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My Couch to 5K Experience

By RGrant 25 Jan 2021

Like many other people I have attempted to take up running during lockdown, with varying success. As someone who is fairly active (attends the gym 4-5 times a week and swims regularly), I thought running would be easy and so threw myself in at the deep-end by attempting to run a 5K twice a week in the March lockdown. 

By June I found myself suffering an injury which I just wasn’t able to shift, which ultimately put me off running for a few months. By November, even though I was no longer suffering with my injury, I was really lacking motivation to get back into running regularly. Even though I missed the body confidence regular running gave me earlier in the year, I couldn’t forget the dread I used to feel before going out on a run.  

Having recently listened to my first few podcasts, I thought there was no harm in trying Public Health England’s Couch to 5K podcast. The podcast, sponsored by BBC Get Inspired, would guide me through a flexible running programme with the aim of being able to continuously run five kilometres at the end of the programme. The programme could be completed in as little as nine weeks and takes you from being a complete novice to a competent runner, with my choice of motivator providing support and guidance along the way. Which sounded perfect given my complete lack of motivation. 

I have to say prior to starting the programme I was a little sceptical, however I took the first step and downloaded the app. After completing a questionnaire about my current fitness levels and goals and selecting my trainer/motivator, I was ready to head out on my first run. Session one consisted of heading outdoors for a maximum of twenty nine minutes, with only seven minutes of running. The session was to be completed three times in week one, with the option to set myself a reminder to go out for my next run after each session. Although it was tough to motivate myself to head out in the dark mornings or nights, after each one I felt happier and felt a sense of accomplishment. 

As gyms were open when I started this journey, I found myself completing several sessions on a treadmill rather than outdoors. Prior to my first session in the gym environment I was a little apprehensive, as I thought people might get annoyed at me for walking on the treadmill for long periods of time, however that was not the case at all. As I picked quiet times to attend the gym, there were plenty of treadmills for me to choose from and I simply plugged my headphones in, put on my favourite playlist and got on with the day’s session. 

I am now well underway with the programme and so far have found the sessions much easier than I first anticipated. I am now running three times a week and can run for several minutes consecutively without feeling out of breath and don’t come home completely exhausted. In fact, in the intervals I am running much faster than I ever have been previously, as I am building up the distance more gradually. I have made the most out of the running support available within the app, which has provided tips on remaining hydrated, smartwatch guidance and support to improve my technique. In this section you can also find information on the mental and physical benefits of the programme as well as key considerations before you start the programme. 

My experience to date has been hugely positive and I would encourage anyone who is currently considering taking up running, to consider using this free resource as it has provided me the motivation to keep going out week after week. For anyone interested I have provided the link to the app below. For additional motivation or location inspiration you may also want to consider joining  “Robert Gordon University” club on STRAVA, the completive element has really helped get out of bed early and run, on those cold dark mornings. 

Couch to 5K




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