From Zero to Runner

Even people who have never run can succeed in triathlons. The key is to start slow, building gradually until the athlete achieves their goal time or distance. One popular method for transforming from a non-athlete to a runner is the couch to 5k program. This easy to follow program is founded on achieving incremental goals that can be tailored to fit the abilities of the individual runner. It’s such a remarkably effective training method that literally thousands of people have used it to meet their fitness goals.

The “Couch to 5k” program

In its most basic form, the couch to 5k program asks for three running workouts per week. Each of these workouts has a duration of just 20-30 minutes, and the program can generally be completed in nine weeks. The beauty of the program is that it is customizable. Runners who are struggling may slow the program down, repeating certain weeks if necessary should their body protest the activity level increase too much. While it is perfectly advisable to slow down the training, most people who are familiar with the couch to 5k program do not recommend speeding it up. Trying to achieve the ultimate time or distance goal in fewer than nine weeks leaves the novice runner open to a host of physical injuries and mental burnout. Remember, following this plan successfully relies upon discipline and the gradual accumulation of strength and endurance.

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The main reason that the couch to 5k program is so popular is because it is a reasonable plan. The program presumes that participants are new runners, and that they may be dealing with excess weight, old injuries and motivational issues. For many novice runners who attempt to design their own training regimen, these obstacles prove to be insurmountable. That’s usually because they adopt an all or nothing approach in which they are on the couch one day and think they can run three miles the next. Attempting such a feat is enormously hard on the body and the mind. It’s pretty much destined to fail, and even if the runner escapes injury, they conclude that running is simply too hard.

Preventing this type of situation is exactly where the couch to 5k program comes in. Runners don’t start out attempting to run a 5k. Instead, the majority of the early workouts involve a combination of jogging and walking. Goals are realistic and achievable, thereby building motivation. Reaching one goal is usually adequate inspiration for moving on to the next and the next.

This gradual program also benefits the runner’s body. As the weeks pass, they shed excess pounds and their bone density increases. Joints slowly grow accustomed to the new pressure they are under, and injuries are rarely encountered. Running becomes an act of self-affirmation as the runner become fitter and more confident. Just a few weeks ago, the new runner couldn’t imagine running for half an hour, but by the end of the program they will have achieved that and more.

The couch to 5k is no walk in the park. Successfully completing the program requires dedication and resiliency. Still, it is a highly worthwhile goal and one that is eminently achievable. With this training program, it’s possible to achieve a personal best time for the running portion of the triathlon.

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