Couch to 5K - Running for Beginners (2022)

Couch to 5K - Running for Beginners (1)

The Couch to 5K exercise plan is the perfect guide to getting started with running. It's designed to get inexperienced or out-of-practice runners off of the sofa and completing 5K without stopping, all in just nine weeks. With numerous physical and mental health benefits, running is an excellent way for over 50s to get more active and enjoy a boost to their mood. So, why not try the Couch to 5K plan? You never know - you could go from couch potato to regular jogger!

What is Couch to 5K? | Benefits | Week-by-week plan

Does it work? | Apps and podcasts | Running tips for beginners

Sign up to our newsletter for more lifestyle tips...

What is Couch to 5K?

Developed by Josh Clark to help his 50-something mum get fit, the Couch to 5K plan has now become a global phenomenon, tried and tested by thousands of now-regular joggers. It is unique in that it understands the limitations of new runners, and by doing so helps build them up to 5K with a different 3-run plan every week. The programme consists of alternating brisk walking and running, with at least one day of rest in between training, until you reach your goal.

Couch to 5K benefits

Couch to 5K - Running for Beginners (2)

It's no secret running has plenty of health benefits, so here are the top five you can enjoy by training with the Couch to 5K plan.

1. Reduces your chances of health risks

Running can:

  • Increase the efficiency of your cardiovascular system.
  • Strengthen your bones, joints and muscles.
  • Reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease.

2. Improves your mood

Exercise releases endorphins which improve your mood. So, if you're feeling stressed, anxious or down, a gentle jog is a great way to relax the mind.

(Video) Couch To 5K: Week 1 | Starting Running For The First Time

3. Helps with weight loss

If you're looking to shift a few pounds, running is a good way to slim down. It's one of the most effective methods of burning calories, beating swimming and cycling.However, if you are aiming to lose weight, it is important to enjoy a healthy diet and plenty of rest.

4. It's free!

Running is a great form of exercise that doesn't cost the earth - all you need are a good pair of running shoes. What's more, the Couch to 5K plan is free to access, meaning you get a useful fitness plan that would usually be quite expensive from a personal trainer.

5. It's for everyone

You may find yourself asking, "Who is the Couch to 5K plan for?" and wondering if you can do it, but the NHS guidelines state that the Couch to 5K programme is for everyone - even complete beginners with a low fitness level.

Of course, make sure you check with your GP before beginning Couch to 5K or any other fitness plan.

Sign up to Gransnet for health advice and more

Couch to 5K week-by-week plan

You've consulted your doctor, you've bought a brand-new pair of trainers, and now you're ready to hit the park/street/woods and run to your heart's content. All you need now is the 'how to'.

To help you get started, we've outlined the plan for you. Just remember that when you are walking to keep up a brisk pace, just enough that your heart is still beating a little harder than when you're sedentary.

Week 1

  • 5 minute walk to warm up
  • 60 seconds running, 90 seconds walking, alternating for 20 minutes

Week 2

  • 5 minute walk to warm up
  • 90 seconds walking, 2 minutes running, alternating for 20 minutes

Week 3

  • 5 minute walk to warm up
  • 90 seconds running, 90 seconds walking, 3 minutes running, 3 minutes walking (x2)

Week 4

  • 5 minute walk to warm up
  • 3 minutes running, 90 seconds walking, 5 minutes running, 2.5 minutes walking, 3 minutes running, 90 seconds walking, 5 minutes running

Week 5

  • Run 1: 5 minute walk to warm up, 5 minutes running, 3 minutes walking, 5 minutes running, 3 minutes walking, 5 minutes running
  • Run 2: 5 minute walk to warm up, 8 minutes running, 5 minutes walking, 8 minutes running
  • Run 3: 5 minute walk to warm up, 20 minutes running, with no walking

Week 6

  • Run 1: 5 minute walk to warm up, 5 minutes running, 3 minutes walking, 8 minutes running, 3 minutes walking, 5 minutes running
  • Run 2: 5 minute walk to warm up, 10 minutes running, 3 minutes walking, 10 minutes running
  • Run 3: 5 minute walk to warm up, 25 minutes with no walking

Week 7

  • After week 7, the plan includes running for long periods of time, uninterrupted by walking
  • 5 minute walk to warm up, 25 minutes of running

Week 8

  • 5 minute walk to warm up
  • 28 minutes of running

Week 9

  • 5 minute walk to warm up
  • 30 minutes of running

Don't forget your rest days

It's vital to make sure you have a rest day between each day of running, as this allows your muscles and joints time to recover, which will reduce your chance of injury. This means that you won't have to miss days of the Couch to 5K plan and can quickly become a proficient runner.

