5 Steps I Took to Kick Couch to 5K’s Ass

5 tips to help you kick Couch to 5K's ass and get more fit!

As of about 4:30pm on Saturday, June 6th, I am a graduate of Couch to 5K! And if I do say so myself, I ended with a bang.

Week 9, day 3 consists of a five minute warm up walk, followed by a 30 minute run. Well I completed that, cooled down with a 5 minute walk, then figured I still had more in me, so I continued to run for 10 more minutes after that. I rocked it!!

I’m going to share five things that helped me push through to the end of Couch to 5K, and if you’re working your way through the program, hopefully they’ll help you too. πŸ™‚

A photo of me at the gym, right before my last Couch to 5K run

A photo of me at the gym, right before my last Couch to 5K run

#1 I took my time

Couch to 5K is a 9 week program—that’s a little over 2 months. Well, it took me almost five months to complete the program.

My first run was on January 12th, 2015. My last one was on June 6th, 2015.

  • There were times when I went on vacation and didn’t do my exercises.
  • There were days where I just don’t wannaaaaaa so I didn’t.
  • There were days where I didn’t progress like I was supposed to (see #2).

But I didn’t consider any of those failures. It’s not like if you miss a week you’ve failed the program. You can pick right back up and keep going!

#2 I repeated exercises

There were a few times where I couldn’t complete the exercise. I tried, but I couldn’t run for the full 15 minutes or 25 minutes or whatever it was they had me running.

But once again, that didn’t mean I failed, and I knew that. Instead, I just kept repeating the same exercise until I finally nailed it. Then I moved onto the next.

A screenshot of my Couch to 5K run log showing repeated runs

#3 I had an epic playlist

For me, music is incredibly important. Good music motivates me and helps keep me running. This becomes even more important the further I get into the run.

But timing is equally as important as the playlist…

Once the runs started getting longer and harder, I very carefully crafted my playlists. For example, on the 20 minute run, I timed my playlist so that 15 minutes into running, my favourite song would come on. I figured I’d be struggling in those last 5 minutes and would need a SUPER AWESOME PUMPING song to push me on. And you know what? It made a HUGE difference!

I was feeling unmotivated 15 minutes in. I wasn’t sure I could keep going and even felt like I might have to quit. But then my favourite song came on and BAM! I couldn’t help but match my pace to the song’s epic beat and it carried me through three more minutes. And then there were only 2 minutes left in the run, and it was pretty easy to push myself through those 2 minutes, because it’s only 2 minutes after all!

#4 I ran slower if I had to

Week 5 is a tough week:

Day Exercise
#1 5 minute walk, 5 minute run, 3 minute walk, 5 minute run, 3 minute walk, 5 minute run
#2 5 minute walk, 8 minute run, 5 minute walk, 8 minute run
#3 5 minute walk, 20 minute run

That’s a HUGE jump to a 20 minute run on day #3! I mean, IT’S INSANE! I was floored when I saw that number.

In order to tackle that horrid week 5 day 3, I prepared myself. I run on the treadmill, and until that point my running pace had been 5.6 MPH at 0.5 or 1 incline. So, in preparation, I dropped the incline to 0 and lowered my pace to 5.4 MPH. It may not seem like a huge difference, but it certainly felt like one!

You don’t have to stick with the exact same pace throughout all of C25K. If you sense a tough run coming up, run slower. There’s no harm or shame in that.

#5 I changed things up

Somewhere around week 7-ish, my fitness priorities shifted. My goal was no longer to simply “complete Couch to 5K”. I had started to love exercise and wanted a healthy lifestyle with a varied routine. So, I started incorporating strength training and high intensity interval training (HIIT) into my routines.

Routines I’ve been trying are:

I’m not sure if these extra activities necessarily helped me complete C25K, but I do think they helped me stay motivated. Doing three runs a week and NOTHING ELSE can get a bit dull. But by incorporating other activities, it made everything feel a bit more varied.

But it’s hard to keep up with C25k, strength training, and HIIT. So, I scaled back C25K. Instead of doing three C25K runs per week, I sometimes limited it to only one. So I’d do two days of HIIT where I do more sprinting instead of just steady jogging, and then I’d have one “long run” per week, which was the C25K program. And that’s in addition to strength training 2-3 times per week.

Having all these different activities kept me going. I never worried about having a strict schedule, and I think that made me happier. I didn’t get mad at myself if I only did one C25K day per week, because there’s no one there policing me. I did what I want, when I wanted.

Have you ever done (or are you currently doing) Couch to 5K?

Tell me about your experience!

