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spicegeek Community Moderator 2,563 posts since
Jan 14, 2007
Currently Being Moderated

Jan 6, 2010 2:38 PM

Notes for people starting C25K for weight loss or to get fit

As January often signals the start of many a fitness / weight loss goal I though this may be a good time to clear up a few misconceptions about running and the C25k plan

1. The C25K is intended to get your body aclimated to the physical demands of running - it is not designed to get you fit or for weight loss


2. The plan has you doing about 20 - 30 mins of cardio 3 times a week - this is not anywhere close to enough to improve your fitness - this is why people continue to struggle with breathing though the program if they do nothing else - their fitness is not improving. To  imrpove your cardio vascular fitness you need to engage in an activity that keeps your heart rate elevated  for at least 40 mins at LEAST 3 times a week - better yet - 1 hour 5 - 6 times a week.


3. To lose 1lb of fat you need burn about 3500 calories - the plan in it`s final week burns about 1000 cals - it will take almost a month to burn off 1lb if all you do is the C25K - this is assuming of course you are not over eating - in which case you`ll just gain slighty less. If you want to lose weight there is not substitute - you HAVE to diet - if you want to keep it off - you have to change your eating  habits.


4. If at the end of 4 weeks on the program you weight more you are NOT gaining muscle - you are eating too much. Yes muscle is denser than fat but it is VERY hard to gain 2 lbs of muscle - so unless you are on a high protien diet and lifting very heavy weights for 2 -3 hours a day - you need to look at you diet. Endurance sports actually cause the body to break down overall muscle - even if your legs get stronger.


5. Running is physically hard - as a activity to take up when trying to get fit / lighter when you have not been active up to this point - it is possibly the worse choice - you body physically can not handle sufficent time / distance to make a decent impact on either goal - ( see points 2 +3 ). You can spend longer biking, using the eliptical and walking - they will help prepare you body to run AND burn more calories.


6. The program is run for time OR distance - few new runners move at a 10 min mile pace - if you run it for time you are likely going to be covering more like 2 - 2.5 miles at the end not 3.


7. Yes you can - and should cross train on non running days ( see point 2 )


8. a good weight training program will be very benifical - hire a personal trainer

NYC Marathon          Nov 1 2009     -   4:03:13 ( 9:17 mm )

NYC Half Marathon   Aug 16 2009   -   1:55:38 ( 8:49 mm )

1 mile -  7:07                             10K     - 52:58 ( 8:32 mm)

4 mile - 31:35 ( 7:53 mm)          8K      - 42:28 ( 8:32 mm)

15K -     1:22:02 ( 8:49 mm)

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  • Cfrizz Rookie 2 posts since
    Jul 28, 2007

    I think this post is overly negative.  While most of it is factually true it could be discouraging to people starting the program and I don't think any of us here want to do that.  What is not acknowledged is what a great START this program gives you and accomplishing this will often lead to the desire to do more activities.  It also does not point out that even if you don't have any weight change your body will change just with the running levels in the program.

    I started this program in late August, 'graduated' in late October.  Since then I have kept up with running every other day (now at 45 min/4mi), have started doing a little cross training on other days and am contemplating getting back into swimming which I haven’t done in 5+ years.  No, I haven’t lost the 15lbs I wanted to BUT I have gotten a TON of favorable comments about how much weight people think I have lost!

    Good luck everyone!!!


  • jenster! Legend 295 posts since
    May 27, 2009



    I dont think Spice's post is negative at all. She's stating facts, not saying that someone can't do it. She's only saying that C25k isn't a weight loss program. It isn't. She offers a lot of good tips for people willing to put in the work. It's a stepping stone to a healthier lifestyle, which you obviously took and have excelled. Congratulations on your progress


    Remember that the post was mainly towards people who are NY resolutioners who are often looking for a quick fix, get discouraged, and end up back on the couch.

    “Promise me you'll always remember: You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think."

