FAQ C25k COMPLETED....WHAT NEXT?: So you have... - Couch to 5K

Couch to 5K

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So you have completed C25k by running for thirty minutes, three times in a week? Congratulations, you have made an amazing start in running and all sorts of opportunities are opening up for you, but do be aware that at the moment, if you have scrupulously followed the plan, with no reruns, you have run for a grand total of 8 hrs and 9 minutes. While you may feel you have climbed a mountain, that you can now do anything, do remember that you are still a very, very new runner and you will continue to be so for many months ahead, however hard you train.

You may have completed the programme now, but please don't feel that there is no place for you on the C25k forum. It is graduates who can supply practical first hand advice and inspiration for those following in your footsteps, so please keep looking in and having your say and inspiring the next cohort.

It is very common for new C25k graduates, heading out on their own for the first time, to have their first injury, simply because they believe they have conquered running and become superhumans. Please don’t make the foolish mistake of doing too much too soon. You don’t want to stop your progress now by heading to the Injury Couch. Just to rub it in, this salutary tale is a good message with which to start your post C25k journey. healthunlocked.com/couchto5....

Okay, sermon over, you want to know what to do next. As at any stage in running, when you have increased your running distance or duration over a few weeks, it is good practice to consolidate for a short period, bedding in all that effort. Having just finished C25k, it is a good idea to continue to run for 5k/30 minutes (whichever you achieved during the plan) for a few weeks, trying slower, stamina building paces and routes and just enjoying your new found ability, without having to increase duration week on week as you have just done in the programme. Take the pressure off, have fun, run somewhere beautiful and new, forget about pace. While you are doing this consolidating, you are also helping to ingrain the habit of running in your life. It is said to take twelve weeks of changed behaviour to create a habit, so three weeks consolidation hopefully gets the habit formed, but it is wise not to start work on pace or longer duration until you are totally comfortable at 5k/30mins.

One thing that I think all runners should experience, at least once, is the joyous worldwide and free movement that is parkrun. People power at its best. Once you have graduated C25k, even if you have not yet reached 5k in 30 minutes, parkrun is well within your reach and it will expose you to the wonderful world of running with others. Many people walk part, if not all, of the course, but they are welcomed, included, encouraged and invariably cheered across the line. It is only a race against yourself and a wonderful opportunity to have an accurate time for an accurately measured 5k run, under your belt. You will not be judged….do it. This FAQ post answers most parkrun questions healthunlocked.com/couchto5....

Don’t forget that you can put your club as NHS C25k, when you register for parkrun. parkrun.org.uk/

In your consolidation weeks, think about some targets that you want to aim for. It is really helpful psychologically to have some achievable short, medium and long term aims for your running. Something you can tick off on a weekly basis is a good idea to start with, to maintain that feeling of achievement that C25k does so well each week. Have a plan for every run. You might aim to run somewhere new, run up a particular hill or hills, hit a certain pace for a given distance, or just cover more ground in a given time. The possibilities are endless and as a new runner you will find it easy to create new challenges and PBs will probably come thick and fast………..unfortunately, that will not last, improvement tends to slow down, so don’t despair if you don’t get any new PBs for a while.

However, now you have given it some thought, you might want to run faster and further, run a 10k race, with a half marathon or marathon as your more distant targets, or you may just want to continue, more or less as you are to maintain your fitness, which is absolutely fine. If you are the latter, then bear in mind that the recommendation for cardio fitness is to do 150 minutes per week of heart rate raising exercise.

Nearly everybody wants to get faster, whether they are a whippet or a plodder and you might think that now you are beyond the programme that you are beyond being told to slow down…..not so. Now is when you really have to learn about running and take it seriously if you want to progress. Read this about pace and take it on board runnersworld.com/running-ti...

Running hard on every run really is the rookie runner’s number one mistake, so learn to vary your pace. This next article covers how to run faster and also stresses the fact that most of your running needs to be slow getactiverunning.com/single... Don’t expect miracles. Speed requires strength and technique, all of which will improve over time if you work at them. Apparently, most recreational runners spend too much time at a middling pace, not spending 75-80% of their time at an easy conversational pace and not pushing hard enough when upping the pace for the remainder.

For those of you who may think it is just the admins on the C25k forum who bang on about slowing down, have a look at this enlightening Training Pace Calculator runnersworld.com/uk/trainin... put in your 5k pb and you will see just how slow you are recommended to run most of your weekly miles.

