Perhaps a bit of misleading title - let me clarify. There is nothing wrong with Couch 2 5km, it's a great programme to introduce beginners to running.
BUT it could be much better and there is a really easy to make sure that you get the most out of running.
1) NOT ALL BEGINNERS ARE CREATED EQUAL
This is probably my biggest gripe with C25K. Having coached various beginner running groups, there is a huge variety in what a beginner actually is and what they can achieve throughout a 9-week programme. For some it might be a whole lot more, for others much less. A 'one size fits all' approach to anything, especially exercise, is not recommended by any health professional.
There are different types of beginners. Some beginners are not really beginners - they might participate in other sports or regular exercise but are just new to running. Some people might have run in the past but might have not run for a while and want to get back into things. Some beginners are complete beginners - they might have never run before in their lives and generally don't walk a great deal either.
Either way, any exercise programme should be tailored to the individual and adapted as they progress. Some will achieve much more than a 5km and should be encouraged to progress more quickly, while others need to build a solid foundation to build strength and prevent injury.
2) NOT EVERYONE CAN ACHIEVE 5KM IN 30 MINUTES
A sub-30 minute 5km for a complete beginner is quite unrealistic. Many experienced runners can't get the elusive sub-30. For many beginners, their first 5km might be more like 40 mins so they need to build up to running for a longer distance to achieve that elusive 5km.
Setting an unrealistic target of a 30 minute 5km can be detrimental to beginners who feel they are not making the progress they should.
3) WHAT ABOUT STRENGTH AND MOBILITY?
Many beginners simply don't have the strength in their legs to run for extended period. Anyone embarking on new exercise needs to ensure that their muscles are adequately prepared. Runners in particular need to work on their core and leg strength as part of their routine.
4) WHAT ABOUT STRETCHING?
Another fundamental aspect of running is including stretching and flexibility as part of your routine. Runners are renowned for the weak glute/tight hip flexor combo (which comes from most of us sitting down for too long) which leads to a variety of aches, pains and injuries.
5) WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU GET INJURED?
The dreaded injury! Beginner runners are particularly prone to injuries shin splints, plantar fasciitis, knee and IT band pain, Achilles tendonitis to name a few. Including strength and stretching into a routine can make sure that the body is prepared for the stress of running but what are you going to do if you get injured? Give up? No way!
There are a variety of exercises which can help with running that don't actually require you to run. I've personally trained for and completed a marathon without running for 3 months beforehand - it can be done. It might not have been my fastest but I was able to allow my injured bits time to recover whilst maintaining my cardio fitness and leg strength.
SO, HOW ARE YOU GOING TO GET THE MOST OUT OF C25K?
If you really want to get moving and have a programme that is realistic and meets you individual needs, you need individual programme created by a running professional.
Sounds expensive? Not really. For less than £3 per week you can access your individual running programme and support from a qualified Running Coach.
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