'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 fell by the wayside too.

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 inbetween 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 meant I had to take a week off, as well as 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 massively benefiting my health.

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

Zev1963 said on 17 October 2014

Run 3 Week 6 done :) That 25 minute run was much easier than I expected. I started gently and raised the pace a little towards the end. Since week 7 will be more 25 minute runs I thought it would be good to take this one steady and then increase the pace over the three runs next week. This running really is fun. Never thought Id say that.

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Zev1963 said on 10 October 2014

Run 3 week 5 done ! WOW 20 minutes continuously, that really is a big step. I always run along the same path along the banks of the Loire, so I know how far I've got relative to previous runs. I'm pretty sure that this 20 minute run was further than any of the other combined run and walk days. It feels really great to have been able to complete it. The stamina built up through the previous weeks really does mean that you can manage that 20 minute run, it's amazing after what seems such a short time of training. Still really enjoying this program. Looking forward to monday starting week 6 :)

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Zev1963 said on 06 October 2014

Ran the first run of week 5 this morning. I was expecting to struggle with the first 5 minute run as I've been finding the first run each time a bit more difficult than the rest. I'd already done 5 minute runs in week 4, so I knew I could do it. But it was very strange, the first 5 minute ru seemed to be over in no time. I began to wonder if there had been some mistake, but no, it was fine. Week 5 the three runs are all different. The second run will be 2 runs of 8 minutes. I'm looking forward to it. I'm really sure I can do it now. Thanks Laura, the podcasts are wonderful, they make it all so much easier. I'm really enjoying C25K. I'm going to really miss Lauras gentle encouragement when the ç weeks are finished.

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Zev1963 said on 29 September 2014

I ran the first run of week 4 this morning. This is the first time I've run in the rain, and wasnt looking forward to it, but it was OK. This is the first week that you spend more time running than walking. Five minutes sounds like a long time to run. I was a little worried that the ache in my ankle and calf over the weekend was going to hinder my run. In fact it went fine, and the ache in my ankle actually disapeared as I ran. I always run the same route (the north bank of the Loire river), and so I get an idea of how much futher I run from one week to the next. Week 4 is a significantly longer distance than week 3, but having built the stamina in the previous weeks, it actually felt slightly easier than week 3. Really looking forward to the next run :)

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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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