From Couch to 5k — A simple way to get into running

/Rathes Sachchithananthan
From Couch to 5k — A simple way to get into running

One of the most challenging thing in running is getting started. It is a lot easier to go from a 10k to a half marathon than getting your ass up from the couch and get your first 5km done.

Many of the typical "Couch to 5k"-plans you find out there start with runs straight from the first week. But what if you can't run yet? What if running 60s is already killing you that even a 2-minute rest isn't enough for another round?

In this plan, I'm showing you a way to get out of your couch at your speed. It's split into 5 phases, and you decide how long you need to and want to stay in a step and keep practising.

1. Phase — Get off the couch

In the first phase, there is no running involved at all. Instead, we want to work on your mindset. We want to make sure that you don't fear getting up and doing some work.

So the target in this first phase is to get out every day: no matter what weather, what time or what circumstances. Try to get out for a short walk, even if it is just walking to the grocery store instead of taking the car.

This phase usually takes about 1-2 weeks, and then you won't have that fear of going out. If it takes longer, take your time. If you already go out every day, you may even skip this step.

2. Phase — Forming the habit

Now that going out isn't a big deal anymore for you let's make going out a habit. Make sure that you go out for a walk every day with the only purpose of walking. So walking to get groceries doesn't count anymore. Set a fixed time to walk, for example, 30 minutes and then stick to that plan.

After another 2-3 weeks, going out for a walk will feel natural. Skipping the walk might even make your feel uncomfortable. It has become a habit such as brushing your teeth every morning.

3. Phase — First run

Now it is time to start the first runs. Keep walking every day for 30 minutes. But twice a week, throw in a run for 1km.

It might be not easy at the beginning but do your best. Try running for 60 seconds and then rest as long as you need and then go for another 60 seconds and so on until you get to 1km.

It's beneficial if you already draw out a path for the 1km. Seeing the end of the run is always going to be a boost of motivation.

Stay in this phase until running that 1k doesn't feel difficult anymore. It might take two weeks, but it can also take four weeks; it doesn't matter. You do your pace!

4. Phase — Improving the run

In this step, we are going to work on your running skills. You can already run 1km, but there are four more km to go.

In addition to the two 1km runs from the previous phase, you will add another one for 1km. Additionally, you will run a long run, making it 4 runs a week in total.

Your long runs should be 3km long. These runs are supposed to be at a slow speed, a lot slower than your 1km runs. You can take as many breaks as you want to, but the end goal should be to run through it.

This phase will most likely take the longest, something around 3-4 weeks or even longer. When you can run the long run without breaks, you know that you are ready for the next phase.

5. Phase — Strength

In this phase, we reduce the number of runs and add a bit of strength training for your legs.

In your new schedule, you will run 2x2km and a long run with a 4km distance. Instead of the 4th run from the previous phase, you should do a small workout for your overall body strength.

Simple bodyweight exercises at home, including Air Squats or Lunges, will make sure that your runs are easier.

This phase will take another 3-4 weeks. As in the previous step, you know that you are ready if the 4km long run is something you can do without long breaks.

Congrats! You can now run a 5k

In none of the previous steps, we went for an entire 5k run. However, if you have gone through all of them, you can now run 5km. Just go out and give it a try! I am pretty sure that you can even go further.

Some additional notes

Along with consistent exercising, proper nutrition is essential, too. If you are going out for a 3k run and then eat a large pizza, it won't get you anywhere. It will just make your next run feel really uncomfortable.

You don't have to go on a strict diet immediately but try to eat mindfully and learn how your body reacts to certain foods combined with runs and exercises.

Having your schedule ready and available up front helps a lot, too. The worst thing is if you are motivated but still need to figure out what to do. Prepare the next few weeks ahead. That's why we built Maxout. You can use the app for free to get started!


One last thing: Above suggestions don't work for everyone the same. If you are heavily overweight, for example, even a walk might be too difficult. Then you might need to focus on your food first.

Every human and their bodies are unique, so every path to 5k might be different. But it's possible if you are ready to start!

Photo by Curtis Mac Newton from StockSnap