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GBMC Couch to 5K

January 15, 2018
If you have never run before, the idea of a 5K run – which is equivalent to 3.1 miles – might seem daunting. When you break down your training and understand how to begin running in a safe and effective manner, it can be a fun and exciting challenge. Remember, you should always consult with your primary care physician before beginning any exercise program.

Interested in taking up running? GBMC is pleased to offer tips and tricks to get you from being a non-runner to a 5K finisher just in time for our Father’s Day 5K, which benefits our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for premature babies. This progression program is meant to be used as a guide for beginner runners but it can be easily adjusted to fit your ability level if you are intermediate or advanced.

Keep these tips in mind when preparing to begin a running regimen:

Proper shoes should be fitted to your feet. Different running shoes provide a variety of features, so it is important to select a pair that fit your activity level. Visit a local running or fitness supply store to have your feet analyzed by an expert.

Always warm up before a run. Beginning any endurance exercise with cold muscles can lead to injuries, so be sure to engage in a basic warm up of jumping jacks, jogging in place or squats. You should also stretch all major muscle groups to help reduce the risk of injury and aid in the recovery process.

Always stretch after your run. Stretching after a workout helps to prevent injury, create long and lean muscles and keep you from being too sore in the days that follow your exercise session.

Hydrate before and after a run to replace liquids lost through sweat and evaporation.

If this is your first time running, start slow and go at your own pace. Small increases in exertion and distance are key to building a strong running foundation.

Month 1 Training - Weeks 1 & 2
  • After warming up, start out at a brisk walk for an interval of three minutes. 
  • Jog for thirty seconds.
  • Slow to a walk for thirty seconds to let your heart rate come down.
  • Resume your brisk walk for another three minutes. 
  • Repeat eight cycles of brisk walking and running, with a slow walk in between, for a total of 32 minutes of exercise. Do this three times a week for your first two weeks.
  • Stretch after your walk-run session to help improve circulation and recovery times.

Month 1 Training - Weeks 3 & 4
  • After warming up, walk briskly for two minutes.
  • Jog for one minute. 
  • Reduce your tempo to a slower walk for one minute. 
  • Repeat this cycle eight times for a total of 32 minutes of exercise. Do this at least three times a week.
  • Stretch after your walk-run session to help improve circulation and recovery times.

If you are in need of a primary care physician, visit to find one who is right for you. To learn more about the GBMC Father’s Day 5K and to register, visit

In the first month of our Couch to 5K training plan, you got up and moving in intervals of brisk walking and light jogging to help build your cardiovascular base. As always, check with your primary care physician before beginning any exercise plan.

In month two, you will progress to longer bouts of running to help you further build your endurance. A few things to note:

You will increase your running times and decrease your brisk walking times. Interval training like this has been shown to help beginner exercisers gradually increase the amount of time per increment they can safely exercise and safety is the most important element of building an exercise system.

You will be running long spans this month, but you will also be stretching more frequently – not just before and after your exercise sessions.

You will also begin cross-training, which will help you to build your endurance and make running more enjoyable.

At least once per week, perform some sort of exercise that is not running. This can be anything that gets you up and moving, including swimming, elliptical training, cardio kickboxing, Pilates, yoga or other exercises. This is cross-training, something that continues to work your muscles and build your fitness base without focusing on the same exact movements as running.

At least two days per week, stretch only. On two days when you do not plan to run-walk or cross-train, spend a little time stretching out your whole body with your normal pre-running routine or a yoga class. Stretching helps lean out your muscles, release tension, reduce the amount of soreness related to training and improve recovery times.

Focus on a nutrition plan based upon whole foods – such as vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, nuts and other natural items – to help build strong, lean muscles.

Month 2 Training - Weeks 1 & 2
  • After warming up, briskly walk for two minutes.
  • Jog for two minutes.
  • Slowly walk for one minute to lower your heart rate.
  • Repeat six cycles for a total of 30 minutes of exercise, 2-3 times per week. 
  • Stretch after your walk-run session to help improve circulation and recovery times.

Month 2 Training - Weeks 3 & 4
  • After warming up, briskly walk for two minutes.
  • Jog for three minutes.
  • Repeat six cycles for a total of 30 minutes of exercise, 2-3 times per week. 
  • Stretch after your run-walk session to help improve circulation and recovery times.

Remember to keep track of how far you’re able to go now that you are running for longer intervals! You should be able to notice whether you’re going farther, moving faster or generally feeling better. Keeping track of this will help you see where you are improving.

To learn more about the GBMC Father’s Day 5K and to register, visit
You have made it to month three of your Couch to 5K training, and that is truly something to celebrate!

In month three of your Couch to 5K preparations, you will focus on more running, more cross-training and how to run in non-flat race situations. You will test your skills to see how far you’ve come, hone in on healthier decisions, hydrate frequently and start to get excited!
Tips to help you power through Month 3:

Spend time at least twice per week just stretching, helping your muscles release tension, creating lean muscle mass and improving your recovery now that you have increased the amount of running you’re completing.