It is very easy for those muscles that you are using all the time to run, to develop out of balance with their supporting musculature. Most runners discover the importance of having better general fitness and strength than running alone can give you, which is why CBDB has produced this twelve week Consolidation and Strength Training plan that will see you maximising your running ability in just a few weeks. healthunlocked.com/strength...

Exercises such as these keep everything moving along together and continuing with other non impact exercise alongside, really will make you a better runner. It is not just about legs. My personal experience of this phenomenon was when I ran my first ten mile runs, I developed lower back pain, I believe because of relatively weak core strength. Doing regular core strengthening exercises certainly cured the problem.

During your consolidation period you could look at the C25k+ podcasts, designed to help you with speed, stamina and technique. They can be found here, along with other useful links gathered by AndyD nhs.uk/Livewell/c25k/Pages/...

For those who have used the podcasts, the Goddess Laura is your coach again and it is an opportunity for app users to see what they have been missing. Say no more!

The C25k+ Speed podcast is obviously addressing speed, but all your running, if you keep it frequent is adding to the strength of your running body and it is wise not to spend too much time pushing pace. Many pros use an 80/20 easy/hard split in their running regimes and the results of training with such a scheme are admirably laid out in this post by our very own Tomas healthunlocked.com/marathon...

Personally, my speed increased as I increased my distance after C25k. It was not necessarily the distance itself that made the difference, but the fact that I was getting more miles on my legs overall and in a shorter time than if I had stuck at 5k runs. The normal way to increase distance is to increase one run per week, keeping the others at 5k/30 mins, or less if you wish. The golden rule is the 10% Rule, which states that you should not increase your long run (or your overall training load) by more than 10% of your total weekly mileage, this is purely to stop you from overdoing it. I did some research on this a while back and this was the result healthunlocked.com/couchto5....

It is certainly a good guide to have, especially for your first year or two of regular running.

Next, let’s look at the average C25k graduate at the end of Week 9 Run 3. You will be grinning and hopefully pink and smug, although some report being a bit deflated because they have fallen short of 5k in 30 minutes, which is totally unnecessary, because they are in the company of nearly 90% of graduates on this forum who also do not hit that target. This poll healthunlocked.com/couchto5.... which you can now contribute to, illustrates the distance covered by graduates. To have run for thirty minutes non stop is a huge achievement, of which you should be very proud. You have already improved the functioning of your heart, lungs and circulation and statistically reduced your risk of a vast range of life limiting diseases, so this is no time to say, “I’ve done that.” and go back to the couch. For many in this situation the next obvious target is to reach that magical and mythical and totally arbitrary distance of 5k. Using the 10% rule as your guide, just add to your distance on one run each week. Unless your pace fluctuates wildly, you can use time instead of distance as your increase. For instance, if you are running 3x30 minutes then you can add 10% of that total, 9 minutes, to your run. Of course you can also add a lower figure, say 2 or 5 minutes instead and keep your progress steady and safe. That 5k will soon be yours. One thing all runners have to accept is that their current performance is what it is and find a route forward. Your pace is your pace, don’t compare!

The enthusiastic graduate also wants to start running every day but patience is essential here. The following article suggests having at least six months of running under your belt before starting to run on consecutive days, but if you read it carefully, that is if you are also doing plenty of aerobic strengthening work on non run days and it also states that the over 40s need to take extra care before increasing training load. runnersworld.com/for-beginn...

My advice is to be cautious here and wait for a year or so before running consecutive days. Even then, when you do start, never follow a hard run with a hard run on the following day, introduce the runs following the 10% rule regarding overall training load and have a rest day each week. Rest days from all strenuous physical exercise are essential. In fact many sources say that every runner should have a non running rest week every few months. In my experience you will return refreshed and reinvigorated. It is all too easy to “overtrain”, even running three days a week, so listen to that body and rest it.

For general info on running for new runners it is always worth checking out runnersworld.com/beginner/

That covers most of the general stuff that you need to be aware of, so let’s look at routes forward. If you have made the decision to aim for a marathon, you could follow a beginner’s marathon training plan, but frankly, you need to take things by easy steps and aiming for 10k first can become your intermediate target.

