Is there enough focus on form in C25k? - Couch to 5K

Couch to 5K

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Is there enough focus on form in C25k?


I graduated a few weeks back and I've kept up with running 3 times a week but I've had to reduce distance due to hip pain.

I've been concerned about my form so I filmed myself running on the treadmill the other day and I've discovered I have a hard heel strike and a hip drop so my knees collapsing in and are almost touching.

I've decided to start the programme all over again and this time concentrate on proper form with strength training in between to get my glutes and core firing. I want to make sure I have the best foundation for building on for longer distances.

Ive been considering that maybe there isn't enough emphasis on developing good form with the C25k programme as it's all about completing the time. Have I just been unlucky or does anyone have similar experiences? I'd be interested to know your thoughts 😊🏃🏻‍♀️

43 Replies

Typical NHS project. It only gives half the advice.

It upsets me a bit when I witness people knacking themselves up through poor quality training practices when they genuinely believe they're doing the right thing.

No. C25k doesn't put enough emphasis on form or anything else for that matter.

You can't go from seriously unfit to fit by running alone unless you're very, very lucky. You need to include stretching and strengthening exercises that focus on alignment of everything from your back to your toes. There's no mention of hip muscles in it despite them playing a vital role in how your knees take load. No mention of the intrinsic muscles of the feet that play a key role in shock absorption and ankle alignment or anything.

C25k aims to take an unfit person, and build strong quads, calves and hanstrings that will pull everything off line because all the other muscles are still neglected and remain weak.

Millsie-JGraduate in reply to Hidden

the NHS has been good enough to invest in this public health programme to get people moving, when infact we all already know we should be moving and exercising. I could not therefore endorse the NHS spending more funds on providing further info and instruction, when actually there is loads of info already available for those who are keen enough to look. I would rather precious NHS funding is utilised for care and treatments rather than further public health projects. Public Health funding sits with Local Authorities not the NHS.

Hidden in reply to Millsie-J

Indeed. But to give advice that is only half the story is in my opinion worse than not giving advice at all.

Put it this way. It would be fair to advise that swimming is good. We should all do more of it. But then to say that without adding that it's wise to swim somewhere that is watched by a suitably skilled lifeguard. Advise everyone to swim three times a week and see how many drown in rivers and the sea.

Or you could advise that we should all go running. Sounds advice. But leave out the bit about making sure you have suitable footwear, or that muscles that haven't done much in a long time are now going to take a repeated pounding and may need a bit of TLC, and those precious nhs resources start getting used up by people with terrible hip pain, knee problems, foot problems etc.

Don't get me wrong. I think if c25k works for some, great. It's certainly a good tool for getting started back on the road to fitness, for some, but it is only half the story. If you go to any guided training class, in any discipline, you won't just dive right in, and if the instructor/leader is any good, you won't just be left to hurt yourself without a bit of friendly guidance to keep you right. C25k misses all of that out.

GoogleMeGraduate in reply to Hidden

That's a fair point if you are saying there are risks in a self-administered programme. Demonstrably, a lot of people don't register key bits of information given at the beginning of the NHS C25K programme!

C25K does not tell anyone "just go running", that's the point.

Millsie-JGraduate in reply to GoogleMe

Thank you

Irish-JohnGraduate in reply to Hidden

If anyone 'should' have been injured doing this programme it was me. Two types of Asthma, two feet just a couple of degrees from the medical classification to the extent where the State itself was urging me to get Handicapped plates for my car just a couple of years back, overweight by at least 50 pounds, only a year or two away from a HUGE smoking addiction that had lasted almost forty of my 56 years, had literally NEVER run more than a hundred yards at ANYTHING like 'speed' in my life ( was 'slid' through more PT tests than I can even remember) and spent the first few weeks running in battered old walking shoes, jeans and heavy cotton tee shirt because no way was I gong to 'waste' money on proper gear as I was convinced I would be lucky to even finish W3 of the programme. Oh - to say nothing of starting in June here with Temps well over the 30C mark.

Proper Form? - LOL, it was a miracle I even got through the first DAY :)

My opinion (for that is all it is) - if I had been 'interested' in running as a way to get fit I would have researched it thoroughly and learned all that other stuff.

