Couch to 5k: what it is and how to take your home workout to the next level

Could the Couch to 5k programme help you achieve your home workout fitness goals during lockdown? Find out more

Couch to 5k
(Image credit: Getty)

Hear about Couch to 5k? It's a home workout that's gaining momentum now that we're in lockdown, and no wonder. It's an easy(ish), gradual exercise programme that will take you from couch potato to runner in just a few weeks. And it's caught on big time, with many of us using our hour's exercise time to embrace it. Whole families have got involved – and we know people (naming no names), who have never run before, who are now edging towards that 5k goal – and feeling so much better for it.

So if you always think to yourself, 'I'll get fit for summer', but in practice rarely achieve a consistent result (especially when you've never run for fitness before), now's the time to give it a go. 

Couch to 5k was specifically developed for fitness novices – anyone can build up the strength and stamina needed to complete the 5km goal with this easy step-by-step programme. 

Find out more about it below; then visit our fitness hub page for more advice.

What is Couch to 5k?

Couch to 5k is a nine-week programme and involves three runs per week, with different runs scheduled for each week. Some runs involve alternating walking and running to make is easier. 

You start with a combination of walking and running (with the bias towards the walking) and gradually build up the running, and walk less, to slowly build up your stamina. 

Can't commit to three runs a week? You can do the programme at your own pace. Literally. How to space your runs? Ideally have a day off between them – at least at the beginning.

Simply download the app on to your phone and tune in. There's a podcast a week for the first four weeks, then three individual podcasts in weeks five and six. Each podcast features a narrator to guide you through each session, so you know when to run and when to walk. The podcasts also feature music to motivate you.

What are the benefits of Couch to 5k?

We're big fans of walking – it's a great way to improve your strength and well-being – and adding a dash of running into the mix can have all sorts of benefits. 

Running regularly improves heart and lung health; and it can also help you lose weight, combined with a healthy diet. Running can also improve bone density, protecting us against bone diseases like osteoporosis.

As for the mental benefits of running, it's not just about blowing off steam built up by work, stress and lockdown. Running the Couch to 5k can help boost your confidence and self-belief, and even combat depression.

Do I need to be an experienced runner to do it?

On the contrary: the programme was developed by a non-professional runner to help his mother get fit. It's suitable for all ages and abilities, although if you have an injury or health condition, you may want to consult a GP first.

Are there additional materials available?

Yes, there is a series of podcasts and an app to help you on your journey. Find links to both and more info on the official NHS page.

What equipment do I need?

A mobile phone with headphones and a pair of running shoes, that's it! See our list for the best buys. And don't forget to have your route mapped out before you set off.