Couch to 5K
Five benenden employees put the NHS running plan through its paces. This free download takes you from total “couch potato” to running for 30 minutes (approx. five kilometres) in just nine weeks, with a series of podcasts via the app. Our guinea-pigs describe their first four-week stint during the run up to Christmas.
Julie Rutherford, 40, Marketing department
Less active since having children, and starting to worry about the impact on her health.
Fitness challenge: to use the brand-new kit she was given for her birthday.
“I literally started from the couch, and it went better than expected! You do so much walking that it's almost like interval training, which was absolutely perfect for a beginner. For me, running was venturing into the unknown, as previously I'd always gone to the gym. That isn't practical now and running seemed the ideal thing to fit in as and when I could. I did initially struggle with the breathing, but when you get into week 2 they tell you to concentrate on your breathing and to count at certain points. That's helped an awful lot and it also takes the focus away from how tired I am. It's very challenging, and I look a wreck by the end of it, but it's certainly easier than it was at the beginning! I will definitely carry on to complete the programme and I'm very much aiming for that 5K. It certainly will feel like an achievement when I get there – but it feels doable.”
Andrew Radi, 41, IT department
Hasn't run for two years due to an ongoing ankle problem but enjoys cycling and swimming.
Fitness challenge: finding time to exercise with such a busy work and home life.
“Despite the cold weather it's a good time to do it, to focus on some balance in this season of eating and drinking a bit more... The running has been painful on my ankles, but because I've been doing it really slowly it's been bearable. I've just got to discipline myself to warm up first – and the five-minute walk at the beginning helps. The first five-minute run is a struggle and my muscles are tight, but by the third run I'm getting into the groove and my stride's a lot longer. I find it hard to run with my phone, so I listen to the podcast first, then run with a stopwatch. I am improving, but I need to find time to do more than one run a week. I'll keep going until I get to 5K as that's my ultimate goal.”
Thom Craigen, 38, benenden charitable trust
Runs on the treadmill at the health club he recently joined with his wife.
Fitness challenge: to run 10K in August to raise money for the trust's 10th birthday.
“I've enjoyed using the podcast but haven't used it religiously because I found my fitness was improving at a slightly different rate to that dictated by the app. Overall I think it's a really good tool to help guide someone starting out for the first time. The podcast is more than just a voice saying 'run now, walk now'. It has advice to help make sure you keep with the programme - like putting your run in the diary – say when you're going, put your running shoes out as a reminder, and stick to it. And get yourself some good running shoes or you'll do yourself some damage! The brilliance of the app is that it uses interval running which allows you to recover and it makes you go faster during the bits when you're running – as your stamina builds up, it makes you a faster runner.”
Laura Foley, 27, Marketing department
Enjoys Crossfit (an intensive fitness programme from the USA).
Fitness challenge: toning up ahead of her wedding.
“I’m quite an active person but have never been a keen runner which is why I wanted to take on this challenge. Whenever there’s a workout at Crossfit involving running, it always fills me with dread. After starting at week 1, I decided to move on to week 4 in order to make it more challenging. The challenge was easier than I expected and definitely more enjoyable! The only thing I'd love it to have is a distance tracker. The running has improved my overall cardio fitness and made some movements at Crossfit easier. The last week of the challenge I was run down with a cold but I was determined to finish the challenge and did 5 lots of exercise that week. I’m carrying on with the running and can say that it doesn’t fill me with dread anymore.”
Sonia Hudson, 41, HR department
Signed up for Couch to 5K together with her partner.
Fitness challenge: getting back into running after 18 months off due to injury.
“Overall it’s been good, as I’m now thinking about exercise more and I’ve joined an iyengar yoga class to complement the running. It was harder than I expected, though. I was running 5K fairly regularly about 14 months ago but stopped due to ill health. I’ve never trained outside in the winter and that caught me out – dark, wet nights and breathing in cold air. I’ve also re-awakened an old injury, so I need to get that sorted before I continue. But I plan to take the Couch to 5K up again depending on my physio’s advice, as I’ve committed to a 10K run in August and that’s my goal. I'm proud that I gave it a go, just annoyed that I injured so quickly and had to stop during week 3.”
To read about how the Couch to 5K plan works, and to find out how to download the free podcasts from iTunes or Google Play, visit the NHS Choices website.
Our keeping active hub will give you more information about different forms of exercise