5 Tips for Couch25K Newbies

When I used to think of running, I’d picture the cold, misty days of PE class, choking my way around a 1500m track and wondering why anyone would to do this for fun. All these years later, my opinion towards exercise is very different. I like it, especially yoga and the very occasional short HIIT class. When I craved a new challenge that would improve me and provide a strong sense of achievement, I decided to tackle Couch25K.

What is Couch25K?

Couch25K is a program designed by Josh Clark to help non-runners develop the stamina and ability to run 5K. It’s a nine-week program consisting of three weekly sessions. Each session alternates walking and running, with a gradual increase in the time spent running. By the final session, you’re running for 30 minutes nonstop, roughly around 5K!

How to Use a Couch25K app

There are many Couch25K apps available and I chose the BBC option. Play the app in the background as you listen to music or watch a video while you run; your chosen Couch25K trainer will interject whenever necessary to tell you when to run, walk, give you tips, etc. 

As a novice runner who completed the challenge, here are my five recommendations for making the experience a winner.

1 – Remember to Stretch

The program includes walks between runs, as well as a warm-up and cool-down. I checked a few of the apps out and many don’t actively remind you to stretch. A few dynamic stretches before warm-up will take joints through their range of motion and prepare your muscles, minimising unwanted strains. Similarly, to round off each session, static stretches will aid cool-down and improve flexibility. 

2 – Use Distractions

A carefully curated music playlist can keep your mind occupied when your run is getting a little tough, or the walks are dragging on. When I run on a treadmill, I watch a documentary or TV show and find this especially helpful on the last walk of each session. Just remember, if you run outside, to maintain awareness of your surroundings.

3 – Stay Hydrated

I always have a huge glass of iced water awaiting me when I complete a run. That said, I would often forget to drink before the session. After ten minutes or so, I would find my mouth craving moisture. As well as ensuring your general hydration is good, you may find like me that it makes a difference to drink a couple of sips of water before you start, or keep a water bottle on you as you run. As Jo Whiley (my chosen Couch25K trainer) mentions during one session, some research suggests dehydration may be the reason why some people suffer a stitch. Ensure you’re hydrated and see what works for you.

4 – Rely on Mantras

I cannot stress how helpful mantras are to me at those points where I start to become heavy-limbed, or when negative thoughts sneak in. I repeat them every ten seconds or so in-between long breaths. Typical mantras are phrases like “you can do this” and “you shall succeed”. I often find quite personal ones popping into my head which really push me.

Whether your mantras are related to looking or feeling better, proving something to yourself, or needing that sense of achievement, when the run gets tough, try repeating your own.

5 – Use the Loo

As obvious as it may seem, don’t forget to visit the loo before you start a session as the last thing you’re going to want to do mid-run is stop because your colon demands it. I need to use the loo often after most exercise, possibly thanks to all that stimulating movement. The repetitive up-down movement of running seems to awaken the bowels so, if you can, deal with it before warm-up.

Couch25K lived up to everything I hoped it would. It wasn’t easy and I’m proud of my achievement, as well as fitter. I’m now considering a 5K to 10K challenge. If you’re a Couch25K newbie, consider joining one of the numerous support groups on social media to give you more tips and encouragement. If you’re contemplating being a Couch25K newbie, what’s stopping you?!

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