen.
Your heart starts to beat faster, you breath faster. These are great things. They help improve your overall health, as I’ve mentioned above.
These things happen no matter what.
If you run. You will get fitter.
But with mental health, again, this is just my take on it, I think you have to enjoy what you’re doing for running to be good for your mental health.
Yes, again, certain physiological things happen, you release endorphins which generally help you feel better. They help you deal with stress and pain. And they’re responsible for that ‘runners high’ people talk about.
But, if you’re yet to feel that runners high, you keep trying, strapping on those trainers, pounding the pavements, but it just never comes. It could be because you’re not enjoying what you’re doing.
You see new research has suggested that the release of endorphins can also be linked to negative feelings. They can heighten negative feelings. So if you don’t actually enjoy what you’re doing you’re less likely to feel the mental health benefits of running, or exercise in general.
True, you may learn to love it. That has happened a lot.
But, if it always feels like a chore. You’re always dreading going out for that run. You never look forward to it.
It’s not going to make you happier.
I’d go as far as saying it will make you miserable.
So, if you can relate to that...STOP running.
Stop running now. And find something else to do.
Other workouts have just as many health benefits. And, if you enjoy them, they’ll have happiness benefits as well.
Ok, so we’ve talked about the benefits of running.
You’ve never tried running so you don’t know if it’s for you yet. But you’re keen to give it a go.
Before we can get into 'is couch to 5k good' we've got to ask, what’s couch to 5k all about?
Well, at it’s basic level, it’s a training program. Designed to take new runners, like you, from your couch, to completing your 5k first race.
Now, don’t freak out.
You don’t have to race. You don’t have to go and sign yourself up to any local races. You can, if you want to. But, you don’t have to.
It’s not a prerequisite or anything.
You can just work towards running 5k if you want to.
Well, it’s quite a nice distance.
It’s not too far, but it will have you running non-stop for about 20-30 minutes. Which I think is a lovely target to aim for.
If you start off with longer distances it could put you off.
It feels more daunting.
When I did the couch to 5k plan, I actually bought the couch to 10k app first. I figured it would be more workouts for not a lot more price. But, you know what?
I didn’t do them.
I looked at how many weeks. And all of the runs I had to do, and it put me off.
But, when I bought couch to 5k, I did it. I completed it.
I never did get to 10k.
No. 5k is a lovely distance. Especially if you’re starting out and not actually sure if running is for you.
The plan’s structure is pretty simple.
It’s based on interval training. Short run sections followed by long walk breaks. As the weeks progress, as you progress, you run longer distances and take shorter walk breaks, until at the end of the program you can go for a 30-minute run.
It ramps up slowly, over 8 or 9 weeks, depending on the program you choose. So don’t worry. You can do it.
Each week of the program you go for 3 runs. So choose days of the week that are convenient. You will need about 30 minutes each day.
You complete a brisk 5-minute walk to warm up, a slower 5-minute walk to cool down, followed by some stretching.
Don’t miss these out.
Warming up and cooling down (or warming down as some people call it) are essential for having a safe and effective workout.
The first week you run for a maximum of 1 minute at a time. Just 60 seconds, which is followed by 90 seconds of walking. Repeat 7 more times (8 in total).
It really doesn’t feel that taxing. And I’m talking as a non-runner.
Just make sure you find somewhere flat to run. Any hill, even the smallest incline can make it harder. And you don’t want to make this one harder.
The following week is more of the same, you run for a bit longer, but you have quite a bit of rest.
The third week, ramps it up a bit, with 3 minutes of running. But remember, this is an app. It’s a program. Just because you’ve completed week 2 doesn’t mean you can’t do it again. And again.
If you’re not quite ready for 3 minutes of running, just keep trying until you are.
That’s one of the best things about couch to 5k apps, you can repeat them. You can re-do any of the runs. You can even use them for sprint intervals when you’re a bit fitter, have a few more runs under your belt.
They are workouts.
You can do them at your own pace. You can do the whole program at your own pace.
Don’t get sucked into thinking you must do the 9 week program in 9 weeks. If it takes you longer, it takes you longer.
Conversely. If you’re finding it easy, and you want more of a challenge, why don’t you do 4 runs per week. And complete it all quicker.
It’s a guide. It’s a starting point. It’s a pretty good place to start, but you can adapt it to you.
Simple answer, you don’t.
Nobody NEEDS an app.
Nobody NEEDS a plan.
But will it help?
The top reasons people don’t carry on with running are that they're bored, or they're injured.
I think a good training plan, like couch to 5k will help with both.
There’s nothing more boring than doing the same thing day in day out. Or three days in four days out, however many days you want to train.
Not only that, your body will quickly get used to it, so it won’t need to adapt. And not adapting means you’re not getting fitter. Not getting healthier. Not getting leaner.
So, not only are you bored. You’re not hitting your goals either.
It’s easy to see why people quit.
Having a plan like couch to 5k will make sure you are always adapting. Your training is always different. It’s always getting harder. You’re not going to be doing the same thing every time you strap on those trainers.
You’re also working towards something.
You’ve got a challenge.
Hit that 5k. However long it takes.
Whether you love running, you’re finding out if you love running, or you’re just tolerating it. When you get home after your run, finding out how far you’ve gone.
How much further you went than the last time.
How much faster you were.
It gets a bit addictive.
Which is not a bad thing when we’re talking about exercise.
So, is couch to 5k good for curing boredom? Absolutely.
Another classic complaint amongst new runners, especially complete beginners are injuries.
