My tips for completing the Couch to 5K (C25K)

*Disclaimer* Please note that all of the below are my personal tips. Although I’m not a qualified running coach (yet) I have first-hand experience of the Couch to 5k (C25K) training plan. I would recommend that before commencing the C25K training plan you can walk comfortably for an hour. If you can’t, build up your walking first and then start the C25K.

In November I started the C25K training plan for the third time. I followed this version of the C25K, and eight weeks later I successfully ran 5 kilometres  around the streets of Four Oaks. Following an enforced break from running due to a knee injury, the C25K had helped me to get back up and running again. Looking back, 10 things helped me to complete the C25K.

1. Buy a decent pair of running shoes. If you are completely new to running you may not have any suitable clothing. A decent pair of running shoes is essential. Female runners should also consider purchasing a sports bra. You don’t really need technical gear to start with. Just wear clothes that are loose fitting and comfortable in a breathable material such as cotton. If you do want to invest in technical running gear then shop around for bargains. The majority of my running clothes were purchased from TK Maxx, eBay and H&M. Running doesn’t have to be an expensive sport.


2. Remember to warm-up and to cool down. Each training session starts with a five minute brisk walk. This is perhaps the most important component of each training session as it ensures that your joints are lubricated and prepared for activity. The five minute brisk walk at the end of each final run repetition removes the temptation of stopping running and immediately sitting down and enables you to cool down properly. I may or may not have been guilty of doing this in the past.

3. Don’t run on consecutive days. When you follow the C25K you run three times a week. I scheduled my training runs for a Monday, Wednesday and Friday/Saturday and made sure I didn’t run on consecutive days. When your running is going well is can be tempting to skip a rest day to fit in an extra run, please don’t! I personally believe that rest days form the most important component of any training plan as they enable the body to recover.

4. Monitor and share your progress. I found keeping track of my progress really motivating. I logged all of my training sessions on Fetch Everyone and spent far too long analysing the data from my GPS. If you don’t have access to a GPS device then I recommend downloading a running app for example Runkeeper or Strava. I uploaded each session onto Strava and shared my progress on social media. Although my family and friends don’t understand my “running obsession” other runners are generally very supportive.

5. It is okay to repeat a training session. Repeat certain training sessions and weeks if required. If you struggle to complete one of the training sessions then I would recommend repeating that session. The second time I followed the C25K I found myself repeating Week Six three times.

6. Slow down. When I was following the C25K for the second time I would set off far, far too quickly. I would then find myself struggling to complete some of the longer running repetitions. In the end I had to spend a lot of time consciously telling myself to slow down. I would incorporate hills into my runs to force me to slow down. Don’t be afraid of slowing down

7. Comparison is the thief of joy. It took me a long time to stop comparing my running achievements to the achievements of other runners on social media. At times it felt as if everyone else was running further and faster. Ignore the Strava and twitter feeds and concentrate on your own achievements.


8. Mix it up. Plan some good running routes and mix it up. The best running routes are free from traffic, have good lighting and are scenic. You can run anywhere that is safe. If I run along the same roads every time I run I soon get bored. I actually find running slightly easier if I don’t know exactly where the next hill is located. Explore your local neighbourhood. If possible get off the pavements and into your local park and onto the trails.

9. On the day of your final run. I completed the final 5 kilometre run that marks the end of the C25K on my own around my local neighbourhood. I would, however, recommend completing your first 5 kilometre run with others if at all possible, by heading to your local parkrun. Running with others will really help you to successfully complete the C25K.

Finally and most importantly…

10. Enjoy your running! If you are a complete beginner none of the weeks are easy. There will be times when you want to quit. You will ache as your body adapts. I can guarantee that the satisfaction and pride you will feel at the end of the C25K will make all of the challenging training sessions worthwhile.

Have I missed anything? Do you have any tips for completing the C25K?

Selected links:

NHS Couch to 5K – Live Well: includes a 9-week version of the C25K and links to loads of useful resources.

Mapometer: useful for accurately measuring out potential routes.

If you enjoyed reading this blog post, here are some of my more useful posts:

My top 10 websites for runners

15 tips for running and racing on a budget

My top ten websites for injured runners

Running in the summer

Mental tips and strategies for marathon runners

How not to raise money for charity – my London Marathon experiences

Are races getting too expensive?


6 thoughts on “My tips for completing the Couch to 5K (C25K)

  1. Maria @ runningcupcake says:

    I followed a similar one too- when I first started running, and when I re-started after an operation. I think it is brilliant- my plan had 3 of the same run each week (eg run 5 mins, walk 1 repeat 5 times or whatever)- the first run was always so hard , the middle one was OK and the final one was good and I would spend it worrying about the jump the following week! But it does work! Our club uses parkrun now as a graduation for the new runners, and it’s brilliant.


    • Emma says:

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. I think the C25K is amazing, it definitely works! I kind of wish it had existed when I first started to run all those years ago. I remember stressing for ages about progressing from run-walking to the continuous 20 minute run. When it came to the final 5k run I struggled a little as I was running on my own and had set off far too fast. I should have just headed to my nearest parkrun.


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