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If you’ve just completed the Couch to 5K running plan, or you are close to the end of the 9-week schedule, you might be starting to ask yourself what to do when you finish Couch to 5k. You’ve had a really clear plan to follow for weeks and weeks and then suddenly it’s all over, you’re out on your own.
To an extent, having the Couch to 5K podcast in your ear is almost like having a personal trainer with you for nine weeks. You are told when to run when to walk, which days to rest on and which days to get your trainers on. When all of that suddenly stops it can be quite easy to just freeze and do nothing. You’ve completed the plan and experienced the sense of achievement that comes when ‘Week 9 – Run 3’ is done and dusted and now you’re at a crossroads.
That’s definitely how I felt when I completed the course a couple of years back, and it’s actually quite easy to see why so many people just stopped running after that last run. They’ve achieved what they set out to, proved something to themselves, and that’s the end of it.
But you don’t want to let all of that hard work go to waste, do you?
Of course not. What you need is a bit of a plan, some ideas and some incentives to make your new running habit a permanent one.
First and foremost, go out and enjoy your runs as much as possible. Completing the plan is a great achievement and you should absolutely enjoy the fact that you can now run for 30 minutes – something you couldn’t do just a few weeks ago. You now know that you can do it, so take the pressure off yourself and spend a few weeks cementing your running habit, feeling proud of yourself, and finding new places to run.
Sign Up For a Virtual Event
Fancy getting your hands on a shiny medal so that you’ve got something to show for all of your hard work?
Signing up for a virtual event is a great way to keep you motivated.
There are hundreds of events that you can sign up for, and the process is really simple.
First, you choose what kind of event you want to enter; what distance you want to run, when you want to do it, and what kind of medal you want to be rewarded with. Then you complete your run and upload your Strava stats to the event organiser’s website so they can send your medal out to you.
You can do this as part of a fundraising effort and ask people to sponsor you, or you can just do it for yourself as a bit of fun. Either way, it’s a great way to give yourself something to focus on and keep you motivated.
Treat Yourself to Some New Running Gear
When I first started the Couch to 5K plan, I had no idea whether or not I’d actually stick with it; so I didn’t want to spend any money on running gear.
I was running in cotton T-shirts and an old pair of trainers. They were absolutely fine for the nine weeks of the Couch to 5K course, but once I’d completed it and realised that I was going to be running regularly for the long term, I decided to spend a bit of money on some more suitable gear.
You don’t need to spend a fortune, but a few items can make a big difference. Cotton t-shirts, for example, are a big no-no. They absorb moisture and dry slowly – the opposite of what you want. Your t-shirts should be made of moisture-wicking fabric so that sweat is moved away from the body and can evaporate.
Likewise, a pair of shorts that are made of quick-drying fabric are well worth investing in as they can be washed and ready to wear on your next run in no time.
Every Saturday morning (when we’re not in the midst of a pandemic), there are parkrun events happening in more than 1,000 towns and cities throughout the UK and beyond. These 5K events are completely free to join, you simply register online, print out your barcode, and then turn up and participate.
The parkrun events are all about community, so it doesn’t matter if it’s your first time or your hundredth, everyone is welcome.
The event has some pretty incredible stats too; more than 2.3 million people have completed at least one parkrun, with almost 35 million finishes in total. It’s a huge thing and a perfect follow-on from Couch to 5K.
Work Up to 10K
After a few weeks of consistently running 5ks, it’s only natural that you start thinking of pushing your limits again and seeing what you are capable of. Working towards a 10k is the obvious next step and one that you should have no problem reaching if you put the work in and follow the same sort of incremental plan as Couch to 5K.
For example, you could add 5 minutes onto your runs for the next week, taking you up to 35 minutes, and then do the same the following week, taking you up to 40. Eventually, you would work up to 60 minutes which would see you reaching somewhere around the 10K distance mark.
Set Yourself a Challenge
Setting yourself a challenge is a great way to keep you motivated. What that challenge could be is completely up to you. You can be as creative as you like.
You could set a target time for your 5K runs. Could you bring your time down to 28 minutes? 26 even?
What about distance? Have you got ambitions to call yourself a marathon runner in the future?
Whatever you choose to do, the important thing is to keep running and remember that Couch to 5K was just the beginning, not the end.