From couch to 10K with wearable tech: Sophie's Diary returns

Running tips, tricks and insights from a beginner getting to 10K with wearable tech
From couch to 10K with wearable tech

I'm living a post-10K life. It's terrific. The streets near to my flat look a little less scary. I own these streets now, I can run 10K around them. The sheer impossibility of my friends running half marathons has half disappeared. It's just what I did this week, twice. And as marathon runner and senior editor James Stables congratulated me, I've done a proper run now. No more of this struggling to get to 3.5K business.

Read this: The best GPS running watches

Just over six months ago, I was stuffing my face with Lindt reindeers, panicking about what I'd let myself in for with the weekly running with wearable tech diary I'd agreed to write. I'd been a lacksadaisical jogger before but never a regular one. I wasn't sure I could run 5K, especially the first couple of times I tried to run for even a couple of minutes at a time.

So how did I get here?

The first 5K is 8.7 times harder than the second 5K

OK, OK that figure is based on a magical algorithm that I'm not at liberty to explain. But what more experienced runners are telling you is true - that first 5K really is the hardest. If you're finding it hard, trust me - I did too. You can read my week by week diary from January to March of this year to see just how hard I found it.

In terms of tech, I used the Couch to 5K app alongside fitness trackers including the Jawbone UP Move and Fitbit Charge HR to get me moving more day to day, accessories like Jabra's Sport Pulse wireless in-ears and Wahoo's Tickr X plus dedicated running tech including Garmin's brilliant Forerunner 620 sports watch. Here's a quick recap if you missed it.

Week 1: Getting started, running kit, Couch to 5K app

Week 2: Generic 'coaching' from the Jawbone UP Move

Week 3: In which I mess up and hate on the Microsoft Band

Week 4: Food tracking and heart zones with TomTom Cardio Runner

Week 5: On stretching, buddies and running in the rain

Week 6: Running 20 minutes straight with Fitbit Charge HR/Wahoo Tickr X

Week 7: In which I realise I'm a seriously slow runner and I'm OK with it

Week 8: Graduating to a Garmin Forerunner 620

Week 9: I run 5K and celebrate with Diana Ross

Making habits, breaking habits, making habits again

Bluetooth headphones for running

You might have noticed that I ran 5K for the first time in this challenge in March and it's now July. To be honest I probably could have run 10K in March or April, I just didn't. Life got in the way, I no longer had a deadline to spur me on and I went out running less and less. I was even finding that I didn't have time to head out running because I was subbing a feature about running watches. So meta, I know.

Until in May I started it up again, spurred on by the idea of doing a three months on piece to my running diary at the beginning of June. The reason I'm telling you this isn't to hammer home the point that I can be very disorganised (I can) but to show that if you do stumble and find that you haven't been running for a few weeks, strap on your tracker or watch and just get going again. I did. Sure you won't have a steady graph but after just two or three runs you'll be back to getting the positive reinforcement of daily and weekly goals. And that's powerful.

The other point is that I experienced some light 'coaching' in my time running with a different wearable each week but never anything to snap me into running three times a week without fail. Maybe your motivation is to shift weight or get fit or de-stress, whatever it is, chances are your wearable and its companion app don't know it. Still, regardless of how sophisticated the tech gets at learning how much progress you are making and giving you pointers, it's up to you to lace up your trainers and get out there every week.

From May until July, I probably ran a maximum of two times a week, so less than I'd been doing for my weekly diary. I ran with the Forerunner 620, until we had to return it, and the Jabra Sport Pulse - for day-to-day tracking I used the Fitbit Charge HR but being a tech writer, I also reviewed a bunch of gadgets during this time including the Xiaomi Mi Band and Asus VivoWatch. If everything synced to Google Fit, that would be great but no, my data is spread about somewhat.

On those runs, I concentrated on going further - I certainly didn't get much faster - and depending on my mood, the time of day and what I had planned for afterwards, I ran between 4K and 8K.

