Who said Couch to 5K was easy? Oh, that was me. Somebody hit me.

Have you heard of Couch to 5K?  It’s a program to get your lazy rear end off the computer chair or the couch or wherever you chose to plant it, and get it running 5 kilometers, all in the space of 6-9 weeks.

There are many variations on the program, but I think they’re all pretty similar.   We’re using the free Podrunner music to tell us when to walk and when to jog.  You alternate brisk walks with short easy jogs for about 20-30 minutes, 3 days each week, gradually increasing the length of the intervals and shifting the proportion of walking to running.

By the end of 9 weeks, you find that you can run 5 kilometers, nonstop, without collapsing into a gasping quivering heap of flesh in the middle of the road.  At least, not until you reach the 5k mark.  Then I think it’s ok to fall down and cry.

Although I only became a couch slug in the last 6 years, I have never ever been able to run or jog for any respectable distance.  I have done martial arts, weight-lifting, bicycling (can I call a 12 mile trip “cross-country bicycling”?  What if I was 9 months pregnant at the time?), spent an entire summer mowing lawns (and lifting a big heavy mower in and out of the trunk of the car), and more.

In spite of all this, I have never been able to run farther than it takes to outrun a toddler in the grocery store parking lot.   Couch to 5K was a new and exciting concept to me, and I couldn’t wait to start.

I breezed through the first week, challenged to my limits but eager for more.  I even posted on facebook that the 3rd workout of the week was easy. Nevertheless, I agreed to repeat the first week for the sake of the late starters in our family.

The second week, surprisingly, was no easier.  My second workout last week was the hardest yet – I had to skip one of the running sessions and sat down to rest twice, afraid that I was going to faint.  Do you think I’m exaggerating?  Not a bit.  I know that feeling.

We spent 5 days on the road for a homeschool conference so we missed our 3rd workout last week.  I did it this morning instead.

I thought I was going to die.

Once again, I had to skip one of the 60-second jogs.  Then I had to sit down in the shade as soon as we had finished, because my legs just weren’t going any further.  I made it halfway up the hill to my driveway and had to sit down again because walking was too hard.  When I finally made it up the steps to my deck, I collapsed into an exhausted heap on a wrought iron chair and paid a child a quarter to hose me down.

I’m trying to convince myself that it was due to climate: we spent 5 days in air conditioning then came back to higher temps than when we left, and I was working out much later in the morning than I usually do.  I should get up much earlier and try again tomorrow.

Maybe it was diet.  We just spent 5 days eating a combination of junk food, fast food, and fast junk food.  I should eat plenty of greens and protein and try again tomorrow.

Maybe I was just tired.  We didn’t sleep well on the hotel beds, and Parker made it clear that he missed his bed too.  I should go to bed early tonight and try again tomorrow.

Or maybe I’m just a Can’t Hack It Pantywaist.  If that’s the case, excuses abound.  Number of past pregnancies, recent childbirth, breastfeeding, age, weight…I should give up now instead of torturing myself for 9 weeks before I face the truth.

Which do you think is the real reason?  Be honest.  Can I do this?  Could you do this?


  1. I appreciate this post was a while ago but have been struggling with week 4 and wanted to share 3 points with you.

    1, you can never run to slow
    2, repeat the week as many times as you need
    3, when I really struggled with week 4 my clever boyfriend found me a flat route and I was able to finish the session which was a much better boost psychologically than going up even a slight incline.

    • Pam, I agree on all 3 points. I was really shocked at how much difference a very slight slope can make! Running on flat ground is SO much easier!

  2. We need an update! And I’m especially curious to know if it’s helped you lose baby weight and/or build abdominal muscle tone.

    • Shyla,
      Thanks for asking – I’ve been planning to do an update. I’ll do it soon now that I know somebody is waiting to hear. 🙂

  3. The link you provided to Couch to 3K, Is that the one you use? Did you pay $37? I have found what appears to be several programs, some cost, others are free, they all go by the smae name Couch to 3k. Which one is everyone using?
    Thanks for the info!

    • Misty,
      We use Podrunner’s free podcasts or an iPod app that gives cues while we listen to our own music. I only linked to the paid program because (I assume) it’s the original, the one that inspired the others.

  4. No, I could not, Not, NOT do it. And, in case you misunderstood me…


    I’ll applaud you for trying though (after I quit giggling at your expense)!

