I chose to use the NHS' C25K for several rather boring reasons. Firstly I was a skint student and couldn't afford to buy any other programme (sadly though my student status has changed, the skint remains). Also I was SO unfit that I thought that at least the NHS should know how to create an exercise programme that wouldn't make me keel over and die (this seemed like a very real risk).
So how did I find it? To be honest, it seems like my experience was a pretty typical one: some weeks were pleasantly easy, while others made me want to jump in the Thames. The first 20 minute run felt absolutely insurmountable when I set off and, although definitely a toughie, I really did surprise myself with my progress. For me, the key was simply trusting in the plan to help me improve - even though sometimes at the beginning of a run I was sceptical about whether I would finish, I always did. Sometimes barely. But still.
I'd be interested to try some other C25K plans to see how they measure up - since I've only tried one I guess I can't reaaaally consider myself an expert! But here are some pros and cons for you to weigh up:
- There is absolutely no denying that my fitness drastically improved. Yes it was hard, but by the end of the programme I was able to run for half an hour, however slowly. This would've been an absolute pipe dream before I started.
- It's a good mix of music and talking - Laura chips in occasionally with updates on time and the odd helpful tip, but you also get plenty of (occasionally slightly questionable) music.
- I didn't die (despite sometimes feeling pretty close).
- I wasn't actually running 5k by the end of it. I do completely understand the programme's emphasis on running for time rather than distance, but since I knew that the Race For Life was going to be 5k, I was actually left a little scared despite having 'graduated' from the C25K plan.
- The music is often a little but rubbish. In fairness I am a bit of a music snob, but sometimes it really was awful. Having said that, I guess it did spur me on because all I could think was "what the hell is this?!" instead of "I'm tiiiired".
Despite the cons of the programme, I would definitely recommend the NHS C25K (and indeed any C25K) to anyone like me who is a total beginner to running and is terrified at the though of running for more than 3 minutes. Simply setting off to run for half an hour without any guidance as a total beginner is asking for trouble (as I had found previously) and so this was a great way to build up gradually.
Have you tried a C25K plan? What did you think?