Top Ten Tuesday: Questions and Tips for Couch to 5K

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I’ve been very inspired by the other Losing It contest participants! While I’ve done, well, dreadful, I am so proud of those who have taken the challenge and run with it. Inspired by Dedra, I’ve been trying to do the Couch to 5K program (#c25k).

So I’ve done it … twice. Once about a week and a half ago and once tonight.  So I feel totally qualified in offering advice about it. 🙂 But more importantly, I have lots of questions for those of you who’ve done/are doing the program.

2009-08-10 Rollins Savanna 3

source: dharma_for_one

5 Tips on Starting Couch to 5K

1. Really do start slow. The first time I did the first week run/walk, I thought I was going to die. I thought it was just because I am SOOOO out of shape (does that imply being in shape once? Cause I’ve never been in shape). The founder of the program suggests,

You should ease into your running program gradually. In fact, the beginners’ program we outline here is less of a running regimen than a walking and jogging program.

I think I just tried to do the jogging pieces too fast. The guy on the podcast kept telling me I should be able to talk while jogging, and I was gasping for air. So tonight, I proceeded to run the slowest jog in the world. And for me, that worked.

2. Use music you like. I did download all the podcasts, and those are convenient because they tell you when to start running, stop running and start walking, cool down, etc. But the music was just not my style. I had a much easier type rocking it out to the Glee soundtrack tonight and just counting down the 60 and 90-second intervals myself by the iPod timer.

3. Don’t worry about what your neighbors think. I am SO self-conscious, especially when I am exercising. I am working on convincing myself I am not the same chubby fifth-grader who couldn’t run a mile. I may be chubby, but I am awesome!! God made me how I am, and who I am to question it? I don’t care if my neighbors are laughing at how slowly I am jogging. Who cares? It’s better than sitting still.

4. Really do warm-up and cool-down. That’s just common exercise sense! Some stretching at the end of the circuit will help you not to feel so sore, too.

5. If you need to, set rewards. I like exercise once I do it–usually–but sometimes in order to make myself do it I have to say, “OK, if I go do this, I can talk on Skype for 30 minutes, or watch a certain TV show, or take a bubble bath.”

5 Questions I Have about Couch to 5K

1. Did you buy better running shoes before you started the program? My shoes are old and iffy, and I know they don’t have enough support for my weird feet. I am, however, scared to make any investment.

2. Am I the slowest jogger in the universe? I think I only covered about 1.5 miles tonight in 30 minutes.

3. What kind of stretching should you do at the end of each program day?

4. Is it possible to buy a sports bra when, um, you have this problem? (I’m not longer nursing and not quite as…problematic…but still an issue.) Right now I am wearing two bras for support. Should I confess that on the Internet? Too late.

5. How long did it REALLY take you to be able to run the 5k?

Seriously, I want answers! Help me out in the comments!

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25 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: Questions and Tips for Couch to 5K

  1. You really need a good pair of running shoes. That's the most important thing. Last year I was training with shoes that were only a year old, and ended up injuring my ankle so bad that I had to skip the race. Buy the best shoes that you can afford, you won't regret it.

  2. OH, I'm so excited about this post! I'm a graduate of the program from earlier this year so I've got ya covered here!

    Definitely a big fat YES to slowing down. I did most of my training on a treadmill and I thought I had to have it way up in order for it to "count". I read the support forums and the number 1 thing they said is slow down! I never really got any faster than a 11-12 minute mile.

    Yes, I did get new shoes. I have a TrySports here and they video-taped my feet and recommended just the right pair. I also got socks and The Stick. I think it all really helped!

    Stretching was the number 1 thing that helped me. I held my foot to my glutes, crossed my leg over my other leg and then "sat" and then stood on something and let my heels hang. Also remember to scrunch and release your toes to stretch your feet!

    It took me 8 weeks to finish..yep, a week early! And i HATED running and have never run in my life.

    My only other suggestion is about the music…I never could run to music because I was so worried about stepping to the beat of it. I moved to podcasts and it made the time go faster and I wasn't worried about how I was running!

    As for the bra issue, I'm very sorry to say I'm absolutely no help..I just have to worry I look like a boy when I put one on.

    So I hoped that helped!! Just keep going one step at a time and you can do it!!

  3. I wish I could run. Too old and too decrepit now to start. But you should invest in a good bra. My friend the professional dancer/cheerleader wears a good wired strapless under a sports bra, so you're not totally weird to wear two bras.

    It's just like anything else in life; start slow and have small goals that you can meet. Go you!

  4. Jessie, good luck! I managed to do the Richmond half-marathon this year, which was a lot of fun, but it took a lot of patience. I was always slow… I'm not sure if I was ever technically "running." I did get some good shoes. You should find a good running store where you can tell them what you're doing and they'll help find you what you need — I got the previous year's model and didn't even pay much.

