My Couch to 5K Journey

Spiderpig

Distinguished Member
Three years ago, I was couch potato and very overweight. I used to get out of breath and ache walking up a moderate hill, I used to "feel" even going upstairs. My waistline was steadily increasing as was my self-loathing at seeing photos of myself.

At the point at which I was buying 40" trousers, I decided to do something about it and managed to lose the excess weight.

Over the next couple of years, I gradually lost 15kg (a bit over 2 stone) and went from a 40" waist down to my current 34". I felt a huge amount better, had more energy, more stamina, and felt better about my body image. I didn't really exercise more, I simply cut of the junk food and ate more healthy (and had a few fasting days). I didn't cut out the occasional curry/pizza, but moderated my weight through weighing myself and cutting intake.

My partner is now also trying to lose weight in preparation for our wedding in the summer (I really wish she was cutting weight as a lifestyle thing, but that's a different conversation) and she announced that she was going to do the NHS Couch to 5K app. I agreed to go with her so that she wouldn't be running around the streets by herself in the dark (she wanted to be safe, but not be recognised by anyone so didn't want to go to the local well-lit park).

I've never really run since school PE lessons when I was a wheezing asthmatic wreck (I did have asthma as a kid so throughout my adult life I've conditioned myself that I'm not an athlete). So I was apprehensive.

I downloaded the app, bought some cheap running shoes and we did the first session of week one that evening.

We followed the instructions, did the warm up and it was a lot easier than I'd imagined (I was thinking that my legs would be burning and my hips giving out etc, I didn't feel any of that). My partner was struggling a bit and didn't manage the full runs, but then she's carrying more weight than I am.

Day 2 was better, day 3 was better again. My partner ran the full set of runs this time.

I started to get the bug, bought a few more bits of clothing and an activity watch (Coros Pace 2) to get some metrics on my running and tracking improvement/pace.

Week two went past, and that was just fine. In the first repetitions of the runs, I stayed slow to be with my partner, but on the last run, I wanted to push the cadence and pace up. It was a challenge, but felt really good.

We're now on week three. A few weeks ago, I'd have never thought that I could run for three minutes at a sustained pace and not be a wheezing, aching wreck afterwards.

I'm now actively looking forward to every running session. Can't wait for the final week and signing up for that park run.

TIPS

* It's a brilliant program and anyone can do this. It's not easy, but the steps gradually increase your stamina in a way that the next week isn't anything to be scared of.

* Get some running shoes - your old trainers might be ok for the first couple of sessions, but some decent shoes will boost comfort and confidence. I bought some Asics Gel Venture shoes and they're amazingly comfortable

* Small steps. Don't extend your stride. Lean slightly forward and land on the flats of your feet if you can - try to glide rather than bounce, it's less tiring

* A fitness tracker may help if you're into data and want to track your progress (the couch to 5k doesn't track anything). I use this to make sure I'm consistent in my cadence

* Music can help. Spotify and other services have playlists for different beats (so if you want to maintain 180bpm, you can get a playlist to help). Having a playlist of just your favourite tunes (or the radio) may help in taking your mind off the running, but it will affect your pace.

* Have an aim for what you're going to on that final week (signing up for a park run seems fairly obvious). Simply aiming to post something on Facebook and not continuing to exercise afterwards just makes the C25K a bit of a waste of time

I love this program. I'm totally into it.
 

oneman

Well-known Member
Did it myself, brilliant program, at my peak I did 10km in one hour which I never in my wildest dreams thought I could.

Also worth looking to see if there is a park run near you. You don't need to run but very motivating to be in a big group.
 

Spiderpig

Distinguished Member
I'm actually just looking forward to running 5K without stopping right now!

There's a few park runs around me and I've registered on the site. The nearest one is where we walk the dogs sometimes, so I kind of know the route there.

I somehow managed to skip the after-run stretch on Sunday and boy did I feel it yesterday - a really good reminder that stretching is very important!
 

Spiderpig

Distinguished Member
Mid week through week 4 now and starting to get used to the longer stretches of jogging without stopping.

We're both impressed by how far we've come on since the first week and starting this program with a measure of fear as completely new runners.

Next week takes us to our first 20 minute run, which I'm really looking forward to.

One thing I've learned is really important is the warm up/cool down/stretch. The steps are easy to overlook, but you sure get punished if you skip them.
 

tredman

Distinguished Member
I started with C25K in November 2020, did my first HM in April 21. Running gets addictive :)

Also used to wear 40” trousers 😬 I’m now a small 34.

C25K is a great programme though I’m not sure I finished it as I just wanted to run by the latter weeks.
 

Spiderpig

Distinguished Member
Well done for dropping the weight! I’m sure you feel so
much better for it.

