Couch to 5K in 9 Short Weeks
We all know that one person who’s training for a marathon. He or she is up before the sun rises, starting the day off with more miles than you care to think about. Not even less-than-ideal weather is going to keep runners like this from their training.
That is truly admirable – but it’s also not for everyone.
If your goal is to run a marathon, we think that’s awesome and wish you the best of luck in your training and racing! Hopefully you are able to stay safe and injury-free in your training (and racing), but keep us in mind you need help with an injured foot or ankle.
(We’ve been able to help many other runners overcome injuries and can do the same for you!)
For the rest of us, running might be less about pursuing a specific goal like that, and more a matter of either getting or staying in shape. Sometimes, this is an activity you do with a partner or group of friends.
One of the great things about running—in addition to the incredible physical, emotional, and mental benefits—is that you have so many choices. As we noted, you can go running by yourself, with a running buddy, or even in a pack of fellow runners.
Beyond your company (or lack thereof), you can choose to run on tracks, trails, or through our local neighborhoods. For those who are fashion-conscious, there are many cute/manly/functional running outfits (depending on your personal preferences!). And, of course, you have an amazing number of choices when it comes to your footwear.
To that last point, pick whatever colors or designs you like, but make sure you end up with a pair that works best for your foot structure and pronation pattern.
Not sure what this entails? Shop for your shoes at a store catering to runners and you will likely be able to find the help you need. If you still need further assistance, we’ll be happy to help – after all, we happen to know a thing or two (or so much more!) about feet and want you to be healthy and pain-free.
Stay Safe – Follow a Plan!
No matter if running is going to be a solo endeavor for you or something you’re doing with friends, one way to really enjoy the experience is to participate in 5K runs.
If you are just getting started, it’s important to realize you can’t just jump right into it. Instead, you need to follow a sensible program to build up your endurance and get your body accustomed being active.
Now, the truth of the matter is that you need to take any couch-to-5K program, even this one, with a grain of salt – that grain being the fact that everyone is unique. We all have different situations and even variances within our body structures.
(Sure, most people have two feet and ten toes, but there can be a tremendous amount of variance between any two sets of lower limbs.)
That being said, we’ve prepared a reasonably set of guidelines that should work for a rather sizeable portion of the general population. Whereas other plans like this might establish strict, unrealistic goals and timetables, we wanted to offer you one that is sensible and will not cause you to burn out or become hurt trying to do “too much, too soon.”
With that in mind, the best way for you to start running is to actually start by incorporating a fair amount of walking – particularly if you aren’t currently active on a regular basis.
As you’ll see, we will gradually increase the amount of running you do into the fold.
Your New Couch-to-5K Plan
Week One – In this first week, you will train on three, nonconsecutive days. For each session, start with a brisk, five-minute walk. From there, alternate between one (1) minute jogging (or light running) and one-and-a-half (1 ½) minutes walking. Follow this pattern until you’ve hit twenty total minutes.
Week Two – In the second week, we’ll start to increase things just a little. You will still start with a brisk, five-minute walk on each of your three sessions, but then you will alternate between one-and-a-half (1 ½) minutes jogging/light running with two (2) minutes walking. Each session will still be twenty minutes.
Week Three – Continuing the gradual increase, you will follow your five-minute walk with two cycles of one-and-a-half (1 ½) minutes light running and one-and-a-half (1 ½) minutes walking, and then three (3) minutes running followed by three (3) minutes walking. As with the previous weeks, each of the three training sessions (on nonconsecutive days) should total twenty minutes.
Week Four – At this point, you are ready to follow your five-minute brisk walk with three (3) minutes running, one one-and-a-half (1 ½) minutes walking, five (5) minutes running, two-and-a-half (2 ½) minutes walking, three (3) minutes running, one-and-a-half (1 ½) minutes walking and five (5) minutes running.
Week Five – Now we will start to mix things up a bit. Instead of all three sessions being the same (like they were in previous weeks), each is different:
- Run One – Brisk five-minute walk, then five (5) minutes running, three minutes (3) walking, five minutes (5) running, three minutes (3) walking and five (5) minutes running.
- Run Two – Brisk five-minute walk, then eight (8) minutes running, five minutes (5) walking and eight (8) minutes running.
- Run Three – Brisk five-minute walk, then twenty (20) minutes running (no walking).
