Many people begin running at the start of each new year, some because they set a New Year's resolution and others because they want to get in shape. If you are one of these people, one of the best ways to stick with your new running habit is to use a Couch to 5K program that will get you trained for a 5K in about 12 weeks.
Couch to 5K (C25K) programs are a great way to train without getting hurt, but you may be wondering what to expect from these programs. Here are five basic things you'll experience as you go from sitting on the couch to finishing a 5K.
1. You will start out by walking more than you run. Each C25K program will vary slightly, but they will all start with you walking more than running.You should expect to have intervals of several minutes of walking with short "bursts" of running at the beginning. As you improve, the intervals will shift to a little less walking and more running until you reach the point where you can run the entire distance. If the idea of running a full three miles makes you nervous, don't worry. The program will get you there gradually, and will guide you each step of the way.
More: Couch to 5K Training Tips
2. You will feel some soreness and muscle aches along the way to your 5K goal. Some soreness is normal—in essence, it's your body building stronger muscles—so don't worry if the pain is overall mild to moderate. You should not feel stabbing or debilitating pain of any kind. If you feel severe pain, consult a doctor.
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To help minimize and/or cope with the soreness you will feel, make sure to buy good sneakers before you start training. Good sneakers can help tremendously, but realize they won't prevent muscle aches. To lessen muscle soreness, make sure to warm up before each run, and stretch after each run. The stretching will help your muscles loosen up and reduce soreness.
More: Your Guide to Warm-Ups
If the muscle aches are more towards the moderate scale, then you may want to try a foam roller. A foam roller is a large tube of foam-like material that you use after a run to massage your muscles and relieve the aches and pains associated with exercise. You can find a foam roller at most running stores and online.
More: 10 Foam Roller Exercises for Runners
3. You will experience periods during your training where your motivation is low. There will be days when you'd rather stay in bed or on the couch than run. Be assured that even the pros have days when their motivation is low. When low motivation hits, tell yourself that you will just go for a five-minute walk. You'll find that once you get going, you will usually keep going. If you happen to miss a workout, don't beat yourself up and just get back on track the next day. Remember that nobody is perfect.
More: 5 Ways to Find Motivation to Run
4. You will have periods of self-doubt where that negative voice in your head tells you that you can't do it—you can't run a 5K. When that little voice creeps in, feel free to talk back and tell it to take a hike. Remind yourself that you are strong and that you can reach your 5K goal. This tip is especially important on those days when your run is tougher than you'd like. On those days, remind yourself that even pro marathoners have bad runs, and that tomorrow your run just may be terrific. Most of all keep your mind focused on your goal. You can do it!
More: Get Encouragement From the C25K Community
5. When you reach your goal and cross that finish line on race day, expect to feel ecstatic. You worked hard, didn't give up, and you finished a 5K! You will be proud of your accomplishment and may even want to sign up for another race. However you feel there is one thing you must do: celebrate!
More: How to Spread the Love of Running
Sign up for your next race.