How to go from Couch to 5k

for "want to be" and "used to be" runners

Last time, we talked about the top 5 reasons to set your sights on completing a 5k this season. You were likely left wondering, “…but how do I go from couch to 5k?” so this article will cover those important steps that will get you there safely.


Set Up For Success

Every year, I have had the wonderful experience of coaching groups of people of all ages, from 8 to 79, to complete a 5k run. Now to be clear, not everyone ends up running the entire 5k. Some complete the race using a run/walk method and some decide to make it a nice 5k stroll. The important part to remember is that the expert in anything was once a beginner! It is perfectly fine to be a beginner, to complete a race at your pace and to not judge yourself based on the ability of the others around you.

The best first step is to be sure that you are set up for success from day one. This means getting clearance from your doctor to begin any exercise program. Then, you should choose a safe program that accounts for your level of ability. And finally, you need to be equipped to start with good cushioned and supportive shoes, non-restrictive clothing and since it’s the desert….a water bottle!

Take It Easy

It’s funny, every time I take my groups out for their first run, they think, “Wow, that was simple!”  Typically, in our first week of training, we have our new runners do an easy run/walk interval. We start with a 5 minute walk to warm up, then we run for 30 seconds and walk for 2 minutes which is our first interval. Just four more intervals of running 30 seconds and walking 2 minutes and ending with a five minute cool down walk completes the first day of training. Each week, we decrease the amount of time we are walking while increasing the amount of time we’re running. Then, as the weeks go by, we add more of these run/walk intervals. Some runners find that they’re able to run much more than walk while others prefer more walking than running. As I said before, your race, your pace!

But Wait, There’s More

While this interval running sounds simple, the hardest part is sticking to that commitment to get your shoes on and hit the sidewalk. In our program, our runners do their interval program 3 times a week, typically Monday, Wednesday and Friday. When you are working to get a good habit to replace a bad habit, it takes some time for that routine to become, well, routine! I highly recommend that you not undertake this adventure alone. Grab your family, a friend, a neighbor, your dog and make them your accountability partners. They will help you to stay true to your goal while enjoying a nice walk/run with you!


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