Lady running on a road at sunset

Couch to 5km run

Running is easy – said no one ever… okay maybe a few people have said that, but only because they’ve put in the time to develop their stamina, ability, and fitness.

But what’s not to say you can do that too?

Running can be a daunting exercise for many, but just like starting anything new – we can only improve the more we practice something. Anyone can jog 5km without stopping – in fact we’ve seen people go from never running a kilometre in their life to running 5km non-stop, and then running half marathons only months later! The only thing stopping you – is you!

First things first – how can running benefit you?

Regular running or jogging* can:

  • help strengthen your bones and muscles
  • improve cardiovascular fitness
  • burn calories and assist in weight loss
  • help maintain a healthy heart
  • improve overall mental and physical health
  • be a great mindful escape

*Running or jogging? We’ve been mentioning running a lot, but it’s also important to understand that jogging has the same benefits as running, the only difference is the intensity of the activity. For all purposes – we’ve based our couch to 5km program on jogging, but you’re welcome to increase your speed to running during the program.

Set a goal

Fitness goals are an important thing to consider before beginning any new exercise regime. Setting a fitness goal is one of the best motivations you can give yourself. By deciding on some short-term goals, you give yourself a target to focus on, and once you hit them, well there’s that awesome feeling of satisfaction that follows. We recommend setting a goal to run 5km and aiming to run two to three times a week.

Getting off the couch

Okay so now you’ve set your goal and you’ve blocked out times to train… which means… it’s time to get off the couch, throw on some runners, and hit that treadmill/pavement/oval/footpath/gravel road (whatever takes your fancy)!

General tips for beginners

  • If you have any injuries or concerns – always check with your doctor before you start running (or changing any fitness program). This is particularly important if you are over 40 years old, are overweight, have a chronic illness, or haven’t exercised in a long time.
  • Stretch before and after each exercise session. Here are some dynamic stretches to check out.
  • Wear good supportive shoes. Wearing shoes that lack foot and ankle support can increase the risk of developing calf pain and shin splints.

Below is a 9-week guide to running your first 5km. This guide developed by the UK’s NHS has been tried and tested to help new runners gradually build their endurance and running ability. The program suggests three runs per week to get you from couch to 5km, and sessions are suitable for the treadmill or outdoor jogging.

Please remember, everyone is different, and you can repeat any of the weeks if you don’t feel physically ready for the next progression. You got this!

Week 1: For day 1 start with a brisk 30-minute walk. Then for the next two days begin with a brisk 5-minute walk and then alternate jogging for 1 minute and walking for 2 minutes.

Week 2: Similar to week 1, beginning with five minutes of brisk walking then alternating with 1-and-a-half minutes of jogging and 2 minutes of walking.

Week 3: This week, work on alternating between 2 minutes of jogging and 1 minute of brisk walking.

Week 4: This week you will want to increase the time you spend jogging. Begin with five minutes of brisk walking, then 3 minutes of jogging, 1-and-a-half minutes of walking, 5 minutes of jogging, 2-and-a-half minutes of walking, 3 minutes of running, 1-and-a-half minutes of walking, and 5 minutes of jogging.

Week 5: Now that you are more than half-way through, it’s time to work on your endurance. There are three different runs for this week.

  • Run 1: walk briskly for 5 minutes, then jog for 5 minutes, 3 minutes of walking, 5 minutes of running, 3 minutes of walking, and 5 minutes of running.
  • Run 2: walk briskly for 5 minutes, then 8 minutes of jogging, 5 minutes of walking, and 8 minutes of jogging
  • Run 3: walk briskly for 5 minutes, then 20 minutes of jogging, with no walking.

Week 6: Did you love last week? Because you’ll love this week – there are 3 different runs again this week.

  • Run 1: walk briskly for 5 minutes, then 5 minutes of jogging, 3 minutes of walking, 8 minutes of jogging, 3 minutes of walking, and 5 minutes of jogging.
  • Run 2: walk briskly for 5 minutes, then 10 minutes of jogging, 3 minutes of walking, and 10 minutes of jogging.
  • Run 3: a brisk 5-minute walk, then 25 minutes of running with no walking.

Week 7: By week 7, you’ll be feeling a little stronger, and will know what to expect, you’ll also be able to jog for longer, so make sure to take note of your progress and congratulate yourself! For your 3 runs this week, begin with a brisk 5-minute walk, then 25 minutes of jogging

Week 8: Similar to week 7, this week your 3 runs will include walking briskly for 5 minutes, followed by 28 minutes of jogging.

Week 9: Woohoo! You made it to the final week – well done! And yup, you guessed it. This week your three runs will include a 5-minute brisk walk followed by jogging for 30 minutes.

It’s important to Rest

We recommend having a rest day between each of your run days. Rest is important to allow your muscles and joints to recover and avoid injury – you’re human after all. We love active rest days with activities such as stretching, light walking, yoga, and swimming.

What next

Now that you’ve hit your running goal – what next? Why not join a running club to keep yourself motivated and developing your running technique? Running clubs are a great way to commit to regular running and meeting new people! Armidale has a few running clubs including, Armidale Panthers Running group for all ages and abilities. There is also Armidale Parkrun which is a free weekly timed 5km event for runners and walkers, held at SportUNE every Saturday morning.

We hope our guide gets you from couch to 5km! We’d love to hear about your progress, so don’t forget to tag us in your social posts if you attempt our progression guide. If for any reason you aren’t sure how or where to begin, reach out to one of our lovely staff members at SportUNE, we’re here to help!


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