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Top 9 things to expect when starting Couch to 5k running plan

Hi, welcome to my beauty blog. I am Rachael, and this is my beauty blog Written by Rachael on December 2023, last updated: February 2024

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You’re excited to start your couch to 5k journey and after doing it myself, you’re going to love it! I still run now, a few years since completing couch to 5k twice. It gave me the confidence to pace myself but it didn’t prepare me for everything – that’s what my blog is for!

Here are my top 10 things you should expect when you start your exciting couch to 5k journey. If you’d prefer to read other article on my top couch to 5k Q&A, find it here!

Prepare to be knackered

Each run is generally around 30 minutes, so if you aren’t a regular exerciser, prepare to be tired when you finish! Here are a few tips that I do when I know I’ve got a run planned in the morning:

  • have a decent supper full of carbs the night before
  • have a good sleep the night before
  • have a breakfast full of carbs (granola, berries, yoghurt)
  • drink a strong coffee and have water with electrolytes (more about this in my couch to 5k Q&A article)
  • eat carbs when I get in, and have another coffee
  • try to rest as much as possible for the rest of the day
  • shower when I get in to wake me up (and finish with a cold shower!)

As you get fitter, you’ll probably be less tired but give yourself a break if you have an off day. I’m slower the week before my period and that’s OK! Hey, at least I’ve been; giving 40% effort was me giving 100%.

Run extremely slow

Don’t try to go too fast on the off, or you’ll tire yourself out. I’ve done this plenty of times – it’s easily done but I would recommend you DON’T do this. Not only does it ruin the rest of your run, but you won’t enjoy it, making summoning the motivation to go out again very hard. When you first set off running, go as slow as you can – even slower than your walking speed. It works and helps to keep the momentum not only in your legs but mentally too.

You’ll probably get sore muscles

Please please please make sure you’re warming up and stretching after your runs! I’ve listed info on stretching in my Q&A article, but it’s worth mentioning here as it’s really important. If you are able, I’d recommend making a few purchases to help reduce getting injuries. Properly stretching will improve your performance – so it’s really important 🙂

They include getting properly fitted trainers, a massage gun, a foam roller and ice packs. Ice packs will become your best friend if you get painful shin splints. If you’re on YouTube or TikTok, search for stretches for pre and post-run – you’ll find a lot, so save a few you like that feel good (but ensure to do enough that covers all leg muscles).

Ice your shin splints with these gel packs
Ice packs! Great for helping reduce inflammation

Don’t expect a huge instant weight loss

Running helps you get fitter and if you stick to the program, that’s 3 runs a week which will encourage weight loss! But it goes hand in hand with your diet and food. Depending on who you talk to, some will say couch to 5k helps weight loss – others will disagree.

My opinion is that as you start and continue with couch to 5k program, your whole mental attitude changes. You become healthier and eat better, knowing what you eat will fuel your runs. This food-attitude shift along with running will help you lose weight but it might not be as quick as you want. My personal opinion is that the slower you lose weight, the more chance you have of it staying off. You’re making a lifestyle change, instead of a diet, which has more longevity 🙂

Get fit in the gym. Lose weight in the kitchen.

You’ll feel more positive

When you go out for a run, you’re giving yourself space to think and be at one with yourself. I have my best ideas when running outside in the fresh air. It’s not only improving your fitness, you’re improving your mental toughness and resilience too. If you go for a run when it’s chucking it down, you’re building character – you can cope with it and push through. It makes finishing even sweeter and you’ll feel proud of yourself. Cheesy I know but it’s true.

I went for a run a few weeks ago in the worst rain we’ve had in a long time, and wind. I felt like not bothering – it would have been really easy to do something else, but I went and got my running gear on. When I got home, I felt extremely proud of myself and it made me love running even more.

You’ll inspire others (and yourself)

I don’t share my progress on social media. My husband is the only one who I’ve allowed to follow me on Strava. However, I’ve got friends who share their progress, and it inspires me. I’ve spoken to them about my progress, and they’ve told me it’s motivated them even more. When you get familiar with running and what your pace is, you’ll start to compare yourself to your past self and see your improvement.

You might decide to share your progress with others, and even join a club! Anybody who starts a journey like this deserves recognition and you’ll inspire others even if you aren’t aware of it.

You’ll probably be more hungry

As you burn calories working out, you’ll probably want to eat more. Make sure to keep those energy levels up by eating more protein, to stay fuller for longer (think eggs, fish, nuts, lentils, beans). Make sure you’re including protein in every meal, in addition to snacks.

I also eat extra carbs the evening before a run, to ensure I have the energy during my run.

Don’t expect to be able to run 5k after week 1

The program aims to get you running for a full 30 minutes where you’ll run 5k. Don’t set your expectations to be able to do this within a few weeks, as you’ll demotivate yourself. The program is 9 weeks for a reason. It helps you pace yourself, to ensure it’s enjoyable and injury-free.

Prepare to return to previous runs

If you’re ill, or something happens so you aren’t able to run for a week or so, be kind to yourself and allow yourself to go back a run or two. For example, if you’re on Week 3, Run 2, but have a week and a half off due to sickness, don’t force your body to go straight into W3 R3. You could go into W2 R1, then back into W3 R2 then R3, if you feel up to it.

I hope you got some tips from this! I’ve also written a Q&A which goes into more depth relating to stretching, food etc. Feel free to check it out: my Couch to 5k Q&A article.

Safety tips when running

I’ve written an article on tips on how to stay safe. Feel free to check it out here: top safety tips for runners.

Not sure when you’ll fit in a run with your 9-5? Here’s my advice on how to go for a run in your lunch break.

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