If you’re new to exercise, running five kilometres may sound quite daunting. Lack of time, feeling nervous about being out in public or not having the right training gear can discourage some people. But if you follow our guide below it can be fun, great for your wellbeing and even something to enjoy with your family.
What is Couch to 5k?
The programme was designed by Josh Clark in 1996 to help his mum become more active. It’s since been adopted by the NHS as a safe, effective way to work up to running through a mixture of jogging and walking. It involves training three times a week, with rest days in between, for nine weeks - until you’re able to run 5k.
Who is it for?
Everyone – whether you’ve never run before or simply want to improve your general fitness. If you’re lucky enough to own a treadmill, the programme will work as well on a machine. However, for most of us, it will involve running outside.
What are the benefits of running?
Running is great for your physical health. It can help you lose weight – in conjunction with a healthy diet – which can reduce your risk of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
Physical exercise is also shown to be beneficial for mental health. Not only is it a good stress reliever, having a goal to work towards can give you a real confidence boost.
How do I get started?
1. The first step is to check your general level of fitness. To get the most from the programme, you should make sure that you’re able to comfortably walk for 15 minutes. If you’re completely new to exercise, the NHS website provides some guidance on walking for health. If you’re used to walking, but new to running, it also includes some helpful advice on running for beginners.
Don’t start any exercise regime if you’re unwell or injured. If you have any health concerns, speak to your GP before you commit.
2. Make sure your kit is fit for purpose and dress for the weather – if you’re too warm or too cold, you won’t enjoy your exercise. Runners Need has some great advice on what to wear when you’re running, whatever the season.
Having good footwear is crucial. Many sports outlets are offering a free online gait analysis during the lockdown to help you find the correct trainers.
4. Download the Couch to 5k app
5. Plan time for your training. If you’re working from home, you may be able to use your usual commuting time or your lunchbreak to complete your run.
6. Plan your route – stick to familiar surroundings. A circular route, rather than an out and back, means that you’ll never be too far from home in an emergency.
7. Stay safe - be careful if you’re wearing headphones and crossing busy roads; and if you must run at night, try to run in well-lit areas, wear hi-vis clothing and carry a headtorch.
8. Stay well fuelled and hydrated. Maintaining a balanced diet and drinking plenty of fluids, whatever your activity level, will help you get the most from your training.
Things to remember
Make sure you’re following the Government’s guidance on social distancing by training on your own, or with members of your household, and try to avoid running in busy areas.
Don’t overdo it; you’re likely to get injured or become overwhelmed and give up. Create realistic expectations so that your goal feels achievable. If you miss a day, just get right back on track the following day. And if you’re not ready to move onto the next stage, it’s okay to repeat the week.
Stay motivated, and earn yourself a medal, by signing up to one of the many virtual challenges – RunThrough, Virtual Runner UK, Plan B Virtual Races.
How can my family get involved?
Running doesn’t have to be a lonely activity; with a bit of imagination, it can involve the whole family. For example, you could combine it with your daily dog walk or, if you have young children, they can:
• Ride their bikes alongside you (if you’re in a quiet, traffic-free area)
• Track you on a GPS running app such as Strava or Endomondo if they’re at home
• Make a chart for the kitchen fridge and check off your training days
However, you train, it’s important to remember to enjoy the experience of getting fitter and the health benefits it brings. For more information about Couch to 5k, visit the NHS website.
Published on 01 May 2020