Week 5: Sophie's Couch to 5K diary

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

I've battled wind, rain and achey calves to bring you this week's Couch to 5K diary.

But here it is, featuring more step counting, walking and jogging, heart rate tracking and my first thoughts on Fitbit's latest tracker before our ed-in-chief Paul Lamkin's full Charge HR review goes live next week. That got your attention.

Essential reading: Best fitness trackers

The app continues to remind me how much my life should be changing for the better. But to be honest things haven't changed too much apart from the fact it's just nice to get out of my flat with no place I need to be. I'm not sure my general fitness has improved yet but I still have hope that it will by Week 9.

Change your life?

Oh and remember my surprise burst of MyFitnessPal tracking in Week 4? Well as expected, that didn't last forever - I've been to a couple of lovely restaurants in the last seven days which made it tricky to get every single ingredient in. No barcodes to scan for a start.

There was also an incident involving one of my friends making a very indulgent carb-on-carb dish of pizza with a side of mac and cheese for dinner. Yes. I had no choice but to eat it, anything else would have been rude to my hostess Ash. Same goes for the salted caramel ice cream for dessert. I did actually enter all that into the app and it wasn't as bad as it could have been (soup for lunch) but still, next week is a new week.

There's no doubt though that on balance, I've eaten a hell of a lot healthier in January than I did in December - easy, I know, but helpful nonetheless in keeping me running.

Twenty minutes straight

I'm getting towards the business end of my Couch to 5K challenge now - there's still plenty of walking thrown into the mix but there's less switching between the two. That means less breaks. More huffing and puffing. For instance, Week 5 Day 2 was jogging eight minutes then walking five minutes then another eight minute jog. And the next session (Day 3, I'm a bit behind) I have to complete is a bit of a biggie - twenty minutes with no intervals.

I'm obviously a bit scared about this and I even skipped back and forth on the app's log to check there wasn't some horrible mistake. Eight minutes in one go to twenty minutes? Seems pretty steep to me. Turns out that next week I get intervals again, phew. Still. Wish me luck.

For the past week I've been wearing the Fitbit Charge HR as unlike the Cardio Runner, this is meant to be a 24/7 fitness tracker. Fitbit has one of my favourite apps, the measurements from steps to distance to stairs/floors climbed and now heart rate are all displayed in a clean, friendly daily page with targets included. Then each of these can be clicked on to get graphs to show progress, or lack of. Again, though, as with Jawbone, another of my favourite of these fitness apps, there's very little in the way of meaningful coaching for now.

First week with the Charge HR

The £120 tracker is light and comfortable with a nice texture to the band and a strap to secure the fit. It's an odd mix - tiny screen, slim smartband form factor and a stainless steel buckle - our unit is a subtle black but it also comes in purple, blue and orange.

I actually found the screen quite tricky to read when I was out running, day to day glancing down at it is fine but in direct sunlight (in February, I know) it wasn't ideal - a bigger display like the TomTom Cardio Runner or even the Microsoft Band is easier. There's one small button on the left hand side to cycle through your stats, press and hold this to start the stopwatch. There's also the ability to start an 'exercise' in the Fitbit app so I had time and distance tracked in two apps.

The real draw is the continuous heart rate monitoring and while I was out jogging, it seemed to be on the money dropping from in the 160s when I was in the zone, so to speak, down 20 points within seconds when I stopped to tie my shoelace. That said, it seemed to be way out for my resting rate compared to rival trackers. I'm looking forward to seeing how Paul got on in his in-depth Fitbit Charge HR review. And I know I've been promising to compare these wrist-based heart rate monitoring bands and watches to a strap but I've had to push that back - my Moto X doesn't support ANT+ but I'm on the case.

The Charge HR is a nice first tracker for beginners, it's water-resistant plus battery life is a decent five days - I haven't charged it once yet and the charger, while annoyingly proprietary, isn't too much of a faff. The main draw though is the app - specific targets, nicely presented data. As I did with the UP Move, I'm going to stick with the Fitbit a little longer, alongside other trackers and watches, to see how much it motivates me when I'm not out on my Couch to 5K jogs.

Rain, stretching and buddies

I've learned a couple of valuable lessons this week - check the weather before you get ready to run being the first one. During one of my runs this week I ended up looking like a poor drowned mouse when I could have left the house an hour later and got some sun on my face.

Also I've started taking stretches more seriously as my calf muscles have been complaining - I've been stretching out my leg muscles as part of the five minute warm up walk.

Finally, I found a buddy. One of my mates, Sam, has completed a Couch to 5K challenge before and wants to do it again. He's been out for a few 3K or so jogs too so he's just joined in at the same week as me. The Couch to 5K app has been a complete pain adding each other, it seems to only like Facebook, but it's nice to have someone to chat to about my progress. It's much easier than trying to compare my progress with my friends who have signed up the Paris marathon in April, for instance. One buddy is all you need.

What do you think?

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