If you follow me on Facebook you have probably read my udaptes about the Couch to 5k program. You might have also read my update earlier this week about how excited I was to actually finish the Couch to 5k program. And not only did I complete it, I completed it in the nine weeks that the program allows.
Plus, my thirteen year old daughter completed it.
I have debated whether or not to post my thoughts on the Couch to 5k program. I usually deal with food, not exercise, so this is not my usual type post. I also did not want to discourage any of you that might be struggling with exercise and/or your weight. That is not my goal or intention at all.
But although this is not my usual type post, I decided to share my story, to document my thoughts and hopefully encourage some of you to give it a try. And even if this exercise program is not for you, maybe you will find something that is.
Why I Needed An Exercise Program
I have always known the importance of exercise. I have long known the reality of calories in/calories out. I knew that if I wanted to indulge in a piece of cake or a cookie than exercise was a must. I wrote a post several years ago on my thoughts on my weight and how I maintain it, and as I have aged, these things have become more and more important. Walking and other forms of exercise have also become more important to me.
The older we get the slower our metabolisms are. Our muscle and fat changes and our shape changes. And it takes more work to stay in shape and stay fit. I knew as I aged, I either needed to start eating a lot less calories, or I had to burn a lot more calories.
The fact is that I know I am in my late thirties. The same weight is no longer the same shape. And although I did not really need to lose weight, I was not happy where I was at. I knew exercise would help me feel better and tone up. No, it would not make me twenty again, but it would make me feel and look healthier.
Why Couch to 5K
I have never been a runner. I have never been able to run. I am a life long asthmatic and exercise has always made my asthma worse. No matter what medicine I took or what I tried, I could never run over a half mile. Last year after going gluten free, I realized that I felt different. I was healthier and felt like a new person. I realized that something was different when it came to my asthma. I gave running a try and for the first time in my life I could run a mile.
But, I never could get past one mile. It did not have anything to do with my asthma though, I was just out of shape. Yes, I had been walking and doing other forms of exercise, but I soon learned that running was totally different, and I wanted to get past the one mile mark.
I also wanted to find an exercise program for my daughter. We homeschool, and I wanted a structured exercise program for her to do. I wanted to teach her the importance of exercise and have her learn some of the other lessons that running and exercise teach you. I thought Couch to 5k would work well for both of us.
I am not sure where I first read about Couch to 5k, but when I was looking for an exercise program for my daughter and I to do, Couch to 5k was the first thing I thought of.
I did some online searching about it and then one day I downloaded the app to my iphone and told my husband I wanted to give it a try.
And to be honest, I never really thought I could finish it, but I was willing to give it a try.
What Is Couch to 5k
Couch to 5k is an exercise/running program for those that have never really ran or who have not exercised in a long time. It slowly helps you build up to running a 5k and it does this in nine weeks time.
Yes, nine weeks. I know it sounds impossible, but it really works. You start out mainly walking, with a little running. You slowly add more and more running, until you are running for 30 minutes, with a 5 minute warm up and a 5 minute cool down.
I used the app for my iphone, and it worked great. I could listen to any music I wanted, but a voice would come on every so many minutes and tell me what I needed to do and when I needed to do it.
Why It Worked For Me
This program is for people like me that are new to running or out of shape. It paces you and makes you go slow. It keeps you focused and helps you build up. I think the app for your phone or mp3 player is key to this. Hearing exactly when I needed to walk or run and how much time I had left really helped.
During my first week or two, I could not imagine making it to the end. One time I even looked ahead and thought I could never run 20 minutes straight, but I can and am now running 30 minutes straight without stopping.
If I can do this I think almost anyone can. Yes, it takes time. Yes, it takes diligence, and yes you have to keep at it, but it can be done.
Encouragement For Those That Have Not Completed It
I want to encourage those of you that have started Couch to 5k, but did not complete it, or those of you that are overwhelmed by the idea, to not focus so much on the nine weeks. Yes, this is the ideal time frame, but progress is still progress. If you get stuck at week five, do week five twice.
If you struggle with week seven, do week seven for a few extra days. Completing the program is the goal. If you can do it in nine weeks like I did that is great, but completing it is more important. It might take you ten weeks or even fourteen weeks, but running a 5k is not easy. Take your time if you need to.
A Few Of My Thoughts and Lessons Learned
- Running in 70 degree weather is much easier than running in 95+ degree weather.
- Because of the above, starting Couch to 5k in the middle of the summer, during recording breaking heat, may not be the best idea. 🙂 (Although, I do think it helped build my endurance up, it was a challenge running in the hotter weather.)
- Good, high quality running shoes are very important and well worth the money they cost. By week three my daughter, my husband, and I all had new running shoes, and they were so worth it.
