by John BurtonRED BANK – For Red Bank Parks and Recreation Director Charlie Hoffmann, the aim is simple: no matter how sedentary they have been, those who signed up for his running program can start moving and get healthier.“It’s my hope it’ll plant the seed,” in the participants and they’ll continue on this fitness journey, Hoffmann said of his program “Couch Potato to 5K,” which kicked off this week.Hoffmann, who is relatively new to the Red Bank job, has conducted similar programs for about nine years, in Fair Haven, where he had previously worked as rec director, as well as in Manalapan and in South Carolina.His program is along the same lines as a national one called “Girls on the Run” and the idea is pretty simple, Hoffmann maintained—finding people’s comfort level, getting them off the couch and getting them to remain active. “It’s both an action and life enrichment course,” he explained.For the first session on a cold Monday evening this week, 13 participants joined Hoffmann at East Side Park, at the Mechanic Street/Harrison Avenue intersection, where Hoffmann told the group what to expect when they meet on Wednesdays and Mondays, from March through June.After a joke-filled introduction to the group, Hoffmann tells them to “run at a comfortable level and if you need to walk, you walk.” The idea being, he said, to extend the distances over time, “So it’ll be more running than walking,” as time progresses.Ultimately, Hoffmann hopes to have participants shape up sufficiently to be able to take on a 5K run in June.Before they start Hoffmann has them take a deep breath and give a U.S. Marine-style grunt. The grunt is for a reason, but he won’t tell them until later in the training season.Debbie Graf said she joined “Because I am a couch potato…I needed to get in shape.”Along with that, “I wanted to see who was doing it,” and was pleasantly surprised to see a neighbor had joined.Joining her, too, was Graf’s husband, John McCracken, who is already a regular runner, figuring he’d provide moral support as well. McCracken acknowledged he had already run 6 ½ miles after work before joining Graf for this program. “I’ll probably cramp up before I finish here,” he kidded.“The hardest part is done,” Hoffmann told them. “You’re here,” and are starting the program.James Scavone, executive director of Red Bank RiverCenter, the local business coalition, decided to get involved. “I’ve been trying to lose weight for a long time,” and thought getting more exercise would help, he said.The group did a series of stretches and some brief walk-run combinations for short distances for the first outing. Hoffmann reminded everyone that “Running is a little like making love.” He let that sink in before explaining, “You don’t have to be good at it to enjoy it.”“Anyone out of breath? In pain?” he asked afterwards. “That’ll change. It’ll go away,” as the sessions progress, he promised.Claudia Ferreira, a municipal employee, said she regularly exercises but conceded “I do better with a plan.”“It was fun,” she said of the first session and looked forward to continuing.“My real reason is really to get heart healthy and lose weight,” explained Doreen Hoffmann (no relation to Charlie), who also works for the town. She found the session “non-intimidating” and credited Charlie Hoffmann for setting the comforting tone.She’s not interested in being a serious runner but, “I feel however I end, jogging, walking, running,” she noted, “it’s pushing me to obtain a goal.”“My hope is that at some point maybe someone will come back to me and say ‘I’m running in the Boston Marathon,’” Charlie said. “I hope they stick with it.”There is still time to sign up. But that window is closing as the group continues with its twice weekly training, getting in shape, Hoffmann explained.The program costs $30 and participants get a T-shirt, the sessions and “homework” instructing different exercises and other activities members can do between trainings.For more information, call the borough Parks and Recreation Department, 732-530-2782.