But all I wanted to do was the 'impossible' - run for a decent distance and time. Exorcise those feelings of physical inadequacy and a childhood of not being able to 'keep up with' my pals.

This programme promised the impossible - and delivered. We could quibble about the "ifs, ands' and but's" all day here. But let me suggest this if you really are interested in a discussion and not merely a rather angry POV.

Count up how many 'I've injured myself' posts. Then count up how many 'I never thought I could do it' posts.

There are people who will injure themselves making Toast in the morning ( hence the warning label on toasters) and there are people who could have 'Laura' in person running right beside them who would still injure themselves...but I have never come across anything in life that has given so many people so much back in return from simply going out the door and 'giving it a go'.

I have gained a hell of a lot in the last year - and yes, I did cut my knee open and yes I probably have a few more aches and pains after a run than if I did it 'properly' - and it is those gains which I prefer to focus on because the 'injuries' are not that big a factor by any stretch of the imagination. And to whatever extent they are - well, it's been said over and over that this Forum is a resource for anyone who cares to avail of it.

'Progress - not perfection' is the promise and it is certainly kept imho. I took more injuries in the Dojo being trained by a true Sensei than I could ever take from this running. Yes - my 'Form' in the Martial Arts is probably a heck of a lot better than my 'Running' but I don't WANT to be a 'perfect or anything like it' runner, I just want to run. :)

GoogleMeGraduate in reply to Irish-John

That is absolutely beautiful Irish-John.

Irish-JohnGraduate in reply to GoogleMe

Thank you GM.

ValcartGraduate in reply to Irish-John

Well said and I so agree.

Irish-JohnGraduate in reply to Valcart

Thank you Vc.

LizzylobdobGraduate in reply to Hidden

The NHS is not responsible for you or your health, YOU ARE. Considering we are at a crisis level in ischaemic heart disease and type 2 diabetes in the west almost any movement is better than no movement. The odd bit of pain in your hip or knee is annoying but is not going to kill you, whereas type 2 diabetes does and IHD kills one in three of us. I hope you feel better soon Rach808 btw, please don't think I'm attacking you at all on this.

Sara104Graduate in reply to Hidden

There might be some truth in what you're say but why have you not got the guts to put your name to your reply. Please, please please stop knocking the NHS, they are doing their best to improve the health and well being of a nation that is facing life changing illnesses because of our lifestyle. Please don't knock C25k.


The short answer is 'probably not' but I think that would also be a cynical one. Most people will research further than just a simple app and of course there are many signposts to various strength and flexibility podcasts. It doesn't take much to start learning about the impact of gait and weak muscle groups, the importance of cross training, diet etc. It's certainly better to start running using Couch to 5k rather than just heading out the door without any sort of plan at all. I think for many of us it was the starting point in actually finding out about our own individual strengths and weaknesses, seeking advice, educating ourselves and making really positive sustainable changes. I for one owe an awful lot to stumbling across Couch to 5k and also the wonderful folk on this forum. Those 9 weeks were just the starting point for me, as I know they are for many others who go on to extend their running, join clubs etc. Most running journeys will never be completely without injury and certainly I don't think a simple app could cater for all the potential pitfalls and differences in running form or educate everyone about every aspect of running! It is still, in my opinion a great starting point for anyone wanting to start running.🙂

davelinksGraduate in reply to Sandraj39

Hear Hear Sandra!

Millsie-JGraduate in reply to davelinks


Rach808Graduate in reply to Sandraj39

I agree I owe a lot to C25k too - it's allowed me to develop a fitness habit that I never thought possible! I guess I've been likening learning to run like learning to drive - if you start of with bad habits they are much harder to unlearn.

Like you say we are all different but I feel I would have benefitted from some guidance early on that said 'think of your form' as well as 'just keep going' which on the app you don't get at all.

I'm actually looking forward to taking on the process with a more technical view point now I know I have the fitness levels to complete it. I guess it would have been good to get it right first time though! :) xx

OldflossAdministrator in reply to Rach808

C25K is just the one of the awesome runners on here says,

" Running legs take a long time to build" :)


I think couch to 5k is brilliant. I have successfully completed without injury. So have loads of people on this site. Most who develop a serious injury seem to be not following the advice e.g. not taking the rest days. There are bound to be a few who don't have such a good experience but I am not sure I would have wanted too much about running form. Just running was enough for me. This forum was great for getting advice.

