Running Your First 5k? Check Out Couch25k

By: Sarah McWilliams

If you have ever tried to start a running program and failed, you are certainly not alone. Many people quit running because when they start, they go out and push themselves too hard and get burned out. Others don’t even try because they feel the task is too daunting. Running doesn’t have to be such a challenge, and you don’t have to get burned out.


If you’re trying a running program for the first time or are trying to get back into running after a long time off, the Couch25k (Couch to 5k) program might be the right one for you. When Josh Clark, creator of Couch25K began running himself, he realized he could create a solution to the seemingly unavoidable problem of new runners getting burned out and quitting.

The program really began to take shape when he decided to plan a running routine that his 50-year-old mother would be able to complete. He wanted it to be challenging enough that people could feel like they were really accomplishing something, but easy enough that even someone in their 50’s beginning their first running program could accomplish without hating every second of it.

Couch25k is relatively simple for most people at any training level. It never includes more than three training days per week, easing the runner in slowly. The first week includes three days of a five-minute warm up, followed by a rotation of a 60-second jog and a 90-second walk. The training slowly escalates to the fourth week, where the runner rotates walking and jogging with up to a half-mile jog. By the final week, the runner completes three days of a five-minute brisk walk warm up, and a three-mile jog.

With over 300,000 likes on Facebook, a fitness app and an exponential number of blogs on the subject, the Couch25K program has received quite the cult following. One such believer is Danielle Gottfried, a 30-year-old mother of two, who found it difficult to get back into an exercise routine after having her second baby. Gottfried was no stranger to running as an accomplished track athlete winning three state championships in high school and competing at the collegiate level at the University of Cincinnati. However, becoming a wife and mother changed her endurance, body, and capabilities.


Gottfried decided to get back into running because she liked the freedom of it. With two kids it was difficult for her to get to the gym, but she found it was easy for her to take a jog around the neighborhood even if her husband didn’t get home from work until late in the evening. All it took was a pair of running shoes and she could be off. She also had a secret motivation for wanting to get back into running. Gottfried joked, “I had the crazy idea that maybe if I ran like I did in high school, my body would look like that again. My body will never look like that again, but it probably isn’t supposed to after having two kids. I’m still happy with the results.”

After getting back out and jogging, Gottfried found that it was hard for her to stay motivated and it occurred to her that she might have better luck if she was working toward a goal. She stumbled upon the program, and after reading about it and downloading the app, she decided that it was worth a shot. Although she found the first week a little slow for her capabilities, the app was especially useful as a motivator. The app alerted her when she needed to work out and it congratulated her when she completed a work out. Gottfried did say that the program felt a little slow starting out, “even skipping the first week, it felt a little slow starting out. But that was okay, and probably even the point. I didn’t get burned out because I never felt awful after a workout. I never felt like all of a sudden things got too hard. It really upped your endurance gradually.”

Once Gottfried was in the program, she signed up for a 5K two months away. Gottfried recommends everyone sign up for a 5k before beginning the program as added motivation. “I highly recommend people do that. Having to run an actual 5K that I had paid for kept me motivated. I also told my friends and family I was doing it to help further my motivation and keep me accountable.” Once the day of the race came, Gottfried felt prepared and ready and didn’t struggle to complete the race. It was the first 5k she ever signed up for, and the first time she had completed a timed 3.1 miles since her collegiate track days. It was incredibly rewarding to complete her first 5K and have her husband and two sons cheering her on at the finish line.

The program also has plans and apps for 10K programs as well, which she may consider doing next. Although she is currently pregnant with her third child, she would definitely consider doing the program again. ”This program is really great, and there is a 5K to 10K program as well! I haven’t tackled that one yet. Maybe after this third baby arrives!”

To find out more about the Couch25K program, visit or download the app available for the iPhone and Android.

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