Couch to 5K on a treadmill, the slow way round

in the gymThere’s a lot of info around about the beginner’s running plan, Couch to 5K, but not so much if you’re doing Couch to 5K on a treadmill. And nobody wants to fess up to exactly how slow they’re going.

Luckily I have been researching this, and running very slowly, indoors, on your behalf.

For the fifth time in about 10 years, I have just done the Couch to 5K running plan. And for the third time, I actually completed it. The reason for the repeats is that by the time I stop the plan, I’m usually a bit bored with running and then switch to some other exercise. Then over time I lose the ability to run for more than a minute, and the cycle starts again.

This time round, I started doing C25K because my gym got new running machines. They also cancelled all the classes I like, so it was basically treadmill or nowt.

It used to depress me if I was on a treadmill next to somebody running twice as fast as me (even though they were probably half as old as me).  So I would try to go faster than I was really able to, and would inevitably turn purple and run out of steam quite quickly.

But the new running machines don’t show the speed you’re running at for all the world to see, so my old lady plod is now my private secret (apart from this blog post, which doesn’t count, obviously).


Why do Couch to 5K on a treadmill?

Yes I know running outside is supposed to be the bee’s knees and all that, but not everybody wants to run outside. People might see you. As opposed to the gym, where nobody notices anybody really.

Also, it’s good for knackered oldies. Running on a treadmill produces less impact on the joints than running on a road, and therefore may reduce your risk of injury. It’s a bit more forgiving on the knees and it’s easier to monitor exactly how fast and how far you’re going.


What speed for Couch to 5K on a treadmill?

A great piece of advice I read about doing C25K on a treadmill said – if you can run any slower, then you should. You’re aiming for a minor trot, just above a walk. Your speed will also depend on how tall you are, as taller people will naturally have a longer stride and be able to cover more distances. Shortarses go slow, in other words. I’m 5’4″ BTW. Tiny little strides, like a Dartmoor pony chasing an apple.

So what I did was – I completed the early runs at 8km/hour, and then when the runs started getting longer I slowed down to 7.5km/hour. By doing it this way, I was able to keep up with the program and have gone from running for only one minute at a time, to completing 30 minute runs in week 9. I did all the walking sections at 6km/hr; maybe 6.2 if I was feeling frisky.

By keeping to these speeds, I was able to complete the Couch to 5K runs in around 9 weeks. It wasn’t exactly easy, but it was smoother than my previous tries and this time I have carried on running after the program has finished.

This time I actually want to run. Weird. That never happened before. Possibly I am ill.

And if you’re wondering why I keep doing an exercise I’m not exactly ecstatic about, basically it’s because as a woman over 40 I want to increase my bone density and hopefully stave off osteoporosis. You need to do weight-bearing exercise like running for that.

As I said to my new gym buddy – You don’t have to want to do it, you just have to do it.

That’s my other fitness news – I grew my own gym buddy.  As soon as the teenager turned 16 I signed her up to my gym. Exercise is a great way to deal with exam stress, plus she gets to laugh at how purple my face goes when I’m running. A win-win for all, even though it was never a competition.


Have you done Couch to 5K on a treadmill or anywhere else? How did you get on?

Fitness 4 Mamas
  • “I grew my own gym buddy” is the best line I have read all day.

    Really useful post, thanks Joanne. I didn’t manage to stick to the C25K at all, even though I approached it full of big plans and enthusiasm – I never even thought of attempting it on a treadmill. I love the idea of running outside, but the reality… well, not so much. Plus I feel as though, once you’ve made it into the gym, having to actually do something to get your money’s worth is a great motivator!

    Lis / last year’s girl x

    • Thank you so much for commenting Lis. I think C25K is OK until it suddenly jumps to 20 minutes of running in week 5, and that is what stops most people completing it. At least that’s what happened with me. But once I worked out that I was trying to go too fast, and I could do it if I slowed down, then I was able to do it. So good luck if you do give it a go again!

      • God, I didn’t get past the running for 30 seconds. It was the most demoralising thing. Sticking with my spin classes for now, and once my fitness is up a bit who knows? x

        • Sounds like you were going too fast. Keep it really, really slow (like just above a walk) and you’ll be surprised what you can do. Spin classes are really hard, I can’t do them, so you must have a pretty good level of fitness already.

          • I think it’s something to do with my knees – I actually “run” more slowly than I walk, but the change in gait or whatever it is that signals the transition between the two just doesn’t work for me! x

  • I’ve never done couch to 5K but it does sound like fun. I stopped running a while ago and have been meaning to get back to it. Thanks for the inspiration. 😉

    • Oh it’s definitely worth a go Morgan. In the first week you only have to do 60 seconds of running and it’s amazing how it builds up from there.

  • drjuliet

    What a great post, you’ve really made me laugh! If I’m honest I hate 5k. Yes, I love to run but how ever far I go, the first 5k is always horrible. My body cries out for me to stop but after that it seems to find its status quo and the desire to halt seems to go away. I’d encourage you to keep going and see what happens when you go a bit further. Totally agree with the speed thing, that’s where most people go wrong. I enjoy running at ‘the speed of chat’! My gym buddy has a few years to mature but she’s getting there! Thanks for the chuckle #FitnessTuesday

    • See I don’t think I’ve ever made it past 5K. “The first 5K” for me is all there is. Though I am thinking of signing up to a 10K race later in the year, except I’m too scared to.

      • drjuliet

        Seriously, if you can do 5k you can do 10k. Just choose one run a week that you do a bit slower than usual and go for a bit longer each time. Keep any other runs short and faster so you don’t get fed up, tired and injured. I know you could do it. Be brave and let me know!

        • Thank you Dr Juliet that is really inspirational to hear. I did manage a bit longer on my run today – a whole 5 minutes!

          • drjuliet

            Perfect, that’s all you need. Just a bit more each time. xx

  • tracey bowden

    I have never done the C25K before I keep meaning to but never do it. I should try in on a teadmill though as I can’t really run for longer than a minute before I feel like I’m dying! #fitnesstuesday

    • Definitely give it a go Tracey. You only have to do a minute of running at a time in the first week so you know you can do it.

  • Mirka Moore

    Well done for completing and for making me laugh too! I used to hate running years ago, now obsessed with running and marathons. I love running outside, but agree that on a treadmill is safer for your joints. What a great thing to do with your daughter! thanks for joining #FitnessTuesday

  • Gym Bunny Mummy

    I’ve never tried the C25K before but I do regularly run, mostly on the treadmill thoutgh. I want to keep pushing myself though as I can’t run quite like I could before my spinal op but I have to just take it easy for a while #FitnessTuesday

  • Rachel Spencer

    I started by doing it on a treadmill, but I run mainly outside now, I really enjoy it. Once you get over the thing about people seeing you it’s fine. Having a dog helps as well though!

    • Yes I’m beginning to think dogs should be given out on the NHS for the health benefits. I’m still doing treadmill running sporadically, aiming to do a bit more in the summer time.