Throwback: Couch to 5k – What I Have Learned

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couch to 5kBelow is an article I wrote back in 2008. I’ve been thinking of adding running back into my workout routine since the last time I was running on a regular basis I was really happy with my body composition. I used to do 12 minutes of HIIT and then go for a 3 mile run just about every day. I’m not sure that I’ll pick up that much running, but a few days would be nice.

Note: I have not updated this article at all since 2008, so some of the links may be broken. But, the rest of the info is still pretty good, so enjoy!

I began the couch to 5k program by on May 20, 2008, and since then I have learned a few things. For those of you who are or will be beginning a running program, I would like to share some of these things with you now.

1. Get a pair of running shoes

The right pair of running shoes really does make a world of difference. I began my program using a pair of generic athletic shoes from some generic shoe store. Once I bought myself a pair of running shoes I realized that the pain I had been feeling in my ankles and knees was gone, and I was able to run faster and longer. Before you run off to your local Foot Locker or Sports Authority though, there is some homework you need to do first. Yes homework.

Go get a pair of shoes that you wear all the time and then read these articles by

Running Shoes Guide Part 1

Running Shoes Guide Part 2

Running Shoes Guide Part 3

Running Shoes Guide Part 4

If you’re wondering what my favorite shoe is… it’s these. They give me the grip I need to run on any surface. Got your shoes? Let’s continue…

2. Get some comfortable workout clothes

If you’re running in uncomfortable workout clothes, you’re likely to quit running sooner than if you had comfortable running clothes. Make sure to get some clothes that wick moisture away from your body so that you stay relatively dry and comfortable. Make sure your clothes fit properly, not too tight, not too lose. You certainly don’t want to be running down the trail and trying to adjust your clothing at the same time! For women… this is very important. Get a sports bra. Even if you’re an A cup… you still need a sports bra. If you don’t believe me, try your first run without one. Trust me, you’ll run right out and get yourself one after that painful experience.

I usually pair these capris with this top. Got your workout gear? On we go…

3. Learn the proper surfaces to run on

Did you know that running on a sidewalk is 10 times harder on your knees than running

on the street? Why? Because sidewalks are made of concrete and streets are made of asphalt, and concrete is ten times harder than asphalt. Take a look at the following list from Runners World on the best and worst running surfaces (ranked 1 through 10 with 10 being the best possible surface to run on):

9.5 Grass
9 Wood chips
8 Dirt
7.5 Cinder track
7 Track
6.5 Treadmill
6 Asphalt
4 Sand
2.5 Snow
1 Concrete

Got the perfect running surface picked out? Let’s move on…

4. Pick your workout music

There are several ways to get your iPod or other MP3 player to tell you when to run and when to walk according to the Couch to 5k program. Take advantage of them! You really don’t want to be keeping an eye on the clock to keep track of when you need to change between running and walking. As a matter of fact, the last thing you want to be doing as a new runner is clock watching. You should be trying to forget about the clock and just run!

The podcasts available utilize a tone to tell you when to switch from running to walking or vice versa. I personally have tried Robert Ullrey’s Couch to 5k program and the PodRunner Intervals: First Day to 5k. If you have iTunes, click on the following links to get to the subscription page in the iTunes store:



Note: The links above will open your iTunes program, which you must have installed on your computer in order to download the podcasts. If you don’t have iTunes, I’m sure you can find the MP3 files on the internet. Just do a Google search.

If you’re not fond of the techno style music that these two podcasts offer, you can find many others by typing “5k” into the iTunes search field. If you’d rather make your own Couch to 5k program using your own music you can do that too. Take a look at this blog: Make Your Own Kind of Music Again, this method is based on iTunes, so you

must be using iTunes as your music manager.

I highly recommend making your own playlist once you get about midway through the program. I found that I was looking at the clock a lot once my running intervals were 5 minutes and longer. Not because I was ready to walk, but because the time felt like it was going by so slow because I was bored by the music. I needed something to sing along to, and something that I was familiar with to make the time pass by quicker. So I used the PodRunner podcast for weeks 1 thru 4, and began making my own playlist on week 5.

Music all loaded onto your iPod? Great, on to the next lesson…

5. Moderation

Now that you have your gear, your route, and your music, you’re probably rearing to go and bursting with energy! But before you get started and release all that pent up energy, there’s something you need to know to prevent yourself from burning out on your first run. In order to make it through this program, you need to moderate yourself. At first you’ll be training for endurance. You probably haven’t run in years if ever and you need to get your body used to the impact, and used to taking the impact over a period of time. You also need to train your lungs to expand enough to take in enough oxygen for your muscles.

In order to build endurance, you need to keep your running to a moderate jog. I know you are really anxious to feel the wind in your hair as you speed by on the trail like a silver bullet, but keep it to a jog for now. You shouldn’t be gasping for breath after each running interval, you should be breathing deeply. And that’s another thing… your breath. Be sure to moderate your breathing so you’re not gasping. When you feel yourself getting to the point that you’re getting out of breath, try breathing in for four beats and then out for four beats of your music (most songs are composed in sets of beats, with 8 beats per set).

6. Get Running!

Now that you have your running shoes, your workout clothes, the perfect running surface, your music, and a mindset toward moderation… it’s time to get running! So, get out there and get running. Remember that you can always repeat a week if you feel like you’re not ready for the next week, but if I were you I would have faith and try the next week before you decide to repeat a week… you just may surprise yourself.


Photo by: Timothy Takemoto

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Pamela Bruesehoff

Hi! I'm Pamela and I run Gym Free Fitness. Your one stop for real information. No bro science and no faux science. Just real healthy information.

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