17 common misconceptions about Couch To 5k

When I first ran the Couch to 5k, I had a lot of mental barriers that kept me from starting.

On the Left, July 2010, 195 pounds, on the right, July 2011, 159 pounds.

On the Left, July 2010, before I started running, on the right, July 2011, many miles run and 40 pounds lost.

Almost five years and four marathons later, I’ve learned a lot along the way. I want to share some of the thinking that held me back so it doesn’t hold you back.

… that you have to be able to finish a 3-mile run in 30 minutes by the end of the training plan.

The way the Couch to 5K works, it builds you up to running for 30 consecutive minutes by the end of 9 weeks. I couldn’t finish a 5K in 30 minutes by the end of 9 weeks — my first 5K was something like 32 minutes — the whole point is that the training program works you up to running 30 minutes at a time.

… that you have to have a smartphone or an app to do it.

There are podcasts. Or you can just do it with a simple timer on your watch. But if you do get an app, I recommend this one.

… that you have to run it on a treadmill.

When I started running the couch to 5K, I had never *gone for a run* outside before. Granted, the treadmill makes it easier to time your intervals, but going outside makes it enjoyable. A podcast, app or watch makes it easy.

… that you will be able to pick up where you left off if you skip a bunch of days.

The key to getting results is that you’re consistent. Generally, you should go back the number of days that you missed — e.g. if you missed a week, you should go back to the week before the last week you did. If it feels easy, you can always step it up the next time.

… That you can make up days you’ve missed by running more days in a row.

Nope. It’s about doing a little bit more over a period of time, not about how much you get done overall. If you miss a few days, you have to go back and do that week over. Running more/harder before you’re ready is the path to injury.

Ice is the greatest. invention. ever.

The knee injury of winter 2013. That was a sad time.

… that you have to be already “be a runner” to start.

Nope. Not at all. You should be a walker, though. If you can walk for 25 minutes, you can do this.

… that it’s only for people who are out of shape.

If you’re already pretty fit but you’ve never run before, you still want to build up a running base over time. Running too much too soon is the pathway to injury. if you find that a day of the program is really easy, you can skip ahead to the next week at your next workout.

… that you can’t do it again if you’ve already done it once.

Nope. If you haven’t run in a long time, this is a great way to get back into it. I did a modified version of the couch to 5K again when I started running after taking around 4 months off for the birth of my daugher.

Going for a run a week before Felicity was born. I was able to run regularly until I was about 32 weeks pregnant.

Going for a run a week before Felicity was born. I was able to run regularly until I was about 32 weeks pregnant.

… that running is really hard and you can’t believe there is something out there that will make it easier.

Yes. This program really does make it possible. Even for people who don’t run. I’m proof.

… that you’ll definitely lose weight if you run the couch to 5k.

This is a tough one.

For me, personally, I lost weight. A lot of weight.

But I also changed my diet.

That’s a key part of losing weight — burning more calories than you consume. I think a key to leading a healthy lifestyle is focusing on building one healthy habit that you can manage at a time. So if you decided that starting an exercise routine is going to be the healthy habit you want to work on the next 9 weeks — awesome! I would focus on that, and then on counting calories.

I found success in changing one thing at a time. First I started running, then I joined Weight Watchers. Wait until you have a habit built, and then move onto the next piece you need to change.

That being said, I would much rather eat a burger and run a 5K than just not eat a burger. 😉

… that you should keep track of how many miles you’re running.

I didn’t bother to do this until I started training for my first half marathon, weeks after I finished the Couch to 5K. I don’t think it matters (though it’s fun to know). What matters is that you’re building the practice of going out running every other day.

… that you should keep track of how fast you’re running.

See above. Though sometimes its nice to know how far you’ve come.

.. that you need to get any special clothing or watch to start running.

I ran the Couch to 5K wearing cross-trainers, not running shoes. Didn’t bother to buy running sneakers until after my first 5k. If you’re having pain after a few days, it might be worth investing in a pair of sneakers, but you probably aren’t going to be running enough to warrant that in the beginning.

… that you can’t repeat a week if you’re struggling.

IT IS TOTALLY OK TO REPEAT A WEEK. It is better to repeat a week than it is to give up altogether. I promise if you keep doing that week over and over again, you will be able to move to the next week eventually.

… that you have to change your diet to “be a runner.”

You should eat whole foods, mostly vegetables, because they nourish your body. But at this stage, the most important thing to see results is to focus on running three times a week, not on what you eat.

Photo on 2012-09-02 at 18.18 #3

One of my favorite healthy snacks: Peanut butter and apple slices


… that you’re not a “runner” until you can run a certain pace or distance or frequency.

Bullshit. You became a runner the day you started running.

… that it will get easier.

Nope. You just get better.

Me, racing towards the finish at the 2012 Maine Marathon

Me, racing towards the finish at the 2012 Maine Marathon. With training, anything is possible. 🙂

Pattie Reaves

About Pattie Reaves

I'm a new mom and renegade fitness blogger at After the Couch. I live in Brewer with my husband, Tony, our daughter Felicity, and our two pugs, Georgia and Scoop.