Believe the hype or become one of the haters. Does Couch To 5K work? Before you make your mind up and invest your time and energy into this 9-week program, let us give you the lowdown.
Couch to 5K will get you running. If you complete the program you should be fitter and hopefully a running convert. Will you lose weight doing C25K? That’s a big maybe.
Has Couch To 5K Been Successful?
Couch To 5K also known as C25K, is a running program invented by the founder of a design agency, Josh Clark. He’s not a coach and didn’t set out to create the most successful beginner running program on the planet.
Clark was just someone who knew from personal experience just how hard it can be to start running. He scribbled down an interval-based running program and shared it on his website Cool Running on the fledgeling internet.
That was back in 1996. Almost 30 years later, various spinoff apps have been downloaded by millions of people and it’s the most popular plan for people who are out of shape and never exercise.
It’s been adopted by the National Health Service in the UK and if you’re a resident you can access their free program. In the US, you can download the original Couch To 5K App from Active for a small fee.
The original C25K is a 9-week program. It’s almost impossible to find a printable version online so we’ve created our own with a few improvements. Access our 9-Week Couch To 5K Plan.
Can You Lose Weight With Couch To 5K?
Most people start running to lose weight. It’s a great choice for exercise, burns around 100 calories per mile, and comes with so many health benefits. But is it good for weight loss and does Couch To 5K work?
Couch To 5K will help you:
- Start running if you’re a complete beginner.
- Complete a 5K at the end of nine weeks.
- Improve your cardio and running endurance.
Couch To 5K may help you:
- Lose weight but only if you improve your diet.
- Improve your long-term health and fitness.
C25K won’t give you a perfect runner’s body. That takes a lot more work than a nine-week program to complete a 5K.
You need to improve your diet
If you combine Couch To 5K with improving your diet, you will start to see results – but you need to stick to the training plan and avoid treating yourself with post-run snacks.
That’s not enough to have a big impact on your body weight. In the last few weeks of the plan, you’ll run about 9 miles a week and burn about 900 calories.
It takes a calorie deficit of 3,500 calories to lose one pound of body fat. So the most weight you can expect to lose from following Couch To 5K is just two pounds. If you get hungry from all the running, it’s easy to fill up on the wrong foods and not lose any weight.
(You probably know what I mean by all the wrong foods – high-sugar, high-fat treats!)
But it’s not all bad news. Whenever I restart running after a layoff I always lose a few pounds. Running is good for your mental health and can make it easier to eat healthy food and shake off bad habits.
Most new runners will build muscles when they start running and improve their body shape – often the first body fat to disappear is that dangerous and unsightly layer of belly fat.
Diet combined with exercise is the best way to lose weight. If you don’t exercise it’s almost impossible to lose weight permanently – you end up losing muscle mass as well as fat. Running is also ideal for weight maintenance.
Is It Worth Doing Couch To 5K?
If you hate running, probably not. I always think you need to give something a proper try before you rule it out so if you start Couch To 5K, complete the first 3 weeks, and if you still hate it – it’s time to find a different sport or activity.
It’s better to do something you LOVE to keep fit and healthy, rather than force yourself to do something you hate. You won’t get the health benefits without running regularly. So if you don’t enjoy running – just find something else.
(If you think you don’t enjoy any exercise – you just haven’t found the right one yet – keep trying).
If your aim is weight loss – then maybe. Starting a running plan can often get you in the right mindset to make other lifestyle improvements. Just small changes can make a big difference.
For example, try swapping your regular calorie-laden drink for water. You’ll be surprised how refreshing it is and it only takes a few weeks for your taste buds to adapt.
Running isn’t for everyone
In the first week of January, it can feel like everyone is running or jogging. But you don’t have to run to improve your fitness.
We even have a Couch To 5K Walking Plan you can follow!
How To Make C25K Work For You
#1 Running Shoes
When I was young, my father went running with me just once. He wasn’t overweight but he insisted on wearing the old tennis shoes he’d dug out of a cupboard.
Don’t do this! Invest in some suitable running trainers. They don’t need to be fancy – just trainers for beginning runners with good cushioning and support.
