Couch to 5K

Just Finished week 3 but get really bad calf cramps and shin Pain - any tips/advice

Hi all, really enjoying C25K and amazed how well I'm doing. I am finding the runs challenging but constantly surprised how I can keep up and genuinely excieted how much my stamina has improved. My big problem is from week 1 I had really bad cramps in my Calve/calf [don't even know which it is but it hurts], so much it's the pain that is killing me not my lungs! Finished week 3 today and have kept up the whole way but tonight the pain was extreme and I could barely bend to take my shoes off, the pain seems to be spreeding to by shins too!

I am overweight and early 40's, I havn't run this much in my life and thought the pains would subsite after the first 2 weeks as my body got used to moving but it's not going away so would really appreicate any advice or tips.

I am a bit concerned as some of the blogs on week 4 say it's a massive step up and I don't want to loose motivation by moving ahead too early. Should I repeat week 3 until the pain subsides or go for week 4 and just run through the pain and give it my best shot?

7 Replies

Mavis, lots of questions back at you! Have you got properly fitted running shoes (meaning did you have a gait analysis or get someone to check out the wear on old shoes)? Are you giving yourself at least one rest day between runs? How overweight are you? If you are in extreme pain I think you need to take a few days off of the programme, maybe do some non impact exercise like swimming or cycling or running underwater until the pain subsides. Extreme pain such as you are describing is a symptom that something is not right and if you continue to push on you will injure yourself more. The shoe question followed by the frequency of running q's are possible the most important ones - if you can tell us the answer to those we might be halfway there?




There is of course a certain degree of muscle soreness but shouldn't been really painful- just have to trust what your body is telling you. I got really sore legs/knees in week three and had to have a week off because of it. I think that was mainly due to rubbish ancient trainners. I went for a proper trainer fitting and invested in a pair of new trainers. Since then I've been grand (I too was overweight- 4 and a half stone). I've about run them out now (which I thought I'd never do) and am about due a new pair.

Aside from good trainers, I would advise stretching properly, I added in a little stretch after the warm up walks and a few afterwards as well. If you're already doing this, make sure you're not overly pushing into the stretches when your muscles are cold as it could damage them.

Hope this helps


Good point Jen - I forgot to mention the stretching; when you do something automatically you forget that not everyone might do the same!


Thanks so much for replying Jen and Carole - My husband has been on at me about shoes as he runs. I'm using Nike trainers that I bought for the Gym years ago. I didn't want to invest in a pair running shoes in case this was another 'fad'. We have a really good running shop nearby and I'm going to ask their advice today as I know they do fittings and see what they think.

I am 3 Stone over my recommended weight and classed as Obese :@(

I have been streatching at the end of the run and doing the walk to warm up and cool down. My legs were aching in bed after last nights run for most of the night and tender today but I can walk ok. Yes I've been leaving a day between runs and have been doing the 3 runs over a 1 week period in each phase.

In the first few runs, the pain felt like cramp in my calve muscles, I wondered if I had a silly running style which was causing it. I really don't want to stop as I know that if I do I will find it hard to start again and my motivation at the moment is really high so I want to keep going.

Will let you know how I get on with the shoes.


Hi Mavis, I was 5 stone over my BMI recommended when I started this adventure so I can empathise.

I remember being surprised by the shin pain - shin splints it is called. Who would have thought there were muscles that you can feel at the front of your shin. From what I could tell by googling there is not a lot to be done about it other than to take it easier or run through it - depending on how bad the pain is. The shin is called into play to lift the toe of the foot so lots of repeated running steps makes this muscle and tendon work harder than it has for years. After a about 2 months of running the shin splint pain for me went never to return. I hope it works the same for you. If you find it is too much pain then you should think about stopping. If you make it too bad and injure the tendon then it could take months to get better. Much better that you take it easy and allow the muscle and tendon to build up their strength. They say no pain no gain but I don't think it has to be painful - tired yes but not painful. Each time I pushed something so it was painful I injured something. I now stop if it is painful but don't use it as an excuse if it is just tired.

The calf pain/cramp is not something I suffered with while running. Although I did suffer from night cramps in my calves when I was overweight - I was always afraid to stretch out in bed as I knew this could bring on a cramp. One of the benefits of being fitter for me is that my night cramps have gone.

