Fiona Billings explains why the couch to 5k app is great for helping her get ready for Race for Life
I’m 29. I haven’t run more than about 10 metres in about 15 years. I hated cross country at school, and I could get out of breath going up three flights of stairs at work.
Because I wanted to give something new a go – and prove to myself that I could actually stick with a goal and achieve it. Plus I’d heard of the ‘Couch to 5k’ app, and it sounded like it could work for a running novice like me.
For the uninitiated, the app aims to get you from non-runner to capable of doing 5k in nine weeks. It starts off nice and slowly – trying to ease you in to the unfamiliar notion of pounding the pavement for longer than it takes to run for the bus. There are a number of different apps for this plan on the market, each with a slightly different programme. Mine is called ‘RunDouble’, and in the sessions of the first week you have eight repetitions of 60 seconds of running, interspersed with 90 seconds of walking. Each is preceded and followed by a five minute warm up or cool down walk.
Now I know that to those who have run marathons or 10ks, that might sound ridiculous. You can’t run for more than a minute?! That’s absurd, how will you ever do 5k? And to be honest, that is how I felt after the first session. I was tired, my calves hurt, and I had no idea how I was going to get to the stage where I could run for more than a minute – which at the moment felt like an hour.
For me, what helped the most was that I could see my times getting better with each completed session. By the third run of the first week, I had improved by 50 seconds a mile. By the end of week five, I ran 20 minutes without stopping – something I had never imagined I would be able to do when I started.
I’m ready to admit it hasn’t been easy. Motivation to go out after a long day at work is sometimes a bit lacking, and the colds and coughs of winter have made me sometimes do a week’s worth of sessions over a fortnight. But the thought of being able to join a group of my fellow WI members on the start line on 15 May is something that is always at the back of my mind. I’ve still got three weeks of the programme to go, so I haven’t quite reached the magical 5k yet – but I know I’m a lot closer than I was when I was sitting on the couch at the beginning of the year.