At least once per week for all of month three, run on a non-flat surface. If you have been running on a treadmill or track up to this point, terrain changes might come as a little bit of a shock. Most 5K courses are not perfectly flat and knowing how to handle the ups and downs of the route will help you enjoy the experience from start to finish.

  • If you need to slow your pace, do so. There is no point in using up all of your energy on a hill in the first mile when you know you still have two miles to go.  
  • Focus on lifting your knees in front of you, high-knee style. While this sounds silly, lifting your knees shifts your body’s center of balance making hill-tackling less energy sapping.
  • Breathe more frequently. Running on hilly paths taxes your cardiovascular system. Take one breath every two to three steps to keep your body oxygenated and moving forward. 
  • Take smaller steps. In addition to keeping your knees up and in front of you, decrease the length of your stride if you’re finding the hill to be challenging. This will help you cover the same amount of ground with less physical work. 
  • On the way down the hill, “stride it out.” In runner’s speak, that means taking longer steps as you descend. Keep your chest back to balance your body and let your legs stretch out as you run down the decline. This gives those muscles that worked so hard on the incline the ability to loosen up for the rest of your run.

Month 3 Training - Weeks 1 & 2
  • After warming up, start out at a light jog for five minutes.
  • Walk briskly for one minute.
  • Repeat four times for a total of 24 minutes.
  • Run for the last six minutes. 
  • Walk for one to two minutes to lower your heart rate.
  • This should be repeated 2-3 times each week.
  • Stretch out after your exercise session. 

Month 3 Training - Weeks 3 & 4
  • After warming up, start out at a light jog and run for at least ten minutes. 
  • If you feel strong, proceed with running. If necessary, slow to a brisk walk for one minute, then resume running for several minutes. 
  • Alternate one minute of walking with several minutes of running until you’ve completed about 30 minutes of exercise.
  • These sessions should be repeated 2-3 times per week. 
  • Stretch out after each exercise session.
If you have yet to sign up for the Father’s Day 5K benefiting GBMC’s NICU, visit for information and to register.
If you’ve been following GBMC's training program, congratulations on a job well done! We’re sure you’re excited to take part in your first 5K race, so we’ve put together this list of tips to get you through your first organized running event.

Before the Race:

  • Check the weather report for the day and dress accordingly and comfortably. Moisture-wicking material is helpful for staying dry and cool. It is also important to wear items you have previously worn running, rather than something brand new.
  • Wear socks and shoes that are broken in. The shoes you purchased at the beginning of your training should be perfect for this event. New shoes and socks will be stiffer, might rub differently and could result in blisters.
  • Hydrate and eat a protein-filled meal or snack a few hours before race time. Your body needs time to process the fuel you give it.

At the Race:

  • Arrive at the race with plenty of time to spare. Getting to the event an hour or more before the race will give you a chance to visit the registration table, get your race bib, use the bathroom, store your gear and get in a good stretch and warm up prior to race time.
  • Store your gear. Each race is different when it comes to how to store your personal effects, so arriving early is your best bet for secure storage of items like your cell phone, car keys, extra clothing layers, wallet and more. There is no gear check at GBMC’s 5K race, so it is best to leave as much as you can safely locked in your car or with a family member/friend.
  • Use the bathroom. As silly as it sounds, you would rather be safe than sorry. Use the bathroom before you head to the starting line to avoid discomfort during the race. 
  • Line up toward the back of the pack. For your first race, your goal should be to enjoy the feeling of running as you complete a 5K. Competitive runners will line up toward the front, intermediate runners will line up behind them and beginners or those who naturally have slower paces will line up toward the back of the group. If you start out and find the back of the pack is too slow for you, you can always safely pass others.

During the Race:
  • Pace yourself. It is easy to get caught up in the moment, especially in a competitive environment. Remember how you’ve trained and take on the course according to your own ability level. 
  • Visit the hydration stations. Every race offers at least one hydration station, usually around the halfway point, and visiting it for a quick drink of water will help keep you hydrated for the second half of the race.
  • Be proud of yourself. Focus on how far you’ve come and all that you’re accomplishing as you run. A few months ago, you might not have been able to do this!

After the Race:
  • Cool your muscles down and lower your heart rate by walking. Many people immediately sit after a race, but your body needs a cool down in order to safely return to normal. Walking around at a slow pace for a few minutes will help.
  • Stretch everything. The same stretching you’ve been doing before and after your training runs applies here. While you may be on an adrenaline rush, stretching is important so that you aren’t sore in the days to come.
  • Get a drink of water. Rehydrating after a running event is important, as your sweat and normal evaporation will pull essential water from your body. Water, or an electrolyte-filled sports drink, is best.
  • Partake in the festivities! If your event offers a cookout, coffee, breakfast, photos or any other social element, take part in them! You’ve earned a celebration!

Thank you for participating in our training program!
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