By Malcolm Pascotti
Let’s get one thing straight: runners are made not born. If every race has a finish line, then they must have a start. Getting into running is no different. Every runner has to start at that first mile, one that is less than their best. But here’s the good news: That thing you stare at every other minute (no, not the the mirror, handsome), your phone, can be your running guru and coach, and motivate you to push past that first less-than-fun run, and on to the next one, and the next one, and so on. If you plan on running a Turkey Trot to earn that Thanksgiving feast, or are looking for a PR in your next 5K, the C25K (Couch to 5K) app promises to help you cross that finish line feeling like you’ve been there before. Let’s take a closer look at the C25K app.
How C25K Works
C25K is both a training coach and run tracker available for both iOS and Android designed to help new runners conquer their first race. It can also help seasoned runners build consistent workout habits and snap out of a training rut. The app provides a full 8-week training plan that utilizes interval training to gradually acclimate users to the feeling of running longer distances by mixing running, jogging, and walking in short manageable workouts three times per week. All workouts are well under one-hour and typically average about 35 minutes.
C25K is designed to be used while you run, but can also function by manually inputting your workouts that you complete without your phone. It’s free to download and use, with a “Pro” version available for Apple Watch for $2.99. Upgrading to the “Pro” version will also get rid of the ads in the iPhone version and unlock a few cool little bonus features.
We’ll get into the ads later, but let’s be clear, the free version of the app is fully functional. There are no hidden tricks that force you to pay to unlock the remainder of your training plan half way through, which is refreshing.
When you first open the app, you are shown a few helpful screens that highlight some features of the app as well as some unlockable bonus features in the paid Pro version. Right from the start, the app picks up on the main components necessary for a successful training run: A killer playlist. The app integrates with your favorite music service, including Apple Music, Google Play, Spotify, and Pandora, so you don’t need to jump between apps to change up your tunes on the move.
Another feature to set up before your first session are the notification for training prompts during runs and reminders of scheduled training times. I would highly recommend utilizing all reminders possible. It is like setting ten alarms for a morning when you have a flight to catch in the morning. If you are serious about wanting to improve as a runner, your training should qualify as a can’t-miss meeting. Fortunately, with a C25K’s three session per week schedule, you have the flexibility to work the program around your daily calendar.
All you have to do is run (and walk)
After you get your settings dialed in, you are ready to start training. The first training session is very simple and makes it easy to ease in for anyone capable of jogging for one minute. You begin with a brisk 5-minute walk and then alternate 60 seconds of jogging and 90 seconds of walking for a total of 20 minutes. (You of course can vary your intensity based on your fitness level.) This same style of training continues, increasing in jogging interval durations for four weeks. By Week 5, you will be jogging for two straight miles. The final three weeks mix interval training sessions with set distance runs with time caps. On the final workout of Week 8 you run 5 miles, just shy of the goal 5k distance.
5K is the goal, but not the end…
After completing a 5K, the app links you to download the 10K app, an identical app that uses the same training style catered to getting you to a 10K distance. If the C25K app was a success for you, this would be a clear choice to keep you improving. As you might have guessed, the app maker, Zen Labs, has even more apps that continue all the way to the 26.2-mile marathon distance. They have a dozen or so additional apps that use the same training philosophy for other fitness goals, such as working up to 20 pull-ups.
No app may ever truly be perfect but sometimes one comes damn close. C25K gave us everything we could want and almost nothing we didn’t. The in-app advertisements in the free version are mildly annoying. If you are tapping on the music controls near the bottom of the screen be prepared to deal with a few redirections to advertisers here and there. It may be worth paying the $2.99 to get rid of them.
While I am an avid runner with more than a few 5Ks under my belt, I remember what my first mile felt like and this app would have been a major boost when first starting. Even for the most seasoned runner, following a regimented plan for training can be helpful for gaining a good understanding of your limits and areas where you can improve. In short, C25K is a great app, whether you are looking to get in the saddle or shave a few seconds off your mile time.
Malcolm Pascotti is a writer and photographer. Follow him on Instagram: @sweetteapapi.