A Tortoise’s Approach to Running

I’m sure everyone has heard of the Couch to 5k (C25k) Running program. For those who aren’t aware, it’s a running program designed to get couch potatoes and other non-running types off their butts and running a 5k in a matter of 2 months. Now, I’m not knocking the idea of the C25k program, it’s helped a number of folks get out there and running, including myself. My only issue or concern with it, as someone who has participated in the program, is that I felt as though it was a little aggressive, or at the very least intimidating for someone who was as large as I was and as uncomfortable with the idea of running.

When I first set my goal to run a 5k, I had never really run in my life. I could walk for days, and in fact I enjoyed that. But running? Consistently? A full 3.13 miles when I had never run more than possibly a quarter mile continuously without some serious heavy breathing? It seemed like a tall order. I did not want to set myself up for failure; I knew the goal I had in mind was a lofty one given my level of fitness and my lack of commitment to physical activity. The C25k plan seemed like a good one, but I had tried it in the past, only to give up because I found it to be too difficult. The second time around though, I made some adjustments to the plan to make it fit my needs and to ease myself into running.

So this is how I did it…

For each Week in the C25k program there are 3 days of workouts/running, with each day getting progressively harder in terms of distance/time to be run. I took each “day” and made it into my own full week. So, whereas the C25k program would be:

Week Workout 1 Workout 2 Workout 3
1 Brisk five-minute warmup walk. Then alternate 60 seconds of jogging and 90 seconds of walking for a total of 20 minutes. Brisk five-minute warmup walk. Then alternate 60 seconds of jogging and 90 seconds of walking for a total of 20 minutes. Brisk five-minute warmup walk. Then alternate 60 seconds of jogging and 90 seconds of walking for a total of 20 minutes.
2 Brisk five-minute warmup walk. Then alternate 90 seconds of jogging and two minutes of walking for a total of 20 minutes. Brisk five-minute warmup walk. Then alternate 90 seconds of jogging and two minutes of walking for a total of 20 minutes. Brisk five-minute warmup walk. Then alternate 90 seconds of jogging and two minutes of walking for a total of 20 minutes.
3 Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then do two repetitions of the following:

  • Jog 200 yards (or 90 seconds)
  • Walk 200 yards (or 90 seconds)
  • Jog 400 yards (or 3 minutes)
  • Walk 400 yards (or three minutes)
Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then do two repetitions of the following:

  • Jog 200 yards (or 90 seconds)
  • Walk 200 yards (or 90 seconds)
  • Jog 400 yards (or 3 minutes)
  • Walk 400 yards (or three minutes)
Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then do two repetitions of the following:

  • Jog 200 yards (or 90 seconds)
  • Walk 200 yards (or 90 seconds)
  • Jog 400 yards (or 3 minutes)
  • Walk 400 yards (or three minutes)
4 Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then:

  • Jog 1/4 mile (or 3 minutes)
  • Walk 1/8 mile (or 90 seconds)
  • Jog 1/2 mile (or 5 minutes)
  • Walk 1/4 mile (or 2-1/2 minutes)
  • Jog 1/4 mile (or 3 minutes)
  • Walk 1/8 mile (or 90 seconds)
  • Jog 1/2 mile (or 5 minutes)
Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then:

  • Jog 1/4 mile (or 3 minutes)
  • Walk 1/8 mile (or 90 seconds)
  • Jog 1/2 mile (or 5 minutes)
  • Walk 1/4 mile (or 2-1/2 minutes)
  • Jog 1/4 mile (or 3 minutes)
  • Walk 1/8 mile (or 90 seconds)
  • Jog 1/2 mile (or 5 minutes)
Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then:

  • Jog 1/4 mile (or 3 minutes)
  • Walk 1/8 mile (or 90 seconds)
  • Jog 1/2 mile (or 5 minutes)
  • Walk 1/4 mile (or 2-1/2 minutes)
  • Jog 1/4 mile (or 3 minutes)
  • Walk 1/8 mile (or 90 seconds)
  • Jog 1/2 mile (or 5 minutes)
5 Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then:

  • Jog 1/2 mile (or 5 minutes)
  • Walk 1/4 mile (or 3 minutes)
  • Jog 1/2 mile (or 5 minutes)
  • Walk 1/4 mile (or 3 minutes)
  • Jog 1/2 mile (or 5 minutes)
Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then:

  • Jog 3/4 mile (or 8 minutes)
  • Walk 1/2 mile (or 5 minutes)
  • Jog 3/4 mile (or 8 minutes)
Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then jog two miles (or 20 minutes) with no walking.
6 Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then:

