Couch to 5K
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Does the mental battle ever go away? Or even improve?

I have now run 5k 3 times. It takes me roughly 37 minutes. My problem is that between 5 minutes and 30 minutes, I want to give up!! I keep saying to myself "just another 5 minutes" and I KNOW that my body can just about do it now (which is a miracle in itself) but my head keeps telling me that I can't. Does this ever get better? Or will I always be battling against my mind every time I run?

9 Replies

Hi Helen,

To be honest it is hard for anyone else to answer that question for you, we all have our own demons or voice in our head that challanges us in different ways. Do you listen to music or maybe plan to think about something in particular that will keep you distracted.

Wanting to give up after 5 minutes makes it sound like you are struggling though...although you are still in the early stages, prehaps try starting off slower - you could break your run into 3 sections - for the first 10 minutes and gentle jog, next 10 minutes pick up the pace and the last 10 minutes just see how you feel, maybe another gentle jog or aim to keep the same pace.

I try not to look at my watch when I run - when I do a 5k I'll look once coming up to the half way point and once again when I should be about 5 minutes from the end to see if I need to speed up much. Instead I tend to stick to markers like buildings and streets that I pass to let me know how I'm doing, at the start I never think of the finish line or I probably would feel like giving up. I think I just need to get to this bus stop and next, just need to get to this post box and so on.

I hope that makes some sense!


In my experience yes it does go away. but on a run by run basis not forever. Somedays I just feel like running and have to make sure I turn around before I go too far.

On other days I hate each step and can't wait to get it over with but I have never had to stop running once I made my mind to run a distance - but it is a battle - I even find myself having discussions in my head - "if I walk home from here it will be the same exercise as running just take longer - thats ok isn't it?"


I have those conversations too! Today it was "It'll be ok to walk for a little bit, won't it?" and "Shall I just call my husband and ask him to come and pick me up?"


How about just going out to run 30mins no matter what the distance at least once out of your 3 weekly runs. :)


In my experience Random is as always right on the money. It quietens down sometimes but there always seems to be those days where its all you can do not to bail out.

I have used the tactic of making the half way point of my run as far away from home as I get, that way if I bail out then I stop have to get home and if I walk then all I am doing is taking waaay longer :-D

Your marker tactic is Brill. Don't worry too much about it.


Not sure I can help but your experience sounds much like mine, and I'm at the same stage, i.e. I've managed to run around 38 minutes twice. 38 minutes is plenty of time to play all sorts of mental games with myself! Even Laura betrays me sometimes - one day her time interval announcements are a satisfying pat on the back, but on another they are interruptions, which I want to interpret as permission to stop!

The thought I hang on to when I'm wavering is "well it's not getting any harder, so I might as well carry on doing what I'm doing". So far it's worked - most of the time :o)


Pretty much what everyone else said... It's a really good question. I battle with myself quite a lot. I think it will always happen as you try to improve. If you settle into the same 3 runs each week, eventually they become comfortable, you know you can do them, no problems.

As you try to increase speed/distance/both, you push yourself outside your comfort zone. That's when the little devils start asking you if you're really up to it. I'm just too bloody minded to give them the satisfaction of being right!


every run is different. it still takes me between 5 & 10 minutes to settle into a run most days, but sometimes it is the whole run with demons saying "why dont you just stop & do this one next time". even worse when outside as you can just stop without really thinking about it.

I find that if I prepare for a run (eat well the night before ~ no alcohol) then the run can be easier.

I also like to listen to music. the more upbeat the better. & if it is something from the 80s then the mood is lifted :) perhaps find something you can sing along to in your head (singing & breathing & running very hard) to keep the demons at bay. although I know some prefer to listen to stories.

good luck. it will get easier. & then you will find that running isnt the main concentration & your mind will wander to other stuff.


This is why I like to run to a programme. When I finished the B210k (which I'd gone straight to from the C25K) I did a few 30 min/5k runs but felt I was wandering in the wilderness with nothing to follow. Hence the ten mile Bupa challenge with it's scheduled 3 or 4 runs a week to certain times and paces. If my run says I need to do 40 minutes speed or tempo, or easy, then I am fine with it. I will go out and because I've been told that's what I'm doing, that's what I do. If I was making up my own sessions/mileages I think I'd find it harder.

The other point I'd like to make is:where are you going with your running? Are you looking to do more distance, faster times, or up your sessions to more a week? Do you have a long term plan or are you sticking with running 5k 3 times a week?

Music helps, and eventually (this took me a while, especially as I run outside where I need to concentrate on not running into people, not running in front of cars, disobedient dogs, puddles etc) I can do my runs an autopilot, so, set the music, set the stopwatch, Garmin, whatever and just drift off. This is dependent on how detailed your run has to be obviously; if you start on intervals then you need to pay attention, but for now it seems you are just battling the demons, and the way to do it is to flick them off your shoulder with the mantra "even a bad run is doing me good", and unless you've injured yourself, IT IS!! Think calories/weight loss/fitness and tell the demons to bugger off!!



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