Get running with Couch to 5K

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

NHS Couch to 5K will help you gradually work up towards running 5K in just 9 weeks.

What is Couch to 5K?

Couch to 5K is a running plan for absolute beginners. It was developed by a new runner, Josh Clark, who wanted to help his fifty-something mum get off the couch and start running, too.

The plan involves 3 runs a week, with a day of rest inbetween, and a different schedule for each of the 9 weeks.

How does Couch to 5K work?

Probably the biggest challenge a new 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 1 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 just want to get 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 like 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 requires little equipment, but a good pair of running shoes that suit your foot type may help improve comfort.

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's evidence it may help increase bone density in some people, which can help protect against bone diseases like 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 to yourself 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 this panel 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're designed to take you on 3 runs each week, leaving at least 1 day of rest in between each run.

There's 1 podcast for each week of the plan – except in weeks 5 and 6, which feature 3 individual podcasts.

This is because weeks 5 and 6 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?

1. Download the free Couch to 5K podcasts (also available as an app) to your mobile device or computer. If downloading to a computer, you'll then need to copy the podcast on to your mobile device.

2. When will you 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.  

3. Plan your route. You may want to look at a map to plan your route first so you can focus on running. There are lots of great websites out there to help you with this.

4. Think about safety. If you're planning to run outdoors, bear in mind that you may be less aware of your surroundings if you're wearing headphones. Watch out for other pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles. When running in the dark, make sure you can see where you're going and that other road users can see you. Consider running along routes with adequate lighting or wearing reflective clothing.

5. What gear? The most essential piece of kit is a pair of running trainers. Read our guide to buying new running shoes.

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: 03/08/2018

Page last reviewed: 15/09/2017

Next review due: 15/09/2020

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