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Running for beginners (how to succeed with couch to 5K)

In this blogpost and the related video I´m going to give you twelve tips on how to succeed with the couch to 5K programme.

As well as a complete explanation of the 9 week programme, I´m also going to share with you the essential preparation, motivation and beginners´running tips that will allow you to successfully complete the couch to 5K programme where others often fail.

So whether it´s a new year´s resolution to get fit and lose a few kilos or whether you just want to start taking better care of your health, running is a fantastic option for loads of reasons.

First of all it´s cheap and relatively easy. There´s no need to get any specialised skills or equipment.

And there´s no need to pay for a gym membership. You can do it more or less wherever and whenever you like.

And the list of benefits for your health is extensive.

Why not tell me in the comments section below why you want to start running?

So the couch to 5K programme is an excellent way to go from being a non-runner to a competent regular exerciser.

But before we get carried away……(Slow motion running with Chariots of fire theme tune interrupted by vinyl scratch sound)

……here´s the hard truth. Whilst couch to 5K has worked for tens of thousands of new runners there are also plenty who don´t see it through and never succeed in running the 5Ks.

And there are lots of reasons why this happens.

But in this video I aim to help you make sure that you DO succeed and avoid the pitfalls that can lead to failure.

And so for that reason I´ll be giving you twelve helpful hints to keep you on track so to speak as I walk (and run you) through the programme.

So let´s get into it shall we? I´m sourcing the good old British National health service version of the programme and you can find a link to it below.

You can also download a PDF that I´ve created if you want to print it out, stick it on the fridge and cross off each of the runs as you complete them each week.

So let´s take a look at the programme, week by week and get into those, all important hints and tips that are going to ensure YOUR success.

So for your 3 runs in week 1, you begin as always with a brisk 5-minute walk to warm up. After this, you will alternate 1 minute of running with 1-and-a-half minutes of walking, repeating this sequence eight times for a total of 20 minutes.

So as in any new undertaking preparation is key.

As the saying goes……fail to prepare….prepare to fail and we don´t want that, so we need to plan and organise ourselves properly.

So for that reason, tip number 1. First of all you should consult your doctor before starting, especially if you haven´t got much of an exercise history or have been a long time without exercising.

Also, I would advise walking 5K before even starting the programme so that your body knows a bit more of what to expect and you can also plan your route. But more on this later.

Tip number 2. The correct clothing and footwear are really important to ensure that you´re comfortable and to avoid possible injuries.

Thin, breathable sportswear is advisable but not essential, but I would always have a couple of thin layers on top so that you can take one off if you start to feel a bit too hot.

And of course, well-fitting running trainers with plenty of shock absorbing support in the sole are crucial.

I´ve provided some links in the description box below of some good quality and reasonably priced options if you´re new to this scene or just in need of some new gear.

For your 3 runs in week 2, again you’ll warm-up with a brisk 5-minute walk. After this, you will alternate 1-and-a-half minutes of running with 2 minutes of walking, and repeat this sequence six times, for a total of 21 minutes.

Tip number 3, plan your route with little or no incline and try to stick to it for every run.

Firstly because different routes will possibly have differing amounts of incline and/or difficulty which will be counterproductive for this programme.

Also the familiarity of a repetitive route can, believe it or not, increase motivation, especially as you start to get used to the distance and the feel of the 5Ks.

For those who think this will be repetitive and boring you can of course vary the route if you like, but try to always find a flat or minimally inclined route and use an exercise monitor with a reliable GPS system to track your distance.

Personally I have had more expensive fitness watches in the past, but after my last one died I went for a much cheaper alternative that I´d previously bought for my kids.

The Xiaomi Mi band 5 which is an excellent and inexpensive alternative with bags of features, which, as you progress with your running can really help to keep you motivated as your fitness level develops further.

There´s a link below, if you´d like to go through to Amazon and take a closer look at it.