There are a host of 10k training plans to choose from and what you go with is down to your personality. I enjoyed the liberation of having completed C25k and made my own way to 10k using the 10% rule which doesn’t take long, only a few weeks. On reflection, I would have been better off long term to have taken just a bit longer to reach that target.

On the Bridge to 10k forum there is an in- house 10k in which Ju-Ju has a rolling 8 week plan which involves 3 runs a week that help get you to 10k. Sample post: healthunlocked.com/bridgeto...

There is also the Marathon and Race Support forum whereby you can get race preparation support and lots of other advice and help for your running journey ( you don’t have to be training for a marathon!!). healthunlocked.com/marathon...

There are loads of other training plans available from the likes of Hal Higdon halhigdon.com/training-prog...

Nike nike.com/gb/en_gb/c/running...

Runner's World runnersworld.com/training/a... and many others that you can find with a simple search for running training plans.

Many of the tracking apps such as Runkeeper, Strava and Endomondo have training plans which you can run from the app. There are also a host of other apps available through Playstore or app store with plans up to marathon distance. I have not used any of these, but I know several people who have used the Bluefin 10k app bluefinapps.com/bridge-to-1...

Our very own former forum chief of admin, Her Royal Highness, Realfoodieclub has adapted some training plans for slower runners, which you can find here realfoodieclub.ovh/page14.html

Up to about 10k, or one hour duration, you do not need to think much about special preparation if your hydration and nutrition are adequate and well balanced. Beyond that distance you will probably notice a drop in performance if you do not keep hydration topped up and fuel supplies maintained. I first noticed this when I ran my first ten mile (16k) runs, with each kilometre split beyond 12k showing a flagging pace. Over 12k, I always carry water in a waist belt, although I have bought an excellent Kalenji lightweight running backpack, with a 2 litre bladder, which should mean, from a hydration point of view, I can keep going all day. The secret on long runs is to start topping up your fluids from about 5k, little and often to keep the supply available to the body.

As far as fuel is concerned, there are proprietary gels available, but many runners use jelly babies, dates or similar, just to maintain a supply of available sugars. How and what you use will be very individual and needs to be experimented with to find your best solution. Don’t make the mistake that a mate of mine did, trying out a gel for the first time in the middle of the London Marathon. It had horrible results, which would have been worth discovering before race day.

Don’t believe that if you are trying to lose weight, you don’t need to fuel up while on longer runs. While running longer durations of over an hour will begin to work on fat deposits, you still need the quickly available sugars during your run. As with C25k, a good broad based diet, with plenty of fresh fruit and veg will help you along the way. There is no need for carb loading, or indeed any alteration to a balanced diet, for any run up to half marathon distance, although it is considered beneficial by some to have a good protein fill within an hour of finishing a longer run, as well as replenishing your fluids.

Once you have done the training, you can run every week in an organised race if you wish. Road, cross country or obstacle course, all open up to you now you are a runner. runnersworld.com/uk/news/a3... is just one of many running websites that list events of all types and distances. I won’t cover races here, simply because others are eminently more experienced in this aspect of running than me. So, my challenge is, who is going to write the guide to running races?

I am not a competitive runner and for me just being outdoors in beautiful surroundings covering a decent amount of ground is enough to satisfy my soul. Cross country runs over 10-16k are my favourites, especially in new environments. This was my favourite run of 2017. healthunlocked.com/couchto5... To maintain my fitness for doing these at the drop of a hat, my regime for the past four years, has been two 5k runs and a longer 10-12k run each week, although my personal situation has meant I have not been able to sustain this recently and, as with anybody, if they let the fitness slip, I will have to gently build up my distances again, with the 10% Rule as my guide. Use it or lose it prevails.

The important thing to remember is that slow and steady progress is definitely the best way forward. I have known runners from this forum complete their first marathon within a year of starting to run. It is possible, but it has often been a struggle and in my opinion, taking a bit longer to get there is much less likely to result in injury and to be honest, training for longer runs takes a lot of mental adjustment too, if that training is not going to become a chore that has to be got through, which can easily rob your running of all the enjoyment.

After all, you definitely want to keep running, keep smiling.

There are more FAQ posts giving general information here healthunlocked.com/couchto5...

1 Reply
Tackies profile image

Gosh so much valuable info Thank you lots to take on board. Great reading material and useful warnings . I'm looking forward to enjoying running further and being more relaxed in this sport.

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