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?