Couch To 5K: How To Get Out And Get Running

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Guardian Group’s annual SHINE 5k and 10k Walk and Run is set for November 25, 2017. SHINE, an abbreviation for “Securing Hope for those In Need,” is Guardian Group’s annual flagship CSR event. 100% of all proceeds raised go towards 10 homes that are doing incredible work with underprivileged children and families across Trinidad and Tobago. If SHINE’s on your to-do list for this holiday season (as it should be), we’ve got you covered with a training guide to get you off your couch and running a 5k in no time!


A 5K isn’t a marathon, but training for it after months of binging on Netflix can sure make it seem like one. Every extra pound you might have gained in front of the TV can make running to any place other than your fridge seem like a miracle. If this is the first time you’re lacing up your running shoes in months, you’re probably thinking: “There is no way I can do this!

But you can.

5k season is here, and it is possible to go from couch to 5K in mere weeks!

If taking up running was part of your 2017 New Years resolution (or just a way to shave off a few pounds before the holiday food avalanche), you’re not too late. Guardian Group’s annual SHINE Charity Walk and Run 5km and 10km is just around the corner, and we’re going to help you get ready for it.


A 5K is, as its name suggests, a 5 kilometre or 3.1 mile-long race. To put it another way, that’s just shy of one and a half rounds of the Savannah. At roughly one-eighth of a marathon, a 5K is great novice challenge, according to professional marathon runner and executive member of the Trinidad and Tobago Road Runners Club (TTRRC), Wendy Shallow.

“It’s an easy race to run because it’s just long enough to need some training, but not so strenuous that it seems impossible! It’s an entry-level race that gets a lot of runners off their couches and into the gym or park” she said.

For optimum results (i.e. a good 5K time), Shallow recommends starting training 6-7 weeks before race day. If time’s short, there’s still a ton you can do to improve your stride, pace, and endurance, in just about 3 weeks.

The best part about running a 5K is that you don’t have to train for it alone. Grab, cajole, or bribe (just kidding!) a workout buddy and head down to the Savannah for an early morning run. Even if they don’t plan on running the same race, it’s still a great way to get in a daily workout and catch up at the same time.

If that doesn’t work, head to the Savannah or one of Trinidad’s numerous communal parks and join one of the many pro and amateur running clubs that meet regularly for group runs.

Speed is important, but if this is your first ‘distance’ run, then the key is to focus on your endurance and ease into a comfortable, steady pace that you can sustain for the duration of the run.


Yes…and no. Honestly, this part is all up to you. It’s perfectly fine to run a 5K cold-turkey, so long as your doctor okays it and you have no pre-existing condition that it could exacerbate. But preparing for a 5K allows you to track your progress, prime your body for the distance, and helps you run more efficiently and confidently.

An effective 5k training plan includes a mix of running, walking, and resting to help acclimatize your body to running a prolonged distance.

Shallow’s plan includes vital rest days to stop you from over-training and help reduce the risk of injury, stress or fatigue. During the first week or so, a portion of your training will be spent walking, as you increase your lung O2 capacity and get your muscles warmed up and working.  As the weeks progress, you’ll gradually shift your walking to running ratio to favour the latter. If you ran for 15 seconds and walked for 45 in Week 1, you should be able to do the reverse (i.e. 45 sec run with a 15 sec walk) by Week 3 or 4.

If you’re planning on walking the 5K (not running), then adapt the plan to alternate between speed-walking and your regular pace. Your week will be split into two parts: five training days during which you’ll do a combination of endurance and speed training, and two rest days mixed in. 

Now, this part is important: DO NOT SKIP REST DAYS. I repeat, DO NOT SKIP REST DAYSPressing pause on your training may sound counter-productive, but it’s crucial for your body. Rest days allow your body time to rebuild, absorb the week’s training, and boost your overall strength and endurance.


The SHINE 4-week couch to 5k plan is tailored to help you get to your best, 5K self in time for the November 25th race. The goal is to get your body comfortable with the distance while reducing your overall finish time. In the last week, you’ll find your training tapering down. Don’t worry; this is intentional. It helps avoid over-training, over-working, and over-fatiguing your body ahead of the big day.

Begin each training day with a set of dynamic stretches. Choose 4-5 stretches that warm up your muscles – especially your hamstrings, ankles, quads and core – without overworking them and repeat them for 2-3 sets (Click here for some ideas) If you have bad knees, for example, stay away from stretches that would put undue stress on your joints.

