Fit in my 40s: what next after the Couch to 5k app? | Zoe Williams

Even when I’ve done the 5k, failed to maintain my prowess peak and slid inexorably back down to couch, I’ve never thought twice about going back to the app

The best-loved in-ear coaching app for runners is Couch to 5k, which is free, NHS-supported, and excellent. It plots the minutes of each run as you build up, syncs to your music, dispenses motivation and advice, and always reminds you of the most important thing: don’t stop, even if you want to. On a randomised test of me, I can tell you it works. In the absence of anyone telling me not to stop, the minute I experience even the slightest discomfort, I can think of no good reason to carry on.

Even when I’ve done the 5k, failed to maintain my prowess peak and slid inexorably back down to couch, I’ve never thought twice about going back to the app. I never even change the voice – my Mr has the enigmatic Laura, but I choose Olympian Michael Johnson every time, for the incredible sincerity of his “Well done!” You have to imagine, as you’re running, that you’re alongside a hedge; the person on the other side shouldn’t be able to see whether you’re running or walking. Apparently this is a good way to keep your gait steady and efficient. I could critique it so many ways: wouldn’t they be able to tell just by how fast you were moving? And how, in the name of Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the wee donkey, can you think yourself into a stranger’s visual perspective and run at the same time? Yet I enjoy listening to it.

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