We all do it, at one time or another. We wake up after a night of over-indulgence and decide THIS is the time we are going to get healthy. It doesn’t even have to be a New Year’s thing! But there comes a time when this is easier said than done.
There are, of course, MANY ways to get fit and one of the most popular is the Couch to 5K (C25K) applications that are springing up all over the place on smartphones – and this week we are going to take a look at some of the most popular ones for iPhones.
But first – if it has been a while since you have exercised, or you have had issues with injuries or illness in the past – then here are a few handy suggestions before you start downloading with reckless abandon and begin running away from zombies!
Always check with your doctor before beginning any new exercise regimen to make sure you are medically able to participate. Your doctor can help you determine how much exercise is safe for you. Starting an exercise program that is more strenuous than you are ready for can result in injury and serious medical problems.
In general most people should not need to seek medical guidance before starting a gradual and moderate level of physical activity. But if you can answer YES to any of the below, we strongly recommend a chat with your GP as a start, just to be on the safe side.
Are you aged over 30 and/or have not exercised for a while?
Do you or have you suffered from any medical conditions?
Do you smoke or have you recently given up smoking?
Have you had surgery in the past two years?
Have you got an injury now?
Are you on any prescribed medication?
Have you got any concerns about starting exercise?
How to get started
Luckily for you Britwatch has been on the case, casting our eye on the best the Apple Store had to offer – Britwatch Verdict – Guide to C25K Apps, but before all that – we have a quick guide to what it’s all about.
About the c25K programme
This is not something shiny and new – it has been around since 1996, and was created by Josh Clark – the guy had a passion for running despite the pain it caused him.
“I did it the hard way,” Clark told Withings, in their blog. “I did it with the shin splints and the burning lungs and the boredom and the ‘what am I doing out here?’ feelings.”
Gritting through the pain might work for some determined souls, like Clark, but he realised that pain, fatigue are often off-putting for people before they get to the nirvana state of feeling good, relieving stress and overall happiness.
He started to develop a training schedule to help people ease into running and his guinea pig was his mother!
He continued: “The simple idea behind the Couch to 5K program is bridging that gap between walking to jogging and eventually to running. So much of people’s problems with fitness, and this is true of anything that’s new or challenging, is that our first experiences are often ones of defeat.
“They think ‘This feels bad’ or ‘I’m not able to do this’ or ‘I guess I’m not an athlete. I’m not supposed to use my body,’ and that’s terrible. As with all things, if you can deliver early victories, it helps. When you do the first week of C25K, you think, ‘Oh, I can do this. This is totally within my means.’ ”
Well it worked – Mother Clark ran her first 5K and from its humble beginnings, the original C25K plan has now become one of the most popular starting points to fitness. As we know our very own National Health Service have it on their LiveWell programme of initiatives to encourage the country to exercise.
How fit do I need to be to start this programme?
This programme is designed for the beginners amongst us. If you can walk comfortably for 30 minutes, you can follow this programme without any trouble. The gradual nature of the programme and its consistent application will get you to 5K in the allotted timescale. These do vary with applications but generally you are looking at 8-9 weeks.
Do I need any special equipment to get started?
Don’t splash out on gear. You simply need a pair of running shoes and comfortable, loose clothing. You will want to be uninhibited, whether gently walking or running at full pelt.
How do I warm up before starting?
Most warm-up sessions will include a combination of cardiovascular exercises, stretching and strength drills. The cardiovascular exercises are designed to increase circulation, increase body temperature and bring the heart rate up, while stretching warms the muscles and prepare them for the movements they will be required to carry out during the activity. When you give your body 5 to 10 minutes of a good warm up, through walking or jogging in place for example, you gradually increase blood circulation throughout your muscles, tendons and ligaments. This is much like oiling a squeaky wheel. You give the different aspects of your physiology a chance to prepare to work together. Your heart rate increases gradually. Your muscles warm up to prevent injury. Your ligaments and tendons become more flexible, reducing the chance of tears.
