Whether you’re looking to lose weight or increase fitness, running is an easy way to get started on your fitness journey. A popular way of getting started is to use a Couch to 10K training plan, which can guide you from being a non-runner to competing in your first race. In this article we’ll talk about what a good Couch to 10K program includes and give you our top tips for making it work for you.
What is a Couch to 10K Training Plan?
Couch to 10K programs are designed to turn a complete non-runner into someone capable of completing a 10k (6.2 miles) run which is around 45 minutes to 1.5 hours of running. They start with short periods of running in between longer intervals of walking, and ramp up over a period of weeks until you’re able to complete the 10k distance.
Couch to 10K plans have gained popularity because they’re very accessible. All you need to get started are a pair of running shoes. There’s no gym membership to pay, no personal trainers or classes needed; there are no real barriers to getting started.
What Makes a Good Couch to 10K program?
The quickest way to find a Couch to 10K training plan is to use Google or Bing to search for one. The advice in all of them will be similar; start with short intervals of running and walking and build up the duration over time. A running watch is probably the only official “running gear” you need to determine the distance, time and pace of your runs. You can even use your phone instead of a watch to track all of that. For those who want to be a bit more statistics oriented and scientific about their training, a chest strap heart rate monitor and a guide to heart rate training can be helpful.
Now the basics are covered, what can you do to maximize your chances of making it all the way to 10K?
1. Are you Fit Enough?
These programs are designed for non-runners to get to 10K, but they do assume a certain basic level of fitness first. If you haven’t exercised before, or it’s been a long time, it’s always wise to check with your doctor before you start anything new.
Early training sessions for a 10k are around 40 minutes long. So as a rule of thumb, if you’d struggle to walk for that length of time, you’re not ready to start the program yet. You could either start with a Couch to 5K training plan which has shorter training sessions, or work on building up your stamina for walking first.
2. Make the Commitment
Most Couch to 10K programs needs a commitment of 3 training sessions a week for three months, and as your distance increases, they will take upwards of an hour in time. We all have just 24 hours a day, so if you’re going to make that time to train, what’s going to give? Will it be getting up early and running before you start your day, running during your lunch break, or spending an hour less watching TV to run in the evening?
Telling other people can help you meet your goals. Let your friends and family know what you want to achieve and ask them to support you. If you like socializing, then joining a local running club can help make training time pass more quickly, and running apps like Strava, Runkeeper and Endomondo let you share your runs with followers, or to your other social media accounts.
3. Buy the Right Shoes
Over the course of your training plan, you’re going to walk and run a lot of miles. While it might be tempting to start running in any old pair of running shoes and see if you like it before you invest in running shoes, doing that can risk injury especially if the running shoes have very little support remaining.
Some running stores offer a gait analysis service; if there is one near you, then take it. While it might seem like an unnecessary expense (either time and/or money), it will make your running experience a whole lot more comfortable and likely injury free.
During a gait analysis, you will be asked to run on a treadmill while you are videotaped. Watching the tape along with a professional can give you guidance on how to improve your running form. They will also advise on whether you need a neutral gait shoe, or if you’d be better with a style that is made for under or over pronation (turning of the foot).
Check the prices online before you buy, though. You can often find cheaper running shoes from an online retailer. If you’re not fussy about wearing this year’s style, you can grab some bargains from the old stock section which generally are just as good.
4. Be Ready for the Conditions
Couch to 10K programs usually take place over 12 weeks or more where you’ll likely encounter a variety of weather conditions. It should be noted that rain or snow is not a good reason to miss a training session. If it’s raining cats and dogs or super icy, then get on a treadmill to get your training session in.
If you are running in heat, you’ll be looking for lightweight, breathable running gear. If it’s cold, you’ll want a base layer and the ability to open zips and roll up sleeves as you warm up, ear warmers are handy too. In the rain, a baseball cap comes in handy to keep raindrops off your face, and a breathable, waterproof rain coat can make the experience much more enjoyable.
No matter how hyped up you are about running your first 10K, there will be times when you just don’t want to go out for a run so sometimes you’ll need to take small steps to ensure you get out the door. Just getting dressed into your running clothes can be a helpful first step.
Setting up a great playlist on your phone can be another motivator. There are albums of songs that runners find useful, and apps like Trailmix Pro which will let you change the tempo, so you can run to the beat. If you’re a horror fan, then how about evading zombies as you go on supply runs for your post-apocalyptic community? If that sounds like your think, take a look at Zombies, Run!
For other people, using their journey as a way to raise money for charity is a great way to keep them on track. Pick a good cause, publicize your journey and get accountability while raising funds for a great cause.
What’s Stopping You?
While the thought of going for a run may seem like a hardship or utterly boring, the fact that so many people run regularly should reassure you that there is something good about it. Running forums all over the internet are full of stories from people who wouldn’t even run for a bus, and now they get cranky if they miss their fix of post-run endorphins.
Perhaps the most useful piece of running advice is that the only person you’re trying to beat is the person you were yesterday. If you found one week of your Couch to 10K training plan particularly hard, just repeat it. Go at your own pace, and know that every run you do, no matter the pace, you’re lapping everyone who is sitting on the couch!