How the Couch to 5K Running Plan Works

Couch to 5K Running Plan Schedule

Josh Clark designed the C25K Running Plan for inexperienced runners who are just beginning an exercise routine. While the objective isn't necessarily to run a 5K, having a race as a goal is a great way to stay on track. The plan has worked for many thousands of people because of the following features:

  • It starts off slow, but gets the couch potato running 3.1 miles (5K) or 30 minutes in nine weeks.
  • It starts with a gentle combination of walking and jogging and works up to all running.
  • Each workout takes only 20 to 30 minutes, three days a week.
  • It lets you measure your workouts by time if you don't have a way to measure distance.

Before beginning the C25K plan, experts recommend you have a checkup at your doctor's office. Then, lace up your running shoes (make sure they fit well) and hit the road. Plan to take a day off between each workout and give yourself two days to relax after the third workout each week.


Each workout begins with a brisk, five-minute warm-up walk, and stretching is recommended before and after each session. The workouts for the first two weeks last only 20 minutes and involve alternating walking and jogging for short periods of one to two minutes. The third week introduces the option of tracking progress by time or distance with manageable chunks of jogging and walking, and by the end of the week, runners feel a great sense of achievement.

During the fourth week of the program, runners see their mileage increase to 2 miles (3.22 kilometers) — just over 21 minutes — in each of the three weekly workouts. For most couch potatoes, the accomplishment of running 6 miles (9.66 kilometers) in a week provides motivation to stick with the plan.

The challenge of weeks five and six is to reduce dependency on walking. In fact, the third workout of these two weeks is exclusively jogging. Over this period, the distance advances from 1.25 miles (2 kilometers or 13 minutes) to 2.25 miles (3.62 kilometers or 25 minutes).

In the last three weeks, the C25K plan eliminates the walking segments altogether, and new runners find themselves building up their jaunts from 2.5 miles (about 4 kilometers or 25 minutes) in week seven to 3 miles (4.83 kilometers or 30 minutes) by the end of the ninth week [source: Clark, Couch to 5K].