Couch to 5K Training Program: and Tips to Enjoy Long-Distance Running

Couch to 5k training program

With this month dedicated to moms, we have discussed different ways to make time for yourself, and ways to care for yourself.  One of the ways we discussed was through exercise.  Running is a great form of exercise because it doesn’t require special equipment or a gym membership. I understand that not everyone enjoys running, because I use to be there.  I didn’t start running until I was about 20-years-old.  I trained for my first 5k, then slept in on race morning.  I ended up running about 4 miles that morning and felt invigorated that my training had paid off, and I was able to run farther than my goal.  I have now run 6 half-marathons, 1 full marathon, and a smattering of other shorter distance races.  I love running.  If I get grouchy, my husband asks me to go for a run.  I always come back happier and more energetic than when I left.

The key to becoming a runner is taking your time, and gradually increasing your pace and distance.  Don’t jump out there tomorrow morning and expect to run the full 3.1 miles in 25 minutes.  Obviously, that’s an unrealistic goal, and a good way to get hurt.  Start with a jog/walk routine three times a week.  If you feel great after these workouts, continue building up.  The first few workouts should be around 25-30 minutes.

Set small goals that are easy to obtain so you don’t get discouraged.  Walk 60 seconds, jog 60 seconds, and repeat for the duration of the workout.  Continue to increase your jogging segments until you are comfortable jogging the entire workout.  Once you are able to jog for 30 minutes consecutively, you can begin to increase pace.

I don’t typically enjoy treadmill running, but I will use it for pace workouts.  The way I increase pace is similar to the previous step.  Jog at a 5.0 mph pace, or whatever you are comfortable jogging, typically a light jog is between 4.5 and 5.0 mph.  Every 2.5 minutes increase the pace.  Again, take this as slow as you would like, try waiting 5 minutes before increasing the pace.  The point is to increase slowly and comfortably.  The average jog is around 6.0 mph.  This is why you are doing 30 minute workouts, at 6.0 mph you will finish a 5K in just over 30 minutes.

Don’t get caught up in the myth that you have to run the full distance.  I have only run the entire race about 5 times.  I will walk just a short distance to gather strength, rehydrate and mentally gear up for a fast finish.  I have run several races where other competitors have a combination of running and walking, and they are able to finish just a few minutes after me.  The best way to enjoy running is to pay attention to your body and push yourself without overdoing it.

There are several Couch to 5K websites dedicated to helping you train for these races, and develop a love for running.  One of these is the original Couch to 5K website (C25K).  Visit the site here, and find their suggested training schedule.  Fitness Magazine also published a Couch to 5k training schedule.  You can find that schedule here.

These schedules are tried and true, without placing liability on us in case you get hurt.  But don’t get hurt, don’t push yourself beyond your body’s limits.  Instead of developing my own schedule (beyond the workouts I previously suggested), I thought I would share some of the ways I have learned to love long distance running.

  • If possible, run with a buddy.  When I lived in Idaho there was a great group of girls I would run with.  Running with a buddy allows one person to encourage the other, and it typically switches off from day to day, or mile to mile.  You learn a lot about a person when you spend at least an hour with them and no other distractions.
  • When I was training for my full marathon, I ran the first few miles by myself, then joined my buddies that were training for the half.  During those miles by myself I tried a few different audio options.  I tried techno music.  I was told this would help me keep pace because the beat is so steady and fast.  I hated it.  It gave me a headache.  I tried listening to the workout cds that are supposed to have a steady beat, but I ended up winded when it was a song I liked because I ran faster despite the same beat of the music.  Maybe these options will work for you, try some different options.
  • I now run only to audiobooks.  I joined audible.com because they have a great selection of audiobooks, and the membership fees can be tailored (they did not pay me to say any of this, just passing on information about a good deal).  Listening to a book while running helps distract me from tired legs or long distances.  I don’t have to worry about commercials cutting in, and I don’t change my pace (much) based on different tracks.  I get caught up in the story and typically find myself running longer so I can listen to more of the story.Some of the books I love running to include the Twilight Saga by Stephanie Meyer.  I love reading these books, the narrator does a pretty good job, and I get caught up running with Jacob as he runs through the wilderness.  I also love running to Ender’s Game and subsequent novels by Orson Scott Card.  These are great suspense/action books, a little sci-fi, but great character detail and enough action to avoid falling asleep.  I love listening to The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins.  These are also great action books with plenty of energy to propel a quick pace, and a great story line to distract me from aching legs.

    Books I don’t enjoy listening to include Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling.  I LOVE reading these books, but the narrator is hard for me to listen to while running.  I also don’t enjoy running while listening to the Divergent books by Veronica Roth.  These books were okay to read, (not my favorite) but it was really hard to run while listening.

  • Find a great path to run on, even if it means driving to that path.  Many cities are developing running trails that are marked with mile markers, they are smooth asphalt, and you can run as far or as short a distance as you want.  You don’t have to worry about traffic on these paths, and asphalt is much easier on your knees than cement.  Do your best to avoid running on sidewalks because the cement creates more impact and therefore more aches and pains.
  • Use an app, or stopwatch to record distance and time.  There are a plethora of running apps and stopwatches that can help you record your distance and time.  When you are recording using these markers you can continue to improve and avoid pushing too far too fast.  My app tells me my distance and pace every 5 minutes so I can increase pace or slow down and reserve my strength.  I also use it to set small goals during the workout like, “These next five minutes I’m going to increase my pace by 20 seconds.”  The Polar heart-rate chest strap and watch combo is a great way to monitor calories burned, distance, and pace. You can purchase the Polar FT4 Heart Rate Monitor Here

I could go on and on about running because it is something I thoroughly enjoy.  I’m always watching for new races to run, and trying my best to increase my speed.  I’ll never be as fast as an olympian, and may never even win a race, but I consider myself a winner for finishing and accomplishing my goals.  Is that cheesy enough? 

Do YOUR best and find a way to enjoy running because we were Born to Run, as I discovered through the book review I posted on Saturday.  What are some ways you have found you enjoy running?  What are your running goals?  Are you a beginner or looking to increase distance and decrease time?  Share some ideas with us!

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Today’s Mother’s May Highlight is Amanda McCallister.

Amanda was nominated by her daughter, Michaelyn.

This is what Michaelyn said about her mom:  My mother was like most teens and got pregnant with me at the age of 17 but what was different about my teen mother is that she did it all on her own. She was a genuine super-mom! At the age of 17 my mother had to drop out of high school and go and get a job (or 3) so I always had the things I needed and wanted. She did not even hire a babysitter. I went to work with her! My amazing super-mom got two jobs at a daycare and an extra church office job. I went with her everywhere she went. I was her very best friend. My mom always took care of me completely on her own and was very independent. My grandmother and others did step in every once in a while and help but my mom was so caring and loving she took charge,worked for, and got the things I needed (: My mom is no ordinary mother.. shes a super-mom! Love you, Momma!

About Anne Banks

Hi, I'm Anne! I am an active learner on this crazy road called life. I love learning about anything, but currently spend most of my study time researching parenting tips and improving health. I get excited about crafting, reading, running, baking, and spending time with my three crazy boys (in no particular order, and sometimes at the same time)! I love sharing what helps me get through the day, and I hope my tips help you!

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