My Couch to 5K diary

A woolly hat helped Laura overcome her self-consciousness in the early days of her Couch to 5K plan.

Here, she describes the highs and lows in her diary of the nine-week programme that transformed the one-time fitness phobe into a regular runner.

Week one

I chose my local park as a place to train in and began on a Sunday morning. The cold weather was a good excuse to disguise myself in a woolly hat. Once I got going, I was surprised at how easy it was, and I found that at the end of the walking intervals I’d recovered sufficiently and was ready to run again. Roll on week two!

Week two

I wasn’t thrilled at the idea of upping the regime, but I knew I could cope with more, so tried to think positively. In fact, it didn’t feel that different to last week. One slight hiccup – my foot started to hurt. Luckily, applying an ice pack after my run, and then each morning and evening, seemed to do the trick.

Week three

When the voice on the podcast said three minutes, I was momentarily worried – but then convinced myself that as long as I didn’t rush it, I’d be just fine ... and I was! It was so cold that my eyes were streaming, so I looked like I was crying, but in fact, I felt the opposite – I was elated at my progress.

Week four

Had you told me a year ago that I’d be going out running with my boyfriend at 8am on Valentine's Day morning, in a steady drizzle, I’d have said you were mad. But I actually quite enjoyed it, and got through the week fine. I’m really beginning to appreciate how Couch to 5K is training my mind as well as my body, and if I’m honest, my mind is the only obstacle to getting fit.

Stitch: what is it?

Stitch is a sudden sharp pain felt in the side, which can occur during exercise. The causes of stitch are unclear, but some theories include:

  • having a full stomach or being dehydrated
  • not warming up properly (such as completing a brisk walk prior to running)
  • exercising too intensely when the body is not used to it

Week five

Discovering I’d be running for 20 minutes by the end of the week really stopped me in my tracks. But I reasoned that since Couch to 5K had got me this far, I must be capable. I can’t say I experienced a runner’s high, but I definitely felt a major boost on completing this week.

Week six

I got through this week OK, but struggled with stitch and pains in my shin. I looked up my shin pains online and it sounded like shin splints – caused by too much training too soon, or running on hard surfaces without sufficient shoe support. Maybe it’s time to trade in my trainers and get something a bit more sophisticated.

Week seven

This week involved three 25-minute runs. It’s nice not to have the interruption of walking, though it still requires some serious effort. Looking back, I think I imagined that running would become easy. It’s certainly not easy yet, but I catch my breath and recover faster and faster each week.

Week eight

Once again, I was struck down with stitch. I made sure I was taking slow, deep breaths, and I started doing sit-ups before my runs, as I’ve read that this might strengthen the muscles that are causing me trouble.

Week nine

I was determined to beat the stitch and finish my last week on a high, so I started each run with a glass of water, some sit-ups and side stretches. Thank goodness it worked. My third run was my best – and my fastest – yet. A fitting end to my Couch to 5K journey. The key now is to keep up my runs and improve my pace and speed. And who knows? Maybe I’ll start working towards 10K.

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: 06/06/2014

Next review due: 06/06/2016

Page last reviewed: 15/09/2014

Next review due: 15/09/2016


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The 13 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

capitalgirl said on 27 April 2015

I have just completed week 1 - great! I'm a bit worried about week 2 and running for one and a half minutes, will I make it - my inner thighs hurt like hell. Anyone else had this? I want to succeed!!

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Edinburgh runner said on 11 November 2014

Absolutely brilliant!! I never believed I would be running like this! Thank you so much for getting me to believe in myself at last. And thank you to Laura, whose calming voice was the key for me to get through each week. Thank you to our fantastic NHS and those who were behind this scheme - it is inspirational and has changed my life. xx

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Sontri said on 30 May 2014

Thanks Laura. I'm completing my first Triathlon (Triathlon Pink) next week due to this program. I've always loved to swim and cycle, but never knew how to run. Previous attempts to learn we're always abandoned due to poor breathing. This podcast helped me to master the breathing technique and I'm going to complete my first 5K tomorrow! At 42 it's great to be able to meet new challenges! I'm recommending this program to lots of people. Thank you!

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Lindylroo said on 18 May 2013

I just want to say A BIG THANKYOU ! ! ! To Laura and her inspiring podcast.I am a 54 year old ,who decided to try and get fit before i retire in a few months , to look after my elderley parents.I have always been too frightened of running to start,as in the past when i have tried to run i was so out of breath i was embarrased to be seen in public running ! I have done a fair bit of cycling over the years so thought i was reasonably fit .Consequently, At first i started running on my own with no guidance .I ran 3 miles in my first week ,ended up with Plantar Fasciatus and pain in my Left shin.I had to stop ,so i decided to search around on the internet.I got some decent trainers with arch support (Nike Lunar Eclipse), and some decent running 2 layer socks ( those 1000 mile socks ).Then i found couch to 5 k .I got an ipod to run with and popped it on..This website has been my life line.I followed each week,the running and breathing techniques have been so helpful. I have just finished week 9 ,and run my 3 miles.I am so proud of my self and so grateful.I have also lost 11 lbs in weight with healthy eating and using My Fitness Pal .com ,(another free website,) to monitor my calorie intake and excercise.I intend to carry on running now for the rest of my life ,just 30 mins every other day,if the fates allow ! I feel more positive mentally,more alert mentally and stronger emotionally and physically.I never thought it would be possible to start running at my age.People have said to me i look better than i have done for years ! I am a nurse myself and have told colleagues and patients about this and other Nhs Choices website .So THANKYOU ! Again.A rejuvenated TOG !

