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Couch to 5K - Life after Couch to 5K

NHS Choices Feature

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If you've taken on the challenge of the Couch to 5K plan and completed it, well done!

You must be feeling a great sense of achievement, not to mention being fitter and healthier.

The key now, is to keep building on your success. Robin Gargrave of Central YMCA, the activity for health charity, stresses the importance of working hard to keep going, "Successful behaviour change usually takes 12 weeks, so you have to make yourself keep going," he says.

One way of staying motivated beyond the Couch to 5K plan, is to find a new focus. "You have to reset your goal," says Robin. "Set a new goal that's realistic and think about a plan for achieving that.

"So if your goal is a 10K run, that's quite a big step up and it'll take longer than another nine weeks. Be realistic about the time frame."

Improving your running

If you're happy to stick with your 30-minute runs, Robin has some great tips to keep you motivated.

Running podcasts

Keep on running with the 5K+ podcast series designed for Couch to 5K graduates. Each 5K+ podcast provides a structured run with running music and coaching to develop your running technique, speed and stamina.

Improving your running

A good technique is to consciously increase the length of your stride. You will feel more out of breath and if that becomes uncomfortable you can drop back down to your normal number of steps. When you recover, increase your stride and speed up again. You'll find that over time the gaps between having to drop down to your normal pace will gradually decrease. It's a simple technique and you'll get there surprisingly quickly.

Be sociable

You could join a group or a club, which will help provide you with an extra bit of stimulation and motivation - even if it's just a Saturday morning 5K run. Find a running group near you on the Run England website.

Parkrun organises free, weekly 5km timed runs, around the country. They are open to everyone and are safe and easy to take part in. The runs aren't competitive and provide you with a great way of being sociable and making new friends in your area.

Treat yourself

You could treat yourself to some new gear - a nice vest or a pair of shorts. If you're keen to upgrade your trainers, you could go to a specialist running shop where you can get expert advice on the best type of running shoe for your running style.

A change of scenery

You could try a different environment - so if you've been running in the streets try to find a green space, such as a park, to run in. You could also try varying the terrain. Look for some hills in your local area and give yourself a bit of a challenge.

Trying new sports

Now you've tackled running, why not think about other sports you could try? You don't have the excuse of being unfit anymore and you've proved to yourself that you can train your body to do something different.

As Robin points out, there are all kinds of fitness, "Running is very good for the muscular endurance of your legs and your cardiovascular fitness, but you could try, for instance, some resistance training for your upper body strength.

"You could join a gym or get some equipment for use at home - so that you begin to develop a much more all-round type of fitness."

You could try Strength and Flex, a five-week plan to improve your strength and flexibility, which can also benefit your running.

Medical Review: September 13, 2012

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