Looking for a way to shed some pounds, improve your fitness, and start an exercise habit? Couch to 5K is ideal for those who need to ease into their fitness journey. It’s well structured, short enough for you not to run out of motivation, and free!
It’s particularly good for shedding those extra pounds. Here’s our advice on losing weight with a Couch to 5K training program.
Stick to this for a full program you should see a noticeable difference! It’s also an excellent start to a healthier lifestyle, so you’ll build a foundation for healthier habits going forward!
What Is Couch to 5K?
The Couch to 5K program, sometimes called C25K, is a run training plan. It’s designed for beginners or anyone who used to exercise but lost their mojo. The fitness goal is to take you from the couch—no activity or a low level of activity—to easily run a 5K race.
One of the best things about the Couch to 5K plan is it’s free (we have our own free version, too)! You can find multiple variations of the program online, so no matter what your level of confidence is, there should be one out there that’ll suit you.
Most training plans use run/walk intervals to ease you into running. As the program progresses, the running intervals get longer, and the walking intervals get shorter until you can run all 3.1 miles without stopping to walk.
How Far is a 5K?
A 5K run is equal to 3.1 miles. To put that into perspective, you must run 12 ½ laps on a standard running track to cover 5 kilometers. That should take a little over 6,000 steps for the average person.
How Long Does It Take To Finish Couch to 5K?
Usually, a Couch to 5K program runs over 9 weeks. It’s set up to gradually increase your mileage and intensity so your body adapts to it as the weeks go. By the end of the 9 weeks, you should be ready for your 5K.
However, several variations of the C25K program have since come out, some shortening the time to 4 or 5 weeks and others lengthening it to 12 weeks or more. There’s truly a version for everyone!
Can Couch to 5K Help You Lose Weight?
Yes! Even though it starts slow and builds up gradually, you can lose weight with the Couch to 5K programs if you do it right. By “doing it right,” we mean that if you commit to training to your best capability and to have a balanced diet.
It’s important to note that by the end of the program, you’re still only running for 90 minutes per week. That’s not a lot of exercise, so you can’t rely on exercise alone to help you lose weight in these 9 weeks.
But if you change your diet too, you may see some weight loss. The key to losing weight is to burn more calories than you eat. This can be tricky to measure, because if you’re using a watch or app to calculate calories burned, they usually only calculate “active calories”—those you burn during exercise.
But, the body burns calories throughout the day—breathing, walking, digesting food, and even just fidgeting burns anywhere from 1300 to 3000 calories daily! Your best bet is to use a calorie calculator like this one to figure out the total calories your body burns per day.
From there, you can figure out how many calories you must eat daily to lose weight. Use an app to track your caloric intake and ensure you take in about 20 percent fewer calories than you’re burning.
If you keep this up throughout the program, you should see some weight loss. It’s not likely to be drastic but remember—Couch to 5K is helping you build better habits that you can continue long past the 9 weeks to see steady weight loss.
What Level of Fitness Do You Need to Start the Couch to 5K Plan?
One of the great things about Couch to 5K is that almost anyone can do it. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been inactive for years—if you can walk for 30 minutes, even slowly, then you’re ready to get started on a Couch to 5K program.
Anyone who meets those minimum requirements can begin the program. If you can’t walk nonstop for half an hour yet, you know what your first goal needs to be!
Also, don’t assume that Couch to 5K is not for you if you’re already active or have some experience. Maybe you run casually, but you’ve never competed in a 5K race. Maybe you have a job that requires you to be active, but you’re not a runner.
The program is for everyone, regardless of fitness level or previous experience. You may need to work initially to meet those minimum requirements, but you’re good to go once you’re there.
If you suffer from medical conditions, it may be a good idea to ask your doctor’s advice before you start doing the program.
Benefits of the Couch to 5K Program
Doing the C25K has a ton of benefits. Here are just a few of the benefits you’ll experience when you choose to begin.
Affordable Way to Lose Weight
The Couch to 5K plan is completely free! There’s no need to pay for a fancy running program, especially if you’re new to running. You can find all kinds of variations online, so it’s as simple as finding one that sounds good to you, downloading it, and getting started.
