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Couch to 5K: week by week

A week-by-week description of the nine-week Couch to 5K podcasts.

A week-by-week description of the nine-week set of Couch to 5K podcasts. Each week involves three runs.

Week one

For your three runs in week one, you will begin with a brisk five-minute walk, then alternate one minute of running and one-and-a-half minutes of walking, for a total of 20 minutes.

Week two

For your three runs in week two, you will begin with a brisk five-minute walk, then alternate one-and-a-half minutes of running with two minutes of walking, for a total of 20 minutes.

Week three

For your three runs in week three, you will begin with a brisk five-minute walk, then two repetitions of one-and-a-half minutes of running, one-and-a-half minutes of walking, three minutes of running and three minutes of walking.

Week four

For your three runs in week four, you will begin with a brisk five-minute walk, then three minutes of running, one-and-a-half minutes of walking, five minutes of running, two-and-a-half minutes of walking, three minutes of running, one-and-a-half minutes of walking and five minutes of running.

Week five

There are three different runs this week:

Run one: a brisk five-minute walk, then five minutes of running, three minutes of walking, five minutes of running, three minutes of walking and five minutes of running.

Run two: a brisk five-minute walk, then eight minutes of running, five minutes of walking and eight minutes of running.

Run three: a brisk five-minute walk, then 20 minutes of running, with no walking.

Week six

There are three different runs this week:

Run one: a brisk five-minute walk, then five minutes of running, three minutes of walking, eight minutes of running, three minutes of walking and five minutes of running.

Run two: a brisk five-minute walk, then 10 minutes of running, three minutes of walking and 10 minutes of running.

Run three: a brisk five-minute walk, then 25 minutes of running with no walking.

Week seven

For your three runs in week seven, you will begin with a brisk five-minute walk, then 25 minutes of running.

Week eight

For your three runs in week eight, you will begin with a brisk five-minute walk, then 28 minutes of running.

Week nine

For your three runs in week nine, you will begin with a brisk five-minute walk, then 30 minutes of running.

Tips on progression

The programme is designed for beginners to gradually build up their running ability so they can eventually run 5km without stopping.

The pace of the nine-week running plan has been tried and tested by thousands of new runners.

You can, however, repeat any one of the weeks until you feel physically ready to move on to the next podcast.

Structure is important for motivation, so try to allocate specific days of the week for your runs and stick to them.

Rest days

Rest days are critical. Having one between each week's runs will reduce your chance of injury and also make you a stronger, better runner.

Resting allows your joints to recover from what is a high-impact exercise, and your running muscles to repair and strengthen.

Alternatively, you could do Strength and Flex on your rest days. This is a five-week plan designed to improve your strength and flexibility, which will help your running. 

Aches and pains

Some new runners starting the programme experience calf pain or sore shins (sometimes known as shin splints).

Such aches can be caused by running on hard surfaces or by running in shoes that do not have enough foot and ankle support.

Always do the five-minute warm-up walks as instructed in the podcasts before each run, and check that your running shoes are offering good support.

For more information on preventing and treating injuries, read our page on sports injuries.

You will have good runs and bad runs – accept it, and don't spend too much time analysing the how and why. Even a bad run is good for you.

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