Couch to 5K

Emma Leech’s app-etite for fitness improves with an affinity for electronic instruction

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It’s 7am. Light is just beginning to make its way across the quad, gradually erasing last night’s frost. The air is still bitingly cold. Every breath feels like hard work. A few dog walkers and early risers shuffle around, trying to convince themselves that the freezing of their limbs is rejuvenating, not soul-destroying.

I stand amongst it all, in trainers that are more accustomed to Park End and sportswear that a family member bought me in a flash of optimism that I may one day actually exercise. Apparently, that day has come. Suddenly, an obnoxiously chirpy American voice rings out, causing birds to scatter and the pre-dawn zombies to glance at me confusedly: “Welcome to Couch to 5K, begin your warm-up now.”

Yes I know. Both my reliance on technology and my lack of self-motivation have got me to the point where I have to use a recorded voice that provides step-by-step guidance just in order to off set that inevitable heart disease for a little longer.

When you first start using it, the app proudly proclaims to the entire park that you are to run for a short thirty seconds and then walk for a few minutes, trying to pretend to the other runners that half a minute of light jogging is not making you want to throw up your own lungs.

With each week, in a convenient eight week course, the app scales up the running and down the walking until, apparently, you are that Lycra-clad fitness fanatic that skips happily into breakfast after her early morning 5K for a banana and a subtle brag to her friends. In all fairness, the app does work. Without it, I would wander aimlessly for half an hour then return to college and lie about having beaten my non-existent personal best.

I am still in the beginning stages, though, and I will admit it is tough. There are probably rowers reading this, laughing at me so much that they almost choke on their dry pasta, but as someone to whom sports and exercise come less naturally than reading and gin, this has been a profound learning process. I spend the first ten minutes of three mornings a week scorning myself under my breath as I drag my already aching limbs out of bed. But, in all honesty, I have noticed a difference.

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Getting up early actually allows you to be fully awake in your 9ams, not falling asleep on the spacebar while taking notes. And even if, three weeks in, the physical effects are slow to show, you still have a smugness that glows from every pore and feels pretty great. I mean, if you don’t tell anyone, or at least put a timestamped sunrise picture on your Snapchat story, what is the point of going running at all?