Week 1: Sophie's Couch to 5K diary

Running tips, tricks and insights from a beginner getting to 5K with wearable tech
Week 1: Sophie's Couch to 5K diary

I don't care how positive the expert guides are or how colourful the kit is, the first run is always going to hurt. The first run of the year. The first run of a training plan. The first run since you decided to take up running.

My first run today was all three (kind of) and ... it was actually quite enjoyable.

Before Christmas I had the bright idea for a Couch to 5K with wearables diary. This morning I was groaning at my December enthusiasm. Guides to getting started, like Kieran Alger's excellent guide for Wareable which I've studied closely, are great for listing what you need, what apps to use and what running watches to buy. But if you're reading one of these guides, in the back of your mind is the fact that the writer is a marathon runner, triathlete or an Ironman. I'm not even close to that.

I've been running before, I own running shoes, I have a running playlist on Spotify and have even hit that high where I've been running for twenty minutes and my mind feels all clear and focused. But that was all at least a year ago. And I've never got into a real, long term routine, mainly due to a job with long hours and a three hour round commute getting in the way on weekdays. No more excuses - I now work from home at least twice a week and my commute is half what it used to be.

My prep consisted of finding my forlorn Mizuno Wave Rider 17s, reading Haruki Murakami's genius book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running and setting up a £50 Jawbone UP Move as my first bit of kit. I've been wearing it over Christmas and the basic fitness tracking has been well, a bit disheartening. I haven't exactly been hitting my Move goals, mainly as my exercise prep bizarrely involved sitting around reading a book but also because my parents live in Manchester, Northern England where it's best to hibernate at this time of year.

But today was always going to be the day. I re-read our Couch to 5K guide (reading again, get up Sophie!) then downloaded the official Couch to 5K app from the Google Play Store - it's also on the App Store for iPhone. The £1.30 hurt a little bit as I assumed it would be free but hey, this is investing in my future health. Plus I might save money with a dry January - I haven't decided yet.

Kit on. Shoes on. App ready. But then I had a bit of a setback. I couldn't get the UP Move out of its clip. I've been wearing it clipped at my waist but I'd wanted to pop it in the £12 peach rubbery band to have it round my wrist for the run. I was wasting time so I clipped it back on and later managed to prise the circular main module out.

Still, all the faffing meant I almost forgot to hold down the front of the UP Move to tell it that I was starting my activity. It counts steps and distance automatically. But if you want to enter a workout or run, you choose from the long list to specify the sport, choose effort level (here, easy) and duration. The orange running man symbol lit up and I was good to go.

Figuring out what my button presses meant was a bit hit and miss - I kept seeing the moon symbol. I could have started the session in the lovely UP Move app rather than on the device but I was of course pre-occupied with opening the Couch to 5K app.

I had also found my way outside. I hit 'Go To Workout' on Week 1 Day 1 of the app's nine week challenge and then walked for five minutes as a warm up. This is supposed to be brisk walking, as are the intervals in between, but I did find myself getting a little bored. It's a 30 minute session broken up into walking and running with no more than one minute of jogging at a time. Admittedly towards the end, the walking was a nice relief but I never felt like I was working too hard or out of breath.

I had Spotify playing through my trusty Sennheiser in-ears and the coach's instructions to walk or jog were easily audible. It was just my luck that the tempo of my music never seemed to fit, though. Still, experts say that interval training works wonders for losing weight and I'm pretty sure this counts. I forgot I was wearing the Jawbone tracker the whole time.

After twenty minutes, there was a five minute cooling down walk built in which I used to basically walk home and into my flat. Success! I just ran/walked 3.65km on my first go and I wasn't at all as tomato-faced as usual. Glowing with pride, I spotted a yellow star in the Couch to 5K app for best pace & distance underneath the map of my run (Couch to 5K uses your phone's GPS). OK OK of course it's the best, it's all they have to go on. And of the 3.65km I only actually ran 1.13km. And my walking pace had been tracked but not my average running pace for some reason. But anyway that was 30 minutes of activity under my belt and I was rewarded with some lovely endorphins. I signed in to save my progress as I hadn't been prompted earlier.

Shortly afterwards, I was due to go to lunch and I decided to walk rather than hop on the bus. Moving more really does make you want to move more and I've been in the sloth trap for too long. Sitting around more makes you want to sit around more.

Only when I returned (also on foot) did I check my Jawbone graph and stats for the day, the UP Move having synced with my phone via Bluetooth already. Over 10,000 steps, 104% of the target, 486 calories from active burn so far and 4.69 miles covered. Wait, was it that in K? I am dealing in K now with my Couch to 5K challenge. OK, it's 7.54km in total. Not bad.

The rest of the Week 1 plan involves doing my first 30 minute session two more times which should literally be a walk in the park. I'm tempted to skip to Week 2 but in the long term, it's better to get into the routine to make sure I stay the course. I'll stick with the basic Jawbone UP Move for the next couple of weeks but I'm already itching to get a GPS running watch on my wrist to see how appalling my running pace is and get a tracker, strap or even earphones with heart rate monitoring on board to see how hard I'm working.

So far, I've been an obedient student of the Wareable Couch to 5K plan. I haven't signed up for a race yet, most are 10K or more, and there's a 5K run every weekend in the nearest park to me so that's not really necessary. In nine weeks - or sooner - I'll be running it.

Sophie's Couch to 5K diary

Week 2 - Jawbone UP Move

Week 3 - Microsoft Band

6 Comments

  • maciejtarnowski says:

    Well done for taking up this challenge! Looks like a lot of tech equipment to manage before you get running. Hope it's not too overwhelming.

    • s.charara says:

      Thanks! Not really - playing around with tech and apps will keep me motivated, I'm sure. I achieve nothing without a progress bar/graph/flashing light etc. Are you a runner - any tips?

      • maciejtarnowski says:

        My tip would be to get a heart rate monitor right away and run by heart rate zones, not by pace. Chances are you're running way harder than you think, which is a shortcut to overtraining and injury.

        I'd recommend one with both Bluetooth Smart and Ant+ connectivity, so it works with your smartphone and GPS running watch, when you eventually decide to get one. I believe Wahoo TICKR would be best. Second best would be optical hrm Mio Link, which goes on your forearm rather than around the chest. It should be almost as accurate and does both BLE and Ant+ as well.

        Good luck!

      • maciejtarnowski says:

        Also I believe a good way to stay motivated is sharing your runs on sites like Strava to see your progress and compare how you stack up against othe runners in your area.

  • maciejtarnowski says:

    I believe the brand of the shoes is Mizuno :)

    • s.charara says:

      Oops typo!

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