The Best Couch to 5k Training Plan - Hint It’s Not About Running
If you google Couch to 5k training plans, you will get hundreds of search results for generic training plans and phone apps that use the run/walk method to start your training. Of course there is nothing wrong with this approach, it’s the same approach we take with our beginner runners. Everybody needs to ease their body into the stresses of training, which is why the run/walk method is so popular (Here is a link to The Perfect Pace C25K training plan). But easing into your training is the easy part, anybody can write a program that gradually increases from walking to running.
What’s the real key… the secret sauce… the magic bullet that will have you running marathons at breakneck speed, well here is it… BEING PERSONALLY ACCOUNTABLE to yourself. Every strong runner holds themselves accountable to achieving their goals and consistently sticks to their plan. So now you have your C25K plan, here are 7 tricks to holding yourself accountable to achieve your goals.
7 Traits of Successful Runners
1. Running is a Lifestyle
It's not something you do after work, it's not something you only spend 30 minutes a day doing, IT’S A LIFESTYLE. You are a runner! Become engaged in the running community. Find a local race to volunteer at or join a running group. You will meet tons of new people and make lifelong friends along your training journey. Remember to keep it fun and enjoy your time with the sport.
2. Have the Right Mindset
Running is an interesting sport, because you need to put in hours, days, weeks, and months of training for an event that will last 30 minutes. It’s a game of patience and slow methodical training. You must be willing to accept the amount of time and dedication that will be required to achieve your training.
3. Make Running a Habit and a Priority
Every runner has days when they wake up in the morning and want to skip a run because it’s too cold outside, or it's raining in the evening when they get home from a long day at work. Pushing through the initial couple weeks of your program and solidifying your training as a habit and a priority will help you stay on track on the tough days. Making training a priority in your schedule will pay dividends on race day. Don’t feel bad if you miss a day every once in a while. Even elite runners struggle with this occasionally.
4. Have a Running Accountability Buddy
Find a group to run with, or other people with common pace and training goals. The running community is huge, and running groups are great places to make new friends. Having somebody there to help you stay focused will help you stay on track. Although, we highly encourage new runners to engage with your running community, sometimes you need a little more accountability and a running coach can be a great asset to keep you on track. Running coaches can also help answer questions and provide specific guidance to the nuances of running from shoes, to running form, and when to see a doctor for that nagging pain in your shins. If you are interested in a running coach we offer online, in-person private and group coaching. Check us out… ok shameless plug over.
5. Track All of Your Runs/Walks
It can be easy to lose track of your progress and become disheartened or you may feel as if you are stuck in a rut. Tracking your runs will help keep you motivated. I personally track all of my runs by hand in my Excel training plan, and with my TomTom watch. We do recommend running with a running watch, especially if you want to take the sport further and track helpful data points. Side note… heart rate tracking is one of the best ways to see if you are training properly so a watch with a heart rate sensor is a must. If you are looking for a running watch here is what we recommend.
TomTom Spark Cardio
I love the TomTom watch for its simplicity, heart rate tracking, and easy to use phone and web app. This is the watch we both run with, and have been running with for years.
Garmin Forerunner 235
Another great watch that’s popular for runners is the Garmin Forerunner 235 which is very accurate and also has built in heart rate monitoring.
6. Create Mini Goals
Sometimes having one overarching long term goal can be too ambitious and overwhelming. Breaking up your training in to mini goals can help keep you focused and on track, and prevent burn out. Typically we do 3-5 week training blocks with a mini goal at the end of each block. You could set a goal of increasing your per mile pace by 15 seconds per mile by the end of the training block… or increasing your weekly mileage by 2-3 miles per week.
Remember SMART Goals
Specific - what are you trying to achieve, the actions needed, and why it's important
Measurable - ensure that your goal has a measurable outcome
Achievable - your goal should be challenging, but also reasonably achievable
Relevant - you goal should be relevant to your end goal i.e. increasing distance or pace
Time-bound - you need to set a deadline for yourself, 3-5 weeks is a good target
7. Celebrate your Accomplishments
Last be not least, celebrate all you have accomplished! Nothing about this sport is easy, and it’s important to remember that. Don’t forget to enjoy yourself and have fun!
Now that you know the biggest secret to being a successful runner, here is our base C25k training plan. So get out there and start your adventure! If you are curious about running gear check out what we run with here. Here are some of our top pick from Amazon too!