A Running Start – Couch to 5K

Posted: Jan 21 in Activity Recommendations, Health And Wellness by

The CDC recommends that adults should be engaging in moderate to intense physical activity for at least 150 minutes a week. If you are already in great shape and at an optimum weight, thirty minutes a day is easy to complete.  But for many adults starting a fitness program, the prospect is daunting.  If you are overweight, recovering from an injury or simply out of shape, it is hard to imagine running purposefully for any amount of time.  This is where Couch to 5K (C25K) programs shine.  They offer easy entry into the world of running through a very gradual increase in stamina and ability. You will see your fitness level and attitude about exercise change as you complete this 9-week plan.

There are many C25K plans available for free. Podcasts and phone apps can help you track your time and distance and keep you on course with the plan. What they all have in common is a framework of short bursts of running interspersed with walking.  Each workout lasts 20-30 minutes and you will complete them three days a week.  The first week, you are only running about a minute at a time, but by the 9th week, you are running for 30 minutes straight.

This gradual approach has both physical and psychological advantages. Physically, our bodies adapt well to slowly increasing demands.  Injuries and fatigue are limited by going slowly and warming up adequately, as this plan encourages.  By creating realistic and achievable goals for yourself you are much more likely to reach them.  There is also built-in flexibility, any week can be repeated.  If you have trouble moving to the next level, simply repeat the last one until you feel ready to add more running time or distance. It may take you more than 9 weeks to complete but all the benefits still apply.  Age and weight are not limiting factors for the most part.  If you are ambulatory and your doctor has instructed you to be more active, this plan will probably work for you.

The simplicity and frugality of the C25K plan make it particularly attractive. Instructions are very straight forward and not steeped in fitness jargon. Your investment in this plan is a small amount of time, not money. You can run outside with an inexpensive pair of running shoes.  While not strictly necessary, a water bottle and iPod or MP3 player will complete your C25K running ensemble.  There is no expensive equipment to buy, supplements to take or gym memberships to pay.  The results are tangible and measurable.  You are encouraged to find and enter a 5K race to run at the end of your training.  This can motivate you to stick with the program and it represents a shift to thinking like a runner. The pride and satisfaction of progressing from struggling to run for a minute at a time to finishing a race is immeasurable. Adding any physical activity to your life will yield immediate and lasting benefits.  You will reduce your risk of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer and stroke.  You will find it easier to maintain a healthy weight and you may find your mood and outlook improved.  Couch to 5K programs are a great way to get started in the world of running and a good jumping off point to improving your overall health.

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