My Couch to 5K Experience

 If someone said to me 4 months ago I'd now be excited to get out for a run and that I can now run 5K I'd have laughed at you. This week I completed my Couch to 5K journey so today I thought I'd share with you some of the thoughts and feelings I had while working through Couch to 5K, as well as some tips I've learnt along the way. Please remember these are my thoughts and feelings and everyone will experience this differently, but hopefully this can be a help to some of you reading this! If you want to read my massive spiel of a weekly breakdown head to the bottom of the post ​:) 

So my overall thoughts, feelings and tips:

  • The sense of achievement at the end is so amazing it's worth carrying on for even when it feels impossible.
  • Don't start running too quickly, you'll only regret it 10 minutes later!
  • Listen to your body. If you're feeling tired or you have aches and pains give your body an extra couple of days to recover.
  • Get proper shoes! Getting proper running trainers is a must. Maybe don't feel you have to do this right at the beginning but you'll need them a couple of weeks in. Consider going for a gait analysis if you're serious about running.
  • Start slow and focus on your breathing. Getting your breathing right is a must or you could end up suffering from stitches as time goes on.
  • Sign up to MedalMad's Couch to 5K medal so you have something to work towards.
  • Bad runs happen every now and then. It is OK to have a bad run… don't beat yourself up for it. Use it as a learning point to improve for next time.
  • If you don't quite feel ready to progress it's OK to repeat a run.
  • Sign up for an event to finish on. Give yourself something to show yourself you can do it.
  • Enjoy it and have fun!

Week 1:

Week 1 was pretty easy for me. 60 seconds run followed by 90 seconds walk, repeated until you reach 20 mins. I found running for 60 seconds not too bad. The key is to not run too fast. Treat it as a light jog… Don't get carried away.

Week 2:

Week 2 includes stepping up to running for 90 seconds in amongst stints of walking. I think week 2 for me was where the mental challenge started to kick in. Some of these runs felt like they lasted forever. But the key is to stay slow again and stick with it!

Week 3:

Week 3 meant running for 3 minutes without stopping (amongst walking stints). This seemed absolutely massive at the time! I later started to feel like running for 2 mins took no time at all. It still isn't easy at this point, but you've just got to keep going right until the very end. No matter how much you want to stop running you've just got to dig deep and go. It will end and you'll feel so proud of yourself for managing it.

Week 4:

In Week 4 I reached the milestone of running for 5 minutes in amongst walking and shorter runs. This was the first week I had my new trainers. I was so excited to run in them and they did genuinely make me run faster. Make sure you have "proper" running trainers by this point!

Week 5:

I remember feeling totally dejected on one of the runs in week 5. I was in such a bad mood because I'd had my first ever bad run. There was a run which involved two 8 minute runs (with walking in between). I managed the first 8 minutes absolutely no problem. But then a couple of minutes into the second 8 minutes I got the worst stitch ever. Turns out bad runs happen every now and then and that is absolutely fine. It is OK to have to slow right now, it is OK to have to walk a bit. As hard as it was for me to begin with, do not beat yourself up after a bad run. They happen to everyone… I had one this morning!

Run 3 of week 5 meant running for 20 minutes. I remember looking at this and thinking "WHAT?! 20 minutes?!". I set out on this run and I remember having the biggest smile on my face after I did my first ever complete lap of the lake I run around without stopping.

Week 6:

In week 6 I actually entered a 5K race. It was possibly slightly premature but I entered the Surrey Half 5K. I'd never achieved 5K before, I'd not reached 5K before in training so this was a pretty big thing. I remember feeling pretty terrified, but I did it. I started off far too quickly and ended up with an awful stitch which saw me walking for around 1km, but I ran my first ever 5K in just over 38 mins. I actually had a few unhelpful comments from people about this "oh I thought I'd have run it faster". Do not listen to them. This is your journey not anyone else's! Who cares if it took you longer than they thought, as long as you're happy that's all that matters.

Week 7:

In week 7 you end up running longer runs (25 mins) every single time. This is when I started to hit 5K in training (including the warm up/warm down walks). Having completed the 5K event was helpful for me at this point. It was the reassurance I needed to show I could do it.

I should mention I did start getting some lingering aches at this point in my couch to 5k journey. I remember my knee hurting quite a bit the day after a run on one of these occasions… but it was absolutely fine the next. But it is important to listen to your body and if needs be go and see someone if your aches don't go away.

Week 8:

Week 8 was tough for me. Coronavirus restrictions had started to kick in. I could no longer go out running at my usual time of around 11 am. I completed my first 28 minute run of week 8 absolutely no problem at all but it was too busy around the lake at 11am for me to safely run and social distance anymore. So the next 2 runs I set out at 6:30am (deciding I'd have breakfast when I got back), and they were the worst 2 runs I'd had during the whole Couch to 5K process. I felt so demoralised on the last 2 runs of week 8. I got awful stitches around 2/3 of the way in to the runs. The worst thing was, I knew I could do it as I'd happily ran for 28 mins a few days earlier.

Week 9:

Week 9 was the best week of Couch to 5K. The hard work paid off and I remember happily running for 30 minutes on all 3 runs. OK, so I don't actually hit the 5K distance of running, but the aim of Couch to 5K is to either run 5K or for 30 mins. The key to running successfully for me seems to be focusing on my breathing all the way round and not letting it slip.

I hope this post goes on to help at least one person. Please do ask if you have any questions or would like any advice.

See you again soon!

Staying Motivated and Keep going.
Heroes of the NHS 5km