On rest days, you can stretch your muscles and improve your balance with Pilatesortai chi.

One runner's journey - does it work?

Couch to 5K - Running for Beginners (3)

(Video) Beginner Runner? How to Survive Couch to 5k

One gransnetter, Sharon Parry, describes her journey from non-runner to 5K enthusiast. Think you can't run? Think again. Here's how to get there - and don't forget, it's all about the journey, not the destination.

"I have spent almost fifty years envying runners because my body had no 'running mode' at all. I couldn't even run for a bus. Run a 5K? Don't make me laugh!

And I didn't laugh a lot last winter. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and a soup of shifting hormones left me feeling tired all the time with chronic aches and pains. My zest for life had pretty much disappeared when a friend suggested that I started the NHS Couch to 5K running programme. This was the most ridiculous thing that I had ever heard. Or was it?

Getting started

As a scientist, I already knew about endorphins which are chemicals that can cause a happy feeling. They were in my body somewhere, I just had to get them mobilised and exercise could do this. Out of curiosity, I downloaded the Couch to 5K running app onto my phone and decided to give it a go.

On my first session the brisk five minute warm up walk went well enough but then I had to run for 60 seconds. Yes, a full 60 seconds! I told myself that I could stop after 30, perhaps 20 and, worst case scenario, after 10 seconds.

Hitting the wall

Sure enough, within 20 seconds my throat was dry and I could actually hear my pulse in my ears! But, because I could see the seconds counting down, I coped. I kept telling myself to do just 10 more and I made it to the 60 seconds. After 90 seconds of 'recovery walking' I was off running again.

Then I learned my first lesson - you cannot run if you don't breathe. I took some big gulps. Then I got a stitch, my Achilles tendon started pulling and my right knee felt as if it was going to give way. Shall I go on?

Making progress...

But I didn't stop and that is when those little endorphins started to work their magic. I walked back in through my front door like I was crossing the finishing line of the London Marathon and have not looked back since.

On week three (which I reached after four months) I finally learned to run. I felt that my legs had started to know what they were doing and I could get into that elusive rhythm.

It's hard but I'm not giving up because I really like these little chaps, the endorphins. I like what I become when they are around and, for me, running is what it takes to make them stay."

(Video) How I started running & liking it! | Running tips for beginners | Elanna Pecherle 2019

Couch to 5K apps and podcasts

Couch to 5K - Running for Beginners (4)

It's always handy to have that little something extra to spur you on, and luckily there are some great resources out there to help you stick to the plan.


Having a Couch to 5K app can be a great way to track your progress easily on your phone. The NHS & BBCCouch to 5K app is free and offers tips and advice for new runners. It also allows you to select a celebrity trainer to encourage you to keep going, so whether you want Michael Johnson, Sarah Millican, Sanjeev Kohli or Jo Whiley to coach you through your 5K training, you can select a personality that motivates you most.

Alternatively, download the appCouch Potato to 5K runner. Or if you've already mastered 5K and feel like pushing yourself harder, Couch to 10K, does what it says on the tin, preparing you to build up to be able to run 10km in 14 weeks.

An app that displays a countdown timer is also another option, as you will be able to accurately time your runs. While it is predominantly for high intensity interval training (HIIT), theInterval Timerapp allows you to time how long you run and walk for.


An audio motivator is an effective way to keep up your momentum when embarking on a fitness plan. These Couch to 5K podcasts are useful and easy to follow. Broken down into each week, the NHS audio guide to the programme tells you exactly what you need to be doing. If music is your main motivator, this Running Mate podcastcoaches you through your run while playing a high-energy mix of running music.

Running tips for beginners

Couch to 5K - Running for Beginners (5)

    1. Don't stretch too hard before walking or running

    Your muscles are cold and putting undue stress on them before they're warmed up could cause injury. Instead, try a gentle 10-minute cardio warm up. There are plenty on Youtube to choose from, and whatever you choose should include movement. Save the long stretches for after your walk (or run, depending on how far you've come!)

    2. Don't expect results right away

    It can take weeks to see a difference in your performance, but you will get there. It's not an overnight process and you need to give your body time to become accustomed to the new activity. Keep going - you will get there!

    Help improve your results by doing other exercises, that will help strengthen your muscles and improve your performance over the long-term. To keep up your interest, why not try a few different runs and mix up your route?