  5. No! I just started this program this week and I was thinking it was totally easy and doable! Don’t tell me it will get harder! I really think both diet and heat can be huge factors as well as lack of sleep. I’m determined to stick it out and give it a good, solid try. I’ve NEVER been a runner. A sprinter, yes. I played freeze tag (serious, 16-year-old freeze tag: awesome!) when I was younger, but I’ve never been able to do distances. I’m excited to see if I’ll be able to complete the program. It seems like the whole point of alternating jogging and walking is to give your body a break. So if your body needs to rest and catch it’s breath, then I’d suggest going ahead and letting it. Even if you can only do a couple of the jogging parts and have to walk most of it, it’s still getting out there and I’d imagine you’d gradually get more strength. Godspeed!

  6. Kim,
    You can do it! I started when I weighed 215 pounds, and finished. I’ve since lost 40 pounds and am still doing it. Just keep going, and don’t be afraid to repeat weeks. Don’t move on until you can comfortably do that week’s run.

  7. I was always active but never a runner until after the birth of my 9th child. That was 8 years ago and I still run 3 miles several days a week. Don’t give up, but it wouldn’t hurt to slow down the program until the weather cools a little. I find it makes a HUGE difference in how I feel. For inspiration, check out the “Newbie Chronicles” at runnersworld.com. Hilarious look at beginning a running program! 🙂

  8. You can do it! I would agree that being hydrated and eating good food makes a big difference. Treat your body right, don’t get discouraged, but remember it may take a little longer. Everyone is different.

  9. Oh, man. Totally it is a combination of heat, too much junk, not enough sleep, (not enough hydration?), etc. And even then sometimes you just have an off day. Keep trying, you can do it!

  10. I didn’t read all the comments, but I just wanted to let you know that I did this! If I did it, you can totally do it! I’ve never been a runner, hated running (well, still do), and I ran my first 5k race in October of last year. I started training in the summer as well. You’ll find once fall comes around that your endurance goes way up! lol. But I have a couple of tips. First, definitely try to stay away from junk food as best you can. You’ll always feel the difference in what you eat when you run. Some food just sits in your stomach like a rock. Second, drink plenty of water and definitely run either early in the day, or after the sun sets. We did most of our training at night because it was so miserable to feel the sun heating up the road the longer you were out there (and sweating and panting). Third, repeat weeks as needed. Always push yourself, but you have to know your limits. Also, sometimes a week of rest is just what you need. I went from barely being able to run for the 5 minute intervals, then after a week rest, being able to jump up to 15 minutes continuously.

    Another word of encouragement. Once you finish the program, even if you take a 4 month break for winter (like I lazily did!), you will be able to run much farther than what you did when you first started the program. Starting to run again will never be as hard as what it is right now for you!

    You can do this!!

  11. I think it’s that heat later in the day (and possibly the retrograde effect of living with AC for a while).

    Be gracious with yourself. Drink lots of water. Try to do the runs earlier in the day. And if you’re finding yourself faint (or actually before you find yourself faint) then ignore the Podrunner and walk instead of run, or sit instead of walk. Clearly you are not some pantywaist whiner who needs to be pushed, so if your body is saying “ease up lady” then listen to it.

    And good luck!

  12. This work you have put before yourself sounds like a challenge. Have fun while you do this and drink lots of water. Running to me has always been very boring and too much pain to make it worth while. I know I could if I wanted to because I just wouldn’t let myself give up. Tenacity. Refusing to be a quitter. But I just wouldn’t want to get so physically uncomfortable over just running so I won’t even start! : ) Go for it! You CAN do this. Everything about you shows that you start what you finish unless further ponderings or husbandly wisdom and intervention change your mind. God does lead us in many ways and sometimes we don’t finish what we start because of God’s leading. But you certainly aren’t a quitter.

    Totally off the subject-I made your homemade sauce for enchiladas. It was so delicious. I made homemade enchiladas first. The dish was a fabulous success. Do you make homemade enchiladas for your sauce or do you put the sauce on something else? It took forever to make the enchiladas: cook the tortillas over the burner, fill and roll them, fill two pans full and then pour the fantastic sauce over it all. The kitchen was a mess. I thought, “Kim does not do this like this!” Help.

    • Jamie,
      We rarely make our own tortillas. Down here they are cheap and plentiful, and our tortilla press just turns out very small ones – too small to roll easily, though they’re delicious fresh and plain. I know a lot of people use corn tortillas softened in oil, but we use flour tortillas straight from the package. With 2 people working on assembly, it only takes a few minutes to fill 2 pans with enchiladas.

