Couch to 5K training

Man Running up ramp near Fitzroy Adventure Playgorund
Using training apps can be a great way to keep motivated

Aiming to run 5km at this year’s Rocky River Run and need a training program? The Couch to 5K training plan, originally devised by American Josh Clark in the mid-1990s, is one of the most well-known training programs for beginner runners and is designed, as the name suggests, to help you comfortably run 5km in just six weeks.

The program is all about interval training, with each run involving a mixture of walking and running intervals. Initially, the runs consist of very short run-walk intervals, with the walking breaks designed to give you time to recover as your body gets used to running. As the weeks progress, the running intervals gradually get longer and the walking intervals reduce, increasing your endurance until race day, where the goal is to run the full 5kms without stopping.

How long does it usually take?

While there are many variations of the Couch to 5K program, most are between six and eight weeks duration, with three scheduled runs each week. The remaining days of the week can be taken as rest days or can be supplemented with some strength or mobility work to help you avoid injury. As all of the running workouts are time-based, rather than distance based, each session is between 20 and 35 minutes in duration.

Who can do it?

The best part about the Couch to 5K program is that is designed for complete beginners making it suitable for those who have never run before or haven’t run for some time. If you are completely new to running, a slightly longer variation of the program (i.e. 8 weeks) may be more suitable. Regardless of your level of prior running experience, it is vital that you begin each running session with a warm up which includes 3-5 minutes of brisk walking and some dynamic stretches. Likewise, you should also end each session with another 3-5 minutes of walking and further stretching to prevent injury.

If you’re feeling like the program is progressing too fast or your feeling too burnt out, you can also choose to repeat a week until you have the confidence and endurance to move on.

What are some good couch to 5k programs/apps?

If you’re someone who would prefer to follow a specific program or use an app to track your Couch to 5K progress, there are a range of apps available to help you do so.

Nike Run Club

The Nike Run Club is an app that allows you to track and train for free. You can choose from three different training plans: Getting started, 5K or Half Marathon, or choose from a variety of audio guided runs based on distance, time, or goal. The app will also keep track of your pace, heart rate, time, cadence, elevation and more for each run.

Cost: Free

Apple App Store

Google Play Store

Couch to 5K Runner

The Couch to 5K Runner app features an 8 week version of the Couch to 5K program consisting of 3 runs a week, all no more than 30 minutes in duration. It features voice cues that tell you when to start and stop running, has in-built GPS tracking and also allows you to listen to your own music while you run.

Cost: Full-feature free version for first four runs, after which you much pay a monthly subscription fee

Apple App Store download

Google Play Store download


For those looking to take their training to the next level and invest in a personalised running plan, the Runna coach app is a great option. Not only will you get a personalised 8 week 5K program where the distance and types of runs included are tailored to your goals, but it also provides personalised strength and conditioning support to supplement your runs. The app is also ideal for those who have plenty of running experience but are looking to increase their pace, set a certain PB or increase distance, with advanced 5k, 10km and 21km programs options also available.

Cost: $17.99 a month (first week free)

Apple App Store

Google Play Store


A subsidiary program of the Australian health and fitness app, KIC, KICRUN offers a progressive 8 week running program designed to help you confidently run 5km non-stop. Similar to a traditional Couch to 5K program, KICRUN includes three unique runs per week and gradually increases your running bursts while reducing your walking breaks over the course of the program. Each run features guides audio ques that not only tell you when to start and stop running but also provides motivation, tips, and tricks to get the most out of each run. KICRUN also offers 10km and 21km training programs.

Cost: Monthly subscription: $19.49, Quarterly Subscription: $16.99, Yearly Subscription: $9.58/month (7 day free trial available)

Apple App Store

Google Play Store