    (Video) COUCH TO 5K | Week 5 - All Workouts | Treadmill Running #C25K

    3. Choose comfortable clothes

    If you're walking or running down the road pulling at uncomfortable clothing or wondering if people are looking at various parts of your anatomy in Lycra (they're not) you won't be concentrating on the task at hand. Choose clothing that you're comfortable in, even if it's a relic from the back of the wardrobe.

    Running in the months between October and March will mean exposure to colder weather and darker nights, so make sure to wear easily applicable/removable thin layers, such as breathable synthetic fabrics, fleeces and raincoats. As the longer nights mean you'll most likely be running in the dark, make sure to wear reflective gear, and stay in well-lit areas that you feel safe in.

    4. Get the right trainers

    Do not, we repeat, do not attempt a 5K run, or even part of a 5K run in inadequate shoes. What you save on buying a pair of suitable kicks, you'll pay for in spades when your body says 'no thanks' to running in tennis shoes that were never meant to run off the courts. A sales assistant in any sports shop can help you choose a pair that will meet your needs, and they certainly don't need to be expensive ones.

    5. Rest

    Your muscles, joints and cardiovascular system need time to get used to the new strain that you're putting them under, so even if you're feeling confident with your running capabilities, don't overdo it! As highlighted in the Couch to 5K plan, make sure that you rest every other day between exercises.

    6. It takes guts to try

    If you're new to running, or even exercise in general, and are feeling self conscious, just remember: you're lapping everybody on the couch! You should be congratulating yourself for giving it a try.

    Also, if you need any more advice or want to discuss your progress, you can talk to other gransnetters in our diet and exercise forums.

    Disclaimer: The information on our diet and fitness pages is only intended as an informal guide and should not be treated as a substitute for medical advice. Gransnet would urge you to consult your GP before you begin any diet if you're concerned about your weight, have existing health conditions and/or are taking medication.

Images: Shutterstock


What is a good 5km run time for a beginner? ›

For a beginner, completing a 5K run in 30mins is very good going." The average time is between 30 to 40 minutes for a relative newbie.

Is Couch to 5K good for beginners? ›

Couch to 5K is a running plan for absolute beginners. It was developed by a new runner, Josh Clark, who wanted to help his 50-something mum get off the couch and start running, too. The plan involves 3 runs a week, with a day of rest in between, and a different schedule for each of the 9 weeks.

Can you lose weight doing Couch to 5K? ›

Couch to 5K helps people run a 5K.

It's not designed to help you lose weight or build a body you're proud of. It's also a temporary program that lasts a certain number of weeks until you run your 5K.

Why does running get harder as you age? ›

According to a 2016 study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, older runners—typically those over 40—display less muscle activation in their calves and ankles, which leads to weaker push-offs, decreased power, and a shorter stride.

Is it better to run faster or longer? ›

The more you run, the better your aerobic base gets. And when you build a large aerobic base, you improve your capacity to endure for longer and farther before you start to fatigue. Running faster means, you are building your stamina to be able to run at faster paces. Stamina comes from 1.

How fast should I run Couch to 5K? ›

30 minutes per day, 3 days per week, 9 weeks long and you're 5K ready. Overall, I am a fan of the simplicity of the Couch to 5K running plan and the encouraging community of runners it builds. But for many people, Couch to 5K is too hard.

Does running tone your body? ›

The muscles which are used to power you through your run are quadriceps, hamstrings, calves and glutes. Regular running will definitely get you a toned, fit body including a firm butt.

How far is the first run on Couch to 5K? ›

For the first run you will have a five-minute warm-up walk followed by five-minutes of running, three minutes of walking, five minutes running, three minutes walking and finishing with five-minutes running.

What should I eat before Couch to 5K? ›

The Best Foods to Fuel Up With Before a 5K
  • An apple (carbs) with a sprinkle of hemp seeds (protein)
  • A banana (carb) and peanut butter (protein)
  • Grapes (carbs) and almonds (protein)
  • Berries (carbs) and greek yogurt (protein)
  • Orange slices (carbs) and a hard-boiled egg (protein)
Oct 8, 2021

Is it OK to run 5km everyday? ›

Running a 5K every day can be a great way to improve your cardiovascular health, strengthen and maintain your muscles and keep yourself sane while you're stuck at home, as long as you're not brand-new to running. Plus, when paired with a healthy diet, it may even help you lose weight.

Can an obese person do Couch to 5K? ›

Anyone who can walk comfortably for 30 minutes nonstop can successfully do Couch to 5K, which means most people, regardless of fitness level, stand a chance. As a New York City native, I was used to walking long distances and had never struggled with doing so, even when I was fifty pounds heavier.

