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Couch to 5K was downloaded by more than 858,000 people this year as they took to running during their time spent in lockdown. That’s an astonishing 92% increase in downloads in the UK between March and June compared to the same period in 2019. It’s an excellent programme for runners trying to build running into their lifestyle and has an easy to follow ‘do this, then do that’ learning style.

But what do you do once you have completed the Couch to 5K challenge? What happens if you didn’t quite get there in the time allotted?

Well, first of all, recognise how well you’ve done to complete this challenge.  Running 3.1 miles is no mean feat. You’ve also made this a regular habit to your life, that isn’t easy either so well done – you nailed it!

Second thing, you don’t have to do anything if you don’t want to.  Continuing to run 5K, three times a week is great! You certainly don’t have to ‘upscale’ to a 10K or half marathon!

So What Can You Do?

Keep going! Don’t lose momentum now… you’ll only regret it later.  If you’re not sure what to do, continue to keep doing what you’re doing.  You have created a habit while you did Couch to 5K – that’s the hardest, but ultimately the most critical part. If you’re having trouble with keeping your running habits alive, check out our tips on How to Keep Motivated to Run. If you didn’t complete the mission of C25K – there’s no need to worry.  Go back a few steps, maybe add in some walk-run intervals, and you will progress at your own pace.

If you don’t want to increase to the 10K just yet, here are some ideas on keeping you motivated…

1. Sign up for a 5K Race

A race is a sure-fire way of keeping you motivated and that you continue to run regularly. At present, face to face races are not accessible, so why not take on a virtual race instead?

Pick one that is around six to eight weeks away so that you have enough time to up your running pace, but not too long that you lose interest.

2. Make your new habit public

Document your new habit for all to see.  Many have Instagram accounts where they share their runs or keep a record on Facebook for your friends and family to comment on.  You could always join other like-minded runners in a Facebook Group – much like our community. We’d love to see you in our free Facebook group and cheer you on!

3. Find a Running Group

Having a community to run with is an excellent way of keeping your running habit going. They will encourage, motivate and best of all, you’ll learn lots from those that have been for an age! Knowing that you’re meeting up with a group will keep you accountable, and it’s great fun!

4. Running Faster

So, Couch to 5K suited you, and you’re happy with the distance – now let’s look at getting you there quicker! 

You want to look at increasing your pace a little on each run that you do.  Track your current pace for a few runs, then look to increase either your average pace or your time per mile/km pace by a few seconds.

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Don’t run too fast, too quick!

Your overall pace will be an average of your ‘splits’.  Splits is how you’ve chosen to break your run up – by KMS, miles, half miles etc.  No need to go crazy with the pace – just look to drop a few seconds each time you run. If you’re having an off day – don’t sweat it (excuse the pun!).  Getting out there is better than not – you’ll nail it the next time.

If you’re using a Fitbit, Apple Watch, Garmin or similar kit, you will see that they show you the average and actual pace, along with your splits.

Music can also help with increasing your pace. You can get beats-per-minute lists from Spotify which will help you run faster.  Increase your BPM steadily each week.

5. Running further

If you want to increase your running, but don’t want to speed up the pace, then you’ll be looking at running further.  You can do this for either distance or time.  Distance can be easier to follow as you can map it out beforehand and know that you will arrive at your destination without going too far wrong.

The trick is to keep consistent and not overreach. As tempting as it is to push yourself, consistency, not only in your progression but also in your frequency will keep your risk of injury right down.

6. Running better

Since you started running, have you thought about the way you run? Your stride or what to do with your arms. Even how you breathe. Doing some homework in these areas will help ensure you are using your body efficiently and maximising your energy on getting faster and further. Take a look at our blog ‘How to Run Effectively – Heel Strikesto get you started.

7. Running more often

Another option could be to add in an extra session each week.  This will also help with your running as you’ll naturally become faster.  We wouldn’t recommend more than this each week for now – your body needs time to recover and get stronger.

8. Make one run longer

Plan to increase one of your sessions each week – many like to do this at the weekend. Keep two of your runs at 5K but one run per week, start to increase by either time or distance – say 3-5mins or ½-1 KM.  Before you know it, you’ll be getting closer to a 10K!

May we help you?

If you’re still not sure about the next step following your Couch to 5K success, our coaching team would love to help take the guesswork out of it for you. ‘The Inside Track’ membership will equip you with a concise running and nutrition programme with strength and conditioning and stretch and mobility alongside to ensure you keep injury-free.

Should you come across some running niggles, we have that covered too!  Our sports therapist is on hand to guide you and help you work through any aches and pains.

Why not take a look at what’s on offer in The Inside Track, and we look forward to helping you ace that next running goal!