The NHS is also brilliant and those of us on this site lucky enough to live in a country with access to health care free at the point of use should celebrate and support that. We wouldn't have access to the programme or this site without it. I for one am very grateful.

BluebirdrunnerGraduate in reply to Hidden

Totally agree with you. I didn't even know there was a forum until I was halfway through week 8, and then only joined to get the badge😆.

Hubby and I had negotiated the plan ourselves;

running outside, on a treadmill in the winter, sorting out our footwear needs (gait anaysis), repeating any weeks we wanted to, taking a holiday then coming back to the plan, started stretching after R1 W1

without any additional guidence...

Just from using the podcasts and following the rules. One run at a time...

I do think Rignold and Ju-ju's video will be a useful help and should cover most of the questions that new members have.


I agree with Sandraj39 (and in fact with an earlier post of yours in which you said that trusting the programme got you through) I was never going to embark on a fussy programme that reinforced all my negative perceptions of runners and running (from close observation). The majority of people who really need the programme need *not* to feel they might be 'doing it wrong'

That said, I think many of us feel that some of the guidance there is could stand to be tweaked (most notably in the advice to hit the ground heel first, and you say that's what you are doing), whether there should be more as well as different (perhaps during the later weeks?) I couldn't say. It is probably unwise to put much into a general programme, not just because of putting people off, but also because we are all different, and may be running in very different places (and the NHS programme is only wanting you out there running continuously for 30 minutes on a regular basis...). By all means seek out an individual professional analysis if you are feeling receptive to guidance and have a hunch there's something you can improve.

My hunch would be that it may be not especially much to do with your running form as such except insofar as that might also be influenced by a general being in a hurry to get somewhere: wanting to abandon the warm up walk etc...

I know in theory the treadmill video should be informative, but when I had one done, I ended up with the worst shoes I've had (and that includes walking boots and sandals) - they *did* make my knees knock together.

I've been blessed not to have any injuries so far in the five years I've been running but I am slow, have a tiny stride length, run off road in minimalist trail shoes and even off road I don't run on a hard surface more than (eg gritstone edge, or a trail) more than a couple of times consecutively and I always do the warm up and down walk. I did add in some 'poncy stretching', in the form of yoga, away from the running but that came later, as did swimming and cycling (after a fashion).

Hidden is just not a fan of the programme at all and didn't complete it.

IannodaTruffeAdministrator in reply to GoogleMe

I love your style GM!!

I also agree totally, that many people would be put off by a more technical approach. This forum exists to answer questions and also point people towards more detailed information. There are plenty of other running training plans that give absolutely no form or technique advice, so apart from the glaringly obvious poor advice on the podcasts (don't know about the app), I believe the balance in the NHS C25k plan is just about correct.

I always advocate new runners doing their own research, which is essential when there is so much conflicting advice out there and so much of it unsubstantiated.

OldflossAdministrator in reply to GoogleMe

Right !

Rach808Graduate in reply to GoogleMe

Absolutely! trusting the programme got me through - but I am also one of those people that would rather know that I'm 'doing it wrong' so I can 'do it right'. If the programme told me to use a certain form I would have trusted that too :)

I don't feel in a particular hurry to progress but I am excited about the idea of progressing and developing and I wonder if this would be easier if I had started off by learning with better technique.

I am probably looking at the C25k programme with hindsight from where I am now (it's hard not to) rather than thinking of what it was like for me at w1r1.

From the replies I guess we are all in agreement that there's not enough focus on form but most agree it's not needed in the context of a hugely accessible beginners programme like this :)

Hidden in reply to GoogleMe

How many threads are there on this forum asking advice about injuries that occurred when following c25k ?

GoogleMeGraduate in reply to Hidden

Not many. Not even as many as I'd expect.

Quite a lot more when *not* following it ie skipping rest days, warm up walks, running a longer session.

Quite a lot beyond it.

