Couch to 5K

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Until just a couple of months ago, I was quite convinced that I could not run. I’ve always enjoyed a variety of sports and played on most of the teams at school, but running was a completely different matter. However, as I mentioned in an earlier blog post I’ve recently been feeling that I needed to increase my exercise levels. I decided to give the NHS’s ‘Couch to 5k’ a try and it has completely changed my views on running and I am now proudly running for 30 minutes three times per week. I recently highlighted a report by the Behavioural Insights Team which explained the key principles for effecting behaviour change. I thought it would be interesting to reflect back on Couch to 5k and see why it has been so successful for me using the Behavioural Insights Team’s principles. 

Easy – The Couch to 5k is a 9-week programme which you download as a podcast. In that sense, it is superbly easy to follow. Furthermore, there is no major equipment required (other than trainers and something to listen to the podcast with as you do your run) and you can just head out of your front door and get going.

Attractive – Finding a way to get fit was my primary motivator and the ease of the programme itself was a big attraction for me. It appealed to me that the first couple of weeks seemed achievable – you are only required to run for 60 – 90 seconds at a time. I also liked the fact that I could just give it a try without having to sign up and commit as you would if you joined a gym for example.  As I progressed through the programme, my achievements each week certainly kept me going as did having a very clear view of what I was working towards (i.e. being able to run 5k).

Social – Running itself does not feel like a particularly social activity to me at this point in time. However, there have been two main social influences which have supported the success of Couch to 5k for me. Firstly, my parents are both on a health kick at the moment and it has been great to have them to discuss our relative activities and progress with. Secondly, on the Couch to 5k website, there are numerous individuals commenting on their experience of the programme. Almost all of the comments I read were so positive and encouraging which gave me some confidence to give it a go.

Timely – My current period of self-employment has made it much easier to take the time to begin the programme which requires you to head out three times per week for about 35 – 45 minutes. Also, I think starting the programme in the summer when the weather is nice has been a big help – I’m not sure I would have had quite so much enthusiasm to head out for a run at 7AM in the winter!

I should note that it hasn’t all been easy and plain sailing. Firstly I felt very self-conscious at the start of the programme particularly when I was doing the recovery walks. I’ve also had a few aches and pains in my knees and back but luckily nothing to stop me for more than a day or two. Finally, while I didn’t need much equipment to begin with I have now had to invest in a new pair of trainers, which weren’t particularly cheap. Now that I have made it to the end of the programme I am glad these challenges didn’t stop me from continuing with the runs and I really do hope that I can turn this new experience into a habit.

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