How do overweight people start running? ›

Fitness Tips for Running When Overweight
  1. Start Slowly.
  2. Focus on Low to Medium Intensity Runs.
  3. Start with Comfortable Gear.
  4. Don't Overdo It: Increase Gradually.
  5. Build muscle with bodyweight training.
  6. Before your run.
  7. During your run.
  8. After your run.
Apr 27, 2021

How do you breathe when running? ›

Breathe through your nose and mouth.

Inhaling through both your nose and mouth can help you achieve maximum oxygen intake. Breathe in through your nose and mouth in a rhythmic pattern as you run, timing your breathing rhythms with alternating steps. Exhale through the mouth to help quickly expel carbon dioxide.

How many calories does Couch to 5K burn? ›

For one, the runs weren't very vigorous. I burned an average of 258 calories per run or just under 900 calories per week. According to Mayo Clinic, you need to burn 3,500 calories to shed a pound of fat.

Why do runners look older? ›

Instead, it's the look of gaunt or saggy skin that may make you look a decade older. The reason, according to the believers, is that all the bouncing and impact from running causes the skin on your face, and more specifically, your cheeks, to sag.

What age do runners start slowing down? ›

Research suggests that our fitness declines much more gradually than we thought. As runners hit age 40 and older, their speed and race times naturally start to slow.

What age should you stop running? ›

O'Keefe says there is no definite age cutoff at which running is no longer good for you, but curbing it with age may be a good idea. “Many people find that their joints feel better if they do brisk walking rather than running after age 45 or 50,” he says.

Should I run on an empty stomach? ›

In general, it's recommended to eat before running. This gives your body the fuel it needs to exercise safely and efficiently. If you prefer to run on an empty stomach, stick to light to moderate running. Take a break if you start to feel lightheaded.

Should you eat before or after running? ›

When should I eat after running? You should eat within the first 30 minutes after your running to replenish your body's glycogen stores and important to not go longer than 2 hours. Eating a proper amount of carbs and protein after running is essential.

Should you workout legs if you run? ›

For sprinters, exercises that build strength aid a more explosive start and faster times. Developing leg muscles improves running form by reinforcing your alignment and helping you to maintain an upright posture. Stronger muscles also provide stability to joints, which means less wear and tear on ligaments and tendons.

How should a beginner prepare for a 5K? ›

5K Training Schedule
  1. Day 1: Run 5 minutes, walk 1 minute. Repeat 3 times. ...
  2. Day 1: Run 7 minutes, walk 1 minute. Repeat 3 times. ...
  3. Day 1: Run 10 minutes, walk 1 minute. Repeat 2 times. ...
  4. Day 1: Run 15 minutes, walk 1 minute. ...
  5. Day 1: Run 20 minutes, walk 1 minute, run 6 minutes. ...
  6. Day 1: Run 20 minutes, walk 1 minute.
Jan 3, 2022

Will training for a 5K help lose weight? ›

Many people take up running as a healthy way to burn calories and lose weight. The good news is that running 5k every day has the potential to help you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, provided you are eating an appropriate number of calories and a nutritious diet.

What does running 5K do to your body? ›

Wonderful Workout Running can burn up to 700 calories per hour. You'll raise your heart rate, lower blood pressure, and relieve stress - all while toning and shaping your body. Running targets everyone's favorite problem areas; it tightens your glutes and flattens your abs.

What is the disadvantage of running? ›

Disadvantages: Impact on ankles, knees, hips, and lower back. More prone to injury without proper form and stretching.

What are runner legs? ›

You'll probably say “no problem.” The runner would have the lean, straight legs with angular quads, lean hips but little definition in their outer glutes, and tight rears but not especially lifted ones. The dancer would have the curvier legs, the defined, lifted glutes, and the more compact, firmer looking muscles.

Will running reduce belly fat? ›

Studies have found that moderate-to-high aerobic exercise like running can reduce belly fat, even without changing your diet ( 12 , 13 , 14 ). An analysis of 15 studies and 852 participants found that aerobic exercise reduced belly fat without any change in diet.

How do you not get tired when running? ›

How to avoid boredom when running
  • Try a new running or workout style.
  • Pick a new goal and adjust your training plan accordingly.
  • Try running with weights.
  • Try breathing exercises while running.
  • Get inspiration from runners, books, or blogs.
  • Update your running playlist.
  • Team up with a loved one or local running club.
Sep 22, 2021

How far do you run in week 1 Couch to 5K? ›

OK, it's 7.54km in total. Not bad. The rest of the Week 1 plan involves doing my first 30 minute session two more times which should literally be a walk in the park.

