A trend growing in popularity are “Couch To 5K” training programs that proclaim that you can be in any condition and by running 3 times per week for 9 weeks be ready to complete a 5K race. It’s fantastic to see that people are taking their health and fitness into their own hands.
The training plan provides a daily rubric of what to do, when to do it and provides a few links and user forum for support.
While there is nothing inherently wrong with the training schedule in the popularized “Couch to 5K’ plan that is the first running experience for many there are many shortfalls. It is woefully inadequate when it comes to addressing all aspects of running.
It is a simple training schedule that only addresses a tiny part of what’s important when it comes to running. This is not a criticism of the program as many do find success and as I mentioned it opens the door to the world of running for many, but there are shortfalls to consider.
Shortfall 1: Motivations
The Couch to 5K plan assumes you have already made the commitment to complete a 5K event and that decision is enough on its own. The fact is, so much can come up that can derail the best of intentions.
Life obligations, work, family, school, feeling tired, pain, even a cold or rainy day. Missing a day or two of training can turn into a week and before you know it you feel guilty of the workouts you have missed and with the approaching event you give up altogether and plan to start over later. Meanwhile you might even feel failure for what happened.
The cornerstone to any successful preparation is commitment. The Couch to 5K plan does not have you start out first determining your motivation – that is what is going to keep you going when the going gets tough. This is different from goals, which come out of determining your motivations. Both are essential as a foundation to a successful training program.
Shortfall 2: The Blind Leading the Blind
This old adage applies to the support forum at “Couch to 5K”. Those that are using the plan are completely new to running. Often times their knowledge is limited yet advice is thrown around as if they are seasoned pros with many races under their belts.
While the concept of a user forum is wonderful to support one another in their goals and progress towards achieving them unintentional misleading advice due to lack of knowledge can teach bad running habits instead of good habits from the start. Ask any participant in any sport about how bad habits are hard to change. The same goes for running. No one is really in charge or leading the discussion. Everyone is on their own.
Shortfall 3: Information Overload
One of the biggest challenges new runners face is sorting through the massive amount of information that is out there from multiple sources. Sometimes the advice even conflicts. Links are provided by the program to learn more about topics in running, rather than creating their own unique content tailored to the program.
On the user forum links thrown around to various sites based on what a particular user has come across. Bits and pieces of information that you come across randomly depending on when you stumble upon it. At worst case, you come across a very advanced topic that leaves you feeling overwhelmed. Some of it may not even make sense because you are missing other things you need to know to make use of it.
This leads into shortall 4…
Shortfall 4: No Cohesive Strategy
The Couch to 5K plan lacks any sequence of teaching you information that would be beneficial for your training. Think back to school. Could you imagine learning Calculus before you knew Algebra? You would become frustrated and struggle. Your path to success should be well defined!