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g5frJMbBBack in January I received a call from a producer at ITV interested in turning my Slouch to 10K book into a feature on This Morning. However, they only had 6 weeks on air time to do it in, so I said I would go away and think about what could be achieved in a shorter period of time….and a crazy thought come into my mind.

Is it possible to go from non runner to running a 5K in just 5 weeks?

I never followed a specific 5k training plan when I first started out, I just signed up for some races and just went out as often as I could manage, but I know that many people choose the well known Couch to 5K system to get the started, so I began to do a little big of research on that programme.

Lots of women seemed to struggle around week 5 or 6 though, and there were lots of people repeating weeks and giving up. The advice of gently increasing distance, and intervals of actual running makes sense, but what it seemed to lack was any kind of narrative around the psychology of running, and the barriers that women face when it comes to getting out and changing their habits.

5 Weeks to 5K EbookSo the 5 weeks to 5k concept was born, and I set about writing a different type of running programme that focussed on mindset and creating new habits and wrote an ebook to accompany it which has been very popular on Amazon.

The 3 ITV ladies did amazingly, each of them completing their 5K and more importantly falling in love with the sport, and hundreds of women sent me emails and reviews telling me that the 5 weeks to 5k approach really helped them to finally become a runner. I had created something that really seemed to resonate with beginners and returners to running.

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It was only a matter of time before I knew I had to do something else with the programme, and so in October we trialled an online version of the programme where 68 women worked together with support from myself and one of our TFTR coaches Diane, to see if this programme could be implemented on a virtual basis. Working with an independent researcher we surveyed the ladies right at the start to assess their fitness and other health indicators, and then at the end to see what progress they had made.

Here are our key findings

Five Weeks to 5K has been successful in achieving its core goal: encouraging previously inactive or long-running women2 take positive steps in changing their behaviour.

  • 33% of the cohort were already active when starting, but 77% reported being Active or Very Active at the end of the programme.
  • Only 4% were running for 20 mins at a time, with 44% not running or thinking about running, prior to 5Wto5K, but upon completion, 60% of the cohort are now able to run for more than 10 minutes and up to an hour.
  • For health partners, another key finding is that 60% of the respondents were Very Confident that they would continue running after the programme, with another 25% being Reasonably Confident. We will be able to track this group and asked them whether they are in fact still running three and six months after the completion of the programme.
  • The other striking result relates to the improvement on self-reported levels of body confidence: whereas 73% reported having the lowest levels of body confidence at the beginning of the programme, this had changed to 62% having the highest or higher levels of body confidence. It should be noted that those reporting the highest level was still only a relatively small number (6%) that this is a significant improvement for those individuals.
  • Similarly, the group reported improved levels of happiness, with 68% at the higher levels of happiness, whereas before 50% reported having feelings of depression or being depressed

We know there are elements of the programme in terms of how it could be delivered that could be improved, and from January we will be introducing more professionally shot coaching videos and an additional TFTR assistant coach, but all in all I am really happy with the feedback we got from the group.

The support from the ladies in the group was tremendous

The course was brilliant. Julie set the structure and built a community of supportive and positive people

I loved the support from the rest of the ladies on the programme. I love that it was so much easier to follow them the NHS C25KM

There were of course some ladies that were unable to complete the programme, some got injured, some were unwell, others had family or work issues which meant they were unable to participate fully, but this is to be expected, plus through November we had the worst weather to be running in, so its a wonder they got out at all.

Two of our awesome graduates who met and decided to run their first parkrun together

Two of our awesome graduates who met and decided to run their first parkrun together

We have taken all of the feedback and have revised our thinking on a few things and are just incredibly excited about rolling this programme out further for 2016.

So what’s next?

  1. We will be running these virtual programmes quarterly throughout 2016, you can sign up to the January one here
  2. We hope to test the 5 weeks to 5k programme in geographical locations around the UK using Public Health Funding to improve health outcomes for women
  3. We are investigating options for training up and deploying TFTR coaches so that they can deliver these in their communities

So watch this space.

Please note places are limited on each cohort of the programme, and we already have half the places filled so if you want to take part in the January one please book your space ASAP. Participants will be given access to a closed Facebook Group from January 1st where there will b some pre project activities, and then week one starts on 25th January

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