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C25K – Too difficult? Don’t despair...

Have you started the Couch to 5K but are struggling with it? Perhaps you are taking a break or maybe you just found it too hard and have given up? Don’t despair – whilst it is a fantastic programme it doesn’t work for everyone and there are things you can do to make it more suitable for you.

The idea of the programme is to get you running 5K in 9 weeks, which if you are new to exercise, could prove quite difficult. Whilst lots of people have excelled at the challenge, some may have found that a particular week was just too hard resulting in feelings of frustration and potentially quitting the programme.

The first few weeks seem to be manageable for most people, although it is important to recognise that not everyone is in a position to literally "get off their couch and run" and the thought of it can be quite overwhelming.

Week 5 was my most challenging when an 8 minute run suddenly jumped to 20 minutes. Whilst the previous weeks training had allowed my body to adapt to this progression, I found it quite difficult and fully appreciate that some people are physically incapable of running for this length of time.

We are not all the same and our bodies differ and progress at different rates and whilst our cardiovascular and muscle fitness improves over time it may not be at the speed required to complete the programme as dictated.

So what can you do? Below are some tips that may help


If you haven’t started the programme yet or have hit a barrier, make sure you can walk the first 25 minute programme at a brisk pace. Get used to walking regularly (3-5 days a week for 20-30 minutes) to allow your body to feel more comfortable with regular movement.

Let your body adapt to an increased heart and breathing rate before you take it up a level and add running intervals.

Learn to pace yourself

Remember your pace needs to be sustainable for the duration of your run so don’t start off too fast and exhaust yourself. If you find you have started too fast, slow down – listen to your body and do what is comfortable for you.

Repeat weeks if required

If you have struggled with a week or even given up, consider trying again. THERE IS NO SHAME IN REPEATING A WEEK OR WEEKS!!! It doesn’t matter if it takes 9, 12 or 15 weeks if you don’t feel able to progress to the next higher level, repeat and build your strength and stamina until you do.

Add more weeks and change your intervals

If a week jumps too much for you, consider adding an extra week and splitting the intervals. E.G If jumping from 5 minutes to 8 minutes is too much, add an extra week and change it to 6 or 7 minutes. The idea is to increase your running time so you are still progressing whilst building your confidence and most importantly, carrying on.

Walk if you need to

If you are running and find you are not able to keep running for the set time, WALK. It doesn’t matter, you HAVEN'T FAILED and you are NOT CHEATING, you are actually allowing your body to rest enabling you to cover the distance which in turn will build your endurance.

Get comfortable being uncomfortable

A lot of the C25K hurdles are mental – the thought of running 20 minutes was not something I relished but if you are physically able, push yourself as it will inevitably get easier.

Listen to your body

NEVER ignore pain, dizziness or any other symptoms that you consider might indicate a health issue and always check with your doctor if you are starting a new activity after being physically inactive.

Rest and recover

Rest and recovery is an important part of running and training and will help prevent injuries as well as a physical and/or mental burnout.

Remember, everyone was a beginner and we have all felt daunted but by stepping out of your comfort zone, you WILL do it and that finish line will be in sight!

You can download the official C25K app via the NHS website by clicking HERE where you will find all the information you need together with hints, tips and stretching advice.

It is never too late to start as the programme can be completed in your own time and fit in and around your lifestyle.

For further information, please contact us at

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