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Running & C25K

In October 2010, I was feeling quite unfit and unhealthy, so was looking for something to motivate me for exercise. I have been through a number of different phases for fitness – namely doing some home video workouts – Body Combat (which I love), ChaLean Xtreme (which I love) and even a little bit of P90X and Insanity (which I love to hate). They are all great, but you do get a bit bored of them after a while. When you have memorised every little joke or inflection in the trainers voice on each video, you know it might be time to move on. I reckon doing each of those for a month each would be great, to keep things a bit fresh. And during winter I probably will revert back to this style of exercise.

But I digress.

I have never enjoyed running long distances. As a youngster I was an OK sprinter but would absolutely hate the torture of running cross country. But being a little older now I thought I would give it another go – armed with some technology for extra motivation ofcourse!

Running Programs

In browsing through some of the offerings for running apps on the iPhone App Store I came across the C25K program – which stands for “Couch to 5k”. C25K is a fantastic program that’s been designed to get just about anyone from the couch to running 5 kilometers or 30 minutes in just 9 weeks. The training program is freely available on the c25K website (metric version here). The program eases the participant into a running longer and longer distances, starting with frequent short bursts of running with recovery walking sessions in between each short run. It slowly builds up your fitness and stamina until your body is ready to attack the longer distances.

iPhone Apps

So I had the running program which would keep me motivated and allow me to achieve goals each week. The next component to assist in my motivation was finding an iPhone app which would complement the running program.

The core features you would want in a running app are:

  • Audio cues for interval alerts (e.g. “Run now for 1 minute”, “Walk now for 2 minutes”)
  • Audio cues for progress alerts (e.g. “Current pace is XX:XX” & “Current distance is XX.XXkm” etc)
  • Map your running path via GPS
  • Split and interval times
  • Calories burned
  • Listen to your own music

Searching the App Store for “C25k” you get a fair few results. The first app I took a look at was “C25k (Couch 2 5K)” by BlueFin Software. It looked and seemed to function well, but I was after something a bit more future-proof which I could use well beyond the C25K 9 week program.

So for general running apps there’s a few big players – all of which are great and would satisfy my requirements. The main ones being “RunKeeper Pro“, “Runmeter” and “Kintetic“. These range from $5-$12 – although RunKeeper Pro is currently free on an extended promotion.

I went with RunKeeper Pro which was pricey sum of $12 at the time – but well worth the money. RunKeeper syncs my workouts to the runkeeper.com website, the GPS works really well & battery life does not suck too badly. It doesn’t have the C25K program built in when you purchase it, but it only takes 5 minutes to setup the program as a set of custom activities. The main advantage being that I can use this beyond the C25K program and for a large variety of other exercise types besides running.

Accessories

The other running related accessories I had to buy were:

  • iPhone Armband
  • Decent running shoes

For the iPhone armband, I ended up getting a Belkin armband from eBay. There’s heaps of armbands out there to choose from – the main things to make sure you get are ones with good moisture control (after all, you don’t want your iPhone to lose its warranty because of sweat), adjustable strap and ease of getting the iPhone in and out quickly.

I spent the first couple of weeks running on grass at the local park and with my standard running shoes. I quickly found I was getting a lot of arch pain as I have quite high arches and tend to roll my foot in. It got to the point where I felt I would need to stop the program. So I went down to Athletes Foot and got a decent pair of running shoes (Brooks Addiction 9) with some extra arch support inserts. The salesperson warned me the pain might get worse before it gets better due to the significant change in arch support and my body needing to get used to it. But the effect for me was immediate – the only pain I felt the first time I ran in the new shoes was the blisters. Fantastic shoes.

I also have found I much prefer running on concrete/footpaths as I find grass to be too uneven. I think the unevenness in the ground was contributing to my arch pain as my feet must have needed to make minor stability adjustments with each step.

Future Plans

So how did I go with the program? Well, I got to the final week of the C25K program and really did fall in love with running during the 9 weeks. I looked forward to getting home from work and going out for a run, it became a routine and one which I really enjoyed. The only thing I didn’t like was running on the really hot days – I really struggled in the heat. But when there’s a nice breeze and the sun is out without being too hot or humid, it was an enjoyable experience.

Unfortunately in the last week of the program, life for very busy with bringing a new puppy home and I didn’t stick to the program in the final week. So I didn’t quite manage to do 30 minutes of continuous running @ a 6 min/km pace. But I did get very very close.

After finishing C25K i did have plans to continue on to the other running plans such as Gateway to 8K (GW28K) and Bridge to 10K (B210K) or One Hour Runner (OHR). Unfortunately, since I didn’t quite commit to the final week of the C25K program so I am not yet ready to take on the next challenge and am actually starting to feel a little unfit and untoned again. So I need to further consolidate on running for 30 minutes without a break, and more importantly increase my pace from ~6:30 mins/km to 6 mins/km. But knowing there are new programs that I can work on in the future is a nice a feeling.

I would wholeheartedly recommend the C25K program to anyone wanting to increase their fitness and lose a bit of weight. The program, paired with some great technology such as the iPhone is a winning combination and certainly converted me from someone who hated running, into someone who (mostly) loves it!