    -Christopher Robin to Winnie the Pooh (A.A. Milne)


    My Blog  |  Althlinks Profile

    Fall Schedule:

    9/17 Asheville Half

    10/16 Nike Women's Marathon

    11/20 Philly Marathon

  • Maple Leaf 28 Rookie 6 posts since
    Dec 14, 2007

    spicegeek wrote:



    5. Running is physically hard - as a activity to take up when trying to get fit / lighter when you have not been active up to this point - it is possibly the worse choice - you body physically can not handle sufficent time / distance to make a decent impact on either goal - ( see points 2 +3 ). You can spend longer biking, using the eliptical and walking - they will help prepare you body to run AND burn more calories.


    I could not disagree more with this reason.  It is quite the ego-boost to go from running 8 1-minute increments in Week 1, to running 30 continuous minutes nine weeks later, especially as a novice runner (aka "couch potato").  And I think this eventually leads to weight loss as discussed below.


    And as you stated initially in your post, the C25K acclimates your body to run.  After the nine weeks, I would imagine most graduates of the program begin to run either longer distances or more frequently because they see that they can accomplish a goal that nine weeks earlier seemed almost impossible.  It is then that the fitness/weight-loss results of running begin to show.


    Most of us realize it took longer than nine weeks for us to gain our extra weight and we don't expect to burn it all off in nine weeks.


    Additionally, a book I read for beginning runners by Amby Burfoot (collegiate distance runner/marathon runner) told his readers to start running THAT DAY.


    Although you may not have meant to do this, your post was overly negative and preachy, and could have the effect of discouraging people who are looking to improve their lives from attempting the C25K program.  Though you give good advice about cross and weight training, you also seem to make strange generalizations that people struggle with their breathing throughout the program and gain weight around week 4 of this program.  Not sure where this came from.


    Although the program itself will probably not help in weight loss/fitness, it provides a damn fine base to accomplish those goals, which I know is your ultimate goal for people reading the post.

  • _Miles Pro 147 posts since
    Jul 26, 2009

    Great post and great advice as always Spice. I started C25K in July and graduated in October. I think in that whole time, at best, I lost maybe 2 lbs. Part of the time I was dieting. But like you said, it's too easy to overcompensate with food. Versus other kinds of exercise (say cycling), even though you can burn as many calories as running I think there's a mental tendency to not feel like you're working as hard and therefore not overcompensate by eating too much.


    I think Spice's post is not "preachy" or discouraging. You have to run because you want to run. If weight loss is your primary goal, you definitely should take up something else. I lost more weight from a stomach flu than I did from a whole summer of running. My pace got slowed down over the holidays to the point where I'm running 30 minutes three times a week now (just starting OHR) but am only making about 2 miles a day. I don't think a weekly mileage of 6 miles is going to result in any weight loss for me. I will try to cross-train because I think that's brilliant, but the running is something you have to do for its own sake. I hope to be jogging 4 miles instead of 2 in another 10-12 weeks from now, and that's the best I can hope for. I see too many posts on this board asking about weight loss and thinking it is achievable when likely you might spend a good solid year of running before you might see weight loss from the running itself and that's what people need to realize. Perhaps at a very high-mileage and consistent half-marathon or marathon training you might be burning enough excess calories that will allow you some maintenance but cross training and good diet are always going to be the pillars of weight loss.

    C25k Completed 08/19/11

    OHR Completed 10/23/11

    5k 09/24/11: 39:10

    2011: 280 miles, ~14:00 mm avg

    2012: 321.2 miles (so far)

  • biggears1848 Rookie 1 posts since
    Jun 4, 2008

    So, your premise is based on physiology.  I find your post not only negative, but aggressively so.


    C25k is designed to encourage a healthy lifestyle. It works.