There’s no need to pay for a weight loss program when you’re just starting out. As you get better at running, you might want to invest in something more specialized, but it’s definitely not necessary upfront.
Remember, you must adjust your diet for any weight loss benefits. But with the good habits you’re building here, you can build an excellent foundation for weight loss in the future.
Plan Is Easy to Follow
There’s no guesswork in the Couch to 5K! It’s straightforward and easy to follow, making it amazing for those new to running. As long as you know what you’re doing on any given day, it’s as simple as getting out there and doing it.
Improved Cardiovascular Health
Interval training is renowned for its great cardiovascular benefits. Aerobic exercise helps to get the blood flowing through the body. The easier the blood flows, the more powerfully the heart can pump, which means your heart rate lowers because it can pump more blood per beat.
In turn, this helps to reduce your blood pressure as the blood is naturally flowing more easily. When you do a beginner program like Couch to 5K, this improvement may come slowly, but your cardiovascular system will be better at the end of it than it was when you began. This is an excellent start to improving your health, as exercise can significantly reduce your chance of developing cardiovascular disease.
Strengthened Muscles and Joints
The body is made to be used! When you do regular exercise, even if it’s just a small amount, your muscles and joints gain strength. This is especially true if you’re new to exercise—“beginners’ gains” are real!
The more you exercise, the more your body adapts and strengthens your muscles. Even if you’re only doing a small amount of running and walking during the week, if it’s more than you’ve been doing before, you’ll strengthen both muscles and joints.
Increased and Improved Mental Health
Exercise has been shown to improve your mood and decrease stress, both of which can have very positive impacts on your mental health. There’s also the added benefit of being out in nature, which is also well-known to have a positive effect on your mental health.
It’s important to note that exercising isn’t going to heal all mental health conditions miraculously. However, multiple studies suggest that it’s an excellent element that should be incorporated into treatments for mental health disorders.
Improved concentration comes with better mental health and better blood flow to the brain. When the blood flows to the brain, your cognitive health improves in many ways, including your ability to focus.
Even a small amount of exercise every week can have a beneficial effect on your concentration. This leads to improved performance at work, improved relationships as you can focus more on conversations, and an increased ability to take in information.
Reduced Stress Levels
Research shows that exercise can be an effective way to cope with stress! Whether you just want to blow off steam after your work day or you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed, doing some exercise can help.
The great thing about Couch to 5K is that it’s not extremely physically taxing, so you’re unlikely to injure yourself but you will reap the stress-relief benefits!
Helps to Boost Your Confidence
No matter what your fitness level is when you start C25K, completing it can give you a big confidence boost. Not only will you be able to say you’ve now run a 5K, but you should have a great foundation to continue living an active, healthier life.
Over time, that confidence will grow as you become fitter, healthier, lose extra weight, and become stronger. Couch to 5K is the perfect starting platform!
What Do You Need to Start?
The awesome thing about this program is that you don’t need much to begin. Once you’ve downloaded the free program, here’s what you need to start.
The Right Type of Running Shoes
A good pair of running shoes is the most important piece of equipment if you’re walking or running. Most people simply run down to the nearest shoe store and pick something that looks good, but if you really want to perform at your best, it needs a bit more thought.
You’ll need to assess your gait. Do you have a neutral foot, or do you overpronate—roll your foot inwards substantially as you take a step? If you overpronate, it’s essential to choose shoes with extra support that prevents this motion, otherwise, you’re much more at risk of hurting yourself.
These are known as stability shoes. It’s a good idea to head to the closest running store and ask to view their stability shoe collection. If possible, try before you buy!
You’ll want to wear something loose, comfortable, and soft. Harsher materials can chafe if you move faster than usual, and tighter clothing could restrict your range of motion and lead to discomfort or rubbing.
You can buy new running gear if you wish, but your best bet is to go for something you’re familiar with that you know is comfortable.
A Time and Place to Run
The beauty of running is you can do it almost anywhere! It’s perfectly possible to do the Couch to 5K on a treadmill if you have one, which means you can train in any weather and at any time of day that suits you.
If you don’t have a treadmill, you can train wherever you can. Around the block, in the park, at the nearby running track, whatever suits you.
