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Couch to 5k Training Plan Review

Updated on May 9, 2013

Couch to 5k Program Overview

Many people have the goal to run their very first 5k (3.1 miles) but have no idea where to start. Just the thought of tackling just over 3 miles makes some people winded. The Couch to 5k program makes it relatively easy to go from only being able to run for a minute at a time to running for 30 minutes without stopping.

The couch to 5k training plan is a 9 week schedule designed for the most beginner of beginner runners. Even the most out of shape person can get from the couch to a finish line using this training schedule. I have personally used this program every time I have started running after a very long break to ease into training slowly.

Couch to 5k Schedule

Each workout is around 30 to 40 minutes long including the warm up and cool down. This just happens to be the minimum recommended amount of activity you should be getting. The relatively short workouts combined with training only 3 days per week makes this plan easy to fit into anyone's schedule.

The most beneficial part of this training plan is that is starts small and increases mileage very slowly. This is the best option for those just starting out as a runner. The biggest problem beginning runners face is that they start out too quickly and too intensely and wind up either burnt out or injured.

For most of the weeks in the training schedule, you can choose to run based on time or distance. For example, in week 3, you have the option to run either 200 yards at a time or 90 seconds at a time. If you are a very slow runner or overweight, I suggest following the time guidelines instead of the distance. This will give you a much better chance at finishing the program successfully and enjoying it.

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Using the Training Program

The runs for week one are actually the same for all 3 days of training. You will start with a 5 minute brisk walk for your warmup. The actual run will include 20 minutes of alternating 60 seconds of jogging and 90 seconds of walking. This is a total of 8 cycles.

This is a great place to start for those who are severally out of shape. Some might find this a little too easy and can choose a different week to start on. I suggest trying out the first week before you assume it is too easy or hard. You may be surprised at the short or even long distance you can cover with complete ease. If you feel completely rested after doing the first workout, you should probably try the first workout in week 2 the next time you do a training run.

If you find the first run to be excessively difficult, you may want to start out on a walking program and build your way up to jogging. The run should cause you to be winded during the jog phase but you should be mostly recovered by the end of the walk phase. You do not need to run fast during the jog portion. You are not doing interval training. Most people who are cleared by a doctor to workout should be capable of starting this program on day one of week one.

You can make it to the finish line using the C25K training plan.
You can make it to the finish line using the C25K training plan. | Source

Pros of the Plan

  • With only 3 runs per week, you can still have lazy days, excuse days, or days that you are just too busy to run.
  • The slow, steady progression allows your body to adapt a little each week to reduce the risk of injury.
  • If one week is more difficult for you, you can easily repeat that week again and extend the program by a week.
  • The program is easily customizable to your individual fitness level, by choosing to start on week one or whichever week fits your current fitness level.
  • Anyone can run a 5k with this program.

Cons of the Plan

  • The plan is not meant to get you to do finish in a great time. It is only meant for you to be able to finish it. If you are looking for speed, you should choose a different training plan.
  • Week 5 can be a little difficult. The second run of the week alternates a 3/4 mile jog and 1/2 mile walk. Then, the third run is a steady 2 mile jog with no walking. I always find this week pretty tough since the other weeks have such small increases.

Couch to 5k App

Couch to 5k App

If you own a smart phone, I highly suggest that you download the C25K app by RunDouble. This can make it much easier to track your runs.

Some of the app features include:

  • Prompts you to change pace during your training runs when appropriate.
  • Tracks your time, distance and pace, and alerts you at the end of each time interval.
  • You can use this app or another one simultaneously while running the C25K program.
  • Halfway marker in the middle of the run.
  • Cloud service to track your runs
  • The free app is all inclusive but does not allow you to use it past the first 2 training weeks. To get access for the full 9 weeks of training, the "pro" version costs around $1.60, available for iPhone and android devices.


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    • CarlySullens profile image

      CarlySullens 4 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

      Great hub to encourage aspiring runners.

    • NornsMercy profile image

      Chace 4 years ago from Charlotte, NC

      I've wanted to do this since I heard about it a few months ago! I haaaaaaaaate running and exercise, but this seems to ease you into it. :)