What is a good 5K time? ›

For more experienced runners, running blogs and websites suggest an average 8-minute-per-mile pace, resulting in a finish time of about 26 minutes. Very advanced runners may be able to complete a 5K in less than 20 minutes.

Should I drink coffee before a 5k? ›

Helps you get a faster 5k time

Luckily, a group of researchers studied this exact question. Using a 5k race as a test run, the researchers found that runners who used caffeine prior to their 5k race improved by 1.0 to 1.1 percent (this means a 20-minute 5k runner would run 10-13 seconds faster just by using caffeine).

How much water should I drink before a 5k? ›

Drinking before, during, and after training is just as important as drinking during the rest of the day. Aim for 16 ounces (2 cups) of water at about two hours before you run. Pair this with a snack or meal. About 15 minutes before a run, drink six to eight ounces of water.

What's the best thing to eat after a run? ›

Best foods to eat after a run for recovery
  • Recovery bars with 3:1 balance of carbs and protein.
  • Protein shakes for easy consumption post-run.
  • Fresh fruit smoothies.
  • Chocolate milk.
  • Fresh yoghurt with fruit, honey or granola.
  • Nut butters.
  • Tuna, salmon or chicken.
  • Salty foods like salted nuts.
Feb 21, 2022

Is it better to run in the morning or at night? ›

Scientists have found that body temperature is at its lowest in the early hours of the morning and peaks in mid- to late-afternoon. It has also been shown that athletes perform better when body temperature is higher, which is perhaps why Grace found it so much easier to run in the evening.

How many km should a beginner run? ›

A 5K run is a great distance for a beginner. You can prepare for a 5K run in just two months. If you don't think a 5K seems possible or you don't think you have enough time or energy, this 5K schedule may help you. It includes several short sessions during the week of only about 30 minutes each.

Does running give abs? ›

Studies consistently show that running is not only effective for burning calories, but it is also helpful for reducing body fat. While having less body fat doesn't directly impact your abdominal muscles, it can help you to achieve better definition through your midsection.

What is a decent 5K time? ›

For more experienced runners, running blogs and websites suggest an average 8-minute-per-mile pace, resulting in a finish time of about 26 minutes. Very advanced runners may be able to complete a 5K in less than 20 minutes.

What is a good pace per km for a 5K? ›

Average Running Pace Per KM – What's a Good Speed? The average running pace per km for a 5k race is 7 minutes 4 seconds per kilometer. Which results in a 5k time of 35 minutes, 20 seconds for males. For women, their average running pace per km for 5k is 8 minutes 18 seconds per kilometer.

Is 5K in 25 minutes good? ›

There's no hard and fast rule about who should aim for a 25 minute 5K, but a 25-minute goal is reasonable for runners who have raced a 5K in 30 minutes or less and have been running regularly for at least a year.

What's the average pace for a 5K? ›

If you run a 5-minute mile 5K, you'll finish it in 15 minutes, 30 seconds. If you run a 6-minute mile 5K, you'll finish it in 18 minutes, 35 seconds. If you run an 8-minute mile 5K, you'll finish it in 24 minutes, 48 seconds. If you run a 10-minute mile 5K, you'll finish it in 31 minutes.


1. 6 week 'beginner to 5k' training plan
(This Messy Happy)
2. How to Train for a 5k (Don't Make These 6 Mistakes)
(Nerd Fitness)
3. The ULTIMATE ‘Beginner to Marathon’ Training Plan (5k, 10k Half Marathon AND Marathon)
(This Messy Happy)
4. COUCH TO 5K | WEEK 1 - ALL WORKOUTS | No Music | Treadmill Follow Along! #IBXRunning #C25K
(IBX Running)
5. Couch to 5k | C25K: Week One | Running for Beginners | Runday Monday Ep. 3
(Medals and Magic)
(Emily Norris)

You might also like

Latest Posts

Article information

Author: Tish Haag

Last Updated: 09/20/2022

Views: 5879

Rating: 4.7 / 5 (47 voted)

Reviews: 86% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Tish Haag

Birthday: 1999-11-18

Address: 30256 Tara Expressway, Kutchburgh, VT 92892-0078

Phone: +4215847628708

Job: Internal Consulting Engineer

Hobby: Roller skating, Roller skating, Kayaking, Flying, Graffiti, Ghost hunting, scrapbook

Introduction: My name is Tish Haag, I am a excited, delightful, curious, beautiful, agreeable, enchanting, fancy person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.