55   70
59   135
57   92
51   80
76   160
43   161
51   77
54   124
54   82
75   126

MY COUCH TO 5K EXPERIENCE

couch to 5k

Here’s my couch to 5k journey. Grab a cuppa, it’s a long one…

Back in April I decided I wanted to lose some weight. I’d gained about two stone over the year we had been renovating, as there just wasn’t the time for exercise or meal planning. Now that the house is almost finished and we have more spare time, I knew I wanted to get myself back in shape. Along with calorie counting I started exercising too. Just home workouts to begin with and then I decided I wanted to try running again.

My history with running

I have attempted couch to 5k a couple of times in the past but I never made it past week 5. I always decided it was too difficult and I just wasn’t a runner. Before I had kids I had always dabbled in running. Nothing much, just a ten minute run here and there but I was never consistent. I only ever did it for weight loss and didn’t really enjoy it. The best I have ever managed is around 7k, but that was a complete one off and I’ve never been able to repeat it since. This was around 15 years ago, so I am now much older, have had two children and I’m carrying a lot more weight.

This time I decided it was going to be different and I was going to prove to myself that I could do it. I was determined. I started watching running videos on TikTok and also posted my own running journey, I felt like this held me accountable and made me stick at it even when I was struggling. Watching other people enjoy running on TikTok helped my motivation massively.

couch to 5k

Getting started

The first week of couch to 5k starts with 60 second runs, with 90 seconds of walking in between which is repeated for a total of 20 minutes. I even found this difficult to start with and this is where you start to doubt that you’ll ever be able to run 5k, but stick with it!

The idea is to run three times per week. If you can manage that, great. I couldn’t, so I started with once a week and gradually went up to twice a week, which is what I still do now. I find my legs hurt far too much if I run more often than that. My advice would be to not push yourself too much, as long as you are getting out for a run once a week, you will not lose the progress you’ve made.

It’s also important to find a route that you are comfortable with. I live in Sheffield, which is full of hills so it can be a challenge finding somewhere flat enough to run. You might be OK with running up hills, but I absolutely hate them so a flat route was a must. I also didn’t want to be having to stop to cross roads so I’d recommend finding a trail or similar. It’s far more peaceful and enjoyable than busy streets too.

Leg pain

Speaking of painful legs, this was and still is my biggest problem when it comes to running. Sometimes I can run without any pain at all, but I would say more often than not I get tight calves and ankles that can be really uncomfortable. I started using CBD balm, which really helps along with lots of stretching both before and after running. I’ve just started doing calf raises and have found they really help to warm my legs up before a run. Don’t quit because of achy legs, it’s about finding solutions that work for you and your body. Remember, everyone is different.

Progress

Each week progresses to more running time and less walking time. I found the progression OK until week 5 where you are thrown a random 20 minute run! I really didn’t feel like I was ready for this but I told myself I had ran for 20 minutes in the past so I was capable of it. It was bloody hard work, but I did it! I was so proud of myself, I almost cried! This was the point that I started to believe that maybe I could complete couch to 5k after all.

The last few week of the programme go from 25 minutes, to 28 minutes and finally up to 30 minutes. Around week 7 I hit a bit of a wall and started to doubt myself again. I remember having a bad run, where I had to stop and walk and after that I took a break for a couple of weeks. I didn’t stop running, I just went out and did my own thing, which was usually 15 minutes running, a short walk, then another 15 minutes of running. At the time I felt like I was failing but now I know that’s what I needed to do at the time. In the past this is where I would have given up but this time I knew I couldn’t lose all the progress I’d made. So as soon as I felt up to it, I got back on with the plan. I would absolutely recommend taking a short break if you need to or repeating runs, which is something I did a lot.

