Couch to 5K
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Stuck on week 1

I started couch to 5k a month ago. I wasn't able to do the first run, but then the next time I managed to do it and for the last month I've been doing week 1. I started off going 3 times a week, but after 2 weeks I only felt like it was getting harder so I started going 6 times a week. Now it feels a bit easier but I still can't do week 2

I do the first 90 second run and it's hell. I then do the second one and I'm gasping for breath barely able to keep walking. By the time I get to the third 90 second run I'm still gasping for air and I can only manage 30 seconds before I have to stop or fall over

I'm only 2 stone overweight, I eat a balanced diet with plenty of fibre where my carbs are only wholemeal. I've lost 4 pounds in 2 weeks, I don't smoke or drink and my fitness hasn't improved at all. What's wrong with me? :(

About my diet:

I usually have a poached egg and spinach sandwich with wholemeal bread for breakfast. I only have something light for lunch like a chicken salad sandwich or peanut butter sandwich with only one slice of bread, and then for tea I have vegetables and chicken usually so I'm not getting carbs before I go to bed. I have a banana or a tangerine mid morning and if I'm hungry I snack on carrots because they're only 50 calories and feel very filling and stop me from feeling like I'm starving. I also drink lots of water all day, and with icecubes before a meal

I usually run mid afternoon. I run but I've stopped doing resistance training because I wasnt getting any stronger and it was just hurting my muscles and making it harder to run. I do stretch after a workout though. I feel like when I run it doesnt hurt my muscles very much, what limits me is when I'm gasping for air and my lungs are burning and the suffocating feeling is too much to endure. I don't smoke or have asthma, I just feel like my cardio is really bad and doesn't improve

14 Replies

Quick question: are you "running" or jogging? It sounds to me like you're simply going too fast. Especially as you say you're "gasping for air" - that's not good!

Think instead of *jogging* the "running" bits and you'll have a load more joy.

I've seen overweight and unfit people complete Week 1 with no huge difficulties and that's because they are going very very slowly, barely quicker than walking pace - and that's perfectly fine.

As a guide, you should be "running" (ie jogging) at a pace that you can still hold a conversation at. It's called a "conversational pace" funnily enough.

Your diet is fine, your health sounds generally good, so as long as you go slowly enough, you'll be OK.

Hope that's of some help :-)



Goodness...poor you :)

Now, if with everything you have said here is correct, then there are a number of issues;

I agree with John..are you going way, way too fast?

The whole thing is about slow and really steady, that is the way the nine weeks build up. I think many folk found the first runs difficult..I know I did..:)

You should follow the programme, do three runs a week.. with the day off in between each run as a must! Six times a week, with the stress you are feeling is really not the way to go.

Try some gentle Strength and Flex exercises, (link on the Couch to 5K site) on your rest days.

If, after a few runs the problems still occur, then it is wise maybe to get yourself checked out..?

Not sure if you are male or female..but a well woman/man check may be in order, if only to ease your mind.:)

The whole thing is about enjoyment... so it needs sorting .

Hope this may be of some help to you :) Keep us posted?


Hi Kiri,

I agree with John and floss

The C25k program teaches you how to run for a sustained period, you are not running for a bus.

When asked to run for that 90 seconds you should set off at a very gentle steady pace as slowly as you can. Keep upright and take small steps. You then get to recover during the walk break before setting off again at the same slow steady pace.

At the end of the session you will be tired, but have some water and maybe a banana and feel good that you did it...

Once you have completed this 3 times you will be ready to move on to less but slightly longer runs still with recovery walk breaks. Still run at that same slow pace... this is building up your stamina.

Next time you go out slow down, do take your rest days they are important.

Good luck and let us know how it goes.


1 like

I found the first week hard too, didn't manage day one first time round either. Could you run slower? A very good runner gave me the advice of when you first start go as slow as you possibly can. Also, follow the plan. Have a rest day in between runs. I find listening to music as I go really helps (I recommend Girls Aloud, but that may be just me!!)

Are you a bit impatient? I am. And I do not like NOT being good at things! Sometimes I get quite cross at how slow I go and I need to have a strong word with myself about how this programme is about getting me fitter, increasing my stamina and getting me running for 30mins. Once I can do that, I can think about being a speed demon!

I go for a brisk 1.6mile walk with a friend every two weeks. We have a good natter. Then I go home and do my run and I always find on these days the run is far easier. Perhaps do a 10 or even 15 minute warm-up walk to start off? Get those muscles really warm.

The bottom line is you CAN do this. Listen to Laura, go as slow as you can, enjoy your rest days and remember, you have plenty of time for speed once you're running for 30 minutes and you will get there. :-)


I'm female, not sure if it makes a difference. I went to see the doctor and got diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, but that just sounds like a cop out excuse to say they don't know why I'm weak and either can't do anything or can't be bothered to try

I did do couch to 5k a few years ago. I got up to week 3 before getting stuck for months, but then one day I suddenly felt a lot better and managed to get all the way up to completing the 20 minute run but then my exams started and I was too stressed and tired to continue and fell out of shape

The last time I did it I was really out of shape, but was still able to follow the program up to week 3 before getting stuck, but this time I can't get past week 1

I've been running at 10km an hour, since the idea is to run 5k in 30 minutes. I was able to do it 3 years ago, and I don't feel like I'm putting my body under much strain, it's just my lungs that can't keep up with the rest of me it seems


10km/h ????

