Couch to 5K

Elissa Herbst, a new runner, is using a Couch to 5K smartphone program to prepare for the Gazelle Girl 5K in April.

courtesy Gazelle Girl • photography by Two Eagles Marcus

Elissa Herbst’s goal of running her first 5K is accompanied by strong will and wit. In her inaugural blog post, she informed readers about her lack of experience running, stating, “I used to be the person who said, ‘If you see me running, you better run too, because someone is chasing me.’” Now, Herbst is determined to achieve her Couch to 5K goal and hopes to inspire others by sharing her story.

Herbst’s Couch to 5K running plan was introduced three years ago when she downloaded the free app to her phone and began introductory training. To her surprise, she was immediately derailed.

“I found out I was pregnant with our second daughter in January 2013 during the first week of my Couch to 5K program,” Herbst laughed. “If I had been a runner all along, I might have continued. But given I hadn’t been doing any running, I was finished before I really even started!”

Fast forward three years, and Herbst’s youngest is now two with a four-year-old sister, creating a busy family life for Herbst, who works full time as the special projects and web coordinator for WOTV 4 Women’s Maranda Where You Live program and WOOD TV 8’s eightWest. Her husband, Bill, also works full time, resulting in little free time in the life of this family of four. Despite the swarm of everyday life, Herbst still had the Couch to 5K app on her phone and decided to try running again.

“I’m just like other working parents who find the biggest obstacle to improving our health is time, time, time,” Herbst said. “That, plus the fact that I don’t have the greatest willpower. I’ve started so many health and fitness programs and finished very few of them.”

She thought to herself, “This time is going to be different.” Motivation and staying on track is the main reason for her blogging efforts on about her experience.

“I’m now accountable to everyone reading the blog, along with everyone who knows me. I’m not doing this alone anymore,” she said. “My goal is being at the starting line of the Gazelle Girl 5K in April and finishing the event!”

Herbst’s Couch to 5K regimen currently has her doing a combination of walking and running three days a week. The eight-week program is designed to take someone who has been fairly inactive to the point where a 5K run/walk is achievable.

“Early in the morning is really the only time I have to train,” Herbst said. “That means I’m setting my alarm for 5:20 a.m. and keeping that alarm set even if one of our daughters decides she wants to spend time with me during the night.”

Herbst’s determination is unfaltering, and in her words, she’s choosing to be tired and keep exercising versus just being tired.

“This time, I’m going to reach the finish line, both physically and figuratively,” she said. “I want to be more active in my life because I know greater activity leads to more energy and better choices.”

Additionally, Herbst knows the correlation between a healthy lifestyle and a healthy family. She and Bill are finding activities to do together that keep them moving.

“Being more aware of the choices we’re making in our leisure time will help us achieve a more active lifestyle over the long term,” she said. “My Couch to 5K effort is the first step in the right direction!”

Thinking about adopting a Couch to 5K goal? Join Herbst on her blog and run with her at the Gazelle Girl 5K in downtown Grand Rapids. For those not interested in using an app, visit to view ten-week 5K training schedules for both beginner and intermediate or advanced participants. Print and post the schedule around your home and office as a reminder to stick with your plan. Begin in mid-February with one of these daily plans to prepare you for the Gazelle Girl 5K on Sunday, April 17. For more information, visit




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