8 Practical Tips For Your Couch To 5k Journey

Our run coach shares training tips for new runners trying C25K.

So you’ve decided to join us; welcome to the runners’ club!

Congratulations on deciding to run your first 5k race and wanting to soak up all the tips and tricks beforehand to have the best possible experience as you get started on your running journey.

The Couch to 5k journey is an amazing adventure that will fill you with excitement and emotion as you work towards your newly set goal. 

In this article, we will list and explain 8 practical tips for new runners training for their first 5k run or race.

8 Practical Tips For Your Couch To 5k Journey

#1 Follow a Training Plan

If you have decided to run a Couch to 5k, you have probably already chosen a training plan, but if not, picking your running plan is the first step.

To begin, assess your current fitness level. Are you a true newbie, someone who is sedentary and doesn’t exercise? Or are you someone who does other types of exercise, such as spinning, weight lifting, or Zumba, and want to begin to run? Or perhaps you used to run and have taken a few years off and want to jump back into it. 

After asking yourself these questions, browse the different running programs for beginner runners and the lengths of these training schedules and find something that is an accessible goal for you, considering your experience and fitness level.

You will find 4-week plans, 6-week plans, 8-week plans, and even longer if necessary. Choose carefully, as you don’t want to start something you will be unable to follow or complete, or something that is too aggressive because it will increase the risk of excessive soreness and running injuries. 

Check out our very own Marathon Handbook Couch to 5k training plans!

When you have chosen your training plan, begin to organize yourself the old-school way, print it out, and stick it on the fridge. This way, you get to have the pleasure of physically crossing off each workout you complete successfully and see your progress every day as you work towards race day.

8 Practical Tips For Your Couch To 5k Journey

#2 Stay Motivated

When choosing a new goal, staying motivated is essential for success. After deciding you will be doing Couch to 5k training, the second step is choosing your goal race to run your 5k for the very first time. 

As you schedule your workouts into your calendar, find the date of the big day, your first 5k run! This will be the day of your race; now, you just need to find one. 

There are numerous websites that provide lists and calendars of all upcoming road races, so find one that focuses on your area, input your finish date, and see what pops up. You can also choose something more relaxed like a Parkrun for your first 5k race.

Register right away so your goal is set in stone and you can’t go back on your decision. 

When you receive that email confirmation you’ll feel the great excitement of your race. That alone is motivation enough to lace up those running shoes and stay focused!

8 Practical Tips For Your Couch To 5k Journey

#3 Run With Friends

Another great way to stay motivated is to take on the challenge with someone you know.

Ask a friend or group of friends if they would like to join you on your Couch to 5k journey. That way, you’ll give each other moral support when you need it and push each other to succeed. 

If you don’t have anyone in particular who’s brave enough to take on this feat with you, look for local running clubs or programs. There are often Couch to 5k group programs in the community that you could join.

This way, you will not only have the motivation of others learning along with you, but a specific class you’ll need to physically go to. The pressure of showing up will provide even more motivation as there will be people waiting for you!

As a bonus, you’ll also make a bunch of new friends with whom you can share this newfound hobby with, and there is usually a running coach who can give you expert guidance on how to run with proper form or how to run faster as you build up your fitness.

8 Practical Tips For Your Couch To 5k Journey

#4 Stay Consistent

Consistency is key when wanting to improve at anything, especially running. Follow your plan to the T, and don’t take any shortcuts.

Training programs are carefully constructed to enable you to run your first 5k without overdoing it. Therefore, all of the workouts need to be completed to ensure success. This includes the cross-training workouts and strength training (if included).

There may be days when you will not be able to train due to getting sick or an emergency, but be sure to jump right back in to minimize the risk of falling behind. 

If you do become inconsistent for any reason, it’s best to step back and repeat a previous week or two to get back on track. To avoid needing to do this, stay as consistent as possible.

The caveat here is if you feel like you are dealing with the beginnings of an injury like shin splints.

Don’t run if you’re in pain or have aches that are getting worse. Staying injury-free is key to consistency, and it’s better to take a couple of days off preemptively than weeks off due to a full-blown injury!

