Couch to 5K
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I feel like my body is betraying me

In the four weeks since I started C25K, it feels like I've had one problem after another. I've had tight calf muscles, pain in the backs of my thighs, a bad stomach, knee pain, breathing problems, headaches after almost every run. And now I've just had to abandon my first run of week 5 half way through, due to pain in my heel which I fear might be Achilles tendonitis.

The thing is, I don't understand why this is happening. I'm 38, a healthy weight, and I'm reasonably active - I do yoga once or twice a week, and until a couple of months ago I was cycling to work almost every day. What's making it even more frustrating is that I used to run about 15 years ago, and had none of these problems. In fact, I did an entire 5k run with almost no training - which seems utterly impossible now.

I knew starting to run wasn't going to be easy, but I didn't think it would be this difficult. My mind is willing, but my body keeps letting me down. Has anyone else had this many problems? And does it get better?

9 Replies

While you may not have been inactive for fifteen years, I am afraid that you probably have to face up to the consequences of the aging process. I was twenty years older than you when I started C25k and considered myself reasonably fit, but the aches and pains of the first few weeks were quite a surprise, especially knees in my case. Most of those subsided by W6 and now, two years later, I still get occasional twinges in different places as well as my chronically tight achilles tendons. Listening to my body has become second nature and if I have to stop running for a couple of weeks, as I just have, as the consequence of a cold, then I do just that.

Your problem, at this stage is learning to differentiate between what is serious and that which is just the result of starting a new exercise regime and the stuff that may just be incidental (the stomach pain for instance). If there is sharp or, sudden pain then the first point of call is RICE, (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation) all of which can be self administered. If pain persists or is extreme then the cause needs to be sought out, either by consulting a GP or physio and/or checking your gait and shoes.

Don't expect to be able to run as you did fifteen years ago, but don't give up either. After my fortnight's rest I went out cautiously and had a glorious 12.5k run, with no problems...although I must be aware of that slightly creaky right knee....oh, and that mild pain across the pads of my right foot.....and.....and.....

Stick with it and you will learn so much about your (sorry to say it, ageing,) body, but in two years time you will feel ten years younger. Take it easy and good luck.


Get some trainers for over pronation, I had exactly the same issues as you and a decent set of support trainers stopped the issues almost instantly, as for the headaches make sure you are well hydrated.

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Hummm... Sore ankles, sore calves, sore knees, sore thighs, sore back, sore achilles.... Sounds like shoe issues to me. Have you had gait analysis? Do you wear high heels routinely during the day? Are you running in proper running shoes? Getting my shoes checked at a proper running shop would be my first course of action.

As for headaches, are you sure you're fully hydrated before you run? Not just a quick glass of water before you go out, but properly hydrated.

Breathing problems? Are you asthmatic or do you mean your breathing is ragged when you run? Lots of us struggle to breathe evenly and smoothly when we first start running and lots of never seem to get it quite right. Laura suggests breathing in and out, each to the count of 4 but I've never managed that for more than a couple of hundred meters. I have found that avoiding slouching as I run makes the breathing and the running easier (who'd have thought it!)

Stomach problems? It's well known that running can put your intestines into overdrive and there are plenty of people who can testify to the existence of 'runners runnies'. It does settle down as your body gets used to the unfamiliar jiggling about but it's always, and I mean ALWAYS, a good idea to go before you go out. Also, does it make any difference to your stomach problems what time of the day you run? I've never had a stitch when I run first thing in the morning, for example, but I often do if I run later in the day.

Sorry for the long rambling reply. Really hope these thoughts help you get to the root of your problems. Everyone's body reacts differently when they start running and, if you're worried, perhaps you should have a quick chat with your GP for some professional advice. Hopefully things will get easier as you adapt to the new challenges running brings. Good luck


The headaches sound unusual to me. The other stuff you can partially handle by just easing off a bit. Maybe do that just as an experiment on yourself? Drop back to a really, really comfortable level, but give your permission to bypass all and any of the steps between there and where you are now if you start to feel better, and decide to take off again. It can't hurt to take a little "half holiday" like this.

