Starting from Scratch with Couch to 5K
Four months after my fifth metatarsal fracture and some physio, I felt ready to start running again albeit slowly. To keep me in check and avoid going off like a bull in a China shop, I thought it would be sensible of me to follow a programme. I decided to download the Couch to 5k app and get started. I originally planned to start at the beginning of February, but we had snow and ice and the last thing I wanted to do was to fall (again), so I patiently waited for the weather to get better.
The Couch to 5K app gives you a choice of coaches and helps you track your progress. It does not keep a record of your time or allow you to track your weight etc. I use my Garmin which is synced to Strava.
I chose Sarah Milligan to be my coach. I just love her voice and her comedy of course! You can also be coached by celebrities Jo Whiley, Sarah Milligan, Sanjeev Kohli or Michael Johnson. This is the NHS version of the app and I love it!
Choose your trainer
This app has so many things that you can adjust to make it more you. I obviously chose my trainer. The trainer is a positive aspect of the app and keeps you going. They will tell you when to walk and when to run. This allows you to put your phone in your pocket, if you don’t like running with your phone in your hand.
I was really starting from scratch as I had not run in four months and believe me that felt like forever! I tried to keep my fitness level somewhat up, but during this Lockdown 3, I noticed that my weight had crept up somewhat and I was comfort eating more than usual. Now working from home and sitting at the desk from 8am to 5pm, or later (as I am studying) doesn’t help. The app gives you a mixture or running and walking helping you to build up your stamina. I have not run since 25th October 2020, so this is a great way to re-start. This mixture also works for beginner runners and anyone that has not run in a while for whatever reason. Many people also use this method after having a baby (once they are cleared to exercise).
Week 1 – started 14th February 2021 (3 runs in total)
Started with a brisk 5-minute walk. Then alternate 1 minute of running and 1-and-a-half minutes of walking, for a total of 20 minutes.
Week 2 (3 runs in total)
Started with a brisk 5-minute walk. Then alternate 1-and-a-half minutes of running with 2 minutes of walking, for a total of 20 minutes.
Week 3 (3 runs in total)
Started with a brisk 5-minute walk, then 2 repetitions of 1-and-a-half minutes of running, 1-and-a-half minutes of walking, 3 minutes of running and 3 minutes of walking.
You can also play music during your activity. When it is time to slow down, walk or run, the music automatically lowers in volume so that you can hear your trainer. I use Spotify and depending on how I am feeling on the day it can be upbeat like Afrobeats or 90s Slow Jam. I listen to them all. If you are not that fused, Spotify has a range of Couch to 5K playlists for you to choose from.
Rest days are so important and I am making sure that I take at least one rest day between each run. It will help me to avoid further injury and allow the body to rest in working towards being a better and stronger runner. During my rest days, I join in zoom classes with my @strongertogether crew, use @Linqsport app or just rest if I really need to.
Top tips to help you get the most out of your running
Go at your own pace – This is all about you and it is important that you go at your own pace. You are not in competition with anyone else and I thoroughly believe it is about making the most of the process. It is a marathon as they say, not a sprint and you will learn a lot about yourself during the process. Although the app goes from Week 1 to Week 9, it does not mean that you have to complete it within 9 weeks. Take as long as you need. Some people take 6 weeks, others 6 months. This is your journey. Make it count.
Know your goals – Why are you doing this? Who are you doing it for? What would like to see or be able to do on completion? If you want to build your fitness and be able to run further, this is a great start.
Playlist – I love to listen to music when I run. There are many free apps to use. I use the free version of Spotify, which has adverts every 30 minutes, but that does not bother me. If you do not want to hear the adverts, you can pay for the premium version.
Wear the right gear – It is so important to be comfortable during your run and also after your run. Some of the worst feelings are chaffing or sore feet from uncomfortable footwear or clothing. I always used to wonder why people would spend so much money on running trainers. Unbelievably, your feet, arches and ankles are in constant use (even when we are not running) and we really need to take care of them. If you are not sure what trainers will fit you best, you can visit a specialist running shop like Runners Need who can measure your feet and carry out gait analysis. Also think about socks and sports bra! It is all about comfort.