At this time of year, the temptation to make a new start is strong.
Research shows that our best chance of success comes from selecting a goal that is challenging, valuable, measurable, and specific, with a set deadline.
One frequent New Year’s resolution is to exercise more, and a popular method is the “couch to 5k” plan, that outlines how to go from absolute beginner to being able to run five kilometres, in nine weeks. It was created by Josh Clark, a novice runner who wanted to help his mum start running.
“Taking up running can seem like a scary prospect, especially if you feel out of shape or unfit,” says the Couch to 5k NHS website.
“But did you know that regular running can help reduce the risk of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke, boost your mood and keep your weight under control?”
There is also evidence that running helps protect bone density, thereby helping prevent bone diseases such as osteoporosis. Running also brings mental benefits such as relieving stress, boosting confidence, and encouraging self-belief through achieving a target.
The plan involves three runs a week, with a rest day inbetween, with a different schedule for each of the nine weeks.
“Probably the biggest challenge a novice runner faces is not knowing how or where to start,” the website says. “Often when trying to get into exercise, we can overdo it, feel defeated and give up when we’re just getting started. Couch to 5K works because it starts with a mix of running and walking, to gradually build up your fitness and stamina.
“Week one involves running for just a minute at a time, creating realistic expectations and making the challenge feel achievable right from the start.”