  • Jog 1/2 mile (or 5 minutes)
  • Walk 1/4 mile (or 3 minutes)
  • Jog 3/4 mile (or 8 minutes)
  • Walk 1/4 mile (or 3 minutes)
  • Jog 1/2 mile (or 5 minutes)
Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then:

  • Jog 1 mile (or 10 minutes)
  • Walk 1/4 mile (or 3 minutes)
  • Jog 1 mile (or 10 minutes)
Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then jog 2-1/4 miles (or 22 minutes) with no walking.
7 Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then jog 2.5 miles (or 25 minutes). Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then jog 2.5 miles (or 25 minutes). Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then jog 2.5 miles (or 25 minutes).
8 Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then jog 2.75 miles (or 28 minutes). Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then jog 2.75 miles (or 28 minutes). Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then jog 2.75 miles (or 28 minutes).
9 Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then jog 3 miles (or 30 minutes). Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then jog 3 miles (or 30 minutes). The final workout! Congratulations! Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then jog 3 miles (or 30 minutes).

I tweaked it and extended some of their workout days into full weeks of training. Plus I added two additional days of running/jogging/walking for a total of 5 days worth of activity (I know some say running 5 days a week isn’t a good idea, but keep in mind that I was going very slow and very short distances). When I look at how I expanded C25k’s plan, my plan wound up looking something like this:

Week Workout 1 Workout 2 Workout 3 Workout 4 Workout 5 Workout 6
1 Run 1 Min / Walk 2 Min; Alternate for 20 min Run 1 Min / Walk 2 Min; Alternate for 20 min Run 1 Min / Walk 2 Min; Alternate for 20 min Run 1 Min / Walk 2 Min; Alternate for 20 min Run 1 Min / Walk 2 Min; Alternate for 20 min n/a
2 Run 1 Min / Walk 2 Min; Alternate for 20 min Run 1 Min / Walk 2 Min; Alternate for 20 min Run 1 Min / Walk 2 Min; Alternate for 20 min Run 1 Min / Walk 2 Min; Alternate for 20 min Run 1 Min / Walk 2 Min; Alternate for 20 min n/a
3 Run 2 Min / Walk 1 Min; Alternate for 20 min Run 2 Min / Walk 1 Min; Alternate for 20 min Run 2 Min / Walk 1 Min; Alternate for 20 min Run 2 Min / Walk 1 Min; Alternate for 20 min Run 2 Min / Walk 1 Min; Alternate for 20 min n/a
4 Run 2 Min / Walk 1 Min; Alternate for 20 min Run 2 Min / Walk 1 Min; Alternate for 20 min Run 2 Min / Walk 1 Min; Alternate for 20 min Run 2 Min / Walk 1 Min; Alternate for 20 min Run 2 Min / Walk 1 Min; Alternate for 20 min n/a
5 Run 2 Min / Walk 2 Min; Alternate for 20 min Run 2 Min / Walk 2 Min; Alternate for 20 min Run 2 Min / Walk 2 Min; Alternate for 20 min Run 2 Min / Walk 2 Min; Alternate for 20 min Run 2 Min / Walk 2 Min; Alternate for 20 min n/a
6 Run 2 Min / Walk 2 Min / Run 3 Min / Walk 3 Min; Alternate for 20 min Run 2 Min / Walk 2 Min / Run 3 Min / Walk 3 Min; Alternate for 20 min Run 2 Min / Walk 2 Min / Run 3 Min / Walk 3 Min; Alternate for 20 min Run 2 Min / Walk 2 Min / Run 3 Min / Walk 3 Min; Alternate for 20 min Run 2 Min / Walk 2 Min / Run 3 Min / Walk 3 Min; Alternate for 20 min n/a
7 Run 2 Min / Walk 2 Min / Run 3 Min / Walk 3 Min; Alternate for 20 min Run 2 Min / Walk 2 Min / Run 3 Min / Walk 3 Min; Alternate for 20 min Run 2 Min / Walk 2 Min / Run 3 Min / Walk 3 Min; Alternate for 20 min Run 2 Min / Walk 2 Min / Run 3 Min / Walk 3 Min; Alternate for 20 min Run 2 Min / Walk 2 Min / Run 3 Min / Walk 3 Min; Alternate for 20 min n/a