It’s a good idea to find a time to be consistent every day. For example, do you find it easy to wake up early? You could get up half an hour earlier and finish your training before you even go to work.
Or, fit it in after work before dinner. Whatever works for you, but finding a time you can stick to every day can be handy.
A Hydration and Nutrition Plan
As mentioned earlier, you’ll perform much better if you also optimize your diet. Calculating your calorie intake is one part of it, but you’ll also need to make healthier food choices if you want to do it right and start feeling better.
Don’t forget hydration! You should be drinking at least half a gallon of water every day. It could be easiest to split that into eight 8-ounce glasses, which you can drink at set intervals during the day so you make sure you get it all in.
Tips for Doing the Couch to 5K for Weight Loss
Want to lose weight with your Couch to 5K program? Follow these tips for the best chance of dropping those excess pounds!
Set Realistic Goals
Don’t expect to lose 10 pounds by the end of this program. It’s a low-intensity program, so you’re likely to lose more water weight in the beginning, if you’re eating well and drinking enough.
You can expect a pound or two of weight loss if you only do the program and watch what you eat. However, you can accelerate your weight loss by including cross-training on your rest days.
Mix Up Your Workouts With Cross-Training
As the Couch to 5K program is quite low-intensity, it’s perfect for adding some cross-training in between. You’ll be running/walking every other day according to the C25K training program, which leaves you plenty of time to add other exercise.
It’s up to what kind of exercise you add on your “off” days. We love strength training—weight training—because it’s an amazing way to build your “running muscles” and it also increases your energy metabolism, which means you burn fat for longer after an exercise.
Other alternatives include things like cycling, rowing, jumping rope, swimming, hiking, elliptical, or your favorite other sport. You can even do yoga or Pilates, but keep in mind that they don’t burn as many calories, unless you do them Tabata-style.
Join a Running Group or Find a Running Buddy
Working through the plan with someone else can be highly motivating. If you need a bit of accountability, this is an excellent way to get it. Plus, it can make the workouts more fun and help them go by more quickly.
Switch Your Running Routes and Surfaces
Running on a track is much easier than running on a trail. There’s no deviation in the surface, so your muscles “settle in” to their regular rhythm. However, running on a trail is a bit more dynamic as you need to actively adjust to the terrain.
Switching your running surfaces and routes on a regular basis can help to build strength and also to keep boredom at bay!
Track Your Progress
Keeping track of progress is important. We recommend weighing yourself every day, but taking an average weight for each week. That means adding up each weight over the 7 days and dividing it by 7 to get your average weight for the week.
This helps to account for differences in weight due to hormonal fluctuations—especially for women—water retention in the heat, and other small ups and downs. Track this average over the 9 weeks, and you should see a change as you move through them.
Make Sure You Get Proper Rest
Research shows that if you aren’t getting enough rest, weight loss is negatively affected. To ensure that your weight loss continues, get to bed at the same time each night, and make sure your environment is conducive for 7 to 9 hours of uninterrupted sleep.
Listen to Your Body
You can expect to feel aches as your muscles get used to the activity. But if you feel twinges in your joints, pain that doesn’t go away after a day or so, or if you experience any popping or clicking feelings, it’s a good idea to take a break.
Don’t try to push through pain. It’s your body’s way of telling you something isn’t right! Take a short break and get back to it when you’re pain-free. Or, go see a doctor if it doesn’t come right.
Make Each Run Fun
Find ways to make it fun. Run with someone else, listen to music, or play games with yourself. Set rewards for meeting milestones. No judgment—whatever makes your running fun, do it!
Stay Consistent With Your Plan
Consistency is the key to success with the Couch to 5K program. It’s just 9 weeks—sometimes less, depending on which one you choose—but it can be tough staying the course.
Cross off the days on a calendar, put up a picture of your goal physique, or get an accountability buddy. Whatever works for you—do it! Staying consistent is the one thing you can’t afford to get wrong on your fitness journey.
What Comes Next After Couch To 5K?
If you’re a little more experienced or if you’ve mastered the Couch to 5K, you can move onto a Couch to 10K program. Even though you’ve already moved away from the couch, it’s still a good place to start! You can always adapt it to suit your current fitness levels. Onward and upward!
Free Couch to 5K Training Program
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