Earlier this week, I wrote about my new found love for running. And when I say new, I mean very new, in that I’ve only been doing it for four weeks. Perhaps it’s not as odd as I first thought that I enjoy it as I used to do long distance and cross country running at school. It isn’t like this is the first time I have tried running again though in the 30-ish years since I last donned my trainers properly. It’s just the first time it seems to have stuck.
The reason – running apps – and this whole idea of going from “couch to 5K” in eight weeks. Whilst I know they won’t be for everyone, they have worked for me. There are a lot out there, and I feel like I’ve tried them all, well at least the free ones (because I’m cheap!). Three have stood out and I thought I would share them here for anyone who, like me, needs a little motivation to get out there… (these are all tried and tested on my iPhone but I am assuming they would be similar on android)
My personal favourite is Couch to 5K Runner Pro from a company called Fitness 22. This is free to download but has in-app purchases which start at £2.79 on android and £2.99 in iTunes (I was lucky and downloaded mine on a free deal from iTunes so it might be worth keeping your eye out for that).
I like it because it is easy to use and easy to follow. I know exactly where I am in my running week and the overall eight week programme and what is expected of me on each run. As I’m running I can check in at any time and see a countdown of how much longer I need to go. It has a not-too-annoying voice motivating me during the run, telling me I’m awesome (who doesn’t want to hear that?) and when you are at the half-way point (something you want to hear even more!).
You can get daily inspirations (not that I use these much but they may help others) and can share your progress through Twitter etc., which does help me as I feel once I put something out in the virtual universe I am somewhat obliged to carry on. The app also links with Apple music and Apple health. The music I use, the health I don’t as I already have a Fitbit and there are only so many ways I want to track my progress back to skinny jeans.
Another popular one on iTunes and android, which gets good reviews is C25K Running Trainer. This app is free to use but you can pay for things like removing ads or to access their power playlist, which they say gives you access to perfect tunes for running (which I haven’t used so couldn’t speak to).
It has many of the same features as Couch to 5K in that it gradually builds up your running time with a mix of running and walking. For me, though, the interface wasn’t as good. Sometimes, when I’m running I like to see how far along I am – the further along, the more positive I feel that I am actually going to finish it. It’s no more than a quick glance as I run and, here, it’s not as easy to see because you can’t see what the next step is.
The other thing I wasn’t as keen on was that there is a tone when you have to change from running to walking (or vice-versa) and a voice telling you what to do but there is no motivation. I don’t get told how great I am – and I don’t like that!
I get plenty of motivation on the Public Health England One You Couch to 5K app. This one gives me an extra week to achieve my 5K goal (so nine weeks against eight) and has the added bonus of being completely free (though I am not sure if that is just in the UK as it’s funded by the NHS). You can find it on android and iTunes.
This app has a good interface, which helps track your mood (at the start and end of each run) as well as the runs themselves. Again, there is a mix of running and walking until you end up running for 30 minutes. You can easily see where you are in your run with a quick glance at any point. It doesn’t link to Apple music but you can listen to your own music or the radio and this comes in and out as it tells you what you need to do. The other thing I like is that you can set a reminder for when you want to run again, which makes it harder to think you’ll do a run another day.
What it has that is different to other apps is you get to choose your coach from four real people – Jo Whiley, Sarah Millican, Michael Jordon, or Sanjeev Kholi – who each bring their individual style to telling you what to do. I quite liked this at first, they give you more information that any of the others on how to run, the pace you should run at etc. Until I realised that I didn’t particularly like any of their delivery styles – Sarah Millican was especially hard as she is a comedian who jokes about how she isn’t fit and healthy. I have to say, it put me off a bit. That won’t be the case for everyone though and, given this is completely free, may well be a good place to start for anyone who was where I was four weeks ago (or doesn’t like paying for things if they don’t have to!).
Have you tried any of these apps – what do you think? Or are you inspired to give running a go now, knowing there is a little bit of electronic help out there?