And then I just couldn't get to 10K. My reasons (excuses) included prepping for a BBC appearance that didn't happen, work, an unexpected family visit, work, not wanting to get sweaty as my friends were coming round, work, weddings, work.

Until, our editor-in-chief got fed up of pushing back the couch to 10K feature and my inner goody-two-shoes got the better of me. So the biggest motivation in getting me to 10K has been writing about it, and having a deadline, something my clever old subconscious must have suspected when it leapt forth and volunteered the idea in the first place. You will have your own, maybe a race, maybe a special occasion, hang onto it.

Running 10K

The best fitness wearables for women

So I did it, just when I need to complete the task for work and also just when its function as therapy was perfectly timed. I was stressed and I just wanted to cancel all my plans and run for a long time.

As I mentioned our Forerunner 620 went back and running man Kieran Alger has been testing the Mio heart rate monitor-packing Forerunner 225. So I went back to the old faithful set-up of Moto X, Jabra Sport Pulse and Fitbit Charge HR.

I know from our epic, real world heart rate monitor accuracy test that Fitbit's tech can be out when it comes to tracking bpm, spending only 77% - 82% of the time in the right heart rate zone when compared to a chest strap. But it's still useful for me as I have the data from previous runs to compare it to.

A couple of things happened on the 10K run. I had the foresight to add more tracks to my Spotify running playlist, I'd need them. I ran at night, which is my probably favourite time to run, just around sunset when it's getting cooler and there's less pedestrians to get in my way.

About 22 minutes in, I smashed my phone to smithereens when it fell out of my pocket. Luckily the screen bleed didn't take over till 12 hours later and it held out. It was super distracting, thinking about what I'd have to transfer off the phone and what was in the cloud, and did I have a spare phone, and was I expecting any emergency WhatsApps, not ideal. But it also spurred me on, this was supposed to be a challenge, everything was still being tracked and my music was still playing.

Read this: Training with heart rate zones

I stretched before I started and focused on my breathing and stride but I still really struggled around the 2 - 3K mark which surprised me, I even got a brief stitch at one point. According to the Fitbit and Jabra, I was up at 160 bpm (in the aerobic zone) for a fair portion of the run which seems accurate, I was working hard.

My Fitbit got very excited for me as I was smashing all my steps and distance targets. I got into my stride more than I have done before between around 7K and 9K and really enjoyed being outside, being alone and catching sight the Shard in the distance (hey, it looks good at night). My cool down walk at the end was much more satisfying than I remember it being after 5K.

My getting to 10K with wearable tech tips are pretty much identical to my getting to 5K with wearable tech tips. Stick to one wearable or app unless everything you use syncs up nicely. Get some running earbuds. Find a buddy or track your runs on an app like Strava to get some friendly motivation. If you find yourself struggling, just start up again slowly and tell yourself that you've done it once so you can do it again. Look after your calves, and knees, and ankles, and hips.

Next stop, half marathon?

Head to the new Couch to 10K thread on the Wareable Forum to share your advice, tips or wearable tech running woes.


  • PortaPocketGal says:

    Hi Sophie ~
    Since I see you smashed your phone, perhaps I can help you avoid having it ever fall out of your pocket, again. I too, had something fall out of my pocket some years ago, which was mighty embarrassing and spurred me to create (and patent) a solution. I think you'd find my modular PortaPocket hands-free carrying case system very useful. Pockets in clothes are woefully small considering the size of cell phones these days. And cells are much more than phones...they're our livelihood! Look me up if you'd like to find out more. It works for many other things besides your phone, too. 

    xox, @PortaPocketGal

  • yafizicist says:

    Well done Sophie!

    10k is a good achievement. Are you considering any races?

    And heartily recommend a half, you only need to get up to about 10 miles which will only take a couple of months. And then the world is your oyster.

    • s.charara says:

      thanks so much, not sure about races yet, just going to keep on running 10K, as you said up to 10 miles or so, and then decide where to go from there. 

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