C25K: The best fitness plan to develop running (jogging) habit

Running (or jogging) is undeniably the most popular form of workout to lose weight and get back in shape. It is instinctive, natural, easy and effective as well. In fact, it is one of the very few motor skills which have been hardwired in our sub-conscious minds since pre-historic times.

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However, despite running being such an instinctive & simple workout, it is a very well acknowledged fact that many tend to give up soon (usually within a week), due to several reasons and the most common reason being fatigue. i.e Due to initial enthusiasm, new runners tend to run too much on day one itself. The effect starts showing up overnight, causing fatigue, muscle cramps etc which discourages the runner from showing up for the workout program next day, which in turn causes a sense of guilt and loss of confidence, eventually giving up the plan altogether.

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This problem (of “starting big, leading to burnout“) is not just in running but in any habit that we wish to develop. Few days ago, we had discussed about the secret science of habit formation here:
http://www.smarthabits.in/posts/secret-science-habit-formation/

In Japanese culture, the philosophy of “Kaizen” specifically addresses such issues by starting small and continuously improving over time. Although same can be applied to the running workout to turn it into a sustainable habit, it is not so straightforward and requires a bit of modification because running involves not just mind control (habit) but body as well (physical condition). Many enthusiasts who try to apply Kaizen directly for running, by beginning to run for just 200m on first day, 250m on second day, 300m on third day and so on, tend to burn-out within days because the body is not designed as a linear function.

So, what is the best approach? Based on intensive research and surveys, it has been found that application of Kaizen along with breaks (interval-training) is the best approach towards developing the habit of running/jogging. The basic idea is to start small so that the body does not push itself over the limits, add sufficient breaks to help the body recover, and improve this process gradually over time.

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One of the most popular & widely appreciated plan for this is the “C25K” (Couch to 5 Kilometer) which assures that even a couch potato can start running 5 kilometer if he/she follows this plan. Spanning across 8 weeks, this program insists on following a specific 30 min sub-plan for each week, to be followed on Monday, Wednesday & Friday. (Rest days in between).

To begin with: On week 1, day 1, you must start with a brisk 5 min warm-up walk, followed by 8 sets of “60 second running 90 second walking” and wrapping it up with 5 min cool-down walk. The next day is supposed to be a rest day and again the day after that, follow the same sub-plan.

On week 2, day 2, the running interval is increased from 60 seconds to 90 seconds, and the walk interval is 2m.

The entire plan in visual format is as follows (Courtesy: tombenninger)

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To make it simpler and effective, Robert Ullrey has created 9 music tracks (available for free download) in which he provides voice-over, guiding you when to run and when to walk, along with music in the background to keep you energized throughout the 30 min workout.
You can download them from this webpage and load up your MP3 player:
http://www.c25k.com/podcasts.htm

Try it for a week and the results will automatically motivate you to continue with the complete program and eventually develop it into a sustainable fitness habit.