Thursday, 12 June 2014

Fitness Thursday - Running with the Couch to 10k App

Way back in October I decided to set myself the challenge of running a 5 mile race for a charity that's very close to my heart (more on that another day). The race was listed for 23rd December and so I downloaded the Couch to 10k app, which is free, and got myself a decent pair of running shoes.

Along the way I added some running clothes (all bought from Asda - yay for nice workout gear that's not too spendy!) and a nice water bottle from Sports Direct. I even took my running gear on my holiday to Kos in late October. Unfortunately a horrible ankle sprain in early December meant I couldn't race (my entire foot and ankle went black. Eurgh!) so in January when it felt steady again, I started back up with my app and on 23rd March 2013 I ran 10km for the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign in 1 hour and 15 minutes.

I was and still am, so proud of myself and my lovely friend who ran with me. It was a huge effort as I'm not the fittest person and I've never been one for running before. I raised just over £750, which was amazing as well. Unfortunately I've not stuck to my running as well as I should have but I've been twice so far this week so fingers crossed I stick with it!

I'm getting a little sidetracked here though because the reason for writing this post was to review the app I used!

I downloaded the Couch to 10k app by Zen Labs. Its a free app although there is the option of a paid for app with more features and less adverts but to be honest this version works just fine for me.

It works you up from a non-runner to running 10km over the course of 14 weeks, with you running three times a week. They recommend you don't run on consecutive days and I would agree with that - its too much for someone who is just starting running, your legs will not thank you for it at all.

For each session it gives you a 5 minute counter to do a warm up walk and a 5 minute cool down walk at the end.

Week 1 has you running for 1 minute and then walking for 1 minute 30 seconds and so on for 20 minutes. Each week the intervals you run for get longer and the walking in between varies. You can have it set to beep, vibrate or talk (or all 3!) to indicate each interval. You can play your own playlists of music through the app as well - I quickly decided to set up a specific 'running' playlist as some good tunes helps keep the legs going when they're tired!

I must admit I always find the first run on each new week hard, the second one harder but by the third my legs seem to have caught up with the idea and I tend to run my best pace on those days.

I run the Couch to 10k app alongside Runkeeper, which is a free app from the same people as My Fitness Pal, which I reviewed here (handily the two are compatible so any running I track, automatically gets tracked in my calorie counter section of MFP!). Runkeeper tracks your pace, where you've gone, distance and calories burned. I have it set to tell me these details every 5 minutes as well - again this can help spur you on when you're getting a bit knackered.

The Couch to 10k app really worked for me and pushed me to actually get into a routine and achieve my goal. I didn't have the full 14 weeks in which to do it, I think I did 12 weeks in the end so skipped a bit but I saw my body shape change so much in that time.

The other thing to come out of it which I never EVER thought I would say is that I actually really love running. Honestly. I love it. I went out yesterday morning at 6.30am to run and it was just beautiful - sun shining but it was still nice and cool , music on, nothing to think or worry about except keeping my legs moving. Love it.

Have you tried the Couch to 10k app or Runkeeper? Are there any other apps you use to workout?

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