It´s something I use personally and for the price I don´t think you´ll find anything better on the market.

And when I check it against my chest HR monitor it´s really accurate as well.

Tip number 4, try to buddy up and do the programme with someone else if possible.

Having a training partner for any kind of exercise programme is a massive advantage for both of you, especially where motivation and accountability are concerned.

For your 3 runs in week 3, you warm-up as usual with the 5-minute walk, then 2 repetitions of 1-and-a-half minutes of running, 1-and-a-half minutes of walking, and 2 repetitions of 3 minutes of running and 3 minutes of walking.

Tip number 5, set out your preferred routine for running and rest days and try to stick it.

So try to run every two days, for example Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

But also don´t panic if you miss a session and you get “out of sequence”.

Just continue until you get back on track, even if the programme takes you longer.

The ultimate goal after all is running 5Ks, the 9 weeks are just a guide to get you there.

If it takes you longer it´s really no big deal.

Also be realistic here. You´re already starting a new routine of exercising three times a week.

Try not to overload yourself by adding to that another new routine of getting out of bed an hour earlier to do the running,

As you´re simply asking for trouble, especially if it´s winter time or if you´re not exactly an early bird.

I understand that you will have to fit in your running around your personal routine and commitments, but try to choose a time that is realistically do-able for you.

For your 3 runs in week 4, after the 5-minute warm-up walk, it´s 3 minutes of running, 1-and-a-half minutes of walking, 5 minutes of running, 2-and-a-half minutes of walking, 3 minutes of running, 1-and-a-half minutes of walking and then 5 minutes of running to finish.

Now, although it´s not included in the NHS programme, whenever you finish one of your runs with running I would actually add on to that at least 3 minutes of walking.

OK the reason for that is to bring your heart rate down slowly and gradually which is much better and much safer for your heart, OK.

Tip number 6, before starting the programme be very clear in defining your goals (as well as the obvious one of completing the 5Ks).

For example, maybe you´d like to fit into “that dress” or pair of jeans.

Perhaps you´d like to drop a waist size, or lose x amount of Kilos.

Try to make them measurable goals so you can see if you achieved them or not, but also be realistic.

Don´t aim for too much all at once. You are trying to start or maybe re-create a habit that we hope will last for the rest of your life and not just be a fad or a quick fix.

Test your resting heart rate (use a fit watch if you have one or just count your beats per minute for 60 seconds by taking your pulse.

This is an excellent indicator of the health and strength of your heart and it should drop as you get fitter.

Take a photo of yourself in your underwear before starting the programme. Or take your waist measurement and remember to record all of this information.

Then measure and photograph yourself again after completing the programme so you can see your progress.

You could even do this at intervals throughout the programme, (say after 3, 6 and 9 weeks).

Looking at this as a long term project with immediate, short, mid and long term goals will make it much more likely to be a success.

In part 2 of this blog post and video I´ll be going through weeks 5 to 9 of the programme and sharing more really helpful advice on how to complete it successfully so don´t miss that.

British National Health Service couch to 5K programme:

Download your FREE Living your best life couch to 5K progress sheet PDF here:

Running shoe recommendations.

Link* to ASICS Men’s Gel-Excite 4 Running Shoe:

Link* to adidas Galaxy 4, Men’s Running Shoe:

Link* to adidas Galaxy 4, Women’s Competition Running Shoes:

Link * to adidas Women’s Runfalcon Road Running Shoe:

Running clothes recommendations.

Link* to Superora Mens 6pcs Sports Fitness Clothing Set:

Link* to YOUTHUNION Women’s 5pcs sports clothing set:

Link* to running clothes page (general):

Link* to Xiaomi Mi Band 5:

*(Honesty and transparency alert). Links provided are affiliate links. This means that if you click on this link and buy the product I will receive a small commission from Amazon. Don´t worry though, you pay exactly the same price as you would if you visited Amazon without my recommendation.

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