- Stretching before and after running is very important. I learned this the hard way.
- The first 3-5 minutes of running and the last 3-5 minutes of running are always the hardest for me.
- Running uses muscles that I never knew I had. Muscles I have not used in years. I was sore in places that had never been sore before. (But although I was sore almost everyday the entire 9 weeks, I was never so sore I could not function. I guess it was a good sore if there is such a thing.)
- Sweating is a good thing. Yes, I know it is very unlady like, but there is something about a workout that makes you sweat, that just makes you feel better. It makes you realize you have accomplished something. I never got that feeling when I just walked for exercise.
- Running clears your mind. We have had a very stressful last few months. There were times I did not think I had the time or energy to run, but I ran anyway, and I was always glad I did. There were times I was very discouraged. Running gave me time to think, time to clear my mind, and just a time to release the tension and stress. And if for nothing else running is worth it for me, for this fact alone. Running helps me handle and release stress more than I ever realized it would.
- Running first thing in the morning, when all you have had to eat and drink is a glass of water and a gluten free granola bar, is not a good thing to do. In order to run your best you need lots of water and some calories. I learned the hard way. 🙂
- Running helps me sleep. I have never really been a good sleeper, but on days I run I have realized that I sleep so much better. My body is tired in a good way and I sleep way more sound. It really does make a difference for me.
- Running makes me feel better. I feel much healthier overall. I think this can be said about any good workout or exercise program, but I really do have more energy and stamina since I started running.
- It does not matter what the scale says. Well, okay it does, but at the same time it doesn’t. When I started Couch to 5k I was hoping to lose 5-10lbs. I did not really need to lose weight, but losing 5-10 lbs would put me at a weight I am more comfortable at. I did not change my diet much, but I was hoping that just running would help me lose a few pounds. After nine weeks I have only lost 4lbs, but I have lost inches and am in much better shape than I was before. From my legs to my stomach to my arms, I can tell that I have lost fat and gained muscle. My clothes fit better, and a few things are even a little big now. I know that is a good thing, so I am trying to ignore what the scale says.
- Pacing yourself is very important. If you sprint the first mile, you will struggle the second mile. It took me a while to realize this, but sometimes slow and steady wins the race.
- I need upbeat music when I run. My husband runs to audio books or sermons. I cannot do that. I loaded music to my iphone that I do not normally listen to. I ended up making a running playlist with some more upbeat country type music. This is not my usual type of music, but it helped me keep going when I wanted to give up.
- A partner helps. Not only is it more fun and safer to run with someone, it is encouraging. You can struggle, complain, and be thankful together. It helped me so much doing this with my daughter and husband. (My husband could run a 5k before we started the program, but he did it with us for encouragement and to help himself exercise more regularly. Also, because he was an experienced runner, he could tell me to slow down when I started out to fast, when I did not know how to pace myself yet.)
- I now love to run. I get it, and I plan to make running a regular part of my routine and life. I have realized that running helps me and I want to continue.
- Although, I love to run, I still fear running. Those of you with asthma will probably understand this. Not being able to breathe is scary. It is difficult and hard. I have spent my life not being able to do hard exercise and even though I can now run 30 minutes straight, I still fear it. I can’t get past that fear of having an attack without anyone to help me. I have yet to complete a 30 minute run without my husband running with me. I realize I need someone there to rescue me if needed. I know in my mind that I only took my inhaler once in the 9 weeks of running, but I cannot get over the mental fear that I have. Someday, I hope I can get past that fear of what if I have an attack, but for now I will always take my daughter or husband with me.
Have any of you tried Couch to 5k? If so what are your thoughts?
I am not a doctor or healthcare professional. This is my story and journey. It may not work for you. I still have asthma, my asthma is not cured. Not everyone with asthma or other issues will be able to do what I did. If you are thinking about starting this program, please consult someone that knows way more than I do.
My mom and I have been talking about starting this program. Like you, I’m out of shape and can’t run more than about a mile. Thanks for the encouragement!
I love this!! This is so encouraging to me!!! I have been wanting to do this and even have someone who wants to run with me. I have been putting it off even though I know that it will be good for me. Thanks again!
sarah k. @ the pajama chef
way to go! i’m a runner and have been for more than half my life, and always love hearing success stories like yours. sometimes i have friends tell me that they’d rather not even start because it’s too hard, but now i have proof that it can. i’ll definitely be sharing this!
I did this program last year with my husband and 2 of my daughters. I found it *extremely* challenging. I’m not overweight but have never had any stamina, and I’m sure it didn’t help that I started 7 weeks post-partum in triple digit weather.
Although I loved being able to run 5k without stopping, I came to dread the actual “doing.” I’m convinced that I pushed myself too hard and under the wrong circumstances.
