Couch to 5K running programmes - physiotherapy advice

Running is a great form of exercise. It’s free, requires a relatively low level of skill, it improves your cardiovascular fitness and it’s good for your mental health.

Couch-to-5K type running programmes are brilliant motivators but I do find that they increase a bit rapidly for some people and don’t always give enough time for your muscles, tendons and ligaments to adapt before you are encouraged to move onto the next stage in the programme. This has the potential to overload these soft tissues causing pain and putting a dent in your confidence.

So if you are a complete beginner starting one of these programmes, my advice would be to pause at the end of every second week and repeat it, before moving on. For example:

Week 1:

Alternate 60 secs of running with 90 seconds of walking for 20 minutes

Week 2:

Alternate 90 seconds of running with 2 minutes of walking, for 20 minutes

Week 3:

Alternate 90 seconds of running with 2 minutes of walking, for 20 minutes

Week 4:

90 seconds running, 90 seconds walking, 3 minutes running, 3 minutes walking (repeat twice)

Week 5:

3 minutes of running, 90 seconds walking, 5 minutes running, 2 ½ minutes walking, 3 minutes running, 90 seconds walking, 5 minutes running.

Week 6:

3 minutes of running, 90 seconds walking, 5 minutes running, 2 ½ minutes walking, 3 minutes running, 90 seconds walking, 5 minutes running.

And so on.

Warming up properly will also reduce your chances of injury. The ‘brisk 5 minute walk’ programmes like this often recommend will raise your body temperature but a few carefully chosen exercises to mobilise your ankle joints and activate the muscles which will promote an efficient and coordinated running pattern will be more effective. Try this short programme of exercises which can be used to build strength and control around your knee joints but would also be a great warm-up routine for runners:

Finally, if you do experience any aches and pains during or after a run and they don’t settle within 3 to 5 days, you don’t necessarily have to abandon your running completely. If your symptoms are mild, there’s no swelling and you can walk and move normally, then try stepping back to one or two weeks in the programme and try again. If everything goes well and there is no significant increase in your symptoms, then stick at this level in the programme until you are running pain-free again before moving forward a week.

Get in touch if you have any questions at all about your running,

The Physiofit Team.

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