Andy Stevenson was looking for an exercise plan to lose weight and get fit that would work around his busy schedule. He found that the NHS Couch to 5K ticked all the boxes.
Andy's once-a-week bike rides were not enough to keep the weight off. When he looked for something that could fit around his busy work schedule, he found that the NHS Couch to 5K running plan for beginners was just right.
He downloaded the podcasts for the nine-week programme, and followed it rigorously. He says Couch to 5K has converted him into a regular runner, and he's since signed up to do a 10K run.
"I was on the NHS Choices website and stumbled across the Couch to 5K podcasts. I had been thinking for some time that I needed to do something different to keep active.
"My activity levels were fairly low. I was doing a bike ride every weekend, but absolutely nothing Monday to Friday. I would walk to work, but once in the office I was desk-bound all day."
Andy says that Couch to 5K appealed to him because he could fit the 30-minute runs around his other daily commitments. "My cycling rides would generally take about an hour-and-a-half, which was too long on most days. Joining a gym was another option, but that's also time-consuming. You have to drive there and back, change, shower . it can easily take two to three hours. The beauty of the Couch to 5K podcasts is that they're free, the runs are only 30 minutes and you don't need anything more than a decent pair of running shoes."
Andy, a BT systems analyst from Lincoln, started doing his runs in his local park before work, three times a week.
"I was getting up at 6am, which would give me enough time to do the run, shower and have breakfast, before heading to the office. There were days when I really wanted an extra half an hour in bed, but I usually managed to drag myself out into the cold, dark, windy morning.
"I did some of the runs after work, but I preferred my morning runs. I felt a little achy and stiff after my first run, but that didn't last. It's a really good feeling to arrive at work fresh and energised. The runs set me up for the rest of the day."
Andy says he stuck to the plan and avoided trying to progress too quickly. "I considered skipping a few podcasts, but I resisted the temptation and did each one. I was wary about trying too hard or trying to achieve too much too quickly, which can backfire. Sometimes I felt that I wasn't improving as much as I wanted, but I always felt a sense of achievement after a run."
Andy found the podcasts motivating. "It's like having a personal trainer with you," he says. "If you focus on the narrator, you forget about the effort you're making. The music helps you get into the right rhythm and, in my case, it meant I couldn't hear my heavy breathing. It's easier than relying on yourself for motivation."
Couch to 5K community
As a motivational tool, Andy used the Couch to 5K online community to chart his progress from his first run, posting his highs and lows. One of his posts reads: "In just six weeks, I've gone from worrying about being able to keep up a jog for 60 seconds to looking forward to 25 minutes of it without a break. I can't begin to describe how good that feels." Fellow Couch to 5K runners on the forum were eager to pass on morale-boosting comments and share their tips and experiences.
Andy says he found the last week of the programme - which involves running 30 minutes without interruption - tough. "I struggled initially," he says. "But it was great to achieve it. I feel fitter, I can do more, and I'm losing weight . It's a fantastic programme."
Couch to 5K has turned Andy into a running fan. After completing the programme, he signed up for a 10K run, which he wants to complete in under one hour. "I'm now running 7K, and I'm building up towards being able to run 10K. For me, completing Couch to 5K was not an end in itself, it's just the beginning of a more active lifestyle."
Article provided by NHS Choices