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Couch to 5K Training Tips:

How to get off the couch and start running

 by Stephanie Miller

Alright couch potatoes!

It’s time to face that New Year’s resolution you’ve been putting off for the past month.

It’s time to get off the couch…and get running.

Now I understand running can be daunting. As a former hater of running myself (it was a love/hate relationship for many years), it took time to get over the hump. You have to be consistent and stay motivated. You have to squash that little voice inside your head that says, “Everything hurts. Go back home and eat a bowl of cheese puffs.”

Don’t give into that voice. Sign up for a 5K and start training because it’s easier than you think. Here’s how to do it.

Get the right gear

The first step is to go to a speciality running store and get fitted for the right pair of running shoes. So many of us start complaining of shin splints or sore muscles after we start running, and that can be due to the wrong type of shoe. To help prevent injuries, speak with a running shoe expert; trust me, your joints will thank you down the road. Read: Finding the Perfect Running Shoe.

“The main thing is a pair of good shoes,” says Norm Blair, professional trainer and owner of Jus’ Running in Asheville. “That’s 90 percent of it right there.”

Norm has run roughly 20 marathons and over 1,000 races in his lifetime, so he knows a thing or two about training. If you’re just starting out, he also recommends investing in some lightweight, inexpensive workout clothes and make sure you are dressed appropriately for the weather. See Winter Running blog. A water bottle is also nice to have, and for this type of distance a hand-held water bottle works well.

Getting motivated and staying that way

Two of the best ways I have found to stay motivated for running are races, and running buddies. Signing up for an actual 5K will help hold you accountable. After all, now you’ve spent money on race registration. You shared it on your Facebook page and told your friends. There’s no getting out of it now. Need courage? Drink a glass of wine and get online; don’t overthink it. Most running stores have websites and social media pages that provide information on races in your area. If you live in North Carolina, www.carolinarunner.com is a great resource for upcoming events.

A running buddy or running group will help keep you showing up for runs even when it’s cold, raining, or “too early.” You’ll build new friendships and enjoy interesting conversations, because when you suffer together, you really get to know someone. And don’t worry, you won’t be suffering for long; soon you’ll look forward to your “mini-therapy sessions” with your running buddy or group, who help push you to train harder than you would on your own. 

Couch to 5K running tips

Ok you’re signed up for a race, you have the right pair of shoes and clothing, and you’re ready to start training. Now what?

Just start walking.

“Start walking and intersperse short jogs in between for 15 seconds to one minute, depending on your fitness level,” says Norm. “Walk for 10 minutes, then jog for a set time. When you start to feel discomfort, stop. But push yourself each time. It’s all about consistency.”

Notice he didn’t say anything about distance. In fact, training for a 5K is all about time, not mileage.

“Don’t aim for mileage,” Norm says. “The best thing to use is time. Don’t worry about the miles. Worry about the minutes.”

Norm also suggests giving yourself small goals during your training. Tell yourself you’ll jog to that red mailbox, then the oak tree on the corner. Then from that angry barking dog that you’re not sure is protected by an electric fence or not. Once you get up to the 40 to 45 minute range, you will be ready for a 5K.

“Don’t worry about the miles. Worry about the minutes.” ~ Norm Blair, owner of Jus’ Running.

Consistency is key to your success

Your training schedule will depend on your current fitness level and age. If you’re out of shape and feel you will need more time, plan on a six-month training regime. If you feel you’re in good shape, two to three months will be sufficient. Just be realistic about your fitness level and capabilities, and always check with your physician first before starting a new training regime.

Aim for training three days a week, and program those days into your schedule. That will be YOUR time: a half-hour to an hour each time you train.

“You’ll need to organize your time to make this happen,” Norm points out. “You’ll find you’ll actually be more efficient in your life if you’re working out, because in a lot of ways, it forces you to be more organized.”

Closing Thoughts

These 5K training tips are obviously geared towards those who are just starting out, but once you feel comfortable you can set more goals for yourself, like running faster miles, or running longer. Sticking to a routine will make running more enjoyable, and if possible, seek out a running route that winds through woods or other scenic trails. Also don’t forget to cross-train; cross-training can help prevent injuries by strengthening other muscles that are utilized when running, and it helps to reduce impact on your legs. Regardless of what you do, just start a routine and be consistent. And don’t always be a lone wolf; you may be surprised to learn there’s a whole crazy running community out there just waiting for you to join their pack. 

Additional Training Suggestions:

If you’re young and/or fit: Walk 4 minutes, run 1 minute.

If you’re out of shape: Walk 10 minutes, jog 15 seconds.

Your goal is to build up to mostly running. And don’t forget to stretch!

Extra special Norm tip: Don’t overcomplicate it.