Photo of Ashley
I'm a 30 year old California girl living in England (I fell in love with a Brit!). My three great passions are: books, coding, and fitness. more »

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    1. Just keep at it. πŸ™‚ A lot of the process will feel like a struggle, but you’ll get better! It’s amazing how great I feel now that I’ve finished. At the beginning of C25K I couldn’t imagine running a whole 5K.. Now I have my sights set on a 10K and it feels SO POSSIBLE! I think I just have a whole new mindset.

  1. Great job! DH did the couch to 5K and then did an actual 5K. He didn’t do anything after that. I hope you are able to keep up with it. I’ve been bad about exercising lately. I’m going hard core when I get back from vacation in early July. I’m going to try to get some stuff done before I leave, but not start heavy again until I get back. I’m glad you had such good luck. Keep up the good work.

    Melanie Simmons @mlsimmons recently posted: PARANORMAL ROMANCE AUDIO TRIVIA! #Audiobooks #AudiobookMonth
    1. Thank you. πŸ™‚ Right now I’m feeling great and have my sights set on 10K already!

      Good luck with your fitness goals! I hope you manage to get some hard work in after that vacation. πŸ˜‰

  2. Your outfit is EPIC!

    I tried Couch to 5k severallll months ago, but gave up, and I’m still bitter with myself for it. But… I think that’s because I thought I failed when I couldn’t complete an exercise, so #2 is something I need to keep in mind. Also, #3, again, very good tip! I never thought about putting my faves towards the end to give me an extra boost πŸ˜€

    I will definitely have to re-try C25K with these tips in mind πŸ˜‰

    Rosie // Rosie Reads recently posted: Review (81): Made You Up by Francesca Zappia (ARC)
    1. Thanks Rosie! I love my outfit so much!! πŸ˜€

      You should definitely give it another try! I know it can be really discouraging if you don’t complete a day, but it’s okay. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that no matter how far you come you will ALWAYS have crappy workouts.

      Sometimes I would complete a 30 minute run pretty easily, then two days later I would TOTALLY FAIL after only 20 minutes.

      Bad workouts happen.
      Bad days happen.

      But you know what? So do great workouts. Sometimes I’m just so in the zone and I feel like a total rockstar when I’m up there on the treadmill going for a run.

      It’s important to just keep going and take your successes and failures as they come. πŸ™‚

  3. It’s so awesome that you were able to finish this! I started it in January 2014 and got stuck at week 4 or 5 for a long while, because I started this in considerably bad shape. I had to do week 1 and 2 several times too. I was okay with it taking a lot longer though, because I could still feel the improvement. I took a couple breaks and had finally conquered that week 5, 20 minute run at the start of this year when I hurt my foot. I I’m pretty sure I stress fractured it, but it hasn’t healed right and I’m finally giving in and going to a doctor so I can get back to my runs. I’m hoping it won’t take terribly long for me to get back to that point. It’s very encouraging seeing how well you’ve done! Congrats!

    Berls recently posted: My “Official” #RT15 Fun
    1. Good call going to the doctor! I hope you manage to get it back into top shape. It sounds like you were making some great progress. That 20 minute run is HARD! Seriously, no joke!

  4. Congratulations! Is this your first time running or have you run before? You look great! I didn’t do Couch to 5K but I did set a goal to run a 5K while I was pregnant. I ran at the gym during my second trimester and then I finally ran the official 5K when I was 7 months pregnant. I was so happy to achieve my goal! I don’t know why I chose to do that while I was pregnant but it kept me healthy! Are you planning on running more or longer distances?

    Bryn @Gleaningful recently posted: What I’m Reading Now
    1. Thank you Bryn!

      I didn’t quite start at the “couch” level. Before C25K I was able to run for 10 minutes at a time, but never more. I was never able to progress beyond that point. But there would be months at a time where I would do that 10 minute run 3-5 times a week. So I wasn’t a total beginner.

      But C25K allowed me to progress so much further than ever before. Now I can run 30 minutes at a time, or even 40 minutes with 1 minute walks every 10 minutes.

      I have my sights set on a 10K now, but I don’t know if I’ll go much beyond that. πŸ™‚ My sister is the big runner in our family. She completed the Boston marathon!

      It’s pretty incredible that you ran a 5K while you were 7 months pregnant! Amazing job!! Are you still running?