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StrongHands said on 10 August 2012

Hello All and Laura.
I wanted to thank NHS and especially Laura for her inspiring voice in all these pod casts.I love to hear her. I am 22, 5'10" and I weigh about 150 lbs and according to BMI I am in a healthy weight category but we all agree that BMI is not the best index of fitness out there. I am one of those guys who look good when dressed and one might even say fit but I have never felt fit in fact in recent years. I don't do public races and don't take up to challenges and somehow I have turned to be afraid of tainting this image which has build itself around me and find myself protecting it.
I am not fit I must admit! I am tired of lying to myself!This wasn't always like this. I used to be really fit when I was 16. But then we moved to a metro city and I couldn't find myself a group of people who would indulge themselves in a daily sport. Guess its all gym and clubs in metros.I found myself diving into computers and that was the decline of me. I might be too young to look at life from this perspective but I really miss old me!

Since a couple years or so there was this urge to make a change in my lifestyle but I couldn't find the right path.I tried jogging for awhile, going to the gym but it was never enough. I always compared myself to the younger me and always felt down.Hence I never got myself committed to doing anything that would bear result.
Then one day browsing on the web I came across NHS couch to 5k program.I was like this it! If I can do this then I can do everything! This was the thing I was looking for. A well guided program, to boost my confidence when needed and set goals for me.Its my second week only but I admit I am excited as hell! First week didn't break a sweat but I guess that's the way to start.I am so much looking forward to do this.Also, I find it hard to settle a pace for me. Sometimes I am going fast and then I just run out of breath, other times, it just feels too slow.
Cheers! :)

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Nettie C said on 15 April 2012

Hi All, I have been thinking about getting fit for years,and constantly moan that I am overweight (by around 3 stones) but have done very little about it. Then in January I discovered Zumba classes which I started once a week, I enjoyed it so much that I started going twice a week. Recently my Dad has been diagnosed with Cancer, which has triggered me to sign up for a Race for Life in June. So, having not ran since I was at school, something had to be done!! I started going for a little run on a sunday morning, it was very unstructured, I ran when I could, and walked the rest of the way, even taking my neices (9 and 7) with me so I could pretend I was taking it easy for them if any one saw me in the street. Then I was introduced to Couch to 5k. Brilliant, this is briliant. It provides you with structure to your run, its like having a personal trainer with Laura telling you exactly what to do, its weird but I didnt feel like I was out running on my own!! Because I had done a couple of weeks on my own without the podcast I have started at week 2, and although I am finding this stretching, and at the moment I can still not even imaging me running for 5 minutes let alone 30, I am sure if I stick to this plan I will get there. One question I have, to any one who reads this is, when I run I feel like my blood pressure goes through the roof with ringing in my ears for hours afterwards, this doesnt happen when I do my Zumba classes, is this normal for running? Good luck to everyone out there starting this program, stick to it, I plan to do, I am determined to leave the couch behind!

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hja215 said on 15 November 2011

I am in the middle of week 4 and can't believe how good I feel. That first day a minute of running seemed so hard, but this morning I did 5 and was barely winded. Doing a 5K next week, and expect to walk much of it, but will run the 20 minutes on run #3!!! Love this podcast!!!

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efbrown said on 29 July 2011

Have just begun Week 2. Finding it tough but am amazed that as a 55 year old very overweight guy - I can do the programme thus far. The podcasts are very helpful and help you to keep going. I run in my local park and you either run uphill or down. Would running laps on a running track, with the podcastrs be more effective?

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NSampson said on 04 April 2011

I have started a similar training programme via an app I downloaded for my i-phone. It's great as it pings in my ear when to walk and when to run and plays my music in between. It has been so hard but I have made progress. The first week I struggled to run 1 full minute but now at week 5 I am running 5 minutes continuously with walking breaks between. I can't believe I have done so well and my fitness have improved so much in such a short space of time. The great thing about running is that it's free and you can do it whenever and wherever you want. I feel great about my achievements so if you're thinking of starting then do it and you'll be amazed at what you can achieve.

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suffolk cherry red said on 15 March 2011

I have just completed week 2, run 1 on a treadmill in our garage and I am feeling very smug today with this personal achievement! This program is also making me consider my eating habits as I now do not reach for a snack if I am going to run later - bonus! I am loving this training program, so far?? Keep going newbies, we can do this???

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Barnes32 said on 02 March 2011

I have just started (am on week 3), and much to my surprise, am really enjoying the fact that I am actually able to do it -- well, so far, anyway! One question, though: as I am running on a treadmill at the gym, is there an indication of how fast one ought to be running, and what's a "brisk walk"? The idea of having to run 30 mins does seem daunting, but hopefully I'll make it! Cheers

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MomWife said on 05 January 2011

Thanks Laura. Great Program. I just graduated. Can you make a bridge to 10k podcast to help us move on to the next step? Thanks for getting me off the couch and running. From So. California!

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MomWife said on 05 January 2011

Thanks Laura. Great Program. I just graduated. Can you make a bridge to 10k podcast to help us move on to the next step? Thanks for getting me off the couch and running. From So. California!

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