What is the Couch to 5K plan – length, results, weight loss & more!

Couch to 5k is a free to access running programme that has been designed to help non-runners achieve their first 5k run after just nine weeks of training. 

It was first developed by runner Josh Clark in 1996 to help make running more accessible and less challenging for beginners. Rather than let people struggle through the pain barrier, which risked so-many new runners returning to their couch, Lewis’ programme took a much gentler approach. 

25-years later it has become one of the most popular training programmes in the world. The BBC helped spread the word featuring ‘C25K’ on the World Service and on BBC World Television. 

In the UK the National Health Service (NHS) officially endorsed the plan, launching a Couch to 5k App that has been downloaded by millions of people.  

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Couch to 5K plan

The NHS C25K plan is designed to help you develop your fitness to the point of being able to run five kilometres without any breaks. Couch to 5K involves you committing to three sessions a week with a day of rest in between. If at any point during the process you feel that you are not ready to move to the next level, you can repeat the latest week until you are ready to move on.


Week 1

Week One of the NHS C25K programme provides a gentle introduction that begins with a brisk five-minute walk that will help get you properly warmed up. This is followed by repeating 60 seconds of running followed by 90 seconds of walking for a total of 20 minutes. You need to repeat the programme three times in week one.

Week 2

Week Two of the NHS C25K will see you warming up with the five-minute brisk walk then alternating 90 seconds of running followed by two minutes of walking for a total of 20 minutes. Repeat this programme three times across the week.

Week 3

Week Three of the NHS C25K will again see each of the three sessions begin with a five-minute brisk warm-up walk followed by two repetitions of 90 seconds running, 90 seconds walking, three minutes of running and three minutes of walking.

How long does couch to 5k take? 

Programmes vary slightly but generally you will need to commit to 30 minutes exercise three times a week. As Each week goes by the routines get a little more challenging, but the time you are committing stays the same. 

Rest days in between are important, but as you start to feel stronger, you should consider adding in some different types of exercise on your non running days. That could be cycling or strength and flexibility work such as yoga or a programme involving exercises such as squats and lunges. 

Week 4

Week Four of the NHS C25K will start with a brisk five-minute warm-up walk followed by three minutes of running, 90 seconds of walking, five-minutes of running, two-and-a-half minutes of walking, three minutes running, 90 seconds walking and finish with five minutes of running. Repeat this on three separate days in the week.

Week 5

Week Five of the NHS C25K sees more variety added to with a different programme for each of the three sessions.

  • For the first run you will have a five-minute warm-up walk followed by five-minutes of running, three minutes of walking, five minutes running, three minutes walking and finishing with five-minutes running.
  • The second run starts with the five-minute warm up walk followed by eight-minutes running, five minutes walking and finishing with eight-minutes running.
  • The third run of the week starts with a the five-minute warm-up walk then 20 minutes of running with no walking at all.

Week 6

Week Six of the NHS C25K continues on the same theme as Week Five with three different runs across the week.

  • For the first run, warm up with a five-minute brisk walk followed by five-minutes of running, three-minutes walking, eight-minutes running, three minutes walking and finishing with five minutes running.
  • For run two, a brisk five-minute warm-up walk should be followed  by 10-minutes of running. Three minutes of walking and 10 minutes of running.
  • The third run of the week starts with a brisk five-minute warm-up walk followed by 25 minutes with no walking.
How many weeks will couch to 5k take? 

The original couch to 5k programme lasted for nine weeks. But there are now multiple versions of C25K ranging from four weeks to nine weeks.  Choosing the one that works for you will be an individual thing.

If you are reasonably fit – perhaps you do a physical job or regularly take long walks – then a four or six-week programme may suit. But if you have not done exercise for some time then the nine week programme is probably a better fit.

Week 7

Week Seven of the NHS C25K plan starts with a five-minute warm-up walk followed by 25 minutes of running. Repeat thi9s on each of three days. From this point on you will be getting ready for solid blocks of running with no walking breaks at all.