And a lot of injuries (and there've been some spectacularly awful ones) completely coincidental!

Hidden in reply to GoogleMe

Must be right then. I must be mistaken when I thought I'd read several such threads today alone.

I'm not interested in arguing the point. The question was asked does c25k neglect form. I answered yes, then gave my reasoning. It's not for me to convince anyone. We all have free will. If you want to ignore good training practices that's fine. I did for a long time. Hence my choice of username. Strangely, since taking training more seriously, I've become notably less decrepit and actually very fit and healthy. That's my choice. It's up to everyone individually to choose their own way.

My motives in sharing my opinion is to try to help people train well without hurting themselves. Hopefully sharing what I've learned since hurting myself through silly avoidable mistakes, along with what I've learned about speeding recovery and minimising the risk of new injuries. It's entire upto the individual to decide whether or not to take anything from my experience, but if I'm going to be criticised for trying to prevent a stranger from walking with a limp for a long time, I'll just leave you all to get on with it.


Well done for keeping running...:)

There is actually, quite a lot of advice on the C25K programme and linked sites about running correctly..e.g.

Because the programme caters for a massive and very real cross section of us, it may not be specific enough as some would would be impossible to achieve that...there is so much to think about and the programme includes basic technique advice with regular suggestions on how to land, foot position, body position and other techniques. This programme starts us on a long journey and aims, mostly very effectively to get us to running, injury free. I still smile at the lifting of the foot in a cycling motion instruction :)

The strength exercises have always been recommended for us alongside C25K.. Strength and and Flex many of used and the emphasis form links and posts has always advised, extra stamina and core strength exercise on rest days. I used the longer runs at the end of the programme, when I had learned so much about my running body, to try to begin to find what worked for me, and moving on from Graduation have continued with that, using the NHS and other running sites to inform me.

Agree with Sandra, SCB1 and GoogleMe and Davelinks. The Nhs c25k podcasts give you the program to work to. There is more information available about stretches and strengthening and flex on the website. The forum is there as a support system for advice and questions...

The c25k + podcasts which are suggested for graduates DOES talk about technique and form and are really helpful.

I counted how many graduates there were just this month, it was 83 and that was last week...

GoogleMeGraduate in reply to Bluebirdrunner

Wow. And that's just people using the programme *and* the forum.

Thank heavens the programme does not dispense advice on 'correct running form'.

I have yet to meet any group of runners who can agree on what constitutes correct form, in the first instance. What suits one person may be totay wrong for another. You only have to look at the lead pack of elite runners in any marathn to observe how radically different their styles are.

To be honest at the pace at which even the swiftest of us are running during the programme, I cannot imagine how poor form could cause significant injury in 30 minutes of running, unless one's running style involves making contact with the ground with forehead and elbows.

More or less every post I have seen on the forum about injury during the programme has either been a.) confusing the aches and pains of legs unused to exercise with injury; b.) biomechanical issue caused by existing weakness: dodgy knees, old ankle injuries etc, or c.) random accidents: tripping, going over kerbs etc.

If the programme were to address ways of addressing every possible biomechanical weakness a new runner may have, the podcasts would have to be the length of the unexpurgated audio book of Moby Dick, and almost as interesting.

The advice given time and time again on the forum is to run slowly. The aim of the programme is to build one's cardio engine to being able to continue running continuously for 30 minutes. If one achieves that and runs slowly, then there is plenty of time to tweak the finer details to suit one's own style. I personally find the footstriking and breathing advice utter rubbish. It does not work for me at all. I have found my own breathing rhythm by running and breathing. I have found the footstrike, arm swing, posture, oscillation etc etc that suit me by running and running and gradually find what works for me. I have also read loads of articles in running magazines, book etc, by 'experts', most of which contradicting each other, some which gave food for thought, some which were utter bunk.

Given the endless confusion over speed and distance, despite fairly explicit instruction, the idea of the programme adding more information for the beginner about intrinsic muscles of the foot or glute engagement seems a recipe for disaster.

NickMGGraduate in reply to Rignold

You are such a sage.


