'Couch to 5K got me off the sofa'

Laura St Quinton

Laura, 27, hadn’t done any exercise for 10 years when she came across the Couch to 5K plan.

Here’s her story of the nine weeks that took her literally from her living-room sofa to running 5km.

If I was to pinpoint one thing that put me off exercise, it was cross country at school. I was never particularly sporty to begin with, but those laps of the school grounds on cold, dark afternoons, were enough to leave me avoiding exercise for over 10 years.

After leaving school, I flirted with the gym and absolutely hated it. I didn’t really know what I was doing and I felt self-conscious. Within a month, I’d stopped going. At one point, I even bought a bike and cycled to work for a few months but that too fell by the wayside.

In January 2010, I decided that enough was enough. It was time I conquered my fear and got fit. I knew I didn’t want to have to join a gym or pay for exercise classes. I wanted something that I could do on my own, on my own terms, without anyone watching or barking orders. I decided that I’d try running and came across Couch to 5K on the internet.

'Less scary'

When I saw that week one involved running for only a minute at a time, I felt relieved that someone actually understood my limitations, and the inclusion of walking intervals made it feel less scary.

I hadn’t owned a pair of trainers since school so the next step was to go trainer shopping. I spent £30 on a pair of good quality, dedicated running trainers. Then I cobbled together an outfit including tracksuit bottoms that had been serving as pyjamas, and a T-shirt, fleece and woolly hat.

The hat was probably the most crucial part of the outfit for me at that stage. I felt embarrassed and wanted to disguise myself a bit. I thought the other runners would see me walking in between my runs and think I was cheating or lazy. I realise how stupid that sounds now. I’ve since learned that runners come in all shapes, sizes, speeds and styles, and no one is really looking at anyone else.

I decided that my running days would be Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Somehow, having designated days made it easier to stick to. I also made the decision to run first thing in the morning, so I couldn’t spend the day dreaming up excuses not to go out and run.

I started, and the early weeks went well. I didn’t find it easy but it was much easier than I expected, and that kept me going. I felt a sense of achievement having ticked off each day and I quickly realised that my body was more than capable of getting me through – it was my mind that was the problem.

'I feel like I’ve taken something that I was so afraid of and I’ve well and truly beaten it.'


Bumps in the road

There were a few bumps in the road – a sore knee early on that lead to me taking a week off, and stitch, which still flares up even now – but otherwise I coped really well. Having the structure of the plan was hugely helpful and having designated 'running days’, meant I couldn’t make excuses.

There is one point in the plan that is a real test, where you go from running for eight minutes at a time to running 20 minutes. But you realise that this is a mental test, not a physical one, and that by the time you have reached this point in the plan, your stamina has been developed sufficiently to carry you through.

I completed the Couch to 5K plan in March and have been running for 30-45 minutes, three times a week ever since. I now sleep better and I feel more alert and energised, but the biggest change for me has been mental – ironic really, when my mind had been the greatest obstacle to me exercising before.

I feel like I’ve taken something that I was so afraid of and I’ve well and truly beaten it, and when I go out and pound the streets, I feel proud and confident. Not only have I conquered a fear but I’ve developed a new habit that I know is doing my health enormous good.

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 a fitness phobe to a keen runner with the Couch to 5K programme.

Media last reviewed: 06/06/2014

Next review due: 06/06/2016

Page last reviewed: 15/09/2012

Next review due: 15/09/2014


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The 4 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Zev1963 said on 22 September 2014

I thought I'd leave an update. I started week3 this morning. I was expecting it to be hard, with the run time lengthening to 3 minutes. But no, its ok. I find Laura's encouragement really helpful. In fact, the overal running distance for week 3 turns out to be shorter than week 2, just longer intervals. I think that I started more slowly this morning, not wanting to risk being too out of breath to complete the session, but I was fine. So, I think that I'll try to return to my previous speed for the next run. Still really enjoying it, and looking forward to each run.

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Zev1963 said on 15 September 2014

I started the C25K last week. This morning was the first day of week 2. So far so good. I was a keen cyclist and walker until last year. In january I had half of my left lung removed, ans since then had been regularly walking, but found it difficult to get motivated to bike, as I always felt very tired the next day.
I've never fancied running before. It looked kind of boring, and hard work. But reading the C25 on this site I decided to give it a go. Really glad that I did. I decided to run at 6am before anyone else was up (or so I thought). In fact on my first run along the banks of the river I met another guy running the other way. He had a light on his head, I went and bought one too the next day. Its quite dark here at 6am.
I was really expecting to stuggle with this, I definately expected to be out of breath. Actually, it went really well, and I find the podcasts really helpful and encouraging. I really look forward to my runs. I was expecting to dread them.
So like I said, so far so good. I have every intention of completing the C25K, and expect to then be looking for the next step.
If you are thinking of trying C25K, then go for it, I thoroughly recommend it. What I expected to be a chore to boost my fitness has in fact turned out to be a pleasure.

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MCG_Hammer said on 09 November 2013

I started running again in the summer at an event called Parkrun (parkrun.org.uk). They are all over the country and a great way to get some exercise on a Saturday morning. Distance is 5K. I'm not yet up to running the complete distance so I will give this programme a go to help me all the way.

I encourage anyone to try Parkrun. There is no pressure on anyone and the objective is to enjoy some exercise with like-minded people.

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CheshireCat04 said on 06 October 2013

Thank you Laura for your encouragement for the step-by-step (literally!) build up to 5k. Finished the programme today ie running for 30 mins. Still only around 4k, so will be continuing to build the distance/speed! Have never attempted running before so feel a real sense of achievement!

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