    I did the running thing more as a challenge than as a particular kind of exercise… I'm still in horrible shape, but I suspect that a more moderate kind of jogging over the long term would be better.

  5. I have not done couch to 5K but I did start running again after taking a couple years off to have kids. I started out running for about 15 minutes without stopping to running 3 miles in 30-35 minutes in a couple of months. I would definitely get some good shoes … go somewhere like Fleet Feet where they analyze your running and tell you exactly what you need. Even if you don't buy something from there, it will help you know what to look for. Also, set up your ipod playlist to match your running speed (slower songs for warm up/cool down, etc.). Finally, I would start running on a treadmill if you could. It's easier to measure your time and distance and its easier than road running. I started running on the treadmill and worked up my endurance before I switched to road running.

  6. You are not the slowest person on the planet. I just did 2 miles in 45 minutes. So. There.
    Yes to shoes. TJMaxx or Ross sometimes have good shoes pretty cheap. I've even seen asics @ belk for $20.
    Good for you.
    You ARE awesome!

  7. Lyndsay and I both went to Fleet Feet just over two years ago and got shoes (we both pronate when we run…a fun fact we didn't know until we had a fleet feet person watch us run). Lyndsay ran the half marathon and changes her shoes about every 9 months. My shoes have only run 2 actual 5K's and probably not gone a total of 100 miles…and I think they're as good as the day I got them.
    You could go to a specialty store, get yourself fitted, find what you like, and then probably come home and get them off amazon for 30 bucks less (expect to spend 85-100 at fleet feet). But if you have a halfway decent salesperson helping you, you'll feel like a jerk for doing it. The folks at the Brentwood store are the nicest people on earth.

    Breathing is the most important! I breathe in for four steps, and then out for four steps the entire time I run. Keeping a rhythm like that is essential. To prove I'm not making this up…

    Also, maybe it's my inner high school band nerd, but I can't run, breathe, and listen to music at the same time unless they're all in sync. I usually just go without music, but last weekend I ran with Lyndsay's iPod. I ended up finding a single song halfway through the run and listening to it three times until I finished. For me, it's right around 83 beats per minute….of course, I have long legs.
    It requires some manual work, but there's a pretty neat utility to help you find a song's bpm here:

    Good luck! I took up running when I was in college. I'm not setting any landspeed records, but I really enjoy it. I've met a few folks in their upper 50's and 60's who run 10Ks and half marathons…they're the smartest, sharpest people in their age bracket I've ever met. It definitely seems to be a hobby that yields great long term benefits.

  8. Jessie – you CAN do this. Definitely get a good pair of running shoes. Besides helping your feet, it might also help your motivation. On the same note, definitely buy a couple of nice supportive sports bras.
    I went from loathing running, to running a half-marathon. I still loathe running, but at least I did it. You have to start slow, really slow, and let your body get used to this new weird thing. You will be great at that 5k, whenever it happens.

  9. I did the Couch to 5K earlier this year! It was really tough, not gonna lie… I was going too fast at first too. I felt like I had to go a certain speed to make it worth it, but once I forced myself to slow down, it really did make a HUGE difference. I think it took me about 10 weeks to get to the point where I could do 3 miles without walking at all.
    I agree w/ everyone who's saying get good running shoes – they are so important. As for the bra thing, I was using two sports bras at the same time as well – sigh. I finally sucked it up, went to Sports Authority, and got an expensive Under Armor bra that really keeps everything locked and loaded! It's so nice not to worry about giving myself a black eye while jogging now. 😉

  10. Okay, first. If you have an iPod touch, get the Couch to 5k app. It lets you play your own music but does the countdown and tells you when to switch.

    Definitely buy new shoes. If you're in an area with a running store, get thee there and use their expertise. Seriously.

    I used the stretching program that was on my app, but you need to make sure you stretch all the major muscles in the legs, back, and upper body.

    Um, sports bras. this one works: It's by moving comfort and is sometimes cheaper from their website.

    I still haven't been able to run a full 5k. I blew out my patellar tendon and haven't been able to run since January. HOWEVER, once I finish the March for Babies walk, I may start easing back into it.

  11. YES YES YES on the shoes! After getting good shoes (and a larger size than i was used to wearing!), i have had virtually no shin/ankle pain (and you know how much i've run). Also, get good wicking socks. They're expensive, but worth it. It *really* cuts down on blisters – and you do *not* want blisters.

    As for the bra situation, my sister used to wear 2 for soccer in college. Runnersworld magazine had an article on them recently – check out (Also, i know you can get fitted at Fleet Feet, i just haven't done it).

    i second the suggestion to listen to podcasts. i usually listen to Kyros during 1/2 training. But i do love my music too . . . you just have to find the stuff that gets *you* going.

    You absolutely CAN do this! YAY you!!!

  12. You go, Jess!

    And what great advice in the comments. I'm *almost* inspired to check this out. (DO NOT LIKE RUNNING.)