#2 Interval Training
The Couch To 5K Plan is based on interval training. You can run outside or on a treadmill. It’s a run/walk approach where short running intervals are alternated with walking breaks.
Don’t confuse these running intervals with high-intensity interval training. You should be running slowly at an easy pace. If you’re running with friends, you should still be able to talk!
Improving your running speed isn’t the purpose of Couch To 5K. It’s to get you around a 3.1-mile course without stopping. To do this you need to learn how to run slowly.
Just about everyone can run a short distance if their life depended on it. I’m sure if you were crossing a field and a bull charged you could run quite fast!
But unless you’re a regular runner, you won’t be able to run far for very long. When Couch To 5K starts to ramp up the distance in Week 5, fast runners can really start to struggle.
If you were a sprinter at school, try and forget everything you think you know about running – And Slow Down!
#3 Set Your Own Pace
Nine weeks doesn’t work for everyone. It’s a bit like saying everyone who starts Couch To 5K is at the same fitness level.
The original program takes a big jump in week 5 when you suddenly have to run for 20 minutes without stopping. For some people that’s a big impass.
You’re encouraged to repeat weeks if you need to but you’re still facing the step up from eight minutes of continuous running to twenty.
That’s one of the reasons we’ve come up with our own set of Couch To 5K plans to suit all levels of fitness and starting abilities. These plans are prepared by a UESCA Qualified Running Coach. Set your own pace and choose from the following:
- Couch To 5K 12 Weeks – for complete beginners with very little running experience.
- Couch To 5K 10 Weeks – for complete beginners.
- Couch To 5K 8 Weeks – for beginners with some fitness from other sports.
- Couch To 5K 6 Weeks – a challenging plan for beginners with fitness from other sports.
- Couch To 5K 4 Weeks – for occasional runners.
You can always switch between the plans after the first week. The aim of the plans is to get you to the finish line. That’s a big achievement for your first race.
Worry about 5K times later. The more you run, the stronger your muscles become and you’ll naturally run faster.
#4 Fueling Your Runs
Most of us eat far too much. That’s probably why you’ve started Couch To 5K. To try and combat a bad diet.
Unfortunately, running isn’t a license to adopt the see-food-eat diet. Even ultra-runners need to be mindful of what they eat – I know this from experience!
In running terms, 5K is a short distance. It may seem a long way to you at the moment but some people will run a 5K to warm up for a half marathon!
So avoid these mistakes if you want to lose weight:
- Using sports drinks and high-calorie sports nutrition bars: You don’t need pre-run snacks or energy drinks during your run. These are short 20-30 minute runs. Just take a water bottle with you.
- Over-eating after a run: Try and refuel with a healthy snack – a banana is a good choice. Or run before breakfast or your evening meal – then you can eat normally without eating any extra calories.
Start thinking about food as fuel and be inspired to eat better. Gradually increase the nutrition content of the food you eat with filling wholegrains, healthy vegetables, lean protein, fresh fruit, and healthy fats.
Alternatives To Couch To 5K
Couch To 5K isn’t the only way to take up running. You can just try and run as far as possible before stopping for a rest or taking a walking break.
Gradually build up your running distance until you’re running regularly. Find out more about how to start running when overweight and out of shape.
Not everyone starts with a 5K race target and of course, you can be a runner without racing. Try running every day with a 30 Day Challenge. Just running a mile a day can make a big difference to your fitness.
Other people like to start running by training for something big – 10K or even half marathons. Whatever motivates you is the best way to improve your health and fitness.
Thoughts From Love Life Be Fit: Does Couch To 5K Work?
It gets a resounding YES but it’s best to adjust the original version of C25K to suit your own ability. Just avoid comparing yourself to other runners and progress at your own pace.
And remember – running should be fun. When you reach that finish line – don’t forget to celebrate! Find out more about how to train for a 5K.
Running 101 Training Guides & Walking Schedules
5K Training Plans
- Couch To 5K Beginner Training Plan
- 12 Week 5K Training Plan
- 10 Week 5K Training Plan
- 8 Week 5K Training Plan
- 6 Week 5K Training Plan
- 4 Week 5K Training Plan
- 5K Training Plan Intermediate