You mention a silly running style - It sound plausible doesn't it? Even so, any running style is going to be something that strains your muscles, joints and tendons if they are not used to it - you have to remember that the c25k program is about getting all your body ready for it. It is my belief that even the most unfit of us could run 5k without any training if our lives depended on it - we all have the latent strength and fitness - but it would hurt us so much we might not ever do it again. c25k takes you there slowly so that you avoid injury and build the mental confidence as you go. The key I think is to concentrate on finishing each run just short of painful - go slower if you must. when you do get to the 5k you can then start to worry about getting speed up and pushing harder etc. One one of my runs about I pushed too hard and hurt the muscle at the back of my thigh - that still niggles me now although it is getting better. It is best to take it easy and not hurt yourself. It is actually faster to go slow and build strength little by little than to work too hard in a single session and hurt yourself and have to stop.

The calf is pushing the foot down as you push off so perhaps you are just going too hard at it? Maybe try running slower. I was surprised to learn the accepted advice for running for "maintenance" is very slow. e.g. if your goal is to be able to run 5k in 30 minutes then you know that on your goal days you need to go at 6km per minute. If you obsess about these things as some of us do then you work out that in your short runs you need to be covering x km of distance even on those short runs but that all turns out to be counter productive if you end up not finishing or hurting yourself. The accepted wisdom for running training is that you run much slower than your target pace most times. Don't go out at your fastest pace in every run - the slower runs teach your body to get ready for being able to go faster, when you have achieved the 5k in 30 you can then worry about going faster. Look this up on the web site of something like runners world - search for advice on training for 5k. It may surprise you how slow some of your runs should be. Don't beat yourself up if you are not Zola Budd every day (who remembers Zola?).

The professional shoe fitting advice is good I think. The idea of different shoe types, as I understand it it that some of us tend to push off with one side of our foot and this unbalances the way our bodies work. When I saw my video I could clearly see that my right foot lands on its left side and then rolls over to the right as I push off. Adjusting to get some shoes where the right sole has move rigidity than the left corrected my foot to land and push off in a more flat way. I am not sure if this really helps anything long term but I think that having shoes with proper cushioning has to help the shock to the bones as my overweight body was landing on them. They are also so comfortable that they feel great to run in. The cost was a shocker but that also helped me keep motivated to run - after spending the money on gear I had to wear the gear out.

Keep up the running - it took me a year to be comfortably in my BMI zone. Running didn't really help with that in terms of calories burnt but it did help in that it gave me a new hobby that wasn't food centred. It gave me confidence, it gave me the proof that most things are possible. I never thought I would say it, in fact I absolutely did used to say "running is not for me - I just do not have the capability to run - I am not lazy or a quitter but my body just cannot run, never has been able to". As it has turned out that was a load of rubbish - I took things slowly and concentrated on making sure that I kept coming back to running even if I needed to take week (or two) off. I persevered and now I can say that I can run - I can run 5k, 10k, 15k, 20k if I choose to. I even admit to loving it sometimes. Sometimes it is terrible.

If you are pushing yourself hard because you have to work hard to lose weight then remember that the calories burnt at 30 minutes for 5k vs 60 minutes for 5k are about the same. You don't need to hurt yourself to burn calories. When you are ready to run faster then run faster at that time.

Good luck! Sorry for the ramble :-)


Thanks Random

Great advice, thanks so much for replying - love your rambling and have read your blog and feel really inspired. My BMI is 31 and I would like to loose weight but am focusing on the fitness and healthy eating/portion control and hoping the weight loss follows.

Went to a local running shop today and ran on a treadmill for the first time in front of my husband and children. They filmed me and advised accordingly. She said I had very large pronounced calve muscles which are tight but were probably not strong so gave me advice on on stretching/warming up and down as well as massage tips.

My lovely husband bought me a pair of Adidas Response Stability 3 Running Shoes for Valentines, oh the romance! I do feel inspired and will head out on Run 1 of Week 4 tommorow and I'm sure I'll be fine, actually feel a little excited.

Thank you


Its funny calfs are obviousl a weak point for non-athletic people everyone seems to go through the early days troubles down below the knee. I obviously never used mine at all in day-to-day life.

As well as the trainers which really can't be underestimated I found becoming a slightly OCD calf stretcher and strengthener helped me out when I was having calf pain mostly due to the muscles just being solid all the time.

I went for a couple of sports massages to help loosen then off and got a bit of advice about stretching and strengthening regimines to help me avoid it becoming worse.

As the massage started working I was regularly seen going through my routine of lower leg stretching to the point where I was often seen unconsciously doing it in supermarket checkout queues or while filling the car with petrol :-)

It took a few weeks but they have been in much better shape since.

If nothing else the massage was nice though quite vigorous! I got mine at the Sweatshop if you have one near you.

A little bit of preventative maintenance is always worth while.


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