    Two quick aneccdotes:


    1. My buddy, who had never run in his life and had gained some 'middle age spread' tried the program. He graduated 21 lbs lighter and is now doing consistant 9 minute miles.  For him, this is miraculous!  He's thrilled...and is now starting to think of himself as a runner. He didn't go on a big diet and didn't do all of the wacky stuff you suggest...he simply became more aware of his body.  The realization that whatever he put in his mouth today, he would be carrying around on his run tomorrow, changed him.


    2. Inspired by her 'uncle', my 9 year old, flat footed, overweight daughter, made the decision to try C25k. After 2 weeks of the program, she is 5 lbs lighter and more importantly, is starting to think of herself as a 'runner'.  For her, this program is a athletics, to health and to a whole different life.  She moves differently today.  She thinks of herself differently today. She thinks of her future differently today.  Grace, Confidence and Hope. That's what this program has given far!


    Your post, with its' "it won't work" attitude, only strives make the world a harder, uglier and less hopeful place.

  • bbqbrad Rookie 4 posts since
    Jan 6, 2010

    I've agree with those that are saying this is a negative post.


    Are you nutritionists or trainers?


    I started the c25k last June and graduated.  I had never been active in my entire life.  I followed the program to a "T".  The program says to do nothing overly active on the rest days.  I keep on reading how Cross is good on the days off... I have to disagree.


    After I was done with the C25k  I know for a fact that I was more "fit" than when I had started.  I had also shed a few pounds too.


    I've since completed the 8k program and are halfway through the 15k program.  I'm more "fit" by running.....


    Yes, what you eat is important too.  


    To tell someone else to "take up something else" is utterly ridiculous and horrible advice.  There is no need to post something like this on a beginners running board. This is a place for motivation.




  • rbird Legend 1,073 posts since
    Dec 14, 2007

    Running can get you fit.


    Running can complement a diet to help you lose weight.


    C25k is a great introduction to running.


    Can you achieve your weight loss or fitness goals solely by attempting to complete c25k?  It’s very unlikely.


    It is hard to argue any of the facts in spicegeek’s post, but I think it was negative too.  I cringed at the comment that running was the worst choice.


    My path to losing weight (50 pounds) and getting fit started with c25k and I have read many personal stories in this forum that are identical to my experience.  It was hard, at times it was painful, but it was also incredibly rewarding.


    Are their easier choices?  Probably, but the worst choice is to stay on the couch.  Anyone who even attempts this first step towards improving their life should be encouraged.

    2010 Space Coast Marathon 4:27:39

    2011 Charleston Marathon 4:25:58

    2011 Croom Fools Run 50k 6:16:51

    2011 Marine Corps Marathon 4:24:48

    2011 Jacksonville Bank Marathon 4:44:12 (4:45 Pace Leader)

    2012 Florida Keys Ragnar Relay 28:20:47 (3rd place-Mixed Ultra)

    Check it out - I'm bloggin'!

  • wannabearunner2 Rookie 1 posts since
    Jan 3, 2010

    One thing that people should remember before starting the program is that it is recommended that you be able to walk at a nice pace for 30 mins before starting the C25k program. Once you can walk 30 mins at a decent pace. You should then start the C25K.  It took me several months walking to get to that point .

  • 1035Howe Rookie 1 posts since
    Dec 6, 2009

    Thanks for updating the information on your personal struggle.


    Most people will look at the first post and think "fitness expert," which kind of implys no huge hurdles, no

    large areas of personal change needed.


    And, I appreciate the observations that C25K is part of the whole package, and there is a certain way to approach

    "starting running," versus getting fit.


    For me, the C25K was a goal and a step of instructions to "bring me back," and I used to run heavily several years

    ago (okay almost 5), but then I fell off the wagon and the body needs to be reminded of the way it feels to run.


    For the weight loss issue, I think it should be said that even if you are running 3 miles a day, one has to watch calories

    if you want to loose even an average amount of weight 3-4 lbs. I actually had a friend who trained for a marathon, and only

    lost about 10 lbs throughout the entire length of her training cycle. My point being, that the body adapts and conserves fat,

    if it feels like it is being "starved."


