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Couch to 5K diary

Follow LK, one of our team members, as she tries to reach her goal of running 5km. 
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I’ve always looked out of the window at people running, and wished I could do it. I was a sporty person growing up, and then got out of the habit as I got older. People around me run – for fun – which is not something I could ever get my head around. To me running is something that made my knees hurt, made me realise quite how unfit I am, and was no fun at all.  


In the past 10 years, I have probably done about a mile of running, and vowed not to do it again. But as 2021 kicked in, and with multiple weddings to attend this year, I decided to give it another go and try to use it as a way to get fit and lose weight. My ultimate goal, to run 5km, and maybe, just maybe keep running and enjoy it.  


Knowing that I would have to start from the beginning, there was only one place to go, and that was the Couch to 5k app and podcast. The NHS website had the links I needed, so I downloaded the app.  


Week 1 

Run 1 - Sunday 

It’s the first week of January, what better time to start. I had decided to go out in the morning, so I had less time to change my mind. I rifled through the wardrobe to find enough layers of fitness clothing that fitted. It’s not high fashion, but it’ll do. 


On the Couch to 5k app you pick your guide and motivator through the programme. I picked American athletics legend Michael Johnson. If anyone knows about running, he does. You can also pick comedian Sarah Millican, or DJ Jo Wiley among others. They’ll tell you when to run, or walk, and you can listen to your music in between. 


In some ways the hardest part was opening the front door and stepping outside. It would have been very easy to just stay indoors on a cold January morning. But I had told my husband what I was going to do, and I think sharing that goal made it real, and meant I was more likely to start, and hopefully complete the challenge I'd set myself. 

The first part of week 1 is a brisk 5 minute walk. I accidentally skipped the first two and a half minutes, but Michael didn’t scold me, he just encouraged me to raise my heart rate. And then I was off, alternating 60 seconds of jogging, and 90 seconds of brisk walking.  


During the first minute of running I felt like Wonder Woman. I was doing it! My legs weren’t hurting, my lungs felt fine, I felt like I could keep running. But decided that if I was going to do it, I was going to follow the programme properly. By the third section of running I was pleased I’d stuck to the plan. Was that a twinge in the right knee? Did my throat feel a bit sore from the cold and heavy breathing? Yes and yes. But I also think I'd started off too quickly, and knew I’d need to do a nice slow jog, rather than a bouncy run. 


Having the intermittent walking and running really helped. With each running section I felt better, as I used the walks to recover my breathing. I think I might have told Michael to ‘go away’ as he told me it was time to start running again on the sixth section, but once I had started my slow jog, I felt really good.  


Did I feel a bit silly, that people would be looking at me and wondering why I kept starting and stopping? Yes a little. But once I got back home, after my last running section, and the 5 minute brisk walk cool down, I felt like Michael Johnson, winning an Olympic gold medal.  


Run 2 - Wednesday 

After Run 1 I was expecting some soreness, and I wasn’t disappointed. My abs hurt when I laughed, my legs were sore in random places and I needed to rest for a couple of days. But I found myself slightly looking forward to my next run. This time I decided to go out at lunchtime, and as that time grew nearer, I found myself wondering if I'd be able to do it again. 

This time I decided to try the podcast version, with a downloadable episode each week. A very nice lady called Laura was ready to guide me along, interspersed with some motivational music.  

This time I had the experience of not missing half the warm-up walk, and also knew what sort of pace I should go at. So when Laura told me to run for the first time, I went at a steady pace, not bouncing too much, or striding out.  

As I got towards the third section of running I was anxious. I knew that last time it’d hurt. But I got through it. And I got through all of the other running sections too. I didn’t even use any bad language at my guide! 

My legs felt a little heavy going into the last running section, but I decided to push myself a little and kept running for another minute. And that didn’t kill me either. So maybe I can do this.  


Once I’d got back home, I gave myself a pat on the back, and made sure I did more stretches. Hopefully everything hurts a bit less on the next run – the last of week 1. I’ll find out in the morning. 

Run 3 – Saturday 

The good news is that I didn’t ache at all after the second run. I will also admit to not looking forward to run 3 as much. It was 0 degrees outside, and I’d rather foolishly looked at what the runs were like in week 2 onwards. Knowing I’d have to be running my socks off in a few weeks added a little bit of pressure. But one week at a time, so off I went.  

The first four running sections were great. Pacing was good, and I felt absolutely fine. By the fifth section, a niggling stitch started to appear. Thankfully the walking sections helped get through it, and I was merrily jogging along. Again I added a little extra minute onto the end of the last running section, knowing that my next run was going to up the ante.  

What did I learn from this run? I probably shouldn’t have had a snack 30 minutes before I went out for a run.  

So that is week one over with! I did it. On the whole I managed to get through the runs unscathed, and with a sense that I might actually be able to run 5km in the next nine weeks!  

Week 2

Run 4 - Monday

A windier day is not the best day to move up to longer runs, but I know it'd be very easy to make an excuse not to go out. And if I don't get used to running in different weathers, there is a distinct possibility in England of not going out until April. 

The step up for week 2 is longer runs and longer walks. I'm now up to 90 seconds of running, followed by 2 minute recovery walks. 

For the fact it's not a massive jump in time, it was surprisingly harder than last week. The first few running sections had me puffing harder than before. I made sure to start off slow again, and at one point got overtaken. Thankfully the man was running not walking. 

I think there were less running sections this week, it is hard to say. I was just concentrating on making sure I got to the end of each 90 second run. But as each 90 second section was over, the next felt a little easier again. I have found that the last run of each day has been by far the easiest, and I'm quite spritely by then. 

Once back I had a good stretch out, using the handy guide from the NHS. I've got a slightly sore back after today's run, so will keep stretching that in the coming days before I next venture out. 

Run 5 - Wednesday

Top tip: When it is wet outside, don't try and turn while your foot is in a puddle, you could fall over. And I did.

I wasn't looking forward to going out in the rain today, but once I was out I didn't mind it at all. The sore back which has still been niggling me the last couple of days was fine too. It was all looking good. 

The first two running sections were their usual tiring selves, but I now know that once I'm through those, I'm ok. And I was. Someone looking out of their window at me today may be forgiven for thinking they were looking at a regular jogger. I had picked up the pace a little and tried to lengthen my stride too. 

That was until I got to the bollard which is the point where I have been turning round to head back home. Just as Laura my podcast guide told me to start my fourth run, I put my foot down to turn, it went in the puddle, and I slipped. The slow-mo fall started, and I whacked my leg on the bollard and ended up on the floor. Once the initial scolding of "you stupid woman" wore off, I was back up and finishing that run. It took the wind out of my sails for the next running section, but that soon wore off, and I was back to bouncing home. 

I suspect a nice bruise will be coming up later. Hopefully it doesn't affect me going for my last run of the week in a couple of days. 

Run 6 - Friday

This time I decided to run a different route. I usually find it easier to stick to something if there is some variation. I didn't want to get bored of running past the same houses every time.

I found the third run of the week just as challenging at the start as the others. My legs felt heavier today, which for my third run in five days, isn't surprising. 

In the back of my mind I am thinking about next week, as it steps up quite a bit, but week 2 has felt really positive. 

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