8 Practical Tips For Your Couch To 5k Journey

#5 Run By Effort

Most runners become obsessed with race times, distance, and speed, but one of the top tips for beginner runners just starting out is that none of those things matter.  

When you take on your Couch to 5k training plan, you’ll notice that it is time-based, with walk/run intervals. There is no specific pace you need to run at, nor a particular distance you need to run during each session. It’s important not to get caught up with speed and focus on feeling.

You will notice that each week, your jogging intervals will become longer, and your walking intervals shorter.

For example, you might start with a warm-up 10 minute walk with just a few 30-second intervals of running.

Eventually, you’ll be doing five minutes of running without stopping, and then build up to a 10 minute run, and you will gradually make your way to your big 5k!

8 Practical Tips For Your Couch To 5k Journey

#6 Take It Slow

The Couch to 5k journey is a gradual process. It is planned in this manner to ensure your safety and reduce the risk of injury. It’s essential to follow the plan and not add extra time or running to it. For some, it may feel simple initially, but remember, it changes and becomes more challenging as the weeks go on.

Don’t rush into it.

You will get there in a mere 4-8 weeks and will then be able to reassess and plan yet another running goal. Oh yes, this won’t be your last, I can assure you of that. Us runners become addicted quite quickly. 

So respect your rest days and workout instructions to reach your goal happy, healthy, and raring to go for more!

8 Practical Tips For Your Couch To 5k Journey

#7 Don’t Cut Corners

In addition to the running workouts, complete Couch to 5k plans should include 2 days of strength training, warm-ups, cool downs, activation, and mobility. 

Running isn’t just running as we need to prepare and care for our bodies by adding other types of work to our general training. 

Warm-up before every workout. It only takes about 10 minutes to properly warm up. This includes 5 minutes of walking and 5 minutes of dynamic stretching. Check out these dynamic stretches specific for runners and include them in your warm-up. 

Stopping short immediately after a workout doesn’t give your body enough time to come back down to a relaxed state.

When you finish your workout, walk for 5 minutes to allow your heart rate and breathing to return to normal. Then gently stretch out your quads, hamstrings, calves, and glutes.

8 Practical Tips For Your Couch To 5k Journey

Strength training has become very accessible now that you can do almost anything from the comfort of your own home using apps and videos.

Adding functional training to your Couch to 5k program is indispensable. Runners need to be strong in all aspects and reduce their risk of injury. 

You can look for functional training classes to stay motivated or online programs. These types of workouts can be done with very little equipment in your own home. Just pick up a set of exercise bands and eventually a couple of dumbbells, and you’ll be good to go! 

Along with your strength training, mobility is an excellent addition to your Couch to 5k program.

Running regularly can often make us stiff and less flexible, so adding 5-10 minutes of mobility before your strength training workouts will be a great help. 

8 Practical Tips For Your Couch To 5k Journey

#8 Stay Fueled

We need to fuel our bodies sufficiently to have enough energy to perform our best during our workouts. This includes pre-run, post-run, and hydration

You don’t want to run on an empty stomach. Apart from listening to it growl and dealing with the hunger pains, you won’t be adequately energized to perform your training task.

Have a small, pre-run snack such as a piece of toast, some oatmeal, or even just a glass of orange juice before each training session to ensure you have some carbs to burn. 

8 Practical Tips For Your Couch To 5k Journey

Then, after your run, be sure to refuel, eating something within a 45-minute window.

You also want to be sure you stay well-hydrated at all times. Expending more fluid will require more intake! Carry around a bottle of water all day long and take sips throughout the day. Consuming 2 liters of water is a good starting point. 

I hope these tips will help you on this fun and exciting Couch to 5k journey. The exhilarating feeling of crossing that first finish line is reason enough to get going and stay consistent. 

Good luck, and enjoy every step!

8 Practical Tips For Your Couch To 5k Journey

Photo of author
Katelyn is an experienced ultra-marathoner and outdoor enthusiast with a passion for the trails. In the running community, she is known for her ear-to-ear smile, even under the toughest racing conditions. She is a UESCA-certified running coach and loves sharing her knowledge and experience to help people reach their goals and become the best runners they can be. Her biggest passion is to motivate others to hit the trails or road alongside her, have a blast, and run for fun!

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