A Beginner’s guide: Couch to 5K Run Program

Posted on: April 9th, 2012 by Martin Plowman

DISCLAIMER: Before we get started and start sprinting down the road, it is important to get a full check out from your doctor before you do anything crazy. Just like a race car, your body takes careful planning and a detailed inspection by a crew before it is let loose on the track. In other words, please check that you don’t have any existing health problems that may be negatively affected by working out. This training guide is based on personal experience from working with professional organizations and is not currently endorsed by any sports clinic. Follow it at your own risk! So don’t die, and please don’t sue me. Now enough of the disclaimers! Let’s get down to business.

Listed below are a few basic tips and guidelines to help you go from complete ‘beginner’ to comfortably completing your first 5k. If you are an active person already, than this guide is probably not for you. If you haven’t seen a gym in 20 years or you break a sweat simply walking up the stairs than you are in the right place.

Before you start running, there are three items that you will need to start your journey:

A Good Pair of Runing Shoes: Don’t always go for the cheapest pair and especially don’t go for shoes that just “look cool.” You should expect to pay around $60-$140 for a good pair of running shoes. Scout out a your local running company where experts will be able to analyze your natural stride on a treadmill equipped with a video camera. They will be able to instruct you on what kind of shoe that you will need. Some of us have a neutral stride, while most people’s strides either overpronate or underpronate (when your foot rolls excessively inward or outward after striking the ground).

A Heart Rate Monitor: You don’t really need a fancy watch with GPS and blue tooth tracking and time travel included. A simple Heart BPM counter will do.

Sweat-Wicking Socks: Having wet feet will increase your chances of getting blisters, having discomfort, infection and all around nastiness.


Here’s what you need to know that will help you make the most use of that fancy new heart rate monitor:

Ideal Heart rate zone

Your heart rate is an indicator of how hard you are working. Your target heart rate will depend on your age. In order to train in the Aerobic Zone, your heart’s BPM needs to be around 70-80% of your maximum heart rate. Take a second to look at the chart on the left to determine your ideal heart rate training zone.







Now that you have your supplies and you know how hard to push yourself, let’s get started with some basic info about how to make this whole process hurt less:


Start out slow and by slow I mean walk! After long spells of inactivity your body will need time to loosen up, your blood capillaries will feel the rush of blood again as they circulate blood through your previously unused muscles.

Cool down

Don’t forget to finish each run with a cool down walk after each session. Your body starts to repair it self as soon as you stop jogging. Walking is important to help flush out the toxins that your body created while exercising. Don’t forget to stretch after each workout too. Listed below are a few basic stretches that will help you on your way. Trust me, your body will thank you in the morning!


Your old gym teacher may have ranted on about stretching in gym class, but now that you have a few more years under your belt stretching has even more of an importance than it did before. Here are a few basic stretches that you need to do after each run.


Toe touches


  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Keep your legs straight, but don’t lock out your knees.
  2. Take a deep breath and slowly bend over at your waist leading with a straight back. Go as far as you can without feeling pain. You should feel about a 7/10 discomfort.
  3. Control your breathing and relax. Discomfort should drop to about a 4/10. With each breath try to inch closer to touching your toes. Each stretch should last 20-30 seconds. Repeat 3-5 times.



Quad stretch


  1. Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart, pull your abdominals in, and relax your shoulders.
  2. Bend your left leg, bringing your heel toward your butt, and grasp your left foot with your right hand.
  3. Switch legs and repeat the stretch.




Calf stretch

  1. Stand about an arm’s-length from the wall.
  2. Lean forward and place both hands on the wall about shoulder width apart.
  3. Extend one foot (the side to be stretched) behind you with heel on the ground and one foot closer to the wall.
  4. Lean into wall with your hips until you feel a stretch in the calf of the extended leg.
  5. Hold this stretch for about 30 seconds and change sides.
  6. For a deeper stretch, move your foot farther back.


The 7 Week 5K Run Program.

To begin with, you will do more walking than running. With each week that passes your time spent walking will decrease and your time spent jogging/running will increase as your fitness improves. The chart below indicates a day-by-day guideline of how to break down your progress and give you structure, rather than burn your self out day 1 and feel discouraged. Going from coach potato to 5k runner takes time. Be patient and you will reap the rewards in the end.

Remember to do at least five minutes of walking AFTER your workout. Your body will thank you the next day! Stretching before a workout has recently been discouraged as lengthening muscles before a workout can be counter-productive. A warm-up walk takes the place of a pre workout stretch to warm up muscles and prime them with oxygen before a run.

So here goes…have fun!

(Click image to enlarge)

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Great plan, Martin. I’m doing a Couch to 5K running program right now. Will definitely adopt some of your tips. Cheers!

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