Couch to 5k is a fantastic programme that helps you run a 5k in less than 10 weeks. For many runners, it’s their first taste of running.
What makes the Couch to 5k programme so great is that it gradually eases you into running and gets you used to running longer distances as the programme progresses.
Many runners fall in love with the programme because there’s absolutely no pressure to go fast or at a certain pace in order to complete it.
You decide the pace and you decide if you want to repeat a week or two.
I’ve met a lot of runners who started their running journey through Couch to 5k and are now running 5k, 10k, half marathons and even marathons.
This just goes to show how popular and successful the programme is.
If you’re in the middle of running Couch to 5k, or coming towards the end of the programme, you may be wondering what’s next.
Completing the Couch to 5k programme is a huge achievement in itself, and whether you did it alone or with a group of runners, there are plenty of opportunities to keep going on your running journey.
In this blog post, I’d like to look at some of these opportunities in the hope that it will keep you running long after you’ve completed Couch to 5k.
Just because it’s over doesn’t mean it’s time to hang up your running shoes. There is life after Couch to 5k!
Sign up for a 5k
This is perhaps the most obvious choice for a lot of runners who finish Couch to 5k. Signing up for a 5k is a great way to really put your training to the test.
Parkrun is a firm favourite for a lot of beginner runners as it presents a fun and informal way to run a 5k.
There’s no pressure to go fast and many Parkruns welcome runners of all shapes, sizes and abilities.
They also take place every week so you have plenty of time to train and get yourself psyched for the run.
If you fancy something a little more, shall we say, race worthy – then check out the local 5k races or fun runs in your area.
Join a running group
The Couch to 5k programme is so great because it gives you a guide to work towards and follow each week.
If you run alone, this is invaluable, especially if you’re new to running.
But once it’s over, it can be quite overwhelming to know what to do next.
Join your local running group and receive guidance and support from a qualified running leader or running coach who will be able to suggest workouts and training plans for you to do next.
You’ll also receive advice on all things running! What running shoes to buy, what local running routes are the best, what food you should be eating before your run – the list goes on!
You’ll also meet like-minded people in the process!
Run a faster 5k
If you’ve finished the Couch to 5k programme and your end goal is to run a faster 5k, then why not look into ways to improve your time.
There are lots of ways to run faster and improve your pace. One of these is speedwork.
Speedwork is basically a way to improve your speed as a runner and help you become stronger and faster.
Fartlek, interval training and tempo running are all good examples of speedwork.
If you’re new to speedwork, then slowly introduce short, sharp bursts of running into your runs.
Also known as ‘strides’, these short, sharp bursts get you used to running at a faster pace.
Judging your pace instinctively takes a lot of practice, but by running that bit faster on your runs, you will gradually get used to what it feels like to run at a more challenging pace.
Run a ‘long’ run
You may have heard the term ‘long Sunday run’ in the running community. They are sacred for a lot of runners who are either in full training mode, or just want to get out on the road on a Sunday morning.
In order to run for longer without getting so tired, you need to start including longer runs in your training plan.
By longer, I don’t mean you have to go out and run 10 plus miles. Not at all.
After Couch to 5k, a long run could mean anything between 3 to 7 miles.
Choose your distance and route and work towards completing that. The key is not to overwhelm yourself too soon and gradually progress your runs each week.
Run a 10k
A 10k is the next milestone distance for a lot of Couch to 5k runners. Once they’ve conquered the 5k, they work towards the 6 mile mark.
There are even Couch to 10k plans out there, making it easy for you to pick up from where you left off with your Couch to 5k programme.
A 10k is effectively double the distance – 6.1 miles instead of 3.1 miles.
Run more regularly
Depending on how often you ran during the Couch to 5k programme, one option to improve your running is to run more often.
This simply gets your body used to running more regularly, thereby improving your endurance, stamina, breathing and pace.
As a beginner runner, you could be running anything from twice to five times a week. The key is though not to overdo it and knowing your limits.
Many beginner runners get infected by the running bug, which is fantastic, but can sometimes lead to exhaustion and overuse injuries like shin splints and IT band syndrome because they don’t know when to stop.
No matter how excited you get by your new running journey, be sure to make time for rest and recovery. Your body will thank you for it!
Think about your long term running goals
If you’re keen to make running a habit, and you’re serious about taking it up more regularly, then now is a great time to think about your long term running goals.
As I mentioned earlier, many runners who’ve completed Couch to 5k have gone onto run half marathons, marathons and even ultra-marathons. There really are no limits when it comes to running.
Ask yourself: What do you want to achieve over the coming weeks, months and years? Do you want to be able to run a half marathon or marathon in the future? Do you have your sights set on a particular race or event?
Write them down and put in plan in place to achieve them.