I have heard this question a lot from both friends and readers. The Couch to 5k program is an excellent program to get started with running. People who have completed the Couch to 5k are often eager to continue running after the program ends, but they don’t know where to go for additional training plans or guidance. I think it’s wonderful that so many people have success with the program, so I would like to provide some resources for where to go when you are done with the program.
You have some options once you are done with the 12 week program and have completed your first 5k. Some people choose to stay at the 5k distance and work on lowering their 5k times. If you would like to work on increasing your speed, there are a number of resources out there including Runners World—they have a TON of training articles on speed work and sample training plans. Running Times is another great source of training plans for all levels.
In doing some research, I discovered an app for smart phones called Bridge to 10k. This is a handy app that will help you go from 5k to 10k. The app is priced at $2.99. More info can be found on their website.
You may decided that, instead of working on your speed, you would prefer to tackle a longer distance race. If you visit the above resources, they also have many plans for the 10K, half marathon, and marathon. One thing to be very careful of is doing too much too soon (TMTS). Often times, new runners get so excited with the changes in their body and their newfound love of running, that they ramp up their mileage and/or speed too quickly.
The general rule for increasing mileage is to increase by no more than 10% per week. This gradual increase allows your body to adapt to increased mileage slowly in order to decrease the chance of injury. Always make sure that you are listening to your body. If something starts to hurt (other than general muscle soreness you feel from workouts), stop running until you no longer feel the pain. Trust me, I have made this mistake several times before!
Did you follow the Couch to 5K program when you started running? What did you do when the training program ended?