Zombies, Run! 5K Training

Couch to 5K has become a huge thing in the past couple of years, and as part of my attempt to get fit on a limited budget I've decided to get back into running. I tried the NHS podcast before I went away but have to admit I struggled to get up the enthusiasm to do it regularly enough - not entirely sure why other than I think I just wasn't in the exercise mindset. But now I'm back on the exercise wagon, partly as a kick up the bum to get in shape for the wedding (I should add I'm not planning to drop loads of weight - I think the pressure on brides to drop several dress sizes is ridiculous - but I do want to look the best I can and frankly it's an incentive if nothing else) and partly as something to keep me busy whilst I'm job-hunting so I'm not sat in front of my laptop all day.

For those who may not know, Couch to 5K is basically a training programme designed to get you from no exercise to running 5K or 30 minutes, three times a week. There are loads of versions out there - if you type 'Couch to 5K' or '5K training plan' into Google and you'll find a ton of them, from running magazines to charities (unsurprisingly, in the wake of these plans becoming popular charities are jumping on the bandwagon and encouraging people to do a 5K for them) but I have chosen the Zombies, Run! 5K training. The reason I picked this one is because I'd heard great things about the main app but wanted a halfway house between the 'proper' runs and something I could do as a beginner, so this was perfect.

Zombies, Run!, as the name suggests, is a running app where the plotline is that you are Runner 5, carrying out various missions around a fictional town called Abel which has succumbed to the zombie apocalypse. Like many other 5K training plans, this one involves interval training (with the occasional bout of supply-collecting and running away from zombies!) where you walk for a set amount of time and then run, then back to a walk, and over a set amount of weeks your walks get shorter and your runs get longer until by the end you're running the 5K. As I said I've only tried this one and the NHS one so far but this is definitely my favourite of the two for so many reasons. I can listen to my own music, there's a ten-minute free-form run at the end where you can walk or run depending how you feel (helpful yesterday when I got slightly lost and had two hill starts together at the end!), and the app tracks your runs so you can see how far you went, your speed and your route. That last one is great for me because I run in Greenwich Park, where it's surprisingly easy to get lost, so it's fantastic being able to see where I went and to develop a good running route. Although I should add that getting lost is part of the fun :)

There is an initial outlay of £1.49 for the app, although there are plenty of free programmes out there such as the NHS podcast if you don't want to pay for it. Personally though I wasn't so keen on the NHS one as the music was a bit bleepy (for want of a better word) and it felt very repetitive, but each to their own - if that's what works for you then great. Exercise you enjoy is better than no exercise, after all.

I'm about a week and a half into it at the moment - the programme's supposed to take eight weeks but there are others that apparently can get you there in a month - and I'm still really, really enjoying it. The rest days, for example, I'm itching to get back out there, and I genuinely can't remember the last time I felt like that about an exercise programme, which can only be good. I think a huge part of that is the game element; it feels like you're achieving something and the fact you're getting little bits of the story every time you run. Plus hearing zombie noises in your headphones is pretty much guaranteed to make you sprint for your life!

So overall, I'm really enjoying getting fitter and having an excuse to get out in the fresh air, and now I'm just hoping that lasts. I don't have any specific targets other than get to the 5K, as unfortunately I've started the programme right around when all the 5Ks are being run, but I'll keep you posted with how I get on. Wish me luck!

Are you a runner? Have you done any of these programmes? What do you think of them - do they make a difference or are they gimmicky and easily forgotten? Or maybe you do something else?

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