As a result, I quit the day I finished week 9 (took me 11 weeks in total) and now I HATE running. I don’t think everyone would share my experience, and I have a feeling that I should give it another try now that I’m in better shape and the weather is cooling.
I think I’ve almost talked myself into it…
Running in the heat almost killed me. 🙂 Well okay not quite, but it was hard to keep at it and if it was not for my daughter I might not have some of the days that it was 95+. Running now that it is cooler is so much easier and I really do enjoy it. And you did great to be able to start it 7 weeks after having a baby!!!! And to do it in 11 weeks!! That is more than I could have done 7 weeks after having a baby. 🙂
My 12 year old daughter and I started the Couch 2 5K program 7 weeks ago. I never thought I would be able to actually finish it, but I am loving it now. I feel so much better when I am done. And it gives me a chance to chat with my daughter. My 15 year old son has asthma and has recently started the program also. He is going at a slower pace, but I really think it is helping his lung function improve already!!
I am so glad you posted this. I have been contemplating the C25K, and have started it a couple of times, but tried to do too much too fast. Reading your post helps me think it through a bit, and I believe I can do it! Thank you.
What app did u use?
This is the app I used and I loved it. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/couch-to-5k/id313494823?mt=8
I was one of the curious on Facebook who really, really wanted to hear about your experience. Thank you so much for sharing all the details. I took up cycling this summer when I failed miserably at trying to run. I might just have to give it another try! Congrats to you – what a success!!
I think the point of exercise is finding what works for you and what you enjoy. Cycling is really good exercise, so good for you!
I had heard about this program some years ago, it was nice to heard your personal experience with it.
Amy @ MomsToolbox
Way to go, Lynn!
I am so proud of you for giving it a real go and now sharing it. I have no doubt you’ll inspire others to join you and make some great steps to a healthier lifestyle.
And I think you were brilliant to follow a plan you could also do with your family.
Thanks Amy! Finding something that I could do with my daughter helped so much and I think she might enjoy running even more than I do now.
I’m just starting out on meal planning and this book would be great!
I have been wanting to do this for quite some time – thank you for your insight, honesty & tips I have found them to very motivating. I am going start the program tomorrow so your blog came just in time :)- not procrastinating just a goal I had previously set as a quitting smoking milestone – I would try to do this program if I made it 6 months smoke free & finally tomorrow is that day!
Congratulations on quitting smoking!! That is great that you have been smoke free for 6 months. Great job!!
I also did the couch to 5K and LOVED it! I have never been a runner but I really feel it now. I’m pregnant so not doing much running, but I’m looking forward to getting back to it! I started in February (on a treadmill) and ran a 5K in May and another in July. It was awesome! And it really kept me motivated to keep going even when I didn’t really want to run. I knew I needed the training to do it so I kept at it. I liked to preselected music from DJ Beatsmith that was downloadable to my ipod. The music just kept me moving! I’d say, if you’re going to do it, get good shoes that have been fitted for you at a running store. I never had any problems with my knees or ankles. Sore muscles…yes! But never sore knees or ankles.
Ha! I recently restarted the Couch to 5k, and am getting ready to start week 2 tonight. It’s going to take me longer than 9 weeks because I play roller derby 3 times a week, and therefore can usually only fit in 2 runs a week rather than 3 (due to wanting at least one day “off” and sometimes being too sore!) I’ve been looking ahead and getting a little nervous, both due to the length of the runs coming and because I know we’re rapidly approaching cold/snowy weather and I have no place to run inside.
I think the program is not really written for someone who is ACTUALLY sedentary as the name implies… I had several failed starts pre-roller derby because I couldn’t make it through the first couple running intervals. If you get no exercise at all, running for a minute is HARD. Now I’m wanting to do it to help me cross-train for the sport I’ve chosen to play. And I want to run a 5k at one of the local events next spring. Just need to find a super cheap or free indoor track to use for this winter!
Good for you! I agree with you, running in the summer is flat out brutal. I ran well before the sun came up and it was still ridiculously hot. I started the Couch to 5k about a year ago and purposely signed up for a 5k somewhere near the end of it. I didn’t consistently do the program and then our boys got sick a few times which messed with training. I walked parts of that first race as well as one other a few months later, but now I am on track to run a half marathon next month! Days I run are always better than days I don’t, and it is fabulous for clearing the mind.
Congratulations and stick with it! (Try a 5k race if you can, they are tons of fun)
Thanks to you I started this program yesterday. I can for sure do it on Tues and Thursdays. I have not ran since jr high so it was interesting but I feel good about it. Thank you!
Yeah!! I hope you enjoy it! And if you only do it 2x a week, don’t focus on the 9 weeks or only doing a day once. Take your time if you need it, exercise is still good even if it takes longer than planned to finish the program.