      1. WOW! It’s my husband’s dream to run the Boston Marathon! I am still running and I’m trying to get to a 10K but time and life get in the way. 30 minutes is where I’m at too. Someday I’ll make it to a 10K!! And you too! πŸ˜‰

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  5. Ahhh, Ashley, CONGRATS! You look so beautiful. <33 I can't believe you managed to finish the program- what an accomplishment. I started with my dad but we gave up pretty early, haha. These days, I stick with Insanity (which is CRAZY), and Blogilates. Cassie, who does Blogilates, is super motivating & has a lot of good strength training and HIIT videos that mainly use your body weight which is awesome. I'd definitely recommend her videos!!

    I love the tips that you mentioned. I think it's important to not get frustrated or mad when you miss a day- I feel like I get into that mindset. Varying things is also so important!! And perfect advice on the music, I definitely need to find some motivating music that gets me going. <33

    Aneeqah @ My Not So Real Life recently posted: Review: Beware the Wild by Natalie C Parker
    1. Thanks so much!!

      It sounds like you’re doing some great things fitness-wise. I love HIIT and strength workouts. I did a body weight program for a while on Nerd Fitness (which I linked to) and it’s great! I haven’t done Blogilates but I’ve heard a lot about it.

      Missing a day can be frustrating and make you lose motivation, but I think it’s important to accept that we’ll always have a crappy day now and then. No matter how far you come, bad workouts will still happen. But then a few days later you’ll have an AMAZING workout, so you need to hang around for those. πŸ˜‰

  6. Great work Ashley. You look awesome. πŸ™‚ Thanks for sharing your experience and congrats on finishing the program.

    I would love to work out, but I had some health problems in the past so the only activity I am permitted to do (except walking) is swimming. I always plan but I am too lazy to join some club and start swimming regularly. :/

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    1. Thank you so much! πŸ™‚

      I’m sorry to hear about your health problems. Swimming can be fantastic for you though! One of my cousins took it very seriously and she is in great shape because of it.

      Maybe you will join a club.. eventually. πŸ˜‰

  7. I really loved the Couch to 5k program! I did it a couple of years ago, and I thought it did a great job of working me toward the longer runs. I was initially hesitant when I saw that 20 minute run, which is something I don’t think I’d ever done in my life, but I was SO surprised to find that it didn’t kill me!

    Sarah @ Sarah Can't Stop Reading recently posted: The Struggle to Finish Books
    1. I felt the same way Sarah! I was FLOORED when I completed it! Never thought I had it in me. πŸ˜‰

      Congrats on your C25K achievement!

    1. Something I hear over and over again is: the best workout for you is the one you love. Because a workout you love is one that you’ll do consistently. It’s so great that you found that in walking. πŸ™‚

  8. This is so cool, Ashley! Way to go! I’m going to attempt Couch to 5K. I dearly want to become a runner, but running is just so hard for me. I can do 30 secs running before I have to walk, and it just never seems any easier, ugh.

    Your post has inspired me, though!

    Can I ask which Couch To 5k app you use?

    1. I know what you mean, Leah. It can feel like you’re not making any progress at first, but you’ll take baby steps and you will get there eventually! That’s why C25K is so great.

      Before I started it, I was okay at running. I was able to run for 10 minutes without stopping, which is pretty awesome! But I was NEVER able to progress past that point, and like you said, it never got any easier. It always felt hard! This was the case for months and months…

      But C25K gave me very specific goals and structure that helped so much. It forced me to push past those 10 minutes and for the first time EVER, I saw myself make progress. So that was incredible! Now I can run 30 minutes without stopping, or even 40 minutes with 1 minute walks every 10.

      All it takes is a bit of effort three days a week, and you’ll see progress, even if it comes slowly. πŸ™‚

      Here’s the app that I use: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.active.aps.c25k It’s for Android. I’m not sure if the exact same one exists on iPhone, but there will definitely be some kind of iPhone C25K app!

  9. LOVE THIS POST ASHLEY! I have been wanting to do this, but have been a little hesitant because running just isn’t my forte, but this definitely inspired me to push through & give it a go.

    I know this doesn’t have to do with the running part, but I NEED to find a good app for downloading music, do you use a certain one <3?

    1. Thank you Erica!! You should totally get up and give it a go!

      Running never felt like my forte either, but for the first time in my life I feel like it could be my forte, you know? I feel so amazing being able to run for 30 minutes without stopping. It feels like ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!!

      At first I looked at 5K and thought, “I could never do that..” Well now I look at 10K and think, “I could totally make it there!”

      I have a Google Play Music subscription and use that for all my music. I love it! πŸ™‚ They have great workout radio stations. Or there’s this one I love called Sexy, Sweaty Workout, hahaha. It’s a bunch of intense workout music that always gets my energy flowing.