Week Six – Again, each of the three training sessions are different:
- Run One – Brisk five-minute walk, then five (5) minutes running, three (3) minutes walking, eight (8) minutes running, three (3) minutes walking and five (5) minutes running.
- Run Two – Brisk five-minute walk, then ten (10) minutes running, three (3) minutes walking and ten (10) minutes running.
- Run Three – Brisk five-minute walk, then twenty-five (25) minutes running (no walking).
Week Seven – All three training sessions—as always, not on consecutive days!—start with a brisk five-minute walk, followed by twenty-five (25) minutes running.
Week Eight – All three training sessions are the same again. This time, follow the five-minute walk with twenty-eight (28) minutes running.
Week Nine – In your final week of this plan, your three sessions will consist of the five-minute walk followed by thirty (30) minutes running…which means you’re ready to participate in your first (or “first in a while”) 5K!
Now, when following this plan, you need to keep a couple of things in mind:
- Rest days are essential. The reason for one or two days between each training session is not only to reduce your injury risk, but also to give your body time to recover – which then makes you a better, stronger runner.
- Rest and inactivity can be two things. Just because you’re resting from running doesn’t mean you have to be completely inactive, though! Running rest days are great times to focus on stretching, weight training (if you’re so inclined), and low-impact activities (cycling, swimming, yoga).
- “No pain, no gain” is no good. You can expect a certain degree of soreness when starting a new workout program like this, but there’s a difference between “sore” and “pain.” If you’re tired and have shin splints, that’s fairly normal. If you have sharp pain or a heel that is really hurting, that’s a reason to come see us here at Heartland Foot and Ankle Associates.
Tips for Beginning Runners
Know where you’re going. The first tip for a beginner is to establish your goals and milestones for your running program. Spend some time thinking about what you actually want to accomplish. Sure, we’ve been focusing on how to get ready to run a 5K, but you might want something different.
Maybe you’re interested in losing weight and improving your cardiovascular conditioning. Or maybe you do want to run a marathon. Well, no matter what you ultimately determine is going to be your goal, write it down and then post the goal where you can see it on a daily basis. (This will keep you motivated!)
In order to create a solid goal, follow the SMART method, which means making running goals that are: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.
A vague goal that cannot be measured will not allow you to know if you are making progress. You need to know exactly what you want to achieve, be able to see progress, and know that it can be achieved in a realistic, timely manner.
Goals are important, but so are milestones. By creating these markers along your path, you will be able to see progress and know that you are getting somewhere. This ties in with the “M” from the SMART method and will provide the metrics you need to proceed.
(Also, you should literally know where you’re going when you run!)
Have the right tools for the job. Now that you know what you want to accomplish and have a roadmap for how to get there, you will need the right equipment. Fortunately, running doesn’t require much, but what it does—shoes and clothing—is extremely important.
As we noted earlier, it’s a smart idea to go to a store that caters to runners and enlist the help of a knowledgeable sales associate.
Keep in mind that a decent pair of running shoes—and they need to be at least “decent”—will run about a hundred dollars. The money is worth it, though, to ensure that you have shoes that are comfortable, fit properly, and offer adequate support.
On your mark, get set… Heading out for a run with “cold” muscles is a risky endeavor. Take time to warm up with a five-minute walk—we’ll bet that sounds familiar!—or light jog to reduce your risk of soft tissue injury.
You should also do some “dynamic” stretching, which is highly effective prior to starting an activity. Save the “static stretching (where you perform a stretch and then hold it) for after your workout.
Go! Once you’ve completed your initial running program and are feeling comfortable, head out into the world and enjoy the scenery. Even better, find new 5K runs to try. These events usually have a fun theme and raise money for charitable organizations, plus you can record your times and try to go faster at the next one!
Comprehensive Foot and Ankle Injury Care
Our hope is that you are able to stay safe while training, racing, or just running to blow off some steam at the end of a stressful day. At the same time, we realize that sometimes people get hurt while running (or participating in any physical activity).
If you end up with a foot or ankle injury at any point in your running journey, come see us here at Heartland Foot and Ankle Associates. We will provide the care you need so you can get back to running in the shortest possible amount of time!
For more information, or to request an appointment, either give us a call at (309) 661-9975 or connect with us online today!