This summer it might be part of your plan to work on your fitness but the gyms are too crowded, and let’s not beat around the bush here but memberships can get pricey especially if you’re only doing it for show and don’t really plan to ever use it…

Do not fear, for I have the answer! The couch to 5K app is available for free on all devices. A running tool really, it is a ‘nine-week’ programme that might take you that amount of time to complete, but could take much longer. For myself I completed it whilst writing my dissertation so it took a few months extra. The app is a step by step guide to get absolute beginners like myself and the people who I’ve spoken to about their own experiences using the couch to 5K app.

I began the programme in January of last year, pre-Covid. It was my aim to be confident enough by summer to take part in some charity runs as I had lost a friend to cancer the year before and wanted to raise some money (thanks to the pandemic this has not happened – still a goal for me to do though). I found that getting outside in the fresh air, especially at quite a tricky time in my life where I was finishing up at university and being put into lockdown, helped me improve my mental health, just knowing that I was still being productive and managing to get out and enjoy myself for 30 minutes three times a week was manageable for me, and could be for you as well.

Put simply, the first week you start by running for 60 seconds and walking for 90 seconds. This will be repeated seven times. And you do the run three times a week. By week four, you’ll be running for five whole minutes. Week eight has you doing a 28 minute run, and by the final week you’re up to a continued run for a whole 30 minutes.

Don’t believe me? Well listen to Michael, 24 from Ayrshire who has completed the app and now has progressed to running 10K regularly: “I’ve not stopped progressing since using the app. It’s inspired me to keep going that little bit further every time I run.”

If you’d asked me to run continuously for 10K+ this time a couple months ago, I would have slapped you across the face. If you’re looking to start running but think you don’t have the stamina then I’d highly recommend that you try the couch to 5K app. At the start I was I was struggling to run for a solid minute…today I can run for over an hour!

Beki, is still on her couch to 5K journey: “I really like the idea because even people who have no experience with running can have a chance to build it slowly without hurting themselves. I started to run last september but then stopped during winter because of the weather and now I am slowly getting back to it, so it’s a good help. Hopefully I’ll finish it, so far I am very excited.” Keeping you on track for a goal that you can identify and work towards with other people seeing your continued progress, makes it that much easier to keep going until the end and then keep going after that.

Of course the app might not suit everyone. But that’s okay as well. For Ruaridh, it was enough motivation to get him started: “I used the app a few times to get started last summer but after about two weeks I was running 5K happily without it.”

The thing is, with the app, you’re guided on your runs. Celebrity voices are there to tell you when to run, when to walk, they let you know how far through you are. Every so often they’ll give you breathing tips, or how best to put your feet down so they don’t get sore. I chose Sarah Millican as I think she’s so funny, but there’s also Jo Whiley and Sanjeev Kohli as well as the host from the NHS Couch to 5K podcast, Sarah. They aren’t speaking constantly so you can still listen to your music, podcast or radio without being disturbed.

The app is full of supportive tips, on eating, and areas to run in, how to get started and stretches to do before and after. Trust me when I say DO THEM. I was a fool in the beginning, and the cramp was killer. There’s playlists to keep you going if you’re not sure what you want to listen to as well.

The Couch to 5K programme isn’t easy, of course it’s not. But over 700 thousand people have taken part and every single person I’ve spoken to about it has been surprised at their own capabilities. I will tell you right now that I could barely keep up with a one minute run in the beginning but a year on I can still run 5K. At the end of the day its at least something to show off about – “Yes that is right dear, I am a runner now”.

My top three tips items to get you started are:

  1. These headphones are the ones I used as I don’t like the apple style ones when I’m out, I find they fall out my ear. These ones are good value for money as well. And are Bluetooth –

2. For when stretches aren’t enough and you’re having some muscle problems, this is what you need, a massager. This one is quite good as it is lightweight so if you’ve got sore wrists or need to stretch round to your back then it’ll make life a bit easier. This one is a bit more of an investment however so just make sure you make the most of it. –

3. If you’re out running then you might want an armband for holding your phone, this one also has a (small) pouch for your keys and also your bank card can fit in the back as well. Just a simple velcro it always keeps my phone dry if it was raining and stays in place on my arm. –

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