Shin splints and plantar fasciitis are amongst the common. But by no means the only.
They are caused when you overdo it. When you start running too many miles, all of a sudden. You literally go from your couch to running 5k.
Your body isn’t used to it. You need to prepare.
Think about it this way, would you walk into the weigh room of a gym and try and bench press 70 kilos?
No. You wouldn’t. Not on your first go.
You’d learn how to bench press. You’d start with lighter weights. You’d follow a structured plan until you were ready to try for that 70 kilo bench.
Running isn’t any different.
A lot of people think that because they can walk, they can run. It’s just doing it faster right. So, if they want to run 5k, they just do it.
But as you are, hopefully, aware, running isn’t walking.
You’re moving quicker for one.
Your feet are hitting the ground faster, more often and with more force. That force has to be dissipated through your body.
Your muscles, your tendons, your ligaments. They all take the brunt. They all need time to get stronger in that movement. They need to learn to become more efficient at their jobs.
So give them a chance and build up slowly.
Start out with short runs followed by a walk. And build up your running time slowly.
Much like to the couch to 5k plan.
Is Couch to 5k good for helping to prevent injuries? Yes. But you might also want a good pair of trainers.
I don’t think it would be right to talk about couch to 5k apps without talking about Josh Clark of Cool Running, who came up with the first couch to 5k plan. The original plan, way back in 1996.
But since then it has been adapted, modified, bastardised into hundreds, if not thousands of apps.
From my research, the most popular one seems to be the app by the UK’s National Health Service.
I think most of the running plans are pretty much the same. Some are over 8 weeks, some are over 9 weeks. But they all follow the same format. Mostly.
So, when you come to choose which one you want, it’s the other features that you’ll be judging it on.
What I quite liked about the NHS Couch to 5k app is that you get to choose your personal trainer. The person whose going to motivate you on your journey.
From athletes like Denise Lewis, to actors like Sanjeev Kohli, and comedians like Sarah Millican. You get to choose who would be most motivating. Who would inspire, or help you through, the most.
I quite liked that.
It’s not actually the app, program I followed when I did couch to 5k.
I used 5k Runner by Fitness 22.
Which, was good, and did get me to 5k. But I did have have a few problems with the app crashing, or not logging my run. Which was a bit annoying. Not the end of the world. But annoying.
It does have less stars on the play store than the NHS version, and it seems to be mainly, because of crashing issues.
But on the whole I liked it.
So, let’s get to the main question…
Is Couch to 5k Good? Does it actually work?
I’m not sure this question is that easy to answer.
It really depends on what you were hoping to get out of it.
If you’re a complete beginner, it’s a great way to get you out running for the first time.
It is a really great way of getting first time runners over the finish line of their first race. No matter what their fitness levels were to begin with.
It is a great way to get you moving more. To get help you schedule some regular activity into your busy week.
It is a great way to ensure you’re getting enough rest, both within the workout and rest days as a whole.
It’s a great way to get you thinking about, and scheduling some me time. Doing something for just you and no one else.
But, it’s not a magic wand.
It’s not going to miraculously make you fit just because you’ve downloaded the app and bought the trainers.
It’s not going to miraculously make you run a 5k.
You’re not going to wake up one more morning 3 stone lighter.
Running 5k, takes work.
Weight loss takes hard work. And nutritional changes.
Basically, if you’re going to do the workouts, and make healthy changes to your diet, yes, it will work. It will help you reach any of your own goals.
Ok, so you’ve downloaded the app, done the workouts and you’ve done it. You’ve hit 5k.
Well, that really depends…
Did you like it? Did you actually enjoy running?
If you did, well, why stop at 5k?
Why not go for a longer distance? Sign up for a 10k, half marathon or, why not a marathon?
Want more of a challenge?
Head over to Conqueror Virtual Challenges.
They have some amazing challenges to get stuck into. I’ve done a few myself. You can do all of them at your own pace, and you get an amazing medal at the end.
Do you want a bit of support on your running journey?
Why not join a local running club?
They are the best way of continuing your running journey. You’ll not only get incredible support from your running club buddies, you’ll get that. Buddies. Buddies who enjoy the same thing you do.
You’ll find a community. And that’s part of what makes working out so magical.
You can find friends. Friends for life.
If you haven’t got a local run club, there is always the Nike Run Club. They’ve not only got great challenges, but there’s lots of support in the virtual community.
Who knows you might meet someone who is local to you.
What happens if you didn’t like running?
You managed to get through the 5k, but, running, well, it’s just not for you.
Well, you find something else. Try another challenge. Find another way to move your body.
Ever tried strength training? That can be lots of fun for those who don’t like running or cardio in general.
Or dancing? Dancing is always fun.
Want to combine a bit of strength training with dancing? How about pole dancing? It’s not all about sleazy clubs you know?
How about using some of the workouts from the app and weaving them into a more balanced fitness program.
Some of the earlier workouts can be used as high intensity interval workouts workouts. A bit of sprinting. Followed by rest.
Your world is your oyster, whether you enjoyed running or not.
So, now you know all of that, are you tempted? Are you tempted to spring for a new pair of trainers?
Unless you are absolutely sure you hate running and there is no changing your mind, why not give it a go?
There is always a free version of the app, so you won’t lose out too much.
Who knows you might love it.
Running might become your thing.
Running might be where you find your sparkle.
It’s not for everyone, sure, but it might be for you.
If you give it a go, let me know how you get on. Let me know...Is Couch to 5k Good?
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