This companion guide has been in the works for, get ready, about a year now! I’m a runner and I also like to talk about running, a lot, like a lot a lot. I hear from the people I talk to that they would love to be a runner too. For some it’s for health reasons, others love the idea of it and one honest mom said she thinks the running away from her kids part would be pretty awesome but of course she’d come back, probably. The thing that most ‘real runners’ don’t get is it’s pretty dang hard to work up the courage to start. Then we dismissively say “just do a couch to 5k”. What does that even mean? I started running when I was about 13 with no health concerns, easy peasy nothing for me to worry about just get up and run. But the thing is not everyone is in that boat and I get it. Being of a certain age or weight makes it harder and you might have real health concerns that make it more complicated for you to just get up and start. Since it can be scary and oh so intimidating I decided to write a c25K companion guide for those of you that are interested in starting running but don’t really know where to start.
What is couch to 5k
Couch to 5k training plans (c25k) are super cool and super revolutionary. In 1996, right around the time I started running, a guy named Josh Clark designed a start running plan. That plan set out to get people running 5k in 10 weeks but set manageable reasonable expectations along the way. Lots of new runners set out to run a mile or a km all at once, that’s nothing right? Wrong! When you’re first starting one minute at at time is a really big ask. Josh got this and that’s where he started his plan. It starts off asking you to run for only a minute at a time and then it’s a great big 2 minute walk break, thank goodness. There really revolutionary thing that brought his plan to the next level was when the c25k plan got to be a smartphone app. Instead of a checklist now there’s a handy-dandy lady or man in your ear telling you when during your workout to walk and when to run. It’s an amazing app and so for it’s helped 5 million people to start running! I know of all sorts of people who’ve done it some old, some young, some well some unwell and people of every shape and size.
I’ve done the c25k plan about a dozen times now with different people and it’s great. It’s not hard to find right now as a simple image on google. I really think that it’s worth the few bucks to download a good app. That’s because then you’ll have a voice in your ear telling when it’s time to walk and time to run. It’s nice to have one less thing to have to keep track of when you’re first starting out. Also remember that the cost is spread out over 2 months and you’ll be using it three times a week! At it’s heart though it’s just a training plan like any other its just designed to be your very first one. With that in mind feel free to start saying you’re ‘in training’ after your very first run!
Why you might want a companion guide
Long term runners are actually a really cool, helpful and inclusive bunch but in general we don’t do a great job of explaining the first steps to newbies. We also forget quickly just how scary and intimidating it was when we first started. New runners are exposed to all of our crazy running shenanigans too and that includes running 30 km at a time for fun on the weekend, checking their fitness trackers all the time and looking a certain way in swanky new running gear. I get that we can seem like a crazy and fit bunch and I get that the idea of starting to run can be straight up scary for anyone. Hell, there are lots of runners out there that still intimidate me! As great as the c25k app is and it is for sure, anyone starting it might want just a bit more support starting out and I wrote this guide with that in mind.
There’s a whole other group of potential runners out there that have legitimate health concerns and are afraid to try for a whole host of what ifs. A lot of us out there are in this terrible catch 22 with our health and exercise. We have a pretty serious health concern that losing weight or getting active would help or even heal with but that health issue could also be made worse by starting out. It’s almost impossible to cross that divide for lots of people because starting out could even lead to a life threatening flare up. You might really, really want to do something about it but why wouldn’t you be scared? I know someone who was recently diagnosed as diabetic and for a while she was doing something about it, she was walking and she even lost 15 pounds! Then one walk her sugars got really low and she almost fainted and that was pretty much it for the workouts. I understand where she’s coming from completely, she was walking on the pretty deserted trail by our house and what would have happened if she passed out, nothing good that’s for sure. Now she says she’d love to walk and run but she can’t because of her knees. No shade only support and there are lots of ways I could help her make it work.
Then there’s my stepdad 5-ish years ago he had a little stroke, last year he took up running using the c25k app ran a 10k last year and this year it’s all about the half marathon! I actually wrote the majority of this plan with him in mind last year. He talked to his doctor first, we lent him a spare apple watch so he could watch his heart rate closely and he started out very informed. He also has a rough version of this guide at the time too. He was nervous about it my mom was hella nervous about it but less than a year out no one is giving that a second thought now. In this guide you’ll find real talk and action points for how to start out running dealing with virtually any serious health issue and specific advice on the most common ones. If you’ve had heart issues, diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, you’re very overweight or have serious digestive issues you’ll find tips and tricks for dealing with exactly that. The most important thing you can do no matter what issue you’re dealing with is to talk to your doctor and this guide lays out how that conversation should go.
This guide outlines how you might go about finding a workout buddy if you don’t have one in your life already, how to start on your street or even in your own yard. There are also a few ways that you can arrange to have your workouts watched by trained professionals who know exactly what to look for and offer help should you need it. Talking to your doctor, and then listening to them is always the most important first step but for virtually everyone where there is will there is a way!
What this c25k companion guide is all about
I know that there are lots of people who might want to try running but are afraid to reach out but still want lots of extra information, like all of the information before they start. With that in mind I included information about picking out your first pair of sneakers, safety tips, gear suggestions and how not to blow you budget starting out. I also included my full list of handy-dandy definitions in case you get to googling you’ll know what all the weird jargon terms mean. I also included a section which I considered calling ‘slow your roll’ all about stuff that doesn’t quite apply to you, at least yet. That can be the really intimidating stuff like eating while you run, carb loading and compression garments don’t worry you don’t have to mess with any of that yet. I put lots of stuff in here that I wish I knew when I started like where to run and what running on different surfaces really means for your body.
The other thing is when you’re first starting out running is hard, really hard. When I first started out I would try to run for ten minutes at a time, then five but the reality is I could barely make it from lamppost to lamppost. The c25k app tells you to run for a minute at a time at the start and I don’t know a single person who did the program with me that wasn’t asking if the minute was up yet when we first started. But take heart by your second run it’s already getting easier! I included some advice about dealing with bad runs in this guide because starting out a lot of your runs might qualify. Every runner I’ve done c25k with also had at least a few great runs in the program too so I made it a point to go over some of running’s magical qualities. Plus lots of other cool stuff check out the table of contents for more info!
For the first time in one of my training plans I also did something new, I included links in the guide to Sweat Sweetly articles that go more in depth on certain topics so you can easily get more information if your interest is piqued. So if you’re struggling and want more ideas for dealing with tough runs, you decide to register for that first race and want to know what to expect or are in love and looking for deals on more running stuff you’ll know where to get all that information easily too. Each section in the guide is really what you need to know but if you still want more info I’ve got you covered there too. PS the links are only included if I’ve already written about that exact subject in depth on the blog, no gratuitous re-direction here.
If you have any questions or concerns please feel free to ask me about it either in the comments to help everyone or personally via email. If you do decide to go for it with this c25k companion guide or any of my training plans I’d love to hear about your experience and see your finish line photos! If you’ve secretly wanted to try but could use a little extra hand holding along the way now is the perfect time!