    So, again, thanks for the balanced discussion about all the recommendations you made (and yes, I did get a trainer) as

    well as pushing through some of the other points, like extra and different cross-training, weights and diet.


    Look forward to graduating to be able to mark my progress.


    BTW, I already have my next goal which is to run a 1/2 Marathon (and then maybe even a marathon).

  • Bauer05 Amateur 35 posts since
    Nov 28, 2009

    Wow...not really sure how to feel about this post.  I have found nothing but motivation here and have been really proud of how far I have come, only to read this and think 'what's the point'?!?  To be told that this will not make me fit was a real wake-up call because if I am able to run a 5K when at one point I could not run more than 60 seconds, does that not make me a fitter person?  It's like telling me that in the end I will be no better off.  I am starting Week 5 tomorrow and will continue to get up off the couch and work this program because it is what I need and feel that I can be successful at it without hiring a personal trainer, I hope others that are doing the C25K and are as far as I am keep going and not be discouraged...YOU CAN DO IT!!! Tam

  • tatiper Pro 84 posts since
    Oct 21, 2009

    I guess anything that motivates a 50+lb person to get off the couch and start exercising is a good thing in and of itself...


    That said, there is no arguing with the actual facts in Spice's post. Running is really hard for novices, at least it was extremely hard for me and I was only about 10 pounds overweight. My husband is obese, and he couldn't get through week 1. Obviously, if your goal is weight loss, you should do an activity that you are capable of maintaining for as long as you need for your calorie deficit goal. If you want to lose a pound per week, you need to create a caloric deficit of 3500 calories, there is no arguing with that. How many calories can a novice burn per week while doing the c25k? It depends on your size, of course. For me, a petite woman at 130lb (at the start) I could barely burn 90 calories per mile at my pace, which translates into only ~675 calories per week by week 9 (I was running for time, not distance). By that rate, it would take me over 5 weeks to lose 1 pound, and that is if I didn't overeat.


    So, looking at the numbers and facts, there is no doubt that simply graduating c25k is not going to bring about the weight loss some people here are hoping for. However, there are some other points I think should be kept in mind. The psychologic benefits of cardio exercise 3 times a week, even if it's just 30min at a time, are absolutely huge. Just the fact that you're outside, feeling the sun in your skin, and breathing hard is enough to help with symptoms of depression, help you sleep better, and really give you an energy boost. That may translate into less hunger, less need to snack inappropriately, less need to drink alcohol, etc. In my case, running brought me a new way to start the day, put a smile in my face, and took away all desire to eat fried foods, sugary treats, and even drink beer.


    The other point, which I think is the most important, is that c25k is challenging but it is doable, even for a sedentary, overweight person. After graduating, this person can then build on his or her new ability to run for 30 minutes and start running longer, more often. The program is a base, and it is a base that will help people feel stronger, fitter, and capable of achieving other long-term goals. Weight loss should never be approached with a "quick fix" mentality. If a new runner wants to follow the program with the goal of being 20 pounds lighter at the end of 9 weeks, forget it! An overweight person has to think in terms of a change in lifestyle, forever. That's why I am so opposed to the idea of dieting (i.e. counting calories, going no-carb, etc). Most people cannot stick to a restrictive diet for the rest of their lives. I think it is more productive to advise them to change their habits slowly, building new, healthier habits to replace the destructive ones. Instead of a complete immersion in a new diet and 1 hour of exhausting exercise 6 days a week, it is probably more beneficial to advise them to cut their alcohol consumption by half, start with the c25k program, and see if they can substitute the high sugar dessert for a fruit (or the french fries with a salad) to begin with. As people are successful with the initial, "easy" nutritional changes and progress towards the challenging goal of completing the c25k program, their confidence will grow, they will start feeling healthier and other changes might follow.


