The Couch to 5k Plan Sucks

I may have mentioned this before, but it’s recently come to my attention again just how absurdly broken any couch to 5k plan is. Like, in general C25K really kind of sucks. The entire idea of C25K is to teach someone with absolutely no running experience (like sitting on the couch) how to run a decent distance (3.1 miles) in a decent time (~30 minutes).

In theory, it’s great for new runners. Unfortunately, the reality is much different because the unspoken rule of every C25K plan is that everyone has to work their way up to Day 1, which kind of defeats the purpose. And sucks.

If you are a real couch potato and live a sedentary lifestyle, you are absolutely not going to be able to start out with Week 1, Day 1 of any couch to 5k plan. That sucks. It’s a program for non-runners that doesn’t start where non-runners can start. #boggle

Not only have I been hearing multiple friends have trouble with this recently, I also had major problems with it when I was overweight and out of shape. So if you’re starting out with a couch to 5k plan, don’t fret if W1D1 is way too hard (and honestly, it probably will be). That’s okay. You can prep for that.

Don’t Be Ashamed of Walking, Especially at First

Most people who want to be runners think that walking is weakness. It’s not. Even marathoners and ultra-marathoners walk during their races. It’s a rest for your legs because it works different muscles than running. There are days where my whole routine involves going for long walks, keeping my heart-rate up, and just enjoying being outside.

If you’re looking at starting C25K, then you should make sure your legs and lungs can handle it. Especially if you are running with asthma like I am. The first day of a C25K plan is around 9 intervals of running for 60 seconds, then the same number of walking intervals for 60-90 seconds.

That’s hard. That is why people think running sucks. It’s a lot of starting and stopping. It’s hard on your legs, and it’s hard on your lungs. You’ll be tired and panting for breath before the first one is over if you’re a legitimate couch-level beginner. 60 seconds is a long first interval. Doing that for 20-30 minutes is really hard. And the next day, your legs will be super sore. It’s dumb.

This is why people think running sucks

Running doesn’t suck. Couch to 5k does. So make sure you can walk a while before starting. I suggest that you be able to walk for 30-45 minutes at 3.5 to 4 mph (15-18 minutes per mile) without feeling out of breath before you even start with your couch to 5k plan’s intervals. 

I know that when I tried a couch to 5k plan for the first time, I couldn’t run for 15 seconds. A whole minute was totally out of the question. And it took me a long time before I could make it even 30 seconds. It may only be a week or two for you to be able to do Week 1, Day 1. You just gotta take the time to prep to make sure that the first week of C25K doesn’t make you think running sucks in general.

I suggest that you get Runkeeper or Strava (or a GPS watch) to check your pace. You can use the GPS from a couch to 5k app, but I have never had them work right for me. I always prefer to use them for interval tracking, but not GPS.

When You’re Ready to Run

Once you can easily walk at a decent pace for a decent time (17 min/mile for 2-ish minutes, maybe), then you’re good to start running. Just don’t get discouraged if you have to work up to a beginner’s program like C25K. We all have to. Because they kind of suck. We don’t suck. Running doesn’t suck. The plans work, don’t get me wrong, just not quite 100% as advertised.

And after talking with some of my friendos on Twitter, I realized another pitfall of the couch to 5k plan: the weeks are too condensed. If you’re having trouble going from week to week, don’t feel bad about repeating it. I had to repeat Week 4 three times before I could move on. Don’t feel tied down to the weekly schedule. The couch to 5k schedule is nice marketing, but bad science.

Running and fitness is a lifestyle where comfort and safety are paramount. All training plans need that personal touch. So if you feel the need to repeat a week, you’re not alone. If you need to talk, walk. If you ask me, the couch to 5k plan should be stretched out to 12-16 weeks to really take advantage of the real-world experience of newbie runners. But that wouldn’t be nearly as appealing, would it?

What are your experiences with running apps like C25K?