Amy @ Finer Things
So proud of you! I desperately need to finish the program…
I did this program this spring and it was wonderful. I loved running, and like you it was hard from the start to ever wonder how I’d be able to run that far. It was such a great time of quiet prayer time and gave me 45 minutes of precious alone time away from home each morning. I was literally heartbroken that the track where I ran was recently locked. Living overseas it was the one place where I could run and not worry about stray animals. I miss it. Congratulations on finishing.
Congratulations, Lynn! I’m a runner, too, and I just loved reading about your journey. I understand about battling fear. Don’t give up!
I am wanting to start this program as well, however I don’t have an ipod or mp3 player but am wanting to purchase one for myself. What do you have/use? I am so not experienced when it comes to new technology!
I was recently inspired by my son’s allergist who started running by using the Couch to 5K program. She looks fantastic and obviously feels great. I ran in high school (track and CC) and always asked myself, “why am I doing this – it hurts!”). I have many friends who run and have asked me to do 5Ks with them but it just seemed like it would be a source of stress to attempt. I started the Couch to 5k program and have run 13 of the last 14 days. I’ll start week 3 tomorrow. I am literally taking it one day at a time. So far I have felt great and have only had one really painful day. I don’t set an alarm, but I’ve been waking up early and wanted to run. If it gets too painful or becomes something I dread then I don’t plan to continue. Just wanted to give it a try and so far it’s been a good thing :). I am 37.
I am so glad that you are enjoying it and I hope you continue to enjoy it. I did not keep up with running as much as I had hoped to over the winter, so I started back with week 5 and am half way through week 7 now and am so glad I am getting back at it. I missed running over the winter and am looking forward to keeping it up.
Lynn, you followed the program 3 days a week, exactly? I am doing the program with my 28 year old daughter, and even though I am her mother who spent a life time being active ( until about 5 years ago, when I said, “I have been doing this since I have been 15 years old, and I really want cheesecake”… well, 5 years later and 20 pounds heavier, I want my old body back:( ) my daughter is a slug bug. So I am like, “hey let’s do this every other day”, and she is like, “um let’s do it 3 days a week like it suggests” I am just wondering if everyone is sticking to the 3 days a week? My daughter has lost almost 40 pounds in a year, and she is kind of “stuck”, we are hoping that running will give her the opportunity to lose weight and occasionally “eat her cake too” 😉
I did not do it only 3 days the whole time, but pretty much. Do to schedules etc. sometimes it was not quite the same schedule as the program, but close. And I really did better when I did it every other day instead of two or three days in a row. I hope that answers your questions. I love the Couch 2 5K. You can do it!
thanks, Lynn! We definitely aren’t going for 3 days in a row, I want to go every other day, though..mostly because to me it seems to make it harder if you let too many days laps before running again. We are now on week three 🙂
I did this program the fall after my husband passed. I needed to move!! And I’d put on 60 pounds while living in the midwest from the west coast.
I followed it EXACTLY, along with using the South Beach Diet. I dropped 50 of the 60 in about 6 months. I’ve never been a runner, but the slooooow ramp up was the key. I still run, although I’ve had a few more life challenges come my way, and I’ve gotten very inconsistent. Which must change, as I’ve put back on 30 of the 60, just being lazy, going for beers with friends, and choosing to stay in bed in the morning with a new love rather than get my butt out the door.
What worked for me was rolling out of bed directly into my running shoes and gear, no water, no food, nothing. Get up and GO! If I let myself do anything else first, it threw everything off. Came back in, started coffee, made breakfast, showered. Then Tuesdays and Thursdays I incorporated some basic floorwork – push ups, crunches, stretching – for that same 30 minutes. No program, just what seemed to feel good and likely to enhance the running. 🙂
Size 14 to size 6 in that 40 pounds. Must. Get. Back to it!!
Wow! You did a great job. I love this program and have since ran 2 5k races since finishing the program. I still run several days a week. And if you did it once you can easily get back at it and do it again. Good for you! And thanks for sharing your story.
Lynn~Thank you for this article. I have started and stopped this program twice, but now I am on my third try and things are going much better. I pushed myself too hard and got discouraged the first two times, so this time I am doing it and advancing as I feel comfortable. I like to read other peoples success stories because it is encouraging for me. thank you for sharing.
Good for you for trying again and not giving up. Don’t focus on the days focus on the long term goal. If you have to repeat a day or two or three that is fine. When it comes to exercise something is better than nothing. And even if you never get past week 6 and do week 6 over and over you are doing more than you were when you started out. Take it slow, give yourself time, and you can do it!! I would love to hear back from you to hear how you are doing.