I’ll be going through the whole program as I’m doing it with my partner and helping her to get through it.

Im really looking forward to doing my own routes and getting out there.
 

Leo31291

Distinguished Member
I did it last year and it's brilliant. Not only will it get you running for 30 minutes straight at the end, it will teach you that you're stronger mentality than you thought you were.

It's fine to repeat a certain week if you feel like you had to dig too deep. I've stopped running but what I learnt from using CT5K will stay with me and I can use the techniques from the programme once I pick up running again.
 

Spiderpig

Distinguished Member
So I'm at week 8 and able to run for half an hour without stopping. On a personal basis, that's pretty amazing - I never thought I'd be able to do that.

But what have I learned and how do I put that in context of continuing to run on a regular basis?

Well, I almost need to start from scratch again.

The accompanying podcasts for the NHS C25K program casually mention that you should really be running at an easy, conversational pace. These points aren't stressed, but it turns out they're important if you want to continue running as a hobby (and as exercise) after the program ends. My runs have been tough - I've felt my heart pounding and I've been panting my way through those kilometres - a complete contrast to how I've seen most other runners pounding the roads.

My focus on my running as solely been concentrated on completing the running intervals without stopping and as quickly as I could sustain. In terms of long term fitness and stamina, this was the wrong approach. More experienced runners here on the forum and the internet at large advocate that the majority of your runs should be at an "easy" pace, which involves a slow heart rate (and not the chest-bursting runs I've been struggling with).

So now I need to pretty much start over and concentrate on heart-rate rather than pace.

For anyone who is keen to start running as a "thing" and using the C25K program to start that, then I highly recommend getting a heart rate monitor (Apple Watch, HR chest strap, fitness watch/whatever), working out what your "easy" pace heart rate is and use that as your training level.

Further reading:


The concensus I've seen is that 80% of your running should be at the zone 2 level.

Hopefully over the next couple of months, I will see my comfort levels and pace improve.
 

ab1385

Active Member
So I'm at week 8 and able to run for half an hour without stopping. On a personal basis, that's pretty amazing - I never thought I'd be able to do that.

But what have I learned and how do I put that in context of continuing to run on a regular basis?

Well, I almost need to start from scratch again.

The accompanying podcasts for the NHS C25K program casually mention that you should really be running at an easy, conversational pace. These points aren't stressed, but it turns out they're important if you want to continue running as a hobby (and as exercise) after the program ends. My runs have been tough - I've felt my heart pounding and I've been panting my way through those kilometres - a complete contrast to how I've seen most other runners pounding the roads.

My focus on my running as solely been concentrated on completing the running intervals without stopping and as quickly as I could sustain. In terms of long term fitness and stamina, this was the wrong approach. More experienced runners here on the forum and the internet at large advocate that the majority of your runs should be at an "easy" pace, which involves a slow heart rate (and not the chest-bursting runs I've been struggling with).

So now I need to pretty much start over and concentrate on heart-rate rather than pace.

For anyone who is keen to start running as a "thing" and using the C25K program to start that, then I highly recommend getting a heart rate monitor (Apple Watch, HR chest strap, fitness watch/whatever), working out what your "easy" pace heart rate is and use that as your training level.

Further reading:


The concensus I've seen is that 80% of your running should be at the zone 2 level.

Hopefully over the next couple of months, I will see my comfort levels and pace improve.
I loved the C25K programme - and like most people who did it I couldn't believe that I could actually run the distance. It took a while after that to get to a point where I felt comfortable and not breathless while running - probably another few months - but from reading around I think I was pushing the pace too much as well. Hang on in there though, it does get better!

I've seen a lot of things that are saying, essentially, if you want to get faster, or longer, you've got to slow down the majority of your runs. I've already fallen in to the trap of focusing on pace (even just posted a thread about it, lol) but the importance is gradually increasing run length, and forcing yourself to go slow.

Finally, I personally think its really important not to worry about whether other runners look comfortable, faster or slower than you. Someone may look slow as they're doing a very long slow run, and actually be very fit - or equally be running really fast, not know what they're doing, and have to stop a kilometer later. The thing I enjoy about running is that it's all about you, and forgetting comparisons with others. I'd like to run faster for me, but I'll never be the fastest or the slowest, so it's only a question of how much better I can get that any previous PB.
 

Spiderpig

Distinguished Member
Yeah, I'm basically using running now to improve my base fitness - I don't think I'll every be competitive or running marathons any time soon. I'm able to run for an hour at a time now without being too uncomfortable (just slowly). I could probably run for 10k, given enough time.

Right now, I'm using Garmin Coach to help improve my 5k time by a few minutes.
 

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