8 Run 3 Min / Walk 2 Min / Run 5 Min / Walk 2.5 Min / Run 3 Min / Walk 2 Min / Run 5 Min Run 3 Min / Walk 2 Min / Run 5 Min / Walk 2.5 Min / Run 3 Min / Walk 2 Min / Run 5 Min Run 3 Min / Walk 2 Min / Run 5 Min / Walk 2.5 Min / Run 3 Min / Walk 2 Min / Run 5 Min Run 3 Min / Walk 2 Min / Run 5 Min / Walk 2.5 Min / Run 3 Min / Walk 2 Min / Run 5 Min Run 3 Min / Walk 2 Min / Run 5 Min / Walk 2.5 Min / Run 3 Min / Walk 2 Min / Run 5 Min n/a
9 Run 5 Min / Walk 3 Min / Run 5 Min / Walk 3 Min / Run 5 Min Run 5 Min / Walk 3 Min / Run 5 Min / Walk 3 Min / Run 5 Min Run 5 Min / Walk 3 Min / Run 5 Min / Walk 3 Min / Run 5 Min Run 5 Min / Walk 3 Min / Run 5 Min / Walk 3 Min / Run 5 Min Run 5 Min / Walk 3 Min / Run 5 Min / Walk 3 Min / Run 5 Min n/a
10 Run 5 Min / Walk 3 Min / Run 5 Min / Walk 3 Min / Run 5 Min Run 5 Min / Walk 3 Min / Run 5 Min / Walk 3 Min / Run 5 Min Run 5 Min / Walk 3 Min / Run 5 Min / Walk 3 Min / Run 5 Min Run 8 Min / Walk 5 Min / Run 8 Min Run 8 Min / Walk 5 Min / Run 8 Min n/a
11 Run 8 Min / Walk 5 Min / Run 8 Min Run 8 Min / Walk 5 Min / Run 8 Min Run 8 Min / Walk 5 Min / Run 8 Min Run 20 Minutes Run 20 Minutes n/a
12 Run 20 Minutes Run 20 Minutes Run 5 Min / Walk 3 Min / Run 8 Min / Walk 3 Min / Run 5 Min Run 5 Min / Walk 3 Min / Run 8 Min / Walk 3 Min / Run 5 Min Run 5 Min / Walk 3 Min / Run 8 Min / Walk 3 Min / Run 5 Min n/a
13 Run 5 Min / Walk 3 Min / Run 8 Min / Walk 3 Min / Run 5 Min Run 5 Min / Walk 3 Min / Run 8 Min / Walk 3 Min / Run 5 Min Run 5 Min / Walk 3 Min / Run 8 Min / Walk 3 Min / Run 5 Min Run 10 Min / Walk 3 Min / Run 10 Min Run 10 Min / Walk 3 Min / Run 10 Min n/a
14 Run 10 Min / Walk 3 Min / Run 10 Min Run 10 Min / Walk 3 Min / Run 10 Min Run 10 Min / Walk 3 Min / Run 10 Min Run 2.25 Miles Run 2.25 Miles n/a
15 Run 2.25 Miles Run 2.25 Miles Run 2.25 Miles Run 2.5 Miles Run 2.5 Miles n/a
16 Run 2.5 Miles Run 2.5 Miles Run 2.5 Miles Run 2.5 Miles Run 2.5 Miles n/a
17 Run 2.5 Miles Run 2.75 Miles Run 2.75 Miles Run 2.75 Miles Run 2.75 Miles n/a
18 Run 2.75 Miles Run 2.75 Miles Run 2.75 Miles Run 3 Miles Run 3.5 Miles n/a
19 Run 3.75 Miles Rest Run 2 Miles Rest Run 2 Miles 5k Race Day!

Notice that it wasn’t until Week 14 that I began to be concerned about running distances versus the duration of time I was running. This was because my main concern was to build up the cardio capacity to sustain me running, and less about the distance in which I was to run. By Week 14 I felt as though I had enough confidence to challenge myself to run the distance versus running the time, which meant I was running for a longer period of time since my pace was very slow.

Now realize that this is just a suggested guide for those who are looking to run and really have little or none of the physical and mental toughness it takes to accomplish such a task. I do recommend that if you try either the C25k program or my modified version, that it is imperative that you have a good foundation of walking under your belt. Meaning, I think  it would be a good idea to come to either program with the ability to walk 20 – 30 minutes 3 to 4 times a week. This ‘program’ is just something that I did, and it worked for me and so I’m sharing it with you. You can call my approach the Tortoise Approach if you’d like because it is certainly one that is meant to take time. What I found in doing the training for my initial race this way, I built up confidence in myself to run and decided to take on other races and longer distances. I hope this somehow is helpful for my other curvy gals out there who aspire to run, but are not quite sure how to go about it.

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One thought on “A Tortoise’s Approach to Running

  1. You’re absolutely right about this program. I started out doing it and found it fine at first, but then it went too hard, too fast for my asthmatic lungs! Your amended schedule is great!!

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