  13. hahahahah too true Kim. I applaud you. I too have set goals and have felt AMAZING at meeting them. Running however has always stood lofty and in the distance 😉
    I walk a three-mile trail a few times a week, and I am happy with that. I still end up sweating hard and feeling great. But running……now that scares me. I am glad you want to do this. Enjoy and keep us posted!

  14. I think you can do it! 🙂 It sounds like a really good program. We have a treadmill inside of our air conditioned home, so that would make it easier (and cooler!).

    It was so nice meeting you and your family at the NTHEN convention in Plano. You have a beautiful, sweet family!

  15. I have nothing to prove, so I am a quitter. My personal advice, is that anything that takes an otherwise healthy mom who has to take care of bunches of children, and makes her feel faint and sick, is not worth doing. What is the purpose or end result of this? If it’s to be healthy, then that is done over a lifetime with healthy choices, not in a race. If it is to prove something to yourself, I guess I could get behind that. It’s understandable, we all need goals. But then again, I am not competitive, so that wouldn’t get me heaving my lungs out on a road. Please know that I am not at al linterested in running, or races, or anything like that, so take my advice with a grain of salt. 😛

    • valerie,
      I don’t like not being able to do something and I’ve never been able to run, so yes: as you said, it’s a goal I have set in front of myself. To be able to run sounds to me like being able to fly – but attainable! I want to do this!
      I could never do a headstand or real push-up until I was 25yo and taking karate. Even something so small gives a great sense of accomplishment and encourages me to try something harder. Now I want to learn to run, and I don’t want to quit until I taste success. Then, if I don’t enjoy it, I might quit – but not because of the 4 letter word we don’t allow our children to say: c-a-n-t.

  16. Sara Pagones says:

    I’ve never posted here before, but I had to say something. You are being MUCH too hard on yourself. It’s August. The heat index must be akin to the surface of the planet Mercury. And you are post-partum. My goodness. I’m all for being tough, but sometimes you have to give yourself a break.

  17. I think its because you took a week off. This early in the training, it is super important to stick to the schedule. 😉 Don’t be afraid to start over if you need to, your body will get built up to it. You can do it! 😀

  18. I can’t wait until I have a kid or two old enough to babysit. I tried to start walking (motivated primarily by you). I thought my oldest could manage our children as long as they were sleeping so my husband and I walked for about a month between 5:30 and 6:30 am. Now it’s too dark to safely walk and by the time it’s light enough to start we run into their waking time.

    I do appreciate the motivation you’ve given me though! I can’t wait until July next year. It walking with him was almost like a date.

  19. shoebotmom says:

    Oh, my. I would say that you have just had an off day! I am on week 3 of couch to 5k….though I am doing a simple timed version. I have never run before in my life….unless someone was chasing me and even then it didn’t last long. My husband is a runner and I would really like for us to be able to run together. So here I am. Today’s workout was a 5 min brisk walk, 7 min jog, 5 min brisk walk. I completely shocked myself by breezing through it! I don’t worry about distance or pace. Just that clock. It was awesome.

    I’m willing to bet that it was the travel, the diet and the heat that threw you off today. Hope that your next workout is a smashing success!!!!!

  20. My sister did it and LOVED it. I have tried several times and never made it past the first 2 weeks. BUT………….as soon as our summer schedule is over, I AM going to do it. I think I can, I think I can…….

  21. Seriously, if I’m not being chased, then I’m not running. And even then, I’m only running if I don’t have a gun. End of story. Not even if you paid me.

    You’ve got more spunk than me – kudos!

  22. You can do it! I did the couch to 5K last summer and made it up to where I could run the full 5K. Of course, then I got pregnant and quit running when my belly started bouncing around. I was like you — I had never been a runner. What convinced me to start the program was when I would hear myself saying “I could never run 5K.” Being told what I can’t do (even by myself) is highly motivational for me, so off I went! My advice is that if you find a week is kicking your hiney, just repeat it until it’s manageable. Don’t give up!

  23. Girl! I started gasping for breath…sweat started pouring…I ached all over… But then I got to the end of your post!!! ;0). Ha! I had to grab my water bottle and take a big gulp. I’m not a runner AT ALL. I started T-Tapp a few weeks ago. Today was my first day of doing the 55 minute workout. I did not make it. (sigh) I decided to add 1 new movement at a time…and I’m inside WITH an a/c! Pitiful, I know! I so enjoy your posts. I’m a mom of 6 in MS…

  24. Clearly I have not given birth as often nor do I live in such a warm climate for I found podcast series to be rather easy. Until I quite that is.

