An older woman running through a park with green trees in the background.

Keen to Start Running? Why Not Take the Couch to 5k Challenge

You’ve made the decision to get more physical activity and feel that running is the great activity to do. Good thinking! It’s free, needs minimum equipment and you can take those first steps on your own.

It can feel like you’re heading into the unknown but having an end goal will help keep you focused and motivated. The NHS Couch to 5K  is the perfect challenge to start with.

The challenge is a running plan for complete beginners to help you gradually work up towards running 5K in just nine weeks. It was developed by a new runner, Josh Clark, who wanted to help his 50-something mum get off the couch and start running. It involves three runs a week, with a day of rest in between, and a different schedule for each of the nine weeks.

Achievable Results

Couch to 5K kicks off with a mix of running and walking to gradually build up your fitness and stamina. This helps keep things achievable. Often when you first start a new exercise, it’s easy to overdo things, leaving you feeling defeated, and possibly giving up just as you get started.

With week one involving a minute at a time, it creates realistic expectations and making the challenge feel achievable right from the start.

Benefits of Regular Running

According to the NHS website, running has many benefits, including improving the health of your heart and lungs and helping you lose weight.  There’s some evidence it may help increase bone density, which can help protect against bone diseases like osteoporosis.

For mental health benefits, taking on a challenge like Couch to 5K can help boost your confidence and self-belief, as you prove to yourself that you can set a target and achieve a goal.

Running regularly can also be a great stress reliever and has even been shown to help with depression and anxiety.

Ready To Start?

Begin by downloading the Couch to 5K app on your mobile phone.


Google Play

And dowload the Couch to 5K podcasts to your mobile device or computer. (be aware, that if downloading to a computer, you’ll need to copy the podcast on to your mobile device.)

Build a running plan into your week. Think about where you’ll run and get some suitable running gear – trainers and comfortable clothes. Bear in mind that if you’re running at night, reflective clothes will keep you safe. Also remember that no one else will know you’re just starting out so put on your headphones and take in the scenery whilst listening to the encouraging words on the podcast.

Sometimes, it’s easier to start something new and take on a challenge with a friend where you can encourage and spur each other on during the tough days.

If you need some tips, head over to the NHS Get Running with Couch to 5K.

“Choose an activity you enjoy. Start slowly and build up gradually. You’ll still be making progress and will enjoy it more.”