How do I cool down after I’ve finished?
A proper cool-down is as simple as a brief walk to catch your breath. By the time you have caught your breath, your heart rate will have dropped to nearly normal levels. How long it takes for the heart to resume its resting rate is referred to as heart-rate recovery time. In general, people who exercise regularly, and therefore are more likely to have healthier hearts, have faster heart-rate recovery times than people who do not regularly exercise. So after a 100-meter dash an Olympic sprinter would return to a resting heart rate faster than someone who rarely runs.
Can I build up slowly? Repeat a day or week before continuing with the programme?
Absolutely. You are not in a race, your aim is to achieve a level of health and fitness that is important to you. Past experience has shown that for some people, repeating a week is better than forcing themselves to complete the programme in 8 weeks. If it takes you 12 weeks or 16 weeks it does not matter.
I’m really keen can I skip the first week or two?
We strongly advise you start at the beginning and not to skip any part of the programme. Again past experience has shown that “jumping in at the deep end” results in never completing the programme. You must give your body the time it needs to adjust to these changes. Not doing so is counter-productive in the long run.
I don’t feel comfortable running fast, can I go more slowly?
Speed is not everything, pacing yourself is. Being consistent is the key, allowing yourself to run and then walk allows you to progress. It does not matter how slowly you run when starting out, your speed will gradually increase of its own accord the fitter you become.
Treadmill or outdoor running, which one?
This is a matter of personal choice. Some of us like the great outdoors, whilst some of us prefer the great indoors! Some people mix and match, treadmills in winter, park runs in the summer. There is no right or wrong with this, so don’t feel brow-beaten by those who only think running outside counts – remember the aim is to get fit – it does not matter how you get there.
My muscles are sore after running, what can I do?
Muscle pain that shows up a day or two after exercising can affect anyone, regardless of your fitness level. But don’t be put off. This type of muscle stiffness or achiness is normal, doesn’t last long, and is actually a sign of your improving fitness. This is known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). DOMS is often mistakenly believed to be caused by lactic acid build up, rather when muscles are required to work harder than they’re used to, or in a different way, it is believed to cause microscopic damage to the muscle fibres, resulting in muscle soreness or stiffness.
The good news is that the pain will decrease as your muscles get used to the new physical demands being placed upon them.
The soreness is part of an adaptation process that leads to greater stamina and strength as the muscles recover and build. Unless you push yourself hard, you’re unlikely to develop DOMS after your next exercise session.
What if I don’t complete a full run?
Shhh – we won’t tell anyone! Don’t worry, you are in this for the long haul. Take a day or two to rest up and recover and then jump back in.
Do I have to run every day?
Definitely not! Rest days are an integral part of the programme. Your body must have the time it needs to recuperate and repair itself. The rest days are just as important as the running days. You may cause inury or lose motivation. So rest.
I’m a keen runner already, do I have to start with week 1 day 1?
This is the biggest people make, they think that the first week or two is just too easy and want to rush on to the harder weeks. This is completely the wrong approach. There has to be a gradual build up, it is very common for people to rush to start and then find they cannot continue a week later. Their bodies have not had the time to adapt to the change. So follow the programme.
Also if you are already in an established running routine, perhaps looking for 10K programs is the next logical step for you.
I’m not keen on running on my own, where can I find a running buddy?
First thing is to look for local running groups in your area – for example the BBC’s Get Inspired pages Activity Finder is a good place to start looking for running groups and events in your area.
Can I do more than one training programme at a time?
If you will excuse the pun, don’t run before you can walk! Too many programmes all at once tends to result in overall failure. So start just the one programme and see it through to completion. Once you are confident in what you are doing and achieving, you can add in a second training programme, such as strength building. However, we recommend that both programmes are undertaken on the same day, so that you have proper rest days.
So What Next?
Probably the best thing is to get yourself an app, load up your favourite playlist, find your running shoes, dust off your old trackies and get going! Check back soon for our review of C25K Apps.
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