Couch to 5K
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My top 10 tips for newbies

I'm a middle aged guy who didn't do exercise for the best part of 30 years and was overweight and unhealthy. I never thought I would ever be able to run 5k, now I'm a graduate and I run 5k two times a week, the weight is coming down and I'm feeling better for it. I'm no pro-runner for sure, but here are my tips for people starting the c25k plan:

1) No lame excuses. There are 1000 reasons not to run, it's too hot, it's too cold, its raining, I'm tired, there's something on TV. Getting out and doing it is sometimes the hardest part.

2) Build on your success. Once you know you can run for a minute, and the next step is 90 seconds - think of it as 1 minute that you know you can do plus 30 seconds. When you're up to 5 minutes and making the next step up to 8, then think of it as 5 minutes that you know you can do, plus another 3 minutes. The step from 8 mins to 20 seems huge and daunting, think of it as 8 minutes that you know you can do - then 2 minutes and you're at the half way mark. Once you're past the half may mark you don't want to stop and give up wasting all that effort do you? Keep pushing on for another 5 minutes and then another 5 minutes. The smaller chunks of time feels less daunting.

3) Don't worry about speed. The only person who really cares how fast you can run is yourself, there will always be people who can run faster than you so let it go. Concentrate on getting your own pace that you're comfortable with and stick with it. Speed can come later if you want it to.

4) Don't think that you 'earn' edible treats. It's easy to think "I did half an hour of exercise today so I've earned this big Mac", if you're hoping to lose weight on the programme then this really isn't going to work. Try and swap it around and think "I did half an hour of exercise today and it was hard work - do I really want to spoil that with a big Mac?"

5) Don't look to far ahead. Sometimes if you look ahead, maybe up a long hill or incline, it seems such a long way and the progress you're making seems so small the temptation to stop is high. I find it better to keep my head down and concentrate on a fairly short distance in front. Then when you look up and see the progress you've made then it seems much more positive.

6) Don't stop (Apart from when you're supposed to). Similar to #1, once you're running there are loads of reasons to stop (I'm out of breath, my legs ache, I have stitch, there's a hill, etc,) Just slow down but keep running, only stop and walk when Laura tells you to. If you really can't do it, then go back a week and repeat that week. Don't cheat yourself thinking that you've 'kind of' done it if you haven't. Remember that you're doing this for YOU, no one else is going to get fit by you running, so you'd only be cheating yourself.

7) Be motivated. It sounds corny, but I have two things that I say to myself when things get tough - "pain is weakness leaving the body" and "sweat is fat leaving my body". Neither of these statements are true, but they help me push on when the going gets difficult.

8) Don't expect that the weight will just 'drop off'. I think I really expected to lose weight quicker than I have, it's been a slow gradual loss and I still have some way to go, but although I'm fairly careful about what I eat, I'm not on a diet of any kind. That was important to me, I don't want to be on a diet, I want to eat healthily with the occasional treat. Maybe some of the problem was before I realised #4...

9) Don't be self concious. When I started the C25k I only went out after dark, I was worried about people seeing me and what they would think. Now I've come to realise that it really doesn't matter. The only people who will really take notice of you will be other runners driving past thinking "I should be doing that", or non-runners who are overweight and unfit thinking "I should be doing that".

10) Enjoy it. Really? How are you supposed to enjoy something so hard, that puts you in pain, that makes you so knackered? I don't know the answer to that, but I am starting to enjoy it now. When I first graduated I hated running, but I was losing weight and I was enjoying people noticing that I was slimmer. I enjoyed not looking so fat in photographs and I enjoyed fitting clothes in a smaller size, I knew that it was the running that was making this happen so that's what made me carry on. Now I'm starting to look forward to going for a run on my run days, and at times I do enjoy it while running as well. The times I don't enjoy it, I just go back to #7.

I hope this helps someone somewhere!

13 Replies

This is wonderful! Such a great post :) Congratulations on all your hard work and progress so far. We were all Newbies once :)


I like these!

With regards to number 6/7, whenever I *really* want to stop I do a quick three point check: does my heart feel ok; is my breathing regular; are my legs ok? Whilst they are inevitably tired and want to rest doing this quick check makes me realise that actually they are all working as they are supposed to and it's actually just my mind that wants me to stop and not my body. So, exactly as you say, slow the pace, let the mind catch back up and push onwards.

And linked to number 10, I think you sometimes have to accept that running is unlikely to get 'easy'. Sure I can run for longer, faster and more efficiently but for me it has never been 'easy'! If it was that easy, more people would do it and the drive to improve just would't be there.


Very good advice - I'm probably still classed as a newbie (although I hopefully graduate tomorrow), and I can really relate to all of your points. Especially the bit about rewarding myself with edible treats. A lot of the psychology of eating too much is emotion related - I eat because I'm upset, I eat because I'm bored or I eat because I've been good and want to reward myself. It's tough to overcome that and replace unhealthy treats with healthy ones or non edible ones. I think it's all about moderation, eating healthily with the very very occasional treat.

Like you I expected to lose weight, but don't think I have done. What I do enjoy is clothes that are a little looser on me, and I am vaguely starting to enjoy the running itself. So much so that I'm a little disappointed when I wake up and it's a non-running day. I always find the first 10 minutes hard but then have to remind myself that not that long ago 1 minute was a struggle, and just looking at how far I've come spurs me on.

I think the no excuses thing is important - the only way I can run is first thing in the morning, otherwise I know I'd find a thousand reasons not to go. I think it's about fitting running into your life so its easy, and planning ahead so you know where you're going to run and when.

Thanks for your post - I'm sure it will help a lot of us out there.


An excellent exposure of all the tricks we use to avoid running and those that we can employ to keep running. My take on your No 10 is that it does get easier. Once you have graduated you can ease back the pressure on yourself and just run for fun, if you want to and you can spend your running time congratulating yourself on how far you have come since Week one.


RobA, so true, so true. I gave you another 'Recommendation'


Thanks for the kind replies! I've just totally ignored number 3 and done a personal best 5k - I'm not going to post the time because it doesn't matter to anyone else but me ;-) I will say that it was a whole 6 minutes quicker than my graduation time... And I think I even enjoyed some of it!!


Great post. :-) Difficult to add to that excellent list really. Top job, Sir. :-)


That is wonderful...fantastic advice that is from the heart...thankyou so much for sharing :)


What a brilliant post!


Thank you so much for this I am currently on week 8 and thought by now I would be a stone lighter and loving every minute of my running, sometimes I do sometimes its a chore but im going to keep at it and by graduation hopefully I will enjoy it as much as my first few runs and keep at it for life.


Great post I am sure some newbies will gain a lot from your advice


Great post - absolutely spot on! Thanks for posting!


Great list - thanks for posting!


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