Why? To see what happens to the headaches if you eliminate some of the other pressures. I would be worried if I was getting headaches from running, whatever the cause, simply because it's unusual, and it's your head.

But it's up to you. If you think it's best to just bash away, suffer, and hope for a breakthrough to some day just happen (as so often does happen, so it's a valid approach) then carry on, knowing at least that this is your choice. It might hurt, but you've kind of signed up for it, then. That might make it hurt less.

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Afraid I would have to go with what Ian said... as we get older ( i am nearly 58) the twinges etc seem to be worse some days rather than others .. taking the rest days. stretching after the runs and having the right shoes will all help :D

Does it easier or better , yeah on the whole it does, of course it is different for each of us .. don't give up or feel dis heartened stick with it the rewards are more than worth it :D

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Thanks for all your comments. I felt really disheartened when I came back after my aborted run earlier, but now I'm starting to feel a bit happier. This too shall pass, and all that. The problem is that I try to push myself too hard, and I'm not very good at admitting when I need to slow down a bit or that I can't do what I want to do.

I've made an appointment to see my GP about the breathing problems. After around three minutes of running I start to struggle to get enough air in to my lungs - like I can't take a deep breath - which then makes me feel as though I can't carry on. My sister has exercise-induced asthma, so I thought it would be best to get it checked out in case it's that.

I had a gait analysis years ago when I used to run, so I know I overpronate. I'm pretty sure the trainers I bought are for overpronation (Asics GT1000) but I bought them over the internet rather than in a shop so it's possible they're not the right shoes. But they're still a good, supportive pair of trainers so I'd be surprised if they are what's causing my problems.

Anyway, I'm going to take a rest for at least a few days, to give my heel time to recover. At the moment it hurts with every step, so I'm hobbling around my flat. I literally can't run!


If your going to talk to the GP maybe ask him if it's worth checking your ferritin levels. Sometimes low iron can cause breathing, joint pain and general tiredness but is easily sorted. I am sure it's just teething problems but as we say on here if in doubt check it out. Good luck.


Well you have probably answered your own question: if you push yourself too hard and fast then breathing problems are a guarantee, and if you push too fast with only 4 weeks of running under your belt it is to be expected that your muscles, tendons, joints etc are going to suffer as the adaptation you are asking of them takes a bi longer than a month to develop and pushing them harder than they are ready for will result in injury.

If you search through posts on here one of the most common problems is people thinking they have t run fast during the programme, and one of the most frequently given pieces of advice is to slow down and slow down some more. Run at a pace that you could still maintain a conversation. If you are out of breath after 3 minutes you are almost certainly runing faster than this. Slow down. Right down. The programme is not about how fast you can run for 30 minutes or 3. How fast you can run 15 years ago has no bearing whatsoever. It is about conditioning your body to be sustain 30 minutes of continuous effort with good form.


Rignold has it absolutely right. Lots of good advice in these replies. The C25K program really works, all the graduates on this forum will tell you that. But it is all about doing what Laura tells you in terms of running durations. The speed is important, but not how fast you go but how slow! What I mean by that is that you need to run slow enough to be able to complete the session. My advice would be to start your run very slowly indeed, a pace that allows you to breath very comfortably, then very gradually increase the pace during the run if you feel ok doing that. The aim is to be able to run continuously for 30mins at the end of 9 weeks. The distance you cover in that 30 minutes is of no importance. After graduating, if you continue to run for 30 minutes 3 times a week, then you will find that your speed increases of it's own accord, even if you make a conscious effort to run at a gentle comfortable pace.

Don't push yourself too hard. You will get far more benefit, and pleasure from running if you take it easy and so still have the desire to continue doing it than if you push too hard and make it more of a chore than a pleasure. Trust the program, it works. :)

Good luck


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