    I got ill and never got back to it… but I remember skipping the walking and just jogging through…

    I am sure that the heat would do me in. And the food. And the lack of sleep.

    I think you can do it, but like you, I never have been a jogger… so perhaps there is something else out there?

  25. I started the couch to 5k about a year and a half ago. I had never ever done any sort of exercise whatsoever in my life of my own volition. I was the most couchy potato out there. I remember that weeks two and three were the hardest. Once you get past that hump, it’s still hard but gradually gets easier.

    Trust me. Hang in there and you can do it. I did it and ran my first 5K ever in 30 minutes! And you know what? A year after starting the C25K, I ran my first marathon! It’s a great program that has produced results for so many people, but many folks bail at week 2 or 3 because they are the hardest. Stick with it and you can do it.

    Email me anytime you need encouragement!

    Oh, and I’m no young childless puppy, either. I started the program at the age of 30 with three kids, a dog, two cats, a husband to take care of and all the resulting toll on my body of having three kids (1 by cesarean).

  26. It really is meant for anyone to do. Seriously. I’m FAT. LOL. And asthmatic. And did I mention FAT?? And I’m on week 5….been stuck there for a bit ’cause I’ve been sick, but still. I found that when the intervals got hard enough for me to feel faint or nauseous…it was time to pull my pace back a bit. I run on the treadmill, so I slowed my pace from an 11min mile to a 15min mile. Made a world of difference! The intervals were hard but not excruciating. And it went back to feeling like a workout, not torture LOL
    Hang in there Kim! You can do this! Pull your pace back, stick to the water and take your time!

  27. I feel your pain. I have never been a runner, although I played high school basketball and volleyball. Running by itself was torturous and boring. Fast forward to last January, nearly 32 years old, four kids 6 and under, youngest just 7 weeks old. I decided to do the C25K plan to lose the baby weight, using our treadmill, because I like the climate control and couldn’t take the kids with me anyways.
    It was definitely hard – I thought for sure I would never make it some of those days, and I did end up repeating a few sessions. I’m sorry to say I didn’t complete the program – I got to the beginning of week 9 and actually ran 2.85 miles w/o stopping (a record for me!) in 28 minutes….then the whole family came down with a stomach bug and I couldn’t exercise for a week ….. somehow I lost my momentum and motivation for it, had some knee problems, and just toned down to running once a week, about 2.5 miles.
    Then this summer I got lazy, had more knee issues, and didn’t run for about a month. Now I’m trying again….just ran today for 20 minutes – 2 miles – and had a stitch in my side for 30 minutes during/afterwards. Ugh.

    anyways, keep it up, you’ll make it. It was probably a combination of the heat and the food. And seriously, if you stop for just a week, you seem to lose a lot of what had taken several weeks to gain, at least that’s my experience. Good luck!

  28. Cindy in GA says:

    I think it’s b/c it hasn’t been that long since Parker’s birth. Even though you’re fine to start exercising at this point, it just takes longer (in my experience!) to get your body going hard when you’ve recently been through pregnancy and birthing. (And yeah, getting older accentuates that I think. I noticed that especially after our last birth last fall when I was 41.)

    I’d slow it down and do “week 1” several times over before trying week 2. Also, you might see whether working out feels better later in the day (or evening) or earlier in the morning – an early morning jog can feel tortuous to me, while the same jog in the evening feels like a walk in the park. I’m just not a morning person, and it makes a big difference when I try to exercise.

  29. I’m with Sandy – plenty of water! and build up if you need to.

    But as for me, I really don’t know if I could do this… I’ve only had 3 kids (the youngest is 6 months) and although I was very active when I was younger, running was never easy for me. I will be interested to see if you do stick with this. If you do, I might be persuaded that maybe I can do it, too….

    But I’m in such a condition right now that I’d be thrilled with ‘Couch to 1/2 K.’ 🙂

  30. And how is your hydration? Make sure you’re getting plenty of water, and since it’s so durn hot down there, consider some gatorade or other sports drink after your workout.

  31. I could never do this. Even when I was young I could not jog or run for any distance. I often thought it was mental though and I think there is a certain mindset that is required to do any sort of distance running.

  32. Consider repeating weeks? Slow your pace down? I’d say that if you are struggling THAT much in the runs, start by slowing your pace down during the running intervals. And perhaps repeat whatever week you’re on twice to build up some endurance.

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