Some people live for it, chasing faster times and that unbelievable “runners high.”
Others despise it with the passion of a thousand suns (which is an excessive number of suns).
As somebody who used to run cross country in high school, and will probably never run a mile again, I have strong opinions on this stuff.
Today we’re going to cover it all: running your first 5K, if you even SHOULD run a 5k, and all the details of the famous Couch to 5K program.
After all, Couch to 5K is the most popular 5K running program since “run for your life” invented by a human like 150,000 years ago.
“Don’t run for your life” was equally popular, it just…didn’t last long.
Quiet, I know. This was a way better gif than a human being chased by a wild animal.
You’re here because you wanna know if you can build up to running a 5k without losing your breath or having to stop.
So here’s what we’re gonna cover in this article:
What is it about Couch to 5K that makes it so dang popular?
Does Couch to 5K actually work?
Will I lose weight training for a 5K?
How do I not hurt myself running a 5K?
What if I own a futon, but like, it’s a nice one. Can I still do Couch to 5k?
If you’ve been reading Nerd Fitness for longer than this article, you know my thoughts about running for weight loss (spoiler: I think it’s an awful way to lose weight).
I also think running can be a fantastic activity (for the right person if they do it the right way)!
So, are you that person?
And what is the right way?
Keep reading and I’ll tell ya.
In exchange, I can promise hilarious gifs.
And maybe also Michael Jackson.
“Couch to 5kK” is a free program that takes people from their couch to running a 5K race in 9 weeks.
5K is short for 5 kilometers, or 5,000 meters or 3.1 miles.
Depending on which “couch to 5K” program you pick, it might be 6 weeks, or 12 weeks, or 9 weeks. Although this running program was invented by Josh Clark of CoolRunning WAY back in the day, it has since been co-opted and copied by every running blog out there, so we’re going to be referring to a generic “Couch to 5K” program when we talk about it.
Here it is in a nutshell: Couch to 5K utilizes an uber popular concept called interval training – moving at different speeds throughout a running session – and lays out exactly what to do every day for 6-12 weeks after starting.
By varying your pacing, your body is forced to adapt to different speeds, your heart and lungs have to adapt to various levels of strenuous activity (and get stronger/healthier as a result), and you actually burn more calories and get better prepared for a race then compared to just training at a constant speed.
In other words, interval training rocks and should be used by anybody who wants to get better at running.
Over the weeks, Couch to 5K slowly ramps up the amount of time you spend running and cuts back the time you spend walking until you’re at the point where you can actually run a 5K without stopping.
“STEVE, I’M INTRIGUED. WHY IS COUCH TO 5K SO DANG POPULAR?”
#1) It’s simple and clear. Print out a PDF or download an iphone app and for the next 9 weeks you simply do what it tells you: Today, do this. Tomorrow, do that. Repeat.
We are all busy. Most of us lead hectic lives. And programs that tell us EXACTLY what to do allow us to follow instructions without needing to figure it out ourselves.
Not that us nerds overanalyze things to the point of giving ourselves anxiety attacks…
#2) Most people think running = weight loss. If you’re brand new to health and fitness, and you’re trying to lose weight, you’re most likely overwhelmed at what you should start with and how you should train.
Are you gonna go sign up for a gym membership, hire a trainer, and start doing squats and deadlifts?
As much as I would WISH that was the answer (it’s probably the fastest path to changing one’s physique), it’s probably a bridge too far for most folks. So a majority of newbies equate running with weight loss (which MIGHT be true, but MIGHT not, I’ll explain soon), and decide to start with a jog around the block.
#3) Couch to 5K is not overwhelming. It’s a free program (or inexpensive app), and it’s very approachable. Programs like P90X and Insanity are designed to appeal to people that consider themselves hardcore (whatever the hell that means). Couch to 5K appeals to people who are overwhelmed at the idea of doing P90X or Insanity or mustering up the courage to go to Crossfit.
Couch to 5K makes you think “maybe I can actually do this…” which is the most important part of any fitness journey: starting.
#4) Everybody wants to “have run a 5K.” If you’re new to health and fitness and working on setting a good obtainable goal, “run a 5K this year” is a great place to start.
It’s a short enough distance that with some training you can pull it off, even if you have to walk some or all of it.
There are 5Ks practically every weekend, many of which raise money for charity or are themed in a fun way,
It’s an amazing activity to do as a group with friends.
Humans are wired for achievements, progress, and gratification – 5Ks are perfectly designed for that.
So in completing Couch to 5K, you train and get to see yourself progress weekly, you get to finish a race and feel a sense of accomplishment, and you go home with a medal you can hang on your wall reminding you of the proud moment.
Plus, it might get you in shape!
To Be Continued......
- Fitness First