  10. Hi. Ashley – I didn’t know about Couch to 5K. My husband and I did both join the gym near us on May 1. We’ve been going 3 X per week, so that’s something. We both do feel better. A few less aches and pains. πŸ™‚
    @dino0726 fromΒ 
    FictionZeal – Impartial, Straighforward Fiction Book Reviews

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  11. You look gorgeous! Thanks for telling Leah what app you used – I’ve been looking for one. I suck at running but I’ve been wanting to try it so my son sees me getting in shape doing something he can do, too!

    1. Thank you so much! πŸ™‚ You might suck now, but you can definitely get better!

  12. GOOD JOB! You look absolutely great!
    It is so important that you go to that 5k at your own pace. You avoid unnecessary injuries that way and it makes it so much easier to keep going. I remember my first attempt at working towards that 5k, I went too fast too soon (and didn’t listen to my body), and ended up with a knee injury and wasn’t allowed to run for 3 months. It sucked!
    And when you finally rock that 5k, it’s such a great feeling! I still run 2-3 times a week, always 5k or more. I built up to 10k (ran 1/4 marathon two months ago) and then slouched a bit… so I’m back to building up to that 10k. I love running, and I love seeing other peoples progress πŸ™‚
    Once again: Great job! It’s such an accomplishment πŸ™‚

    1. THANK YOU!! πŸ˜€

      It’s horrible that you got a knee injury! I’m so sorry! Having a three month “running ban” must have felt like such a big set back for you.

      But it sounds like you’re back in the game, and that’s great! Keep it up. πŸ™‚ I’m sure you’ll get back to 10K in no time.

  13. Wohooo, I love running and am currently trying to convert everyone I know to run with me. lol, not working well.
    I loved the couch to 5k app on my phone. I was the type of person that never excercised because I was skinny anyway, but after I had my baby the few pounds left over just wouldn’t budge, so I thought hey why not start running. Well this really helped. I did it last year and a few weeks after doing the 5k I finished my first 10k. Since then I run 5K’s like 4 times a week, now it’s so easy it’s my regular run. I’m thinking of ding an 1/2 marathon next year, this year things got in the way.

    1. Haha, I think it’s super hard to convince people who run who’ve never done it before.

      I’m sure you’ll manage to get to a half marathon if you put your mind to it! Good luck. πŸ™‚

    1. I don’t actually have one specific playlist. I change things up a lot or listen to “radios” on Google Play so that I don’t get bored. Here are a few songs I do listen to often though:

      Lay Down the Law by Switches
      Baracuda (140 BPM Workout Remix) by Power Music Workout
      Mr Mysterious by Vanessa Amorosi
      California Gurls by Katy Perry
      Bad Romance by Lady Gaga
      Express by Christina Aguilera
      Show Me How You Burlesque by Christina Aguilera
      Rolling in the Deep by ADELE
      Let’s Get Loud by Jennifer Lopez
      Just Dance by Lady Gaga
      Only Girl (In The World) by Rihanna
      Breakin’ Dishes by Rihanna

  14. Ashley, I totally loved this post! I’m trying to get fitter because sitting in front of a desk all day is really doing no good for my health. This is definitely a motivating post, and I can’t wait to go through it again and note down some pointers!

    1. You can do it Kristin! πŸ™‚ And if not, there’s always next week. Don’t be afraid to go at your own pace.

  15. I have been struggling though week three to be honest. I have repeated one exercise day three times. That’s okay though. I’m working my way through it. My end goal is a half marathon in February of next year. That’s what is keeping me motivated.

  16. Awesome post! I’m a hard-core lifter, but I think this would kick my ass haha πŸ™‚ Great job Ashley.

  17. Hi, I’m starting week 3 tomorrow. I barely made it through week 2. It’s normally warm here but was freezing cold, I couldn’t breathe through my nose, it would run. Then my throat would get clogged up. So during week 2 I felt like an absolute failure. 2 of the 3 days I had to run on the treadmill at the gym to make my class up. I’m doing the c25k with a small group at the Y, they have all run before so I’m last and keep getting left behind. Day 3 of last week I did a 5k where it rained. I used the app and ran/walked the day 3 schedule as best I could. I took longer walk periods and a few runs were shorter, both due to people in the way and not being able to keep going. On the treadmill is can go faster but so far my pace is at 4-4.1 mph. I’ve tried to get music to help but I’m mostly stuck with one song. My walking pace is 3.2-3.5. I want to complete this program because I want to be able to run a mile and my bf is a runner and I’d like to join him. Just not sure I can do it. :/

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