C25K (“Couch to 5K”) is a running protocol designed to transform pretty much anybody from a couch potato to a runner capable of running 5 kilometers (3.1 miles), or 30 minutes. As it minimizes the pain commonly associated with beginning an exercise regimen, it caters especially to those who hate running (i.e. don’t yet know how much they love it).
Here are the basics:
1. 3 workouts per week, at 20-30 minutes each, for a total of 9 weeks
2. The first workout alternates 60 seconds of jogging with 90 seconds of walking
3. Successive workouts ramp up slowly: the walks get shorter, and the runs longer
4. By the end of 5 weeks, you’ll run 20 minutes; by week 9, you’ll run 30 minutes
The best part about C25K is its flexibility: the program de-emphasizes speed, instead focusing on finding a pace you’re comfortable with (even if that pace seems glacial).
Does it work? I humbly offer you my testimony:
From birth, I was a big kid – not fat, mind you, just…big. Tall, broad-shouldered, with wide-set hips, thick, strong legs, and enormous hands and feet. That kid who dwarfs his classmates. The kind of kid whose parents can’t help but swell with pride as he devours man-sized meals. You know – a big kid.
And as long as I was active, it was all good. But entering secondary school, my interests shifted from sports to music. I began gaining weight, and “Big Lou” was born.
For 20 long years, I clung to “Big Lou” – big portions, big clothes, and big shoes became big parties with big drinks and big cigars. Big personality. You know – a “big guy.”
By age 27, I was 6’1″, 330 lbs. – a really big guy. With half-assed dieting and occasional exercise, I hovered around 310 another couple years. Last November, something finally clicked and I began restricting my calories in earnest. Despite the holidays, I managed to drop 40 pounds over the next 5 months with diet alone.
And then? Well, then something extraordinary happened: I had this sudden abundance of energy. I couldn’t sit still at my desk. At a party, I found myself outside shooting hoops alone, just to expend some energy. For the first time since childhood, I felt compelled to move.
That’s when I found C25K.
With a new pair of running shoes and plenty of encouragement from friends and family, I downloaded the app and hit the treadmill. After 7 weeks of training, I’d lost more weight and felt ready to run my first 5K.
My brother, who was incredibly supportive, drove 2 hours after work to run with me. It wasn’t pretty, but I ran without stopping, and didn’t finish dead last. Short of the birth of my kids, crossing that finish line is easily the proudest of my life. I’ve already got my next 5K scheduled, and a Mud Run is on the horizon. I’ve never felt better.
Lesson learned: getting fit is as simple as putting one foot in front of the other.