    Even if an obese person cannot reach their goal weight, simply losing 10 pounds will add years to their lives and improve blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and give their heart a much needed break. The all or nothing attitude is much more dangerous than people realize. Someone who's horribly out of shape and overweight may read this post and think that there's no point in beginning this program if it won't cause them to lose weight anyway. What's the point? I know I probably wouldn't have started if I thought about it carefully and did some math before day 1. But I guess my self-delusion paid off in the end. With small changes in my daily diet such as cutting off beer (I still drink wine in moderation), not eating dessert, switching to 1% milk, saying no to fried foods, choosing healthier options when I do go to restaurants and always bringing home some left-overs, I was able to lose 7 pounds in 4 months. That may seem like a very small amount of weight loss, but keep in mind that I was small to begin with and I don't burn as many calories as most people while doing the same activities.


    Most of all, after graduating c25k I worked on improving my endurance by working up to running the full length of the 5K and I have now started to train for a 10K following a schedule that has me running 4 times a week. I can now run more than 4 miles at a time and my 5K speed has gone from 36 to ~32 minutes. Although I am sick at the moment (sinus infection, nothing related to running), I am confident I will keep improving my running distance and my overall health as soon as I'm ready to go back to running. If I lose weight, that will be a bonus.


    Bottom line, if you are overweight and your new year's resolution involves c25k, go for it! Be aware that weight loss is simply a numbers game and try to limit the amount of empty calories you consume while eating more fresh foods, whole grains, and water. Keep in mind that a lifestyle change means you need to build healthy habits that you can maintain for the rest of your life, so don't expert dramatic weight loss, ever. Maybe revising your new year's resolution from "losing weight" to "lowering my blood pressure", "running for 15 minutes without stopping," or "lowering my resting heart rate" will give you a healthier goal to keep you motivated. But more than anything else, keep in mind that a tiny improvement in fitness is infinitely better than no improvement at all (i.e. another year on the couch).

    1st Annual 1st Run 5K (01/01/2010): 31:34

    Beverly Reindeer Run 5K (12/05/2009): 31:52

    Feaster Five 5K (11/26/2009): 34:53

    C25K graduation run 11/11/2009

  • BioChick Amateur 34 posts since
    Jul 29, 2009

    I mostly agree with Spice's post.  It's part tough-love, part experience and part factual.  I agree that 20-30 minutes of cardio 3x a week is not enough for someone who has been exercising for a while.  However, this may be sufficient for someone who has not exercised in years, who is significantly overweight or who has never exercised.  As with any exercise program, it's best to start out slow, especially for people who are out of shape/overweight.  I disagree with the weight loss part...yes, you have to burn 3500 calories to lose one pound of fat.  However, the bigger you are, the higher your basal metabolic rate is and the more likely you are to burn more calories in 20 minutes than someone who is significantly lighter.  In other words, larger people burn more calories at rest because their body is bigger and demands more.  However, the reason these people continue to gain or stay overweight is because they are not changing their eating habits.  If someone's BMR (basal metabolic rate) is 2500-3000 calories per day, this will be completely negated by their bad eating choices (fast food, pop, fatty meats, cheese, etc.).  So, for someone who is overweight, starting with the C25K is a great idea, no matter what.  It's best for someone in that situation to start off slow so they don't get discouraged and quit.  Then, maybe after a few weeks on the program, or after they've graduated, throw in some strength training (after their body has adjusted to exercise).


    Bottom line is some exercise is 1000 times better than no exercise and people starting this program who are overweight absolutely have to realize that losing weight the healthy way (a couple pounds a week) is a slow process.  It likely took them a long time to gain the weight and it's going to take just as long, if not longer to lose it.  Staying motivated is very important as well.  And, changing eating habits is a health lifestyle is just that...a lifestyle.  It requires a lifestyle change including diet, activity levels, and emotional/mental/attitude adjustments.


