Struggling with achy legs


Hoping for some help with my problem. I've been following the NHS Couch to 5k program on and off. I generally run once a week, sometimes 2 or 3. But I'm generally fit and active, and if I don't go running it's because I have gardening to do, or choose a bike ride instead.

The problem is I'm stuck at week 4. This involves something like walking for 5 mins, running for 3 mins, walking 90 secs, running 5 mins, walking 2 mins, running 3 mins, walking 90 secs, running 5 mins, walking 5 mins. It's that last 5 mins running that I just can't do! My calf muscles ache so much. I'm not too tired, but just in pain. I've tried slowing down a little and it's getting a bit better, but not much. Just before the last 3 min run on my usual route, there's a big hill to climb. The timing works so that I walk up the hill. But then when I start to run, the trouble starts. I'm going to try this along the canal towpath to see if avoiding hills helps, but I'd be glad to hear any other suggestions.

BTW, I'm 47, healthy weight and generally fit and active.

Thanks in advance for your help...Carrie


  • Hi, it could be a number of things, but are you running on your toes? When you walk up the hill, try to stretch your calfs out by ensuring your heel is on the floor with each step. If you are running or walking on your toes then that will put extra strain on the calfs.

    After each section make sure you're stretching the calfs well.

  • Perhaps the problem is that you aren't sticking to the programme?  These things tend to be designed as a progressive step from week to week, building on what has gone before.  You admit you are doing it on and off.  I'm not saying you aren't active, and the bike ride will help your cardiovascular system, but it won't do anything to develop your running legs.  I don't think it is insignificant that it is your legs that ache - not that you can't breathe.    I guess going uphill will exacerbate this.

    Unfortunately pretty much the only thing that will progress your running, is running.  This is one reason injured runners can struggle so much, because it is very difficult to find something that replicates and maintains their running-specific fitness.

    I'm not saying that there might not be something else going on, and stretching like Simon says is a good plan.  But, I think you should perhaps go back a couple of weeks and focus on sticking to the programme and see how you get on.

  • Thanks for the input, folks. I ran along the canal towpath tonight and it was easy! No aches. I do tend to run on my toes up hills, so the stretching is probably a good idea - I'll try it. I love the towpath but it's not so appealing once the dark nights come.

    As for sticking to the programme - I understand what you're saying, but the truth is that there's no way that will happen. I'll never prioritise running over a pressing gardening job! So I think if the stretching doesn't work, I'll have to focus on finder a flatter regular run.

    Anyway, thanks again...Carrie

  • I didn't do a couch to anything I just started running but around week 3 / 4 my legs ached like anything... It's hard work and they are finally being used a lot... I know it sounds hard but try just running through it and accepting some aches if it's not a sharp pain as in a pulled muscle, it's just a general fatigue in the legs then it might be you just need to accept it's there and keep going don't overpush yourself but maybe repeat the previous week, as that will rest them a bit?

  • The hills and lack of a warm up will give you aching calves... I suffer the same problem. If I don't warm up properly I get sore calves... even from just walking!

    It may seem extreme but a hot bath pre-run really helps! If it's a chilly day I have a hot bath first especially if I am running for over an hour...

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