How I Finished Couch to 5K (and how you can too!)

How I Finished Couch to 5K (and how you can too!) - I Say Nomato

How I Finished Couch to 5K (and how you can too!) - I Say Nomato

(I am in no way affiliated with Couch to 5K, just a huge, HUGE fan of this program!)

You all know how much I love food, and recipes, but today I’m going to be talking about something different: running.

First off: What is Couch to 5K? It is a running program that starts you from a beginner (the couch) to being able to run 5K in 8 weeks using intervals of walking and running. There are many different patterns and programs, but I use the basic, free C25K app by ZenLabs on my phone. This also transitions seamlessly into their Bridge to 10K app should you choose to tackle that. I also HIGHLY recommend the Zombies, Run! C25K app, which uses your music and tells a story (more on that below!).

I live a pretty sedentary life. My job is at a computer, my second job (blogging!) is mostly at a computer, I love movies and tv and video games and writing and reading books, all activities done sitting down. So I started from the couch (is there a level lower than couch? like the floor? Can I say I started from the floor? The basement? Level -20?). I’m also very overweight due to this lifestyle, and my love of food!

What I mean to say is if I can do this, YOU CAN DO THIS! 

Ah, how many times have I rolled my eyes at that statement, but seriously, this program is made for you! It’s not called Couch to 5K for a reason.

… and it works. As I type this, I’m getting ready for tomorrow’s run in the Bridge to 10K program which requires – get this – 15 minutes running. 1 minute walking. 3 TIMES.

YES, 45 minutes of running! AND I CAN DO IT! I’ve done it two days already! If you had told me this a couple months ago, I would have thought you were insane. What. Me, run? You’re hilarious!

But I did it. And you can do it too. Was it easy? HELLS NO. But was it doable? I’m living proof that it is, and I learned a lot along the way, about what I’m capable of, about what I need to set up for myself to succeed, about how truly amazing it is to feel the wind in your hair like you did when you were a kid and ran just for the fun of it.

Here’s how I finished Couch to 5K (and how you can too!)

1) Build it into your everyday routine, and do not make it optional
Ah the toughest part, really. If you don’t make this a priority and build it into what you’ve got already, it’s sooo easy to let it drop. You miss one day, and then another, and then you just never start again. For me, I need to do it in the morning, before my brain and my body are awake and can make excuses (because they will). I have a friend who goes at night when she gets home so she can take her dog, and another who waits until her kids are asleep and considers it her ‘me’ time. Find out where it fits and consider it normal now.

2) Find a community
You need to be accountable to someone other than just yourself. Visit your local running store to see what they’ve got going, convince a friend to do it with you, heck, even Reddit has a fantastic and very positive C25K subreddit (r/c25k). Some towns or cities will even have a yearly/monthly group that does this program. The trick is to find people who will motivate and support you. You’re doing something amazing, you deserve your own cheerleaders!

3) Tie it to something that will keep you going
Okay, you know how I mentioned Zombies, Run! C25K before? The first time I did this a couple years ago (before we moved to Louisiana, to a town with no sidewalks), that was my motivator. It’s a fantastic story, and when you finish the program, you can use the regular Zombies, Run! app. You are Runner 5, a runner for Abel Township, a haven from the zombies after the zombie apocalypse. Your job is to collect things and run errands and, yeah, escape from zombies! It’s really fun, and you get so attached to Sam, Maxine, all the other runners and townspeople, and the radio hosts Jack and Eugene who take over once the ‘story’ part is done for the day.
Now I’m using the treadmill because it was cold and snowy when I started, so I’m using Scandal as my motivator. I’m only allowed to watch it when I’m running, so that definitely gets me back on the treadmill (mostly so I can drool over Olivia Pope’s wardrobe!).
Find something that will keep you itching for that next run so you can’t wait!

4) Listen to your body – but not too carefully!
You will ache. You will hurt. You will want to stop. Don’t. You’re using and building muscles that haven’t been used or built in years, and your body is going to complain and be stiff. Take care of it! You have four non-running days a week, so use those to recover. Ice packs, heat packs, baths, gentle stretching or yoga to help build muscles will all help.
But be careful of persistent aches. I have bad knees, and because I’m overweight I wanted to protect them and still keep running. One of my runner friends suggested buying new shoes and do you know what? That piece of advice has changed my life. I invested in a pair of new running shoes and the pain evaporated. There was cushion there and support that my *hangs head in shame* 7 year old sneakers just didn’t have. (Plus they’re neon and I like to think that makes me go faster). If you go to a running store, they will analyze your gait and make shoe suggestions based on that. For FREE!
The other thing that helped my knees?…

4) Study proper running form and emulate it
Okay, now we’re getting down to the nitty-gritty. This one’s going to be hard and it’s just something you have to remind yourself during your runs. Run tall, springy, and hit the ground with the middle of your foot. You should try not to hear your feet when you run. ‘Pounding the pavement?’ bad for everyone involved. You’re jarring your entire skeleton when you do that. I recommend this video, this one, and this one!

5) It’s okay if you fall off the wagon, as long as you get back on!
Did this program take me 8 weeks? No, no it did not. I had a really bad cold back in January/February, and I took one week off. And then another…. annnnd then another. But I started back where I was comfortable and kept through until the end. You’ll get sick, or someone else will get sick, or you’ll lose access to your treadmill in the middle of a snowstorm, or you’ll injure yourself… life happens. The important thing is to refuse to give up, no matter how much time has gone by. You’ll have to redo weeks, maybe week 6 is very challenging and you have to do it three times. Well, then you have to do it three times. You’ll get there! And sometimes it’s just that day, just that week, and you’ll actually do way better moving to the next one instead of doing the same one over and over.

6) Go as slow as you need to.
C25K is not about speed – that will come later. It’s about distance and endurance and muscle building. They say you should run at a pace you can comfortably speak at, and that might seem very, very, slow. And that is okay. The important part is that you’re running! You will get faster with time, but first you need to build those running muscles.

7) Celebrate your victories. 
One thing I love about this program is that each stepping stone is a victory. The first week requires you to run for a minute. A whole minute. And that is hard. The phrase ‘feels like dying’ does not cover what I felt that first week! (Worried? do a week of just walking first, so you get in the habit before you start!) But you can do it! The last day of the fifth week, you have to run for twenty. Straight, no breaks. But by then, your body is ready for it. And it feels SO FREAKING GOOD when you’ve done it! Ran for twenty minutes, what!?!!!! You weren’t even running five weeks ago! And that last minute of that last 5K… elation and pride don’t even begin to cover it.


Because you can do this. You can be a runner. You can get off that couch (or sub-sub-basement, like me), and with some grit and strength and determination, you can make it a part of your life.

I’m amazed that this body of mine can do this. If it can run 5K, what else can it do? I can’t wait to find out. Bridge to 10K, you’re next on my checklist!

What about you? Have you ever done a program like this? Were you met with success or failures? If you failed, what do you think could have kept you going? I want to know!


About the author


An avid lover of all things East Coast and delicious, Cristina blogs at I Say Nomato, a site dedicated to exploring and inventing allergy-friendly food. When she's not experimenting in the kitchen, she can be found curled up with a good book or planning her next adventure.