The C25K® training plan – how to make the big jump and to adjust

Yesterday morning, I met Marc during my weekend run. We both did our final stretching exercises in a parc and started discussing about running. Marc just finished the fifth week of his C25K® programme (half-time). As he found the past session very challenging, he asked me which effects it may have to adapt his plan at this stage.

Anatomy of the C25K® programme

The C25K® programme is without the slightest doubt the most popular training programme for beginners. The popularity comes from the fact that after only 27 workouts (!) you will able to run a distance of 5K (3.1 miles). The programme starts out with 60 seconds of running / 90 seconds of walking interval. It then continuously ramps up to allow you to run 2 miles in a stretch in week 5 and 5K in week 9.

In the first three weeks, your body will learn what it means to run. As with any other new activity, you will feel muscels hurt which you did not know that even exist. That is completely normal. And as the programme is designed with 3 workouts per week, it leaves you at least a day in between for recovery.

The big jump

The most challenging session in the 9 weeks is not the last one where you run 5K. Besides the very first one, it definitely will be the last session of week 5. In this session you will run 20 minutes in one stretch without any walking. By then, the longest running interval has been only 8 minutes. From 8 to 20 minutes, this is a big jump!

What if I am not able to make it

There are chances that you are not able to run the 20 minutes in a stretch. Believe me, you are not the only one and some beginners get very frustrated at this point and stop the programme altogether. There are different ways to ensure that you will be able to run a 5K very soon.

When running the 20 minutes session and you feel that you are not able to continue until the end, introduce a 60 seconds walking pause. This pause will help your body to recover and to finish the workout. In the week after (week 6), you are scheduled to run 22 minutes. Focus on following through the 22 minutes, if not you will need to adjust the programme.

Adjust the programme if necessary

If you need more than a walking pause or if in week 6 again you are not able to run through in a stretch, consider adjusting the C25K® programme. Do not forget your main objective: To run 5K (3.1 miles). The duration is secondary at this stage. This means if you run the 5K in 9 or 10 weeks, it does not make a difference.

Adjust your programme by adding another week (5+) which basically consists in repeating week 5. You would then run the 3 workouts of week 5 two weeks in a row. Training programs in general are plans and as with all other plans in the world, modifications may be required while executing them. Keep to your initial training plan but if you meet an unforeseeable event (ex. injury) or if the plan was too ambitious allow yourself to adjust the programme.

If you adjust always stick to your initial goal and main objective. If your goal was to run 5K in 9 weeks, your main objective is the distance. If it takes you 9 or 10 weeks is secondary as long as your reach the 5K mark.

Be flexible, enjoy the experience, keep your goal in mind

Marc just finished his 20 minutes run when we met. He was proud because the first time in his life he run 20 minutes in a row. But he was also anxious as he felt tired and wondered if he will be able to finish the C25K® programme. There is no reason whatsoever to adjust his programme, he just finished the hardest session in the plan and is 100% on track to run 5K in a month from now.

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