    I hope everybody with new year's resolutions to lose weight can stick with them.  I know it's my resolution and I am determined to stick with it.  I know exactly what it takes, and I do not try to tell myself otherwise.  Ideally, I'd like to lose 40-50lbs to get back into the shape I was in high school (3 sport varsity athlete).  I also realize that I will never be a body is just not built that way.  When I was in shape, I had powerful legs/lower body and had a little bit of a gut, not near what I have now, but just a little soft in the middle.  I have realistic expectations for myself though and I think most people starting out to lose a bunch of weight don't.  And this is part of the reason they fail.  They quit because they do not see results after a week.  It just does not happen this way!  I don't expect to lose all the weight I'd like to lose for at least a year.  It took about 5-6 years to put it on and it's not going to come off easy, but I'm making my best effort, which is all I can do.

    Follow my journey to fitness and a healthier lifestyle....

  • Marykb Legend 1,347 posts since
    Jan 16, 2008

    My own version of what Spicegeek has already said would go something like this:


    1.  This is a lifestyle change you are making - not a quick fix or a temporary solution as in "I'll run to lose the weight and then I'm done".  Running is a lifestyle that becomes part of your day to day routine.  For that to happen, it has to be something you love.  If you hate running, then this isn't for you!  That is the blunt way to put it - running really isn't for everyone.  You probably won't "learn to love it".  I'm not saying this to be an elitist, because heaven knows I am a middling runner at best, but I do love it and that is why I run week in and week out all year long...heat/cold/rain/snow, it doesn't matter.  You won't do that if you don't love it, trust me.  And if running isn't for you, you're not a "failure".  Find your bliss and pursue it whether its biking, swimming, tennis or whatever you will love doing day in and day out.  Running isn't the magic bullet for weight loss by any means.


    2.  START OUT BY WALKING!  I can't stress this enough.  And I am talking to the majority of people who come on here saying, "I'm 50 (or more) pounds overweight and out of shape.  I have never run in my life.  How do I start running/doing C25K?"  The answer, which you may not want to hear, is to start walking.  I am not well versed enough in the technical aspects of physiology to explain this in scientific terms (Spicegeek probably has the advantage over me on this!) but I only know that you need to condition your muscles, joints and tendons AS WELL AS your cardiovascular system.  Your CV system will probably cry uncle before your legs do, which is why we hear so many folks come on here and ask "why can't I breathe when I run?"  You gasp for breath while running because your CV system hasn't been conditioned for it.   Your heart and lungs need conditioning to efficiently deliver oxygen to your tissues during high intensity exercise.  You simply cannot rush the processs, but you must accept that it takes time to go from sedentary and overweight to fit and able to run a few miles at a time.  Walking is the perfect pre-conditioning exercise before you begin to run.  Walking BRISKLY will not only condition your body for running, but it will help to start shedding those pounds.  If you are significantly overweight (50 lbs or more) then walking briskly along with a controlled diet will work better for you at losing weight than trying to do a running regimen that you can only do 20 minutes or so at a time.  You can walk much longer than you can run and that is the key to conditioning and weight loss.  The higher intensity of running is NOT NECESSARY for weight loss at this point.  If you segue into running, it should because you love running in and of itself...there is really no other reason to run!


    (I expect to hear some disagreement about that last statement, but I firmly stand behind it!)


    3.  You need to know this:  Running Isn't Easy.  It doesn't get "easier", per se, but if you become a runner you will adapt to the stresses of running and become more efficient at it.  It is always going to be challenging - if it isn't challenging then you aren't doing it right.  The key is that you embrace the challenge.  I bring this up because another common question from the newbies is "when does this get easier?".  If you are looking for an "easy" way to get in shape, then keep looking, because this isn't it!  If you are prepared to ride out the rough patches of getting into shape and then continuing to meet the ongoing challenges of running day to day, then hop on board.   The rewards are great both mentally and physically.

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