Week 8

Week Eight of the NHS C25K begins with a five-minute warm-up walk followed by 28 minutes of running, to be repeated three times in the week. By this point in the plan you should be getting much more comfortable with the longer runs but it is important that you pace yourself properly and don’t start-off too fast.

Week 9

For the runs in Week 9, you will begin with a brisk 5-minute warm-up walk then 30 minutes of running. If you have followed the plan to this point then this is the week that you should be able to achieve your goal. When you do, make sure you take a moment to reflect on what you have achieved. Well done!

You’ve nearly reached the end of your programme and you’ve made some great progress. This is the week when you can reach your goal. Well done!

Couch to 5k is the perfect plan for beginner runners
Couch to 5K is an achievable plan for beginner runners regardless of your ability

Couch to 5k results

Couch to 5k has delivered positive results to millions of people around the world. If you make the effort to commit to C25K and complete the programme you will be fitter and healthier at the end.

But remember, we are all different, some people may need to repeat some weeks several times before they move on. There is nothing wrong with that, it is all part of the journey. The most important thing is that you stick with it. You will be fitter, stronger and be justifiably proud of yourself for getting up off that couch and starting to take responsibility for your own health and fitness.

Am I fit enough to take part in a couch to 5k? 

The couch to 5k concept has been designed as a gentle introduction to running. Yes it takes a level of commitment as you will have to make the time to do each session, but it should not be too challenging for you. 

However, if you have any underlying health issues or have concerns about your current level of fitness, you should always consult your doctor before beginning any kind of exercise programme. 

Couch to 5k weight loss 

Completing a couch to 5k programme will bring a whole range of benefits.  

  • It will help you comfortably run for 5k 
  • It will help with your mental health and general wellbeing. 
  • It will help you improve your overall fitness, and particularly your cardiovascular system. 
  • It will contribute towards weight loss – but it is important to understand that running on its own is not enough to drive weight loss. But combined with an improved diet (less sweet things) and portion management it can have a really positive impact on your weight. 
We can think of better places to run but doing the Couch to 5K on a treadmill is very possible and may even help you.
We can think of better places to run but doing the Couch to 5K on a treadmill is very possible and may even help you.

Can you use a treadmill for couch to 5k 

If you have access to a treadmill either at home or at a local gym or sports centre then it can be a really good option. Treadmill running allows you to control and measure your pace, it means that bad weather will not be a plausible excuse for avoiding your session, and it can be much easier to fit in your exercise with your busy life schedule as you can exercise at any time of night or day. 

If you are going to train on a treadmill there are some basic rules you should follow: 

  • Make sure are clear on the main controls – speed and incline – before starting to exercise. You will not need to use any of the additional features such as in-built programme control when you first start your C25K programme, but they may be come in useful later. 
  • Always wear the emergency chord that you will see on the control panel of the treadmill. Clip to your clothing, it will stop the treadmill instantly if you were to trip. 
  • Make sure you warm up properly with a brisk walk before every session. 
  • Don’t look down at your feet when you are running (you can easily become disorientated if you do). Look straight ahead as though you were out on the road. 
  • When you want to stop, gradually slow the treadmill down to a slower pace and preferably stop it all together before getting of your treadmill.  
  • Always use the handrails when you are getting off the treadmill – it is a good habit to get into. 
  • Make sure you stretch properly after you finish on your treadmill with static exercises such as leg swings  and lunges. 
Use the Couch 2 5K plan as a springboard to racing Park Run, joining a running club or targeting longer distances
Use the Couch 2 5K plan as a springboard to racing Park Run, joining a running club or targeting longer distances

What next after couch to 5k 

If you have completed you C25K it’s important that you don’t just stop there. Setting your next target will help motivate you. This may be an improved time, 5k once a week or you may want to look at stepping up in distance by aiming for a 10k and, who knows, ultimately a half marathon or marathon. 


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