  13. I'm not doing the Couch to 5k, but I am training for my first (& likely only) half-marathon.

    I'm not a runner. I ran 3.5 miles on a whim back in November and felt good. Then a friend asked me to join her in a half-marathon. I thought, "Sure! I've got plenty of time to train." That's how I got into running. It's a love-hate relationship.

    Having good shoes is important. It helped a lot with my knees and shins not hurting. I actually have inserts in my shoes too for arch support b/c I have a high arch.

    About being slow…here's my mantra: It doesn't matter how slow you go as long as you get there. Depending on how fair I go I can run about a 10-13 minute mile. But you do what you can.

    Sometimes I feel like I have to stop…but the more I practice the more I realize it's totally mind over body. My body can do and push so much harder than is comfortable to me.

    I start and finish my runs with yoga. It's really helped me feel limber and avoid soreness. has a routine for rookie runners that I use.

    You can do it! Just keep at it and eventually it'll get easier. You may not love it, but just think how much stronger you'll be in mind and body!

  14. Hooray for your progress with running and training for a 5K. Getting out there and just doing it–no worries about neighbors–trumps everything else. Good for you!

    Please, please, please invest in a new pair of running shoes that are suited for your feet and running style. This is huge and can't be skimped on. Think about what your feet are doing for you, treat them right and they will continue to work hard for you. Go to a local running store to be analyzed and fitted–it will make a huge difference in your running. Even if you don't buy from there (you might find a better price elsewhere) you will know what style/model workds best for your feet.

    As for bras, I LOVE the CW-X brand. Great support and comfort. Moving Comfort also has some good choices.

    Listen to your body. Don't amp up speed or mileage too fast, let your body adjust and build up endurance.

    And yes, STRETCH, stretch, stretch.

    Good luck!

  15. I just started doing the C25K about 3 weeks ago. I invested in running shoes to start with. I'm overweight, well-endowed, but I'd rather be fit than be sitting on the couch. I do wear two bras, but I finally found a great no-bounce sports bra from I may be fat, but I'm gonna be a fit fatty!

    Great post!

  16. Hi! Jill (Diaper Diaries) sent me over – I started C25K in January and ran a 5K in March. And by ran I mean, came in last at 48 minutes. Couldn't care less – it's the best feeling EVER!!
    OK so your questions:
    1) Yes, I got new shoes. I went to a runners store and was fitted. This is way out of character for me, but my husband convinved me, and I'm glad he did. They made a huge difference. It's good to have someone watch your gait (I think that's what it's called) and see how your pronate. Or don't pronate, or something.

    2) No, you are not the slowest runner in the universe. I literally run slower than I walk. My friend (who is doing C25K now) and I came up with: "Find your own pace, and run your own race". Her pace is actually slower than what you did, if that makes you feel better 🙂 And I have a post about how someone actually MADE COMMENTS to me at the gym about how slow I was running.

    3) Make sure you stretch your calves, and when you're just sitting there doing nothing, do ankle rolls. It feels goofy, but it is really good for your muscles.

    4) Definitely get a good bra.

    5) 9 weeks, but again, S.L.O.W. Not kidding about the last place thing. Just keep slowing down enough until you can do whatever it is. Also – don't look ahead. I freaked out EVERY WEEK and worried about not being able to do it. You already have a lot figured out, I would sign up for a race at this point, because if I hadn't I don't think I would have followed through. Also, had a bunch of friends doing it and I didn't want to be one of the ones who quit.
    Be encouraged – I'm still running, still slow, but once you get through that 9 weeks you will feel awesome, and not believe you actually did it!

  17. I have never been a runner either – but I have looked at the couch to 5K before and thought "yea.. I COULD do that…" – and then… didn't..!
    I have started walking again – about a 15 minute mile – 3 miles at a time. As you said – it's better than sitting still!
    Sports bra is a DEFINITE for anyone with a chest – it keeps the girls in check!

  18. I've got a half marathon in a week, but before I started training for it I'd only ever run like 3 miles! I think having a goal, like an upcoming race, is so important!

  19. I wish I could find the motivation to do this. Reading your blog though is giving me a step in the right direction

  20. I am here because of Once a month cooking mom's site. I have read your blog before but never commented but this time I am forced to 🙂 …I have some of your recipes saved to try…Congrats on your running goals!

  21. Tricia at Once a Month Mom sent me your way. I think I've got the divine intervention thing going because I've been considering purchasing a treadmill. Your blog has intrigued me and now I can't wait to follow. Good luck!

  22. I love that you are doing the C25k plan! I just completed it myself. It's important to have good shoes. I suggest finding a Fleet Feet store or somewhere to really measure you because I found out that I was buying my running shoes too small.

    I too am going super slow! When I completed the program I was running about 2 miles in 30 minutes and now I have made it to 3 miles in 45 minutes. Apparently I am pacing myself well.

    I used the C25k app on my iPhone because I could play my music and a voice would come on an tell me when to start and stop. Keep it up!!

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