Noooooo!!! WAAAAAAY too fast.

Please please slow down (6 - 8 km/h) & stick to 3 runs a week with a rest day in between.

Forget the distance. It's called Couch to 5k but nowhere in the program or podcasts is 5k actually mentioned... It should be called "Couch to 30 minutes"

Get to 30 mins first (leisurely!) then extend the time gradually until you can do 5k and then gradually build up your speed.

Just have a look at other posts here on the main page - most people finish the program and are probably doing 3.5, 4, 4.5k in the 30 mins. And many are delighted to break the 30 minute barrier for 5k ... So there's no rush.

In our C25k group at work, we have one person, overweight and unfit, who will eventually (hopefully!) do 5k in about 55 minutes . But so what? :-)

You say you did this a few years ago, but only got to Week 3? Go SLOWLY enough and you WILL get the whole program done and you'll feel great :-)

You say you're not putting your body under strain... Your lungs are telling you a different story! Listen to your lungs!

So here's my Recipe for C25 Success , a prescription if you like:

(1) Go SLOW

(2) Errr...

(3) That's it.

Easy does it tiger :-)



The mantra on this forum is slow and steady, and it works! 10km/hr is way, way too fast. I struggled with 7km/hr in week 4, and I took everyone's advice and went slower and was able to complete my W4 run at the slower pace. I have a feeling I might have to go slower still for the big runs later on. Aim to keep running/jogging for the time you're supposed to, no matter how much you have to slow down to do so. Slower is better here. Good luck!


Well, I went to the gym and decided to keep going at 10km but let myself walk til I catch my breath and see if I can finish the whole run

I actually managed to do the first 4 runs with only 2 minutes walking which surprised me, I must have improved overnight, or I'm on a good day, or maybe I was just hyped. Then I got to the 5th run and I was still out of breath and could see my defeat coming 30 seconds away, so I did what I planned to do and kept walking for another 2 minutes. I then did the 5th run, then walked for another 4 minutes then completed the 6th run!

3 years ago I did week 2 on my second week of running without giving myself any extra walking time, so I feel a bit bad about that, but I finally made this breakthrough so I'm still pretty happy. I'll keep doing this until I can do it without needing to take extra walking time and then I'll have a go at week 3! I remember I got stuck on week 3 for months last time kinda like I have done with week 1 this time, so if I can get to week 3 again it'll be a big deal for me even if I never progress beyond that :D


Ummmm.... I'm not sure what your objective is.

Are you following the C25K program?

Is Week 3 your ultimate aim?

Do you want to go past Week 3 ?

Why not just take it easy, follow the program and give yourself the best chance of success?

You seem pretty determined to stick to a very fast 10km/h. Why though? From everything you've said above, you're setting yourself up for a real struggle in Week 3.

Slow down and you will achieve all 9 weeks with no problems at all.


well, I was able to do it this way before, and I feel like if I slow down I won't improve

that aside I'm also very tall at 6ft, with longer strides I expect I'll have to move faster that most to get the same level of exertion


Just to be clear, did you complete the whole 9 weeks of the C25K program when you did this before?

It wasn't clear in your previous posts.

You say you won't "improve" if you slow down.

What are you trying to "improve"?

You've posted here asking why your lungs are struggling. Everyone has given the same advice.

Why do *you* think your lungs are struggling?


Hey there- don't get disheartened. Here are a few things to consider-

Only run three times a week- six is way too much- and always have rest days.

Change the time you run- mid afternoon didn't work for me as I slump then. Try early morning or after a light snack in the evening.

Make sure you have a small drink and something like a banana about twenty mins before running.

Run very, very slowly. Almost artificially so- force yourself.

A piece of advice on week three helps with technique- imagine you are running along the road next to a hedge. On the other side of the hedge is a person who can just see the top of your head. They shouldn't be able to tell if you are walking or running. The idea is that you should never bounce up as part of your stride. Wastes energy and effort.

Plan a flat route and avoid hills at all costs.

Above all, convince yourself before each run that you bloody well WILL get through to the end. Good luck and keep us posted X


Hi Kiri,

You really are running too fast! You might be better to get off the treadmill and run outside at a comfortable pace and concentrate less on your speed. I'd class 10km/h as sprinting!

Relax and enjoy it, this isn't punishment.


Sorry I have read this too late to be much use, but I wondered if an alternative approach might help - I am a medic and I agree completely with the other replies - the programme isn't intended to be used at a quick starting pace and you may hurt yourself and have to stop again.

If you can't bring yourself to slow down, maybe it would be a good idea to look at some HIIT training - if you don't know anything about it just ask one of the staff at your gym - sounds like you are an all or nothing kind of person and that might be a good way to improve your fitness so you can manage the faster running. Good luck whatever you choose.


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