3 Flaws in The Couch to 5K Running Plan (And a Better Plan for Beginner Runners)
The Couch to 5K running plan has helped thousands of couch potatoes run their first 5K.
30 minutes per day, 3 days per week, 9 weeks long and you’re 5K ready.
Overall, I am a fan of the simplicity of the Couch to 5K running plan and the encouraging community of runners it builds.
While I realize the Couch to 5K running plan should be looked as a guide and that no generic training plan is perfect, there are a few shortfalls.
These shortfalls are especially more pronounced in runners with no previous running experience (real beginners) and those who are overweight.
1. There is no strength and mobility component.
Running is stressful on the body. Especially when you’re just getting started.
Beginner runners generally do not have the lower body strength needed to prepare them for the demands of running.
Some general strength and mobility exercises will help you manage the demands. It will also cut the chances of getting injured.
Staying injury free during the first few weeks of running is crucial. 5–10 minutes of strength training per week will do wonders. No equipment required.
The Couch to 5K running plan suggests stretching before and each workout.
I think you will get much more bang for your buck with some simple strength and mobility routine.
RESOURCE: 7-Minute Strength Workout for Runners
2. Run for time in the beginning (not distance).
When you’re just getting started as a runner, your body does not know how far you ran. It only knows that you were on your feet for a certain amount of minutes.
The Couch to 5K plan states that you can run for time or run for distance.
When running for distance, beginner runners often feel pressure to cover a certain distance in a certain time. This creates bad running habits that can lead to burnout, injury and less enjoyment.
3. Repeating (some) weeks should be mandatory.
Beginner runners need time for their bodies and minds to adapt to running.
Newbies often develop injuries like shin splints, Achilles tendonitis, IT band syndrome and plantar fasciitis.
The Couch to 5K program increases the time or distance run with each week. While it does say to repeat weeks if needed and to progress when you feel ready, I think there should be mandatory repeated weeks.
Repeating weeks is more conservative, decreases the chance of getting injured and perhaps most importantly, will be more enjoyable.
Introducing the None to Run
With the shortfalls of The Couch to 5K Running Plan I mentioned above, I have a better plan for you.
Perhaps you have tried The Couch to 5K in the past with no success.
Was moving from week 3 to week 4 too much, too soon?
Maybe you are carrying some extra weight and need a beginner running plan that will serve you better both during and after it’s complete.