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In roughly 12 weeks I am going on an alpine mountaineering holiday with friends. I'm sure that the fitter I am the more I will enjoy it. I've started doing the couch to 5k program to improve my fitness as I'm told that running is the most time-effective form of exercise.

I'd like to know what, if any, exercise I could do between my running days to gain fitness faster? There is a gym I can use locally, but most CV type exercises involve the legs, rowing or swimming may be alternatives? Is it a good idea or will I just fail to recover?

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I would advise against it, your body needs sufficient rest and trying to rush it only increases your chances of getting injured. Given that C25k is meant to let you workout for only 30 minutes, I don't expect you're in great shape. This means you have even more risk of getting overuse injuries or other discomforts.

I think it would be better to stick to the plan and if you feel like it's going well, increase the loads (like moving to C210k halfway through) so you'll end up doing more each workout, but still getting enough rest. Normally 10 weeks should be sufficient to get finish the C210k program, which would allow you to workout for twice as long :-) If you think you can't do the C210k, just look @md5sum: you don't have to run fast in order to gain fitness!

To prevent injuries you could supplement your workouts with some basic strength exercises, like 2 sets squats, lunges and some other body-weight exercises. However, don't overdo yourself, running already causes enough strain to an untrained body.

Lastly, try to improve your live style. So take the stairs instead of an elevator, take your bike next time you need to do some quick shopping, take a stroll during lunch. Basically anything you can do to be less sedentary will aid you in gaining fitness.

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I'll wait before I've done some more running before I make any claims about my current fitness level ;) but I do have a reasonably active lifestyle. Just hoping to step it up a gear as alpine mountaineering tends to mean long days with decreased amounts of oxygen. Switching to the 10k program is a good idea, I'll consider that in a few weeks once I've got an idea of how well I'm doing. – Stephen Paulger Apr 21 '11 at 10:55
Actually, I think it's a better idea to switch to the 10k program right away, but lower your speed. If you can still talk while 'running', that's the sweet spot you want to be running at. I can almost guarantee that you can keep it up long enough, yet will still improve significantly – Ivo Flipse Apr 21 '11 at 11:21
The c 2 10k apps (for android at least, I don't have an iPhone) and the cool-running beginner 10k program all seem to suggest a base level of running ability, I'll carry on with the c25k for now, perhaps skipping ahead if I feel up to it, until I'm at a point where the established 10k programs are't too much too soon. – Stephen Paulger Apr 21 '11 at 16:12

I found this 9 week basic program:

Personally, I like to switch between HIIT and Weight training - alternating days....I've always felt that some weight program is essential to overall fitness and health. It provides long term improvements in muscle, tendon and bone health as well as long term/post workout calorie burning.

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I agree with including weight training. And if you are mountaineering I expect you will be carrying some load over distance. So strength will be a factor. – Megasaur Apr 22 '11 at 10:05

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