Couch To 5k: 2 Months To Better Health

It’s not too late to get a jump start on Spring race training. This plan takes you from couch to 5K in only two months.
Tonya Boyer, publisher of Rocky Mountain Running & Triathlon Magazine, breaks it down.


When beginning a new running program, especially a Couch to 5K training plan, the key is to start slow.  Nearly 80% of new runners quit after just a few weeks, exhausted and wondering why anyone would actually enjoy the sport of running.  Keep in mind your first day on the road should not feel hard, in fact you may not even break a sweat.  Often, new runners are told to jog / walk at certain intervals for the first few weeks of a training plan.  For example, you workouts may consist of a two minute run, and then a one minute walk, repeated until you have reached the desired distance or length of time.  Over time, you’ll find that you can increase the jogging intervals until you can jog non-stop for the entire length of your workout.

The goal of a Couch to 5K training plan is to build a base level of fitness and gradually increase your running distance and time.  Don’t worry about speed; it will come later.  So for now, sign up for a 5K, get your feet into a good pair of running shoes, and get training!  The attached 7-week training program guides you through workouts, or rest, for each day of the week.  Use it as merely a guide, and modify according to your own personal schedule and needs.

New runners should start their training program at a low intensity, thus allowing the body to adapt to a new regimen.   For now, keep your run in an aerobic state, meaning at a pace that leaves you slightly out of breath, but still able to easily carry on a conversation.  Aerobic exercise causes you to breathe faster and deeper, which maximizes the amount of oxygen in the blood.  Your heart beats faster, thus increasing the blood flow to your muscles.  The muscles, in turn, use the oxygen delivered in the blood to burn fat and carbohydrates to fuel the run.   Over time and through training, your body will become more efficient at this process.

In order to keep your motivation high and prevent injury, you must give your body regular rest.  Training actually breaks down muscle fibers, and rest days allow them to repair, rebuild and strengthen.  So, mixed in with consistent training, rest will only make you better in the long term.  Rest also helps prevent overuse injuries such as stress fractures and IT band syndrome.  After your day off, you will come back more motivated, with a clearer mind, and ready for more hard work.  If you are so enthusiastic about your new workout plan that you just can’t take a complete rest, try a cross-training exercise that still gives the joints and muscles a break, such as swimming.  Undoubtedly, rest days are also good for maintaining that necessary balance between home and fitness goals.  You can’t love something new if it causes tension at home.

As with Day 1, your run on Day 3 should stay in the aerobic zone.   After several weeks of solid training, and possibly even after your first 5k, you may feel self-imposed pressure to increase your speed.   Don’t let that temptation to run fast, in the anaerobic zone, better your common sense to build your base slowly.  Anaerobic runs are a short-lasting, high-intensity exercise in which your body demands more oxygen than is available.  They should only be attempted after several weeks of solid training.  Be patient; it will pay off with a greater speed increase in the long run.

Day 4 is a rest day, for the same reasons listed on Day 2.  Another low-impact alternative for this day is yoga.  Runners are discovering that yoga is a great compliment to running since it increases strength, flexibility and lung capacity, while reducing stress.  Some runners prefer a post-run yoga session, but others enjoy it as a relaxing alternative on an off-day.

Day 5 of the week becomes a long run day, keeping in mind the relation of “long” to 5K training.  This run should be done at an even pace within your jog/walk intervals.  If only jogging, keep an even pace for the length of your outing.  Long run days become the building block of your training, and the base of which all other gains in running will be built.  These runs will strengthen your heart and leg muscles, teach your body how to burn fat and increase your aerobic efficiency.  By sticking to your long runs, you also teach yourself mental toughness.

Another rest day, however, you may find yourself addicted to an exercise-induced high.  If so, try adding a cycling day to your training schedule.  The non-impact sport gives your body a break from the pounding of the run.  Cycling builds power muscles in the lower half of your body – the glutes, quads, and calves – and helps develop a faster running cadence.  Many runners like to cycle the day after a long run to flush out their legs and to see their surroundings fly by at a faster pace than they did while running.  As an added bonus, you can lose more weight by adding one cycling day per week. 

Day 7 – REST 

Click HERE to download a complete Couch-to-5K training plan.

Tanya Boyer is the publisher of Rocky Mountain Running & Triathlon Magazine.  Her main job, however, is that of mommy to three young children and wife to the most patient man in the world.  Running and triathlon are her way of staying young and mobile.

Rocky Mountain Running & Triathlon Magazine is an information source for runners and triathletes in the Mountain States.  To subscribe for home or office delivery, visit and enter the coupon code STUDIO5.


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