Mike and I started running using the popular Couch-to-5K running program, it's hard to believe we will be running our first marathon soon! If you are even considering starting to run, I would highly suggest using this program. It helps you ease into running and you have a better chance of actually sticking with it compared to if you just go out and run 3 miles for the first time ever (although that does work for some people).
I know that many people finish C25K, as it is called, and think, "well what now?" Maybe you ran that 5K, or not, and aren't sure what to do. Well, I'm here to help you!
Repeat the Couch-to-5K Program
Now before you stop reading this post because you think I am crazy, hear me out. Mike and I were lucky and we were able to complete all of our C25K workouts without having to repeat any of them, except one time when we tried to do a trail run and failed miserably. Some people have to repeat a few of the workouts multiple times before moving on and may not feel confident in their abilities when they finish C25K.
Go back, maybe not all the way to the beginning, and keep working at it until you feel comfortable with running for half an hour straight.
Even if you did successfully complete C25K and "graduated" by running that 5K, I'm still going to suggest that you go back and repeat some of the workouts. However, this time instead of walking and jogging try jogging and running. Use the workouts to help you build up speed and be able to run that next 5K even faster!
Train for a Longer Distance
You ran that 5K and you are hooked! Maybe you even ran a few more 5Ks after C25K and while you enjoyed them, you want something more.
There are other programs out there that are similar to C25K that will help you build up your endurance to be able to run a 10K or even a half marathon. I wouldn't suggest that you try to run anything further than a half marathon immediately after completing C25K.
If you want to run a 10K, there is a program called Bridge-to-10K. Mike and I used this to help us run our first 10K after completing C25K. If you feel like you need a little bit more time there is also an Ease into 10K program. These programs are similar to C25K because walking is still incorporated into the workouts.
If you are like me, then you will have your sights set on the half marathon distance. There are numerous training programs out there that will help you train at the appropriate pace to help you get to the finish line of your first 13.1. Hal Higdon's Novice Half Marathon training program helped us run our first half. Some other options are Runner's World SmartCoach and Jeff Galloway's training program.
It is important to remember that you shouldn't increase your weekly mileage by more than 10%, you don't want to get injured!
Try Some Fun Distances
While you are figuring out if you like the longer distances, run some 5 mile races, 10 mile races and 15Ks. You can always find fun and unique race distances and races can be a nice addition to your training plan. Your local turkey trot may even be the 4 mile distance, just go out there and have some fun!
Want More than Running?
Maybe you were like us, you love running but you always knew that you wanted something more. Consider trying a triathlon or a duathlon, multi-sport racing is amazing!
Some resources to help you get started are Beginner Triathlete and USA Triathlon. If you are looking for a free training program for a sprint or Olympic distance triathlon, you can check out Tri-Newbies Online.
Do Something Else
I am the type of person that wholeheartedly believes that almost anyone can run, however, I know that not everyone loves or even likes running. You may have started the C25K program to get into shape or to prove to yourself that you could stick with something for 9 weeks, but your heart isn't into it anymore.
That's fine! Just find something that you do LOVE and stick with it. There are so many options for people who want to live an active lifestyle, whether that be swimming, mountain biking, crossfit, yoga or weight lifting. There is something out there for everyone, you just have to find it!
You never know, you may want to take a break from running right now but there might also come a day when you want to return to it. Running will always be there for you when you are ready!