How to Make Your Own Couch to 5K Playlist for Free

So I have seen a lot of requests online that look something like this:

Hey, I like x kind of music and want to do the Couch To 5K.  Can somebody make me a playlist?

Due to the large number of requests, I decided to make a quick tutorial to show how I created mine easily and for free.

The first two things that you’re going to need are audacity which is available for free at http://audacity.sourceforge.net and iTunes which is available for free at http://www.itunes.com. Download and install the latest version of both (this example uses Audacity 1.3 Beta, but should have the same steps), which should be fairly self-explanatory. Once you have them both installed, the fun can start.

The first step once both of the programs are installed is to adjust the iTunes import settings to set the default format of import to .mp3 format. This is important as we’ll see later.  Now, in order to do this, click on Edit/Preferences.

Then select Import Settings which is on the General tab of the preferences.

In the “Import Using” dropdown, select MP3 Encoder. In the “Setting” dropdown, the bitrate is up to you but I personally use “Higher Quality (192 kbps)”.

After this, click OK twice to return to the iTunes main playlist screen.

Now that iTunes is set up to receive new downloads in MP3 format, we need to download a podcast to give you verbal cues on when to run and when to walk. Luckily, Iestyn Lloyd has created just that in the form of a podcast. It is a text-to-speech voice that simply gives you verbal cues each time you need to run or walk. You can find his list of Couch to 5K podcasts here. Find the week that you need and click on the “View in iTunes” link on the right hand side of the table.

This map produce a warning depending on your browser and settings, but allow the link to launch the application. This will bring up iTunes with the Couch to 5K podcast listed from the iTunes Store. Click on the button labelled “Free” on the right-hand side of the week you are wanting to download, which will begin the download. Once it completes, click on Podcasts on the left navigation bar in iTunes to display the podcast. We have one more step in iTunes, which is to convert the podcast to .mp3 format (it defaults to .m4a). Assuming you changed the import settings from the beginning of this tutorial, if you right-click on the podcast, you should have an option for “Create MP3 Version”.

After selecting that option, iTunes will display the progress at the top.

When it completes, there will now be a Week 4 song now listed under “Music” in iTunes. Right-click on the song listing and select Get Info.

The summary tab will appear and at the bottom there should be a “Where” option. Make note of that location as it’s going to be needed soon.

The rest of the work we’re going to be doing is going to be in audacity, adding your own music to the podcast. In the following examples, I’m working with Week 4 as that is the next week I have to work on.

Begin by launching Audacity and closing the “Welcome to Audacity” screen that pops up. Now it’s time to open the podcase using File/Open and navigating to the folder where your file is stored for the verbal cues. (This is the path that you took note of under “Where” in the Get Info option of iTunes.) After you select your file, you’ll receive a converting screen. Simply wait for this to finish and the file will load.

Thanks to the file being only verbal cues, it is easy to see where they come in which is going to make our job of lining up our music very simple.

Now all we have left to do is add our music and create fades so we can clearly hear the verbal cues. In order to do this, select File/Import/Audio and a dialog box will appear for you to select any songs you want to add to your playlist.

As you import, you will probably want to be zoom in and out to see the details of the music for precision editing. Use the zoom options in Audacity to zoom in and out in order to view your project in the same manner the examples below are provided.

After selecting your music, you will have two rows in Audacity: one for the original podcast and another for the song you’ve added.

Now, continue to import all of the songs that you would like to hear during your run.  You can use the time shift tool to move them left to right so you can line up where they start/end.

You can collapse the tracks as you go to have a better view of how the music is lining up without scrolling using the collapse button.

After collapsing the second track:

Once you have all of your music in the project, it’s time to start working on the fades for each run/walk cue. I will be giving a three different examples below for different situations. They are fading out the end of a song at a cue, fading out the middle of a song and fading back in after the cue, and fading out the middle of a song and fading back in the beginning of another.

The easiest scenario is fading out the end of a song that lines up with a verbal cue, meaning the song happens to end at a verbal cue for running or walking, like in the image below.

In order to fade the song out, we will begin by selecting the end of the song track, starting about 5 seconds before the cue.

After selecting the end of the song, select the menu option Effects/Fade Out.

This will give you an effect that shows the audio track fading out leading up to the verbal cue.

That is all for fading out the end of the song. All that needs to be done after that is lining up the next track using the time shift tool as discussed earlier.

The next scenario is fading out a song for a verbal cue and fading back in immediately after.  The simplest way is to use the same tools and options that we have been using. In this case, the music plays completely through the verbal cue.

In order to successfully edit this song to fade out for the verbal cue and fade back in after, begin by selecting the song track starting approximately 5 seconds before the middle of the verbal cue and ending right in the middle of it. Then select the Effects/Fade Out option from the previous example. The track should look like the following afterwards.

You’re halfway there. Now all you need to do is select immediately following the fade out for around 5 seconds and fade back in using Effects/Fade In. The track should then look similar to the following:

This will fade out the music as the voice comes in and fade back in as the verbal cue finishes.

The final scenario is when you want one song to fade out and another to fade in after the cue, which is useful for going from walking to running if you like more upbeat music during the runs and more relaxing music during the walks. To begin, you’ll fade out to the middle of the verbal cue just like the previous example to where the song looks like the following:

Now, all that remains is deleting the rest of the track after the fade which can be done by using the select tool and selecting everything after the fade out, then clicking delete, which will give you the following:

Finally, all you have left is to fade in another track beginning at the point that the previous track ends. Do this by importing another song, lining it up with the previous track, selecting the first 5 seconds or so, and choosing Effects/Fade In. Lining up the tracks is fairly easy as Audacity will display a yellow line across all tracks when you get it lined up correctly. After fading out one track and fading in another, the end result should appear similar to the following image:

That’s it! Using the three previous techniques, it is easy (and more importantly, free) to create your own Couch To 5K playlist using your own music instead of all of the generic podcasts out there with music you might very likely hate.

Once you’re done, just put the song on your MP3 player (you’re on your own with that), and get to running! I’ll see you out there.

7 thoughts on “How to Make Your Own Couch to 5K Playlist for Free

    • Awesome, glad it helped. I just recently finished C25K and the music helped. Just make sure it’s low enough that you can hear cars coming up behind you. I almost learned that the hard way.

  1. Thanks so much! I have such a feeling of accomplishment now.
    My version of Audacity tho wouldn’t let me collapse songs, so it was kind of a pain to line up the fade in and outs. But I did it! Woo Hoo! :)

  2. I’m trying my damnedest to do this, and the Iestyn Lloyd file isn’t available in the US. :( Looks like I’ll have to use my own hideous voice, haha.

    • Hmm, I’m in the U.S. and it was available to me. Not sure why it wouldn’t show for you. I did actually use my own voice when I started the Bridge to 10K as I couldn’t find a voice-only recording for that.

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