By Simon Gould
This couch to 5k running plan is designed to get beginners off their couch and running for 5k (3.1 miles) in 9 weeks on a treadmill. Whether you’re aiming to do a 5k race at the end or you just want to lose weight and be more healthy, the couch to 5k plan is the one to begin with.
Because this schedule is designed for a beginner in mind it is a walk/run plan. If you’ve never run before or for some period of time we need to nurture your body back into running again. This plan is designed for runners of all ages and all abilities. But check with a health care professional before undertaking any exercise program.
The good thing about doing it on a treadmill is that you have a timer on the console in front of you. You can easily see when it’s time to start running or walking when the plan says. Running outside you would need a stop watch and you would have to keep looking at it.
How fast do I go?
The waking part of the plan should be a brisk walk. That changes for everyone and that’s ok. A brisk walk to a slim person in their 20’s will be relatively fast. Whereas an overweight 60 year old will have a much slower brisk walk. As long as the walk isn’t making you out of breath that’s what we’re after. (As a guide, walking is around 3 mph or 4.8 km/h)
This is the same with the runs. Beginners often run too fast. The speed you need to run is such that you could still say a sentence in one go while you run. So like walking you shouldn’t be out of breath so that you couldn’t maintain a conversation with someone. Don’t worry if it feels slow, speed isn’t important as this stage but getting active is. (As a guide, running is around 5 mph or 8.0 km/h)
Warm-up and cool down
Warming up and cooling down is something you need to do before and after every workout. Even if you’re an experienced runner these are essential. For the couch to 5k get used to doing these before and after the set walk/run schedule. This prepares your muscles for the exercise ahead.
All you need to do is 5 minutes or so of gentle walking. You may feel as though this may not be necessary, but introducing this into your running at an early stage is a good thing. The plan may seem easy at first but you’ll soon find it challenging after a couple of weeks and the importance of a warm-up and cool-down will be even more apparent.
Here are some key points to bear in mind:
- Keep an eye on the treadmill console for the time for when running or walking starts and ends
- Keep hydrated
- Make sure you warm up and cool down for around 5 minutes
- Don’t go too fast in the walking or running part of the plan and don’t set an incline
- The plan is designed to build you up slowly
- If you’re finding one week difficult, then repeat the previous week to build up your level of fitness
- Don’t eat immediately before the run as the muscles will need oxygenated blood not your stomach!
- Run for 3 days in a week and preferably take a day off after each run
- Enjoy it! This is not supposed to be something you dread but something you look forward to. You’ll find it exhilarating after a while
The couch to 5k treadmill plan
Here is the couch to 5k treadmill plan. Your treadmill should be ready for you and you’re about to start your warm-up. As you do your walk/runs make sure not to make any common treadmill mistakes like holding onto the handrails. Don’t worry if you find the plan too easy at first it soon gets tougher.
You will see only time spent doing the walk or run. This is because the distance is not important at this stage as everyone will be doing different speeds. Make sure you’re comfortable. The idea is every workout will be an alternating walk/run so you’re able to recover from each run with a brisk walk. Day 1, 2, and 3 can be any day of the week in this plan.
- Day 1 – Run 1 minute, walk 2 minutes x10
- Day 2 – Run 1 minute, walk 2 minutes x10
- Day 3 – Run 1 minute, walk 2 minutes x10
- Run time – 10 minutes per day
- Day 1 – Run 2 minutes, walk 2 minutes x6
- Day 2 – Run 2 minutes, walk 2 minutes x6
- Day 3 – Run 2 minutes, walk 2 minutes x6
- Run time – 12 minutes per day
- Day 1 – Run 3 minutes, walk 2 minutes x4
- Day 2 – Run 3 minutes, walk 2 minutes x4
- Day 3 – Run 3 minutes, walk 2 minutes x4
- Run time – 12 minutes per day
- Day 1 – Run 5 minutes, walk 3 minutes x3
- Day 2 – Run 5 minutes, walk 2 minutes x3
- Day 3 – Run 5 minutes, walk 2 minutes x3
- Run time – 15 minutes per day
- Day 1 – Run 8 minutes, walk 3 minutes x2
- Day 2 – Run 8 minutes, walk 3 minutes x2
- Day 3 – Run 8 minutes, walk 2 minutes x2
- Run time – 16 minutes per day
- Day 1 – Run 11 minutes, walk 3 minutes x2
- Day 2 – Run 11 minutes, walk 3 minutes x2
- Day 3 – Run 11 minutes, walk 3 minutes x2
- Run time – 22 minutes per day
- Day 1 – Run 14 minutes, walk 4 minutes x2
- Day 2 – Run 14 minutes, walk 3 minutes x2
- Day 3 – Run 14 minutes, walk 2 minutes x2
- Run time – 28 minutes per day
- Day 1 – Run 22 minutes
- Day 2 – Run 25 minutes
- Day 3 – Run 28 minutes
- Day 1 – Run 30 minutes
- Day 2 – Run 5k! (3.1 miles)
As you can see the time spent running increases each week. At the end of this you should be a very competent runner. The government advises 30 minutes of exercise, 5 days a week for maximum health benefits. You’ve done this 3 days a week so you can increase it if you wish.
What you do after completing this 5k plan is up to you. You could carry on running for longer distances. Or you could incorporate some speed work in to your runs. This would help your normal runs quicken. What ever you choose to do, you now have a running foundation to work from.
Frequently asked questions
Will the couch to 5k treadmill plan help me lose weight?
You’ll burn a lot of calories, especially once you start running for longer periods. The plan is suitable for those looking to lose weight is because it builds you up slowly. So if you have a lot of weight to lose, you’ll be able to accomplish the small runs. The deck is cushioned, so if you’re overweight, there will be less stress on your joints.
What gear do I need for the couch to 5k treadmill plan?
You have the most important part which is the treadmill itself. I advise you get proper running shoes. Even on a treadmill you need the right footwear. Get them fitted for your foot type and they’ll serve you well. You’re far less likely to get injured with the right shoes. Make sure to replace them every 6 months if you use a treadmill a lot.
Will my health improve doing the couch to 5k treadmill plan?
Regular exercise is recommended by Governments and organizations around the world. This is because it’s so good for your health. They recommend 75 to 150 minutes per week of vigorous exercise. That’s exactly what you’ll be doing at the end of this plan. Your health will improve and you’ll start to feel better in a few weeks.
Thinking of buying a treadmill? Here’s my favorite, I always recommend it when asked*