As a newbie to the running, and exercise in general, I can say with certainty that I would have been put off if the programme was more technical. I'm grateful just to get through each session given my level (or lack thereof) of fitness. I suspect that as you embrace running more, so does your interest and you find out what you need to do to make it more technical. For now, it's enough I'm off my backside and moving. If I had one criticism of the programme is I'd like more information on what stretches to do after the warm down walk. I have google imaged it - I wanted a print out - but I was overwhelmed with the results so I'm just picking a few and doing them after each run.

IannodaTruffeAdministrator in reply to snack_shack

These work for me

snack_shackGraduate in reply to IannodaTruffe

The link isn't working for me. Should there be some text after 'how'?

IannodaTruffeAdministrator in reply to snack_shack

Try this

Looks more like it.

snack_shackGraduate in reply to IannodaTruffe

I think I've got it Thank you

IannodaTruffeAdministrator in reply to snack_shack

You've got it



It's only getting you moving for 30 minutes, not getting to a marathon. What about the cost to the NHS from conditions associated with obesity and that includes joint issues? Anyone with half a brain would consider probably buying trainers and if your motivated to start this you presumably have access to the internet and will end up researching all sorts about how to improve and nutrition etc. I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for the NHS and this app delivers what it says.

runlikeagirlGraduate in reply to Hidden

Good point about not being training for a marathon.. Sometimes as well the advice on the forum e.g. on diet, fluid intake, cross training, as well as biomechanics and sport science etc. seems more appropriate for elite competitive athletes, rather than 5k fun runners. Whilst interesting to know, is not actually necessary and it can be off putting to us mere mortals! Basically eat a balanced diet, make sure we drink the recommended minimum fluids, (which can include tea etc) do some stretches, warm up, get decent running shoes, maybe do some cross training, follow the programme, take rest days and slow down if struggling, is all that's required to get most people, running safely to 5k.

Irish-JohnGraduate in reply to Hidden

Erm - I did not buy proper running gear until quite a few weeks in :) but I am a happy 'Running Fool' :) I was indeed lucky not to have injured myself but even more lucky that this programme got me off the couch and the inevitable heart attackk/diabetes/depression/sheer boredom that would have certainly done for me :)

you are perfectly correct in all you say in your Post :)

I did NOT believe I would get past week 3. If the programme had been full of 'do this, do that, make sure you,' etc I would never have started. :) What DID get me started was the honest post of a Graduate who said it 'damn near killed me but I DID IT!' - well, it didn't nearly kill me AFTER the first few weeks when I started getting into the swing of things - but just knowing that someone DID do it while it WAS NOT EASY AT ALL! - encouraged me to give it a go.

Up to then I honestly thought that most people are born with a natural ability to run - and painlessly at that unless its a marathon or something- and some of us, including me, 'just can not run'.

so, I guess the point I am making is that IF the programme had made a lot of 'demands' on me beside the HUGE single one of 'run one minute, walk one minute etc' I, and I think quite a few of us would never have taken that first faltering trot.

This programme is literally so 'User friendly' that I am glad they 'erred' on the side of giving 'minimal' directions instead of what the other programmes out there do - and which I would not even have the brain power (that less than half a brain thing again ;) ) to follow all the forumulae contained within them or the patience or the motivation.

Couch to having a blast Running - that's what I think of it as :)


I can see you have had some interesting responses..... my personal view is that C25k is the start of the journey and it provides you with the basics to start on a ( hopefully) lifelong love of running... There are so many books out there written about running which also gives loads of advice. Running, whilst simple to do is complex and the C25k programme is designed to begin your journey and encourages doing the Strength and Flex alongside as that provides a good balance. I also have a problem with my hips resulting in weak glutes and I am seeing a sports osteopath as like you, I want to improve my running form. Four years in I feel I am only at the start of my running journey!! Dont be disheartened and I think from what you are doing you will come back a stronger runner which is fab :)


The fact remains that running is a high impact sport and there are lots of injuries. I used to run a lot a decade ago but had to give up because of knee pain. This time around I got myself a copy of Chi Running by Danny Dreyer which shows you how to run correctly. It is fantastic and I am now pain free and a much better runner for it too.

Rignold in reply to NickMG

I have that book.

It shows you one take on running, which suits some people.

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