It’s also a good idea to incorporate some core exercises – i.e. planks, crunches, bridges, leg raises, twists, etc – to give your body a bit more stability and build abdominal strength.

Alright. Ready to run your first 5K?

Let’s get started!

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This week, it’s all about taking your first baby steps. During the week (Mon-Fri), you’ll alternate between speed-walking, running, and sprinting. On the weekend, you’ll do a moderate distance endurance run. On running days (Mon, Wed, Sat), you’ll run a split of 3:4, i.e. 15 seconds of walking followed by 45 seconds of running at a sustainable pace. Each day, focus on your breathing and try to best your pace, if possible.

On Thursday, you’ll incorporate some HIIT into your training. HIIT stands for High Interval Intensity Training and shapes up your speed, stamina, and endurance. The program entails alternating between periods of intense energy and active rest. In your 30 minute session, you’ll follow a split of 1:1, that is 1 min of sprinting followed by 1 minute of slow walking. Your HIIT ratio (1:1) stays the same for the duration of your training unless you find it becoming increasingly easy, at which point you can switch up your ratio to 1.5:1 (90-second sprint, 1 min rest).

Friday and Sunday are your rest days, so get plenty of sleep, water and good food.


This week, you’re ramping up your running ratio to 1:2. That means longer running periods and shorter rests. Focus on your pace on running days (Mon, Wed, Sat) and on speed on your HIIT training day. On Tuesday, your walking day, focus on maintaining a good speed-walking pace that elevates your heartbeat without pushing it overboard.

You’ll also be running an extra mile on your Saturday distance run. If it seems daunting, stick to your 1:2 split. If you find yourself breezing through the run, feel to up your intensity by trying out a 1:2.5 split (1 minute of walking followed by 1.5 minutes of running). At all times, remember to listen to your body and how it’s responding to the training.


This week is your hardest week, but have faith because the end is near! Not only are you adding in more running time to your running days with a split of 1:2 (1-minute walk, 2-minute run), you’ll also be tacking on a fourth mile to your Saturday distance run.

We’ve reduced your HIIT sprints down 10 minutes, to compensate for the extra work your body’s doing. Take rest days seriously and focus on replenishing, nourishing, and rejuvenating your body.


You’re so close! This week, your overall run time and distance will decrease, but your running ratio will continue to rise. Keep with the training, and focus on building your stamina. You’ll begin with a 25 minute run on Monday, a 30-minute speed walk on Tuesday, a 30-minute run on Wednesday, a 20-minute HIIT session on Thursday, and a 2.5-mile distance run on Saturday.

As D-Day approaches, you should find yourself able to run for longer periods without stopping, at a pace that doesn’t leave you out of breath. Before your run, make sure to get plenty of rest and liquids. Eat a high energy breakfast about 2 hours prior to your race; oats with dried fruit, a sports bar, or a wholewheat bagel with peanut butter are all great options. Then clear your mind, plug in your headphones, and run!


Did someone say motivation? Girl, we’ve got you. We’re sure you’ve heard of Granny Luces, but does Susanna Joefield ring a bell?

A 20-time marathon runner and member of the TTRC, Susannah only took up running in her 40s. She ran her first 5K in 1998, her first marathon in 1999, and at 65, shows no signs of slowing down.

Safe to say she’s got some great advice for you.



Join Guardian Group and hundreds of race enthusiasts, runners, leisure walkers and fitness buffs on November 25, 2017, for this year’s SHINE 5k and 10k Walk and Run.

With activities, parang, live music, and prizes, SHINE is not just a charity race. It’s a charity fundraiser and workout rolled into one, fun-filled evening. The event begins at 4:25 pm at the Nelson Mandela Park in St. Clair, Port of Spain, and both races run concurrently. Participants are required to check-in from 3:30 pm on the day.

Registration must be done online through RaceRoster, and costs TTD 80 (or USD $12). No credit card? No worries. Simply purchase a ‘promo code’ through select outlets in Trinidad and Tobago (see ‘Register Now’ link below for locations), and use the code to complete your registration online. Registration closes on November 3 in Tobago and November 10 in Trinidad. 

Registration must be done at, and costs TTD 80/USD 12. No credit card? No worries. Simply purchase a ‘promo code’ at any Guardian Group payment outlet in Trinidad and Tobago, and use the code to complete your registration online. Registration closes on November 3rd in Tobago and November 10th in Trinidad. 


Contact Guardian Group via email at or by calling 868-623-9578

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