Controlling your weight is achievable if you get two vital components correct: exercise and diet. Sadly, one without the other will simply not be as effective. Often you’ll find people who go to the gym, desperate to get some weight off, but call in for a coffee and bagel on the way home. Others will be paying attention to articles such as ‘The Relation Between Saturated Fat and Weight Loss’, but not putting in the effort to burn the calories. You may lose a little either way, but you need to bring the two together to shift those pounds.
In this article, we will be looking at one of the UK’s most popular get-healthy routines, the Couch to 5K. For the uninitiated, this program is designed to engage non-runners, training them slowly to eventually run for 30 minutes at a time, three days a week. Healthline reveals that running is one of the best ways to shift weight, and it comes with a host of other health benefits, which, combined with a good diet, will soon see you in much better shape.
What is Couch to 5K?
It is a nine-week running program that can be stretched out. It was designed by Josh Clark, who wanted to help his mum start running. It involves three runs each week for nine weeks, but it can be stretched out to suit any running ability. It starts easy, with a five-minute brisk warm-up walk and then intermittent 60-second runs, interspersed with 90 seconds of walking. By week nine, you’ll be running solid for 30 minutes.
There are several versions of the Couch to 5K out there. The BBC do a popular one with celebrities talking you through your runs; Jo Whiley has accompanied this writer on their running odyssey, but you could also have actor Sanjeev Kohli, Olympic gold medallist Michael Johnson, and comedian Sarah Millican.
Before you start running, there are some things to consider, and it is worth putting the time in to plan how you’re going to attack the program. The program is delivered via a podcast, so you’ll need a mobile device, earphones, or speaker.
You don’t have to run outside, you can do the program on a treadmill if you desire, but it’s best to remain consistent as your body adjusts to the program. Therefore, either set yourself the task of doing it at the gym, or at home if you have a running machine, or outside in your local area.
Make sure you have the right kit, too; you’ll work up a sweat, so a suitable t-shirt and shorts are advised, and to avoid early injuries, a decent pair of running trainers are advisable.
Of course, you’ll also have to download the Couch to 5K app. The BBC one is very good, but there are a couple built around the program, all of which have the same content but different delivery methods.
Before You Start Your First Run
The program doesn’t incorporate a warm-up routine; it advises you to simply do a brisk walk for five minutes to get started. Gala Bingo explains how the warm-up is the most important part of any exercise routine, and you’d be well advised to do some rudimentary stretches to prepare your body for what is to come. Seated leg raises are recommended, but some stretches might also be of benefit
Also, make sure you have a bottle of water to hand, as those first few runs will be challenging if you’re not used to exercising. Keeping hydrated is hugely important.
The program is designed to guide you through nine weeks of running, with 27 runs. At first, the runs increase gradually, but as you progress through the weeks, the spells you are running would increase, and the brisk walks decrease. However, do not feel pressured by the program; if you struggle with a run, you can always repeat it a couple of times to get fitter. Whilst it takes nine weeks as a bare minimum, you may benefit from stretching that out over more weeks. What is important is to do three runs a week; if you do one run, then wait four days and try another, the benefits won’t be as significant.
Break The Wall
Change is never easy, and there will be times when the Couch to 5K seems very tough indeed. This writer began the course with no previous running experience, and the first wall came in week five, on run two. It was the first to introduce two eight-minute runs, with a five-minute walk in the middle. It seemed a huge jump from the earlier runs, and it eventually took two weeks of trying to complete.
The wall might be at a different stage for you; Twins on Tour blog explained how the wall was week four for them; that was three minutes of running, 90 seconds walking, five minutes running, 150 seconds walking, three minutes running, 90 seconds walking, five minutes running. Other people have reported the longer runs to be the toughest to crack; jumping from two ten-minute walks to a solid 25 minutes at the end of week six is terrifying.
However, it is worth it. Do not be disheartened if you’ve got past the first couple of weeks and hit a wall. Remember, running is a great companion for dieting in your battle against the bulge, and nobody will judge you if you repeat a run or even a full week. Just stay positive and keep trying.
You might find changing your approach helps you; if you run to a certain song, try mixing it up and playing something different. Some people run on a treadmill watching Netflix; others prefer to run outdoors in the fresh air. Whatever you do, if you’re struggling, try something different as it takes your mind off whatever wall you’re hitting.
Does it Work?
Ten weeks ago, this writer hadn’t run further than a hundred yards in a decade and probably hadn’t put in a solid 25-minute run since the days of cross-country at college. With one full week to go, a full 5K run is looming, and I feel great. Jo Whiley tells me I’m a runner every three days, I’m doing it, and she’s right. By eating right and running every other day (with the weekend off), I’ve shed a stone and feel great. Yes, the Couch to 5K works for me, and it can work for you as well.