Couch to 5k is a popular running program that gets you up and running — from total beginner to 5k in 6-10 weeks (depending on your commitment).
It also happens to be one of the most popular and most effective programs for those starting their running journey with a treadmill at home. This pairing of an investment in a personal treadmill and the commitment to “c25k” go hand in hand.
What is Couch to 5K and how does it work?
The goal of Couch to 5k is to get you started on a structured program. This is crucial to good running since it allows you to control how much running you’re doing, gives you a regular training stimulus, and puts in specific days for rest and recovery.
If you pay attention to the program, you’ll also learn about how to progress over time. It’s a good example of how much mileage you can add to your runs over time and how to push yourself in a way that is (usually) both safe and healthy, while still making progress — making it great for beginners.
With increasing rates of obesity and increasingly sedentary lives, it’s up to us to take control of our fitness and the couch to 5k program — and the movement associated with it — is all about getting into running as a fun and developmental approach to getting fitter, healthier, and more active.
Why use a treadmill?
The best reason to get into running is because you want to. It’s a rewarding form of exercise with a variety of proven benefits, as well as being the most human form of exercise. We’ve been running upright for 100,000s of years and it has defined how we live our lives — even if we’ve become more sedentary in our day-to-day.
Our cardiovascular system is at risk because of this less-active lifestyle. Many of our most common causes of death are related to inactivity: heart disease, Type-2 diabetes, stroke, and poor health in the lungs (across a range of conditions).
We’re suffering because we’re not maintaining our bodies with regular exercise. Running is one amazing way of combatting these concerns and offers a huge calories-per-hour spend so that you can get fitter faster. Let’s take a look at the benefits of running:
1. Running improves cardiorespiratory health
By running regularly, you’ll drastically improve the function of your heart and lungs. These are the places where most people get ill later in life and pose some of the most important health risks from as early as the 30s onwards.
Running is one of the most effective forms of cardiorespiratory exercise, making both the heart and lungs stronger and more efficient. They also benefit from the regulation of body fat and activity, helping to reduce visceral fat which sticks to these organs and hampers their ability to function (and keep you alive) over time. Protecting these vital organs is absolutely essential and depends on what you do.
2. Running improves connective tissue health
Running involves impact, even on a treadmill. The impact is less than on hard concrete, but it does serve to improve the strength of muscles, connective tissue (like tendons), and bones when you run regularly.
This is key for preventing long-term injuries or degeneration to these tissues. It’s why running and other forms of exercise prevent ageing, keep you functioning independently for longer, and help keep your body healthy over time. Even with the occasional injuries running might produce (like a sprained ankle), the long-term trade-off is better health and robustness for life.
Read more about the advantages of using a treadmill for exercise here.
3. Running boosts immune function (chronically)
Running also helps prevent illness in other ways. By regulating your hormones and the cardiorespiratory benefits we mentioned above, regular running supports immune function - helping you to prevent illness and disease.
Health starts with the routines in your life — exercise, sleep, and food. Regular exercise in the form of running has been proven to improve immune function in the long term and help prevent a wide range of common illnesses, as well as combat major diseases. It’s also a key part of managing chronic illnesses, where it helps reduce symptoms and risk profiles!
Run at whatever level is appropriate for you — but make sure you’re moving. It’s for your own good and it pays dividends across the decades ahead of you.
4. Running supports better mental health
As a society, we’re starting to integrate mental health into ‘health’ more effectively. However, that does also go the other way; movement as a form of mental wellbeing support is more important than ever.
Studies have highlighted that running and other forms of exercise are a great way to regulate mood and self-concept. Building competence and progressing are great for how we feel (about life and ourselves) while regular exercise helps rebalance hormones and supports a better internal environment.
In the end, the body and mind are deeply connected and how you use them determines their health.
Getting started with Couch to 5K on a treadmill
Firstly, it’s important to know that, yes, treadmills offer a perfectly fine place to start your running journey on C25K. They make it easier, safer, and more consistent to run, and you don’t have to get up at 6 am in the rain to get your workout done.
Treadmills are also (usually) lower impact, compared to running on roads or pavement, as well as offering privacy and convenience.
Treadmills shouldn’t actually change anything about how you run, however.
Couch to 5k is going to take 6-10 weeks depending on the variation you use. Your pace won’t change, your progress should be similar, and you shouldn’t ramp up the mileage too fast. The whole process is structured for a reason and you can worry about the fancy stuff like inclines when you finish the program and have some running experience!
Couch to 5k is a perfect place to start for the beginner for 2 reasons:
- It tells you how long you should be on the treadmill
- It provides a fool-proof way to get started with running on a treadmill
The programme removes the guesswork and over-thinking that you’re liable to bring to running and the idea is simple: get on the treadmill, run for a while, and then get off and rest. Run slightly more each time. Couch to 5K just provides you with a simple system for that process that manages you and keeps you from over- or under-doing it!
What happens before and after your treadmill workout?
Warm-ups should work on combatting any ‘problem areas’ with a little bit of dynamic stretching and then warming up the whole body. Try fast walking, some lower body exercises (like kneeling or reverse lunges), and then running at a very easy pace for a few minutes before you get up to normal running speed for the program.
Equally, cooling down after a workout can help with recovery and the nervous system ‘changing gears’. You should return to your very easy running pace and then walking pace, before getting off and returning to those dynamic stretches to relax any tonic muscles.
So, what are you waiting for?
Couch to 5K isn’t complicated, but it does provide a perfect outline for how you should begin addressing running as a total beginner. It’s a place to start that will ‘show you the ropes’ and give you the basic understanding you need. It pairs perfectly with your first at-home treadmill purchase as a commitment to getting better and improving your health and self-care.
Put some time into your running technique and give couch to 5K your full commitment for the first few months. It’s a small change to your lifestyle that could offer a huge long-term reward — all at your own pace and to suit your schedule, especially with a home treadmill.
The early workouts are easy and comfortable and — if you pay attention — the program will teach you a lot about how to get better at running. You can start at your own pace, with any level of experience, and come out with the hard-earned achievement of running your first 5k in just 6-10 weeks!