If there’s one form of exercise that people dread at the very start or find it boring until they really get into it, it has to be running. While it can be hard to get into at first, you will find that running is one of the best exercises for weight loss as you are constantly torching calories. If you can get to the point where you are running multiple miles in one session, you would be surprised by how quickly you can boost your weight loss.

Even running one mile can burn 105 calories, and those that are now running one hour per day burn twice as much as those that walk for an hour. So how do you get started? Especially after you’ve been sedentary and may have put on some weight over the years? The Couch to 5K (C25K) program was developed with that in mind. Let’s take a look at this exercise program, and how it can kickstart your weight loss.

Behind C25K

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Josh Clark developed the C25K program back in 1996 after himself going from someone that dreaded running and could barely go for a few minutes at first before finally falling in love with the exercise. Clark said that “Running doesn’t have to suck. Anybody can do it.” Not only is running one of the best workouts, he said, but “it’s accessible to everyone. It’s inexpensive. You don’t need a team. You don’t need lots of gear. All you need is a pair of shoes and a place to go.”

That’s when Clark developed his plan that he put onto a website, though it wouldn’t gain much popularity at first. Eventually, the app world came out and people were scrambling for fitness apps that would help them lose weight. When they came across the plan that would take them from non-runner to 5K competitor within a nine week span. It sounds like a quick turnaround, but it’s very doable.

The Couch to 5K Plan

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With the C25K plan, you will go from someone that doesn’t run at all and gradually be able to finish 5 kilometers (or 3.1 miles) without stopping to walk. Don’t worry, as the plan does not throw you into the fire with a non-stop mile of running at the get go. Instead, you start out by walking for five minutes and throwing in a minute or so of running in the first week where you exercise for 20 to 30 minutes on three days.

Here is a breakdown of what the weekly workouts look like. There are three workouts each week that start with a five minute warmup walk (and you can add your own on days in between for quicker results):

Week 1 – 60 seconds of jogging followed by 90 seconds of walking, repeat for a total of 20 minutes.

Week 2 – 90 seconds of jogging followed by 120 seconds of walking, repeat for a total of 20 minutes.

Week 3 – 90 seconds of jogging followed by 90 seconds of walking, followed by three minutes of jogging, followed by three minutes of walking. Repeat this entire process once more after completion.

Week 4 – Three minutes of jogging, followed by 90 seconds of walking, followed by five minutes of jogging, followed by 2.5 minutes of walking, followed by three minutes of jogging, followed by 90 seconds of walking, followed by five minutes of jogging.

Week 5 – Five minutes of jogging, followed by three minutes of walking, followed by five minutes of jogging, then three minutes of walking and five minutes of jogging. The workouts then change where the second includes eight minutes of walking followed by five minutes of walking and then eight minutes of jogging. The final workout of the week will have you jogging for two miles without walking.

Week 6 – The first workout calls for five minutes of jogging, then three minutes of walking, followed by eight minutes of jogging, three minutes of walking and then five minutes of jogging. The second workout is a 10 minute jog with three minutes of walking, finished by another 10 minute jog. The final workout is a 22 minute jog without walking.

Week 7 – All three workouts in this week will have you jog for 2.5 miles without walking (or 25 minutes depending on your pace).

Week 8 – This is a small step up from the previous week where all off the workouts are a 2.75 mile (or 28 minute jog) after your warmup.

Week 9 – The final week of workouts involve 30 minutes or three miles (whichever comes first) of jogging without stopping to walk.

It might seem like a big step up into the jogging aspect about halfway through the plan, but your body will be used to running and it becomes a mental game of how far you can push yourself. There have been countless success stories of people that didn’t think it would be possible when starting the harder weeks, but were able to get through it just fine.

Pros and Cons of C25K

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There aren’t many negatives with the Couch to 5K program, so we’ll start there. Not everybody will be able to run right away depending on their medical conditions, so you should be able to jog (not at a fast pace) for at least 90 seconds before considering the program. On the flipside, those that have already been running and are looking for a new workout plan will find this to be much too easy. Then again, the name should probably tip you off that this isn’t a plan for advanced runners.

As for the pros of the program, there are quite a few. Constantly jogging allows your body to become a calorie burning furnace, and those that were out of shape beforehand will even burn significant calories from the walking portions. The plan is also adjustable, and you don’t have to feel like you need to be taking massive leaps. If you find that the jump from one week to the next is too much to handle, you can repeat the week that you were on until your body is ready for the next.

The program also teaches you to be able to jog 3.1 miles without stopping, which is a good place to start if you want to become a runner. After the program is over, you will have the tools for what is already a good workout, and then you can aim at running faster or longer (or even both) once your nine weeks are up. Many people that complete the C25K program start setting their sights on 10K runs, half marathons and eventually marathons. It might seem crazy to think that you’ll be running a marathon, but C25K has gotten many people hooked to that point.

What to Know

Let’s say you live in a cold part of the country where you can’t get outside (or an extremely hot part in the summer). You may be stuck on a treadmill, and that’s entirely fine, as there are laid out times on the app in case you are running at the gym or in your house. Josh Clark also says that “the Couch to 5K is just a guideline, and you should feel free to adjust it to your needs.” Listen to your body, especially when it comes to possible injury as running is a high impact exercise.

You also don’t want to jump ahead of yourself if you feel that the first few weeks are easy, as they will gradually get harder. You don’t want to get too far off plan by going from week two to week eight as your body might not get used to all of that extra activity, and you can suffer from burnout too fast.

Summing it Up

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You see a lot of workout plans out there that promise that you will lose 10 pounds or a certain amount of pant or dress sizes in a week, but there are no empty promises with the C25K program. Instead, you’re establishing yourself with a great fitness plan of just over three miles of jogging three times per week, which is a healthy exercise program to follow and can be added onto.

Like any workout program, nutrition and the amount of calories you are taking in will decide ultimately how much weight you lose. However, there haven’t been as many workout plans that have motivated quite like the C25K program as the small improvements you see every week will keep you going for a long time. The best part of the whole program is that the resources are free, and there is plenty of motivation and training information online for no cost, unlike a lot of other popular fitness plan.

All in all, the Couch to 5K plan is definitely suggested if you have the physical ability to run, want to lose weight and have never been a good runner before.