Having just about completed the program, I thought I’d offer up a review of Couch to 5K. It’s a popular program and is generally considered to be a solid way to get someone started running.
The question has to be, “Is it really all that?”
Before I answer that, let’s get into what the program actually is.
The Basic Premise Behind The Program
When someone wants to run, it can be incredibly overwhelming. It may actually be worse than for someone starting to lift, actually. With lifting, your workout and the workout of the guy who benches 400 lbs can actually look a little similar. You can still do compound movements with a 5×5 or 3×5 scheme and it’ll work just fine. Hand someone Starting Strength and they can use that, regardless of where they are in their training life.
Running is different. It takes work just to get to some of the training regimes you can find online. There’s no point in doing speed work if you can’t run 400 meters in the first place.
The idea behind Couch to 5K is to take what people actually can do and built upon it. You start with running for a minute, then walking for a minute and a half or so.
Each week, you build off of the previous week’s work and before you know it, you’re actually a runner and can run for a half-hour straight, which is supposed to be a 5K.
Well, that’s the theory, anyway.
Now, there’s no requirement to pay anything for the program. It’s basically free and you can find variations on the internet. You can also use pretty much any running app on your phone or smartwatch that will let you add workouts.
However, I actually think the C25K (Couch to 5K) app (available on Andriod and iPhone) is the way to go, at least in the early stages. It will tell you when to run and when to walk explicitly, which minimizes your chances of getting mixed up on that front. It won’t tell you how far you’ve run unless you pay for the premium version of the app, but you can use this in conjunction with other running apps just fine.
Does the program work?
Well, yes and no. It really depends on how you mean “work” in this context.
The problem is that the program isn’t about distance so much as time. Now, for someone just getting into running, this is probably the best approach possible. However, if you’re wanting to train for a 5K, this becomes a problem because your pace may not actually be fast enough for a 30-minute 5K. You may only be looking at something like 2 miles (a 5K is 3.1 miles). That leaves a lot on the table.
Further, with the way the advancement goes, I found myself hitting two miles covered fairly early in the training, only to see my running speed decrease in an effort to pace myself better.
All that said, I still recommend it for someone just starting out running.
You see, while it may not really have to ready for a 5K in and of itself, it does get you running. If you’re running 2 miles at the end, you can always up the time or just increase your speed.
Basically, it’s a good tool for getting your feet on the road/trail/track and building a habit of running three times per week. Frankly, that may be more important than getting you to 5K race condition.
How can it be better?
This is something I’ve been mulling over for a bit.
For me, one of the biggest problems was that the program lacked much in the way of guidance. Reading up on it, you’re told to repeat weeks if need be, but I could never really tell when I would need to do so. After all, I managed to complete most of the runs, and all of my Friday runs, which suggested I was good to go.
However, my pace slowed down a great deal and I was less than thrilled with my mileage. I was running for longer, but my overall speed was about the same. I personally didn’t like that.
Yet, I didn’t really know when I should be repeating weeks. There was no real discussion anywhere I could find of what that should be, so I never repeated any.
Now, that may well be a bit of a mistake.
Further, I think a bit more attention should be paid to mileage. Within the C25K app, you get weeks where you’re told to run two miles or 20 minutes. There’s no way to select which is your preference, it just assumes you’re doing 10-minute miles.
As a result, someone can easily complete the program and still not be able to run a 5K. If you’re going to call it Couch to 5K, you kind of need to make sure the runner is able to complete a 5K. I’m just saying.
Should I spend money on the app?
No. I honestly wouldn’t. The free version will walk you through the training and if you use it in conjunction with something like Runkeeper or Map My Run, you’ll probably end up with more useful information.
The free version will do all you’ll need of it. The paid version is much more limited when compared to other free running apps, so I’d save your money.
By now, you probably know what I think. Couch to 5K is a solid beginners program, which is what it’s billed as. It will get you off the couch and into running.
It makes you into a runner.
What it won’t do is make you a great runner. It also may not really make you capable of running a 5K. However, if you keep that in mind and just temper your expectations, then Couch to 5K may be just what the doctor ordered to get your feet on the pavement.