Mindful Movement – Couch to 5K

Mindful Movement – Couch to 5K

This is my take on three couch to 5k apps for anyone thinking about going for a run.

I never thought I would get any enjoyment from running. In fact, just the thought of it made me cringe. Then I met a friend who was into it and she introduced me to the whole concept of ‘baby steps’. I used to go out with her and she literally ran ‘baby steps’ with me, in other words, putting one foot in front of the other at slightly more than a walking pace. By doing this I found that it wasn’t all bad, I could chat on the way round (result!) and I actually quite enjoyed it. It taught me that it wasn’t about pace or distance. It’s simply about getting out, going slightly faster than a walk, getting my heart rate up and …..well, actually enjoying it!

Eventually, that gave me the confidence to join a running club. Whilst I didn’t mind jogging about on my own, I thought that running with other people might be more fun, and not only that, I do like to chat! Joining the club made me realise that you don’t have to be a typical runner to get out and enjoy running. I simply ran at my own pace, with lots of other people who were at the same level, I met lots of nice people, some of whom are great mates to this day.

I haven’t been running in a while. I like other things more these days. But in my quest to try different things this year and to serve my community by reviewing stuff as I go, I thought I’d try to get back into it by using a couch to 5k programme.

Me out running, well, talking!

Firstly, I’m not going to lie, I’m not finding it easy! But for anyone wanting to try out running or, like me, want to get back into it after a break – these apps are a great choice. If you’re thinking about trying this sort of thing out to increase your movement, remember! Baby steps are key. When we push ourselves too hard, we miss out on the enjoyment, and risk giving in on something that we actually might enjoy. YOU DON’T HAVE TO SUFFER TO IMPROVE YOUR FITNESS AND WELL-BEING! Give it a go on your terms, and if you really don’t like it after a few attempts – MOVE ON TO SOMETHING ELSE! – and give yourself a HUGE pat on the back for trying it!

Before I go further, all these apps do is put you through a plan with varying degrees of support. The basic apps don’t track your distance or map your route, if you want that sort of thing use an app like ‘Runkeeper’ or a Garmin or Fitbit. All of the apps are available on iPhone or Android.


The Apps:

I have trialled 3: C25k, 5K Runner and Couch to 5k 

A massively important factor in selecting this kind of app for me is that it has to be free – why would you pay for something that you could record at home?! Which takes me nicely on to my first choice, 5K runner.

Described as ‘Couch to 5k Runner’ in the app store, 5K runner appears to be a free app. It’s has a basic interface with a pretty picture in the background, a tinny bell and the choice of a male or female voice. It syncs with Apple Health for iPhone users and you can choose to have the coach motivate you 2 or 3 times in the session by selecting in in the settings. The app is an 8 week programme.I went for my first run with this app, and my opinion is, it’s VERY basic. I tuck my iphone away when I’m running because frankly I can’t run/walk and look at my phone at the same time, so I am 100% reliant upon the audible cues to get me going. I wasn’t hugely motivated or impressed by this app. I was even less impressed when I saved my run at the end of the session and up popped a message saying the first 7 days are free and then you have to pay £9.99 to have unlimited access. Er, why would I do that when there are lots of other apps out there for free? So sorry, but this isn’t recommended.

Next up, C25k. I tried this for my second run. The app is free for as long as you like and if you want to track your distance and other metrics you need to pay to upgrade. This programme is an 8 week programme.

It is offered up by Zen labs fitness and comes with links to forums where you can chat to other people about your experiences and it also offers up a little motivational quote when you first open the app which is nice (if you like that sort of thing!!) The interface is really simple again and there is one available voice that is female. You can connect it up to Apple music and Apple Health.

You’re alerted when it’s halfway through, and the voice simply tells you to begin running/walking when the time is right. No other vocal prompts or encouragement.

Overall, this is a straightforward, simple to use, uncomplicated app.

If, like me, you need a bit more than the very basics….something slightly more entertaining or engaging. Then perhaps the next one is for you. I tried my third run with Couch To 5k, also known as One You Couch to 5k. This app is in association with the BBC.

It’s a little bit more fun as you get to pick your trainer from some vaguely well-known characters, including Jo Whiley and Sarah Millican, and the voice recordings provide a little more encouragement. I chose Michael Johnson and he offers up a bit of encouragement along the way which, for me, was needed! The app also asks you how you feel before and after the run, which gets you to tune in a little bit and makes you aware of how you are feeling, even if it is a frowning face from start to finish!!

This program is slightly longer, 9 weeks from to train for the 5k

The coach (in my case Michael Johnson) does a little more talking in this app. He explains what to expect and introduces each section. I can imagine that the intro might be a little annoying after a while, but you can just skip through it once you are in the flow! He also offers up some words of encouragement here and there – I had a tip on breathing exercises today which I thought was a nice touch.

So, for me the One You Couch to 5k is the winner. The C25k programme was ok too, so perhaps give them both a try and see what works for you!