Couch to 5K
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Week 5 Run 3 - Mental vs. Physical!!

I have been reading a couple of posts on here that quote Laura for this run about how it's in the mind at this stage not a physical limitation. Does anyone else struggle on the physical side more than the mental element?

I am determined to run and have just completed my 20 minutes (yay) but I was finding it really tough towards the end. I start off with my controlled breathing but the longer I run the harder it becomes until 20 minutes when I am basically panting to get as much air in my lungs as possible! Maybe I am trying to go too fast and need to slow it right down...see how I get on with that.

For that mater what does she even mean when she says it's mental?

10 Replies

If its feeling tough physically, it's always recommended to take it slowly so that you can do the full time. For many, just the thought of stepping up to 20 mins is off putting and the danger is that you start in the mindset that it's not going to be possible. It's about trusting the programme and having the self confidence to go for it.

If you don't have these doubts, then just concentrate on pacing yourself to ensure continued success.

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Well -- it happens just after you start to think that your legs are tired, obviously as a result of a physical limitation - and a little voice enters your mind and says in a seductive tone " What are you doing? Are you crazy? Why are you doing this to yourself?? " "Nobody cares whether you can run or not" "Give up - stop and go have a cold beer" "You're thirsty - and you need to go to the toilet" -- it's then that it becomes a mental problem :)


Well done Fay!

In a nutshell, the mental thing is definitely a factor. If you think you can't you won't. If you think you can, you never know - you just might. If you just finished W5R3, then that's one of the biggest mental hurdles of the lot. Yes, it's tough, but you did it and you are most definitely a runner!!! Now what you do is take that positivity with you when you next go out. You did 20 minutes - therefore you can do Week 6 (which looks slightly less demanding if I recall) and Week 7 and so on.

The breathing will come, trust me. The funny thing is, after a while, you will grow to accept that the hard work is just the price you pay for all the elation at the end of the run. Yes, slow it down if that works for you - it may be a run, but it's not a race. At least not until you're ready to make it one.

It's you against the road. My money's on you.


I like your Westie dog! I used to have one when I was a kid. I think of her a lot!


For me the mental aspect is my head telling this is crazy stop now, you're tired, you're legs will cease up just stop. Physically it is hard and I am feeling it much more now in my legs but I know I can do it physically if it wasn't for the pesky voice in my head telling me to stop. However I do have the added disadvantage that I have an illness that comes with exercise intolerance so sometime I do have to be mindful of the little voice that's telling me stop. Then it becomes mental again when I've rested up to get back out there (though I am finding now I am getting more and more grumpy if I cant go out and then have to keep reminding myself of my physical limitations).

As for your breathing maybe you need to slow the running down a bit and concentrate on breathing technique. Practice breathing when just standing and walking about during the day - I know it sounds crazy but we breath without thinking about it. when you inhale is it your chest or you tummy that rises? If it's your chest then you take shallower breaths and this could be your problem! I found the advice for breathing on the podcast in terms of timing was wrong for me and made me out of breath for me I breath in for 3 and out for 3 it's my own tried and tested controlled breathing approach for when I used to have asthma and for when I'm doing meditation, practice and learn what works best for you.


I know that feeling only too well. I call it "the mind squirrels". There they are nibbling away at me telling me to give up 'cause it's just too hard...... Check the Amazon or iBooks store for a book called "The Chimp Paradox" for the view of a professional on the subject. Fascinating.


Well done on completing Week 5. Yes, week 6 does look slightly less demanding and that is where so many people get caught out....The return to intervals for the first two runs is deceptive. It's very tough. Treat Week 6 with respect and keep it very, very, very slow and steady and you will win through. Good luck and very best wishes.


Fitmo is spot on here - treat Week 6 with a dose of caution. It might seem tempting to speed up as you're back to intervals but I found those interval runs even more demanding than the 25 minute run at the end of the week. I'm about to embark on W7R2 tomorrow and with two 25 minute runs now under my belt I can tell you that (at least for me) the first 5-10 minutes are awful... Once I have pushed through that with a "slow it down - this isn't a race" mental note to myself and I've settled into a nice rhythm with my jogging, I can keep that pace going for most of the time. If I need to slow it down (usually when I start getting out of breath) then I slow down a little...

I find that the hardest part is getting yourself into that rhythm of putting one foot in front of the other and settling into it. Once I'm at "my" pace (this isn't a race remember) then I settle in... this is a training programme so it's pushing all of us to do more every time we head out... the benefits of "just getting out there" are worth more than any times you post or how many times you need to slow down (or even walk).... listen to your body and remind yourself why you started the programme in the first place... everyone does this at their own pace and I am constantly surprised that I finish these runs!

If you told me I'd have run 25 minutes non-stop twice in 3 days about 2 months ago I would have laughed and headed straight to the pub! Now I'm addicted to getting stronger and fitter with each step...

Also - vary your route - keep the scenery changing! I found I knew which lamp post was my "end point" and I spent the whole time focussed on that. By varying my route a bit (even reversing your usual one) I found I focused on just running... I tend to "just breath" when I need to - I haven't tried to concentrate too hard yet on the "four steps per breath" method... it's hard enough to keep the steps going at times! :)

With regards to the "physical" vs "mental" bit - just "mentally" remind yourself that "physically" you CAN run 20 minutes non-stop (you just did - well done you!) - you are fit enough to do that already after only 5 weeks and many people don't come close to that (those still on the couch)... you've now got to keep reminding yourself that you CAN do it (and you CAN) and keep at it... as slow or as fast as YOU want it to be!

Good luck with week 6 - it's a challenge - but that's the point! :)

Happy running!

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Put one foot in front of the other and go. Breathe normally.


I find thinking about other things instead of the runs helps. Also once you've done the programme you can listen to other things, like podcasts, etc as well as simultaneously having a programme that tells you your distance and speed along the way.

I do wish my mind could push me more but it is a battle.

Good luck.


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