By the time I  got to my last week of the programme, I was running a full 5k, rather than just the 30 minutes that the app suggested. My 5k time is currently at around 33 minutes. I want to work on reducing that time now, but while I was following couch to 5k I tried to run as slowly as possibly. I would definitely suggest doing this as if you start out too fast you will get tired and won’t be able to complete your runs. Remember, run slower to run longer.

couch to 5k

Running gear

So what do you need to start running? Well, technically all you need is a decent pair of running trainers and maybe a running belt to put your phone in, as you’ll need this to listen to the coaching from the couch to 5k app. But if you’re anything like me, you’ll get the running bug and want to buy more. I got myself a pair of Asics trainers which were £60 but wow, some running trainers are crazy expensive so mine were a bargain in comparison. I also got some CBD balm for my achy legs, this isn’t always necessary but it definitely helped me.

I also invested in some new running clothes as I have to be comfortable when I’m running. I prefer shorts, as I find leggings always seem to fall down when I run and if my clothes are annoying me while I’m running I’m probably going to stop! I do need to invest in some warmer clothes now as we head into the winter months. Running clothes don’t have to be expensive though, I’ve found some good bits in Primark and on Vinted.

I started out with a running belt, which did fit everything in that I needed but I found it uncomfortable as it always bounced around while I was running. So I now have a running vest, which was only around £30 from Decathlon. It’s designed to be a hydration vest and comes with water flasks, but I haven’t needed to use these yet. I just find it so much more comfortable, it fits everything in and doesn’t move around and annoy me during my run.

You might also want to consider headphones that are suitable for running. The ones I started out using would fall out of my ears constantly. Now I have an over the ear pair and they don’t move at all during my runs.

What next?

So now I’ve completed couch to 5k, what next? Well I would like to progress to 10k but that seems a little way off right now. I’m still getting out to do my 5k runs right now, I’m just trying to slowly improve my time and also gradually run a bit further each time. Even if I can’t ever get to 10k without stopping, that’s OK, I’m just incredibly proud of myself for getting to 5k and now sticking with it. But, if anyone can recommend a good 10k training programme do let me know.

It’s honestly amazing the progress you make in just a few weeks with couch to 5k. I’m still absolutely flabbergasted that I can run 5k every time I go out for a run now. Our bodies are amazing and you just have to remember that you are capable of it. It really is a mind game with running. Just try to ignore that little voice in your head that keeps telling you it’s too hard and you need to stop!

When we first start running, we may have phases where we want to give up. I’d say it’s quite normal. Everyone needs a process of acclimatization both physically and mentally. But trust me, hang in there! 

Completing the 5km will give us inspiration and a great sense of achievement. In that moment again, you feel like you can do anything. The self-disciplined you deserve a real Pin Badge on graduating 5k to show off your achievements. Badges also serve as a constant reminder of the goals you have reached and work towards a longer-term goal such as 10k.

Finally, runners high absolutely is a thing! Even if you start out hating running, I guarantee you’ll grow to love it. I look forward to my runs now and it’s no longer about weight loss but mental health. Don’t underestimate the power of moving your body for your mind.

Are you doing the couch to 5k plan? I’d love to know how you’re getting on. If there’s anything you would like to know about my running journey, please leave me a comment and I will get back to you. 

Thank you for reading.


 

2 Comments

  1. Zoe
    April 5, 2024 / 5:33 pm

    I’ve just started the couch to 5k today. Started off like yes I’ve got this to Omg can I do this. I did complete the run, had a walk break mid way as I was running up a hill which I really struggled with. Although at the end I was thinking yeah I can’t do this, I actually really do, I always see runners around where I live and think I’d love to be able to just go out and run. Do you have a link for your vest you have in the pic at all?

    • Emma
      Author
      April 7, 2024 / 4:20 pm

      I started around a year ago now and I’m still running my 5ks once or twice a week. It’s never easy for me, I always have to push myself but I feel so proud of myself after. It’s so easy to stop and tell yourself you’re not a runner but trust me, you are capable of it! Have you tried using a treadmill, I find it much easier so might be a good option when you’re getting your body used to running. Hills are a nightmare, especially when you first start. I can do them now, but had to pick flat routes when I first started. The running vest is from Decathlon but it doesn’t look like they have this exact one anymore. They do have similar ones under ‘running accessories’ on their website. Good luck with your running!

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