Get running with Couch to 5K

Taking up running can seem like a scary prospect, especially if you feel out of shape or unfit.

But did you know that regular running can help reduce the risk of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke, boost your mood and keep your weight under control?

The NHS Couch to 5K plan is designed to get you off the couch and gradually work you up to running 5K or for half an hour, in just nine weeks.

What is Couch to 5K?

Couch to 5K is a running plan developed to help absolute beginners get into running. The beginners' running plan was developed by a novice runner, Josh Clark, who wanted to help his fifty-something mum get off the couch and start running too. The plan involves three runs per week, with a day of rest inbetween, with a different schedule for each of the nine weeks.

How does Couch to 5K work?

Probably the biggest challenge a novice runner faces is not knowing how or where to start. Often when trying to get into exercise, we can overdo it, feel defeated and give up when we’re just getting started. Couch to 5K works because it starts with a mix of running and walking, to gradually build up your fitness and stamina. Week one involves running for just a minute at a time, creating realistic expectations and making the challenge feel achievable right from the start.

Who is Couch to 5K for?

Couch to 5K is for everyone. Whether you’ve never run before, or if you want to get back into being more active, Couch to 5K is a free and easy way of getting fitter and healthier. If you have any health concerns about beginning an exercise regime such as Couch to 5K, make an appointment to see your GP and discuss it with them first.

What are the benefits?

There are plenty of benefits from getting into running. For starters, it’s an easy way of improving your physical health. Running regularly will improve the health of your heart and lungs. It can also help you lose weight, especially if combined with a healthy diet.

There is evidence it may help increase bone density in some people, which can help protect against bone diseases such as osteoporosis.

There are also mental benefits of running. Taking on the challenge of Couch to 5K can help boost your confidence and self-belief, as you prove that you can set yourself a target and achieve a goal. Running regularly can also be a great stress reliever and has even been shown to combat depression.

Download NHS Couch to 5K

Use the panel below to download the NHS Couch to 5K podcasts (also available as an app). The podcasts feature a narrator, Laura, who guides you through the session, explaining when you need to run and when it’s time to walk. 

The podcasts also feature music to motivate you through the workout. They are designed to take you on three runs each week, leaving at least one day of rest inbetween each run. There is one podcast for each week of the plan – except in weeks five and six, which feature three individual podcasts. This is because weeks five and six act as transitional weeks, which aim to progress you from a mix of running and walking into running for longer blocks of time.

How do I get started?

STEP ONE: Download the free Couch to 5K podcasts (also available as an app) to your mobile device (any MP3 player will do) or your computer. If downloading to a computer, you'll then need to copy the podcast onto your MP3 player.

STEP TWO: Think about when you’re going to run. The best way to ensure you stick with your running plan is to carefully work out how to fit Couch to 5K into your day. Busy days at work? Perhaps you could set your alarm clock a little earlier and run first thing in the morning, or even in your lunch break. If you have young children to sort out in the mornings, maybe you could plan your run when they’re at nursery. Or, how about strapping them safely in the pushchair and taking them with you?

STEP THREE: Plan where you are going to run for example, if you already have a gym membership, you could run there. Another good option is to run outdoors. You’ll get some fresh air, can take different and interesting routes and, perhaps best of all, it won’t cost anything. You may want to look at a map to plan your route first, so that you can focus on running. There are lots of great websites out there to help you with this, such as realbuzz and MapMyRun.

STEP FOUR: Think about safety. If you are planning to run outdoors, bear in mind that when wearing headphones you may be less aware of your surroundings. Watch out for other pedestrians, keep your eyes peeled for cyclists and take extra care when crossing the road.

STEP FIVE: What are you going to wear? The most essential piece of kit is a pair of running trainers, available from any good sports store from around £30. While this isn’t essential, it may reduce your risk of injury.

 

Couch to 5K

Regular running can reduce the risk of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke, boost your mood and keep your weight under control. In this video, watch how Laura went from fitness phobe to keen runner with the Couch to 5K programme.

Media last reviewed: 03/05/2016

Next review due: 03/05/2018

Page last reviewed: 15/09/2014

Next review due: 15/09/2016

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