The Couch to 5k Program is a plan for new runners to go from completely untrained (straight off the couch) to running a 5k race in 9 weeks time. The Couch to 5k Program, or c25k as it’s known, has helped thousands of runners get started on a running program that makes sense and most importantly, works.
The program was first publicized on the previous Cool Running website. Now you can find a paid version of the program ($9.95) with a host of training tools through ActiveTrainer.com. The paid version lets you track your progress online and receive email reminders each day to help get you going and provide a little motivation and support.
The c25k plan involves 3 workouts per week. Each workout takes about 20 to 30 minutes to complete. It’s important to warm up for each session with some brisk walking to warm up your muscles and get the blood flowing. Stretching is recommended before and after each workout, though personally I prefer to stretch only after the run when I’m fully warmed up.
The program is 9 weeks long with each week building on the one before. You’ll start by alternating 60 seconds of jogging with 90 seconds of walking until you’ve completed 20 minutes of activity.
As you work through the program, the workouts get progressively tougher with longer periods of running and shorter walking breaks. Though the workouts are more difficult, they should still be manageable since you’ll be getting fitter as you work through the plan.
As you approach week 7 of the plan, the walk breaks are eliminated, leaving you with 22 to 30 minutes of continuous jogging. By the end of week 9, you’re jogging 3 miles or 30 minutes, 3 times per week and you’re ready to run your first 5k.
The C25K Program in Review
The basis of the c25k program is pretty sound. It’s based on the principle of progressive resistance, that is, you start with a manageable program and gradually do a little more as you go along until you eventually reach your goal. The program does a good job of managing the rate of progress so that the plan is challenging but manageable for the average healthy individual who is not a regular runner.
The amount of time required by c25k is realistic as well. The maximum time required is the 40 minutes in week 9 – 5 minute brisk walk to warm up, 30 minutes of jogging and a 5 minute walk to cool down.
The program doesn’t specify any particular race at the end, but of course that’s something you can schedule on your own whenever there’s an opportunity in your local area.
I have just two beefs with the program and they’re both minor ones. The first, as I mentioned, is that recent studies have shown that runners who stretch prior to running have a higher rate of injury than those who don’t. As a result, I’m not a fan of stretching before a run. The evidence does suggest that stretching after a run can help reduce injuries.
The second downside is that I’d like to see some instruction for what to do after you’ve finished the program. It would be nice to see what a maintenance program looks like for those who’ve completed the program and wish to maintain their fitness in a similar type of program.
All in all, though, I think the c25k program is a great introduction to running for people who want to get fit but aren’t sure where to begin and I’d recommend it to any healthy adult or teenager.
As a brief aside, if you’re thinking of starting an exercise plan, you should consult your doctor, tell him or her what you’re planning and make sure you’re fit enough to exercise. Most healthy people will have no problems, but it’s wise to rule out any problems before you begin.
You can find details or purchase the program for $9.95 at Active.com
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