'Couch to 5K changed my life!'

We meet the running groups who successfully changed their lives after swapping the sofa for the open road...

'Couch to 5K changed my life!'

The Running Works

28-year-old Katie Andrews, a Systems Administrator from London, started a Couch to 5K plan earlier this year.

‘The Running Works host a few different runs from their London store each week, including a beginner course which runs in 8-10 week cycles every Monday,’ says Katie.

‘I was already an active runner and a regular at my local parkrun when I signed up for the beginner course, but felt that I wanted to go back to basics and see if I could push past my usual walk/jog/walk strategy for longer periods.

‘C25K really improved my pacing and got me to my first non-stop 5K, my first non-stop parkrun the same week and soon after, a new 5K PB,’ adds Katie. ‘But perhaps most significant of all it gave me confidence and made me finally believe that I am a runner and part of this amazing community.’

Katie has gone on to complete a couple of 5K races since finishing the course in August. ‘Medals and PBs aside, my proudest achievement is pushing past my anxiety and making new friends,’ she says. ‘I couldn't have overcome my anxiety and improved my running and general wellbeing without the support of the running community.’

Taking on Couch to 5K as part of a group has had a positive impact on Katie’s life. ‘The way runners support one another is very powerful and in some ways difficult to describe. From my personal experience, I've found that my fellow runners have seen strengths in me where I only see weaknesses, and their encouragement has been invaluable,’ she explains.

‘One of the biggest barriers I faced when wanting to run was this feeling that I would be too slow and hold everybody up. I didn’t want to feel like a burden or feel embarrassed at my pace and it took a long time for me to pluck up the courage to lace up and go. Now that I've been running for a few months I only wish I'd have joined in sooner, as the running community is so encouraging and inclusive.’

Inverclyde Couch to 5K

Stephen Jenkins and Jennifer McKechnie launched a Couch to 5K group in Inverclyde with excellent results!

‘We started in April 2017,’ says Stephen. ‘We found there were no groups for total beginners in the area, even though running is becoming such a popular activity, as people become more aware of health lifestyles and keeping fit.'

‘For people who don't do exercise it can be a very daunting decision to put your trainers on and plod the pavements and the gym to some is a total no-no,’ explains Stephen. ‘So we decided that we were going to form a group, follow the NHS based app Couch to 5K and invite people along who have the same mind set on exercising in public.’

They publicised the group on local Facebook pages and interest quickly grew. ‘On the first session there were 76 ladies and gentleman turn up to give this idea a try!’ he says.

‘We complete two runs as a group and then ask the members to do run three of the week on their own accord. After each run we encourage the group to post selfies as a sense of achievement and to get recognition from others. We have found that the support network increased with members then asking to meet up with others to complete the runs.’

The group now has 560 members. ‘It’s growing day-on-day, proving there is a want and need for a social, supportive running group in communities,’ adds Stephen.

For more information, visit Inverclyde C25K

The Wobbly Women of Caldicot

Gemma Northover, a Recruitment Director from South Wales, started Couch to 5K this May and hasn't look back.

‘I tried the app by myself – very bored and lonely!’ says Gemma. ‘So I put a message out on our local Caldicot Facebook page to see if anyone wanted to run with me and I received over 80 responses!’

‘We met on our first session and ran around a path around a tree for 30 minutes and people must have thought we were mad!’ adds Gemma. ‘We’re a group of 17 regulars, aged 33-59, all different shapes, sizes, speed and capability. But we all start together, and we all finish together. We support each other and we pull each other up after time off or tough runs.’

When they first started, the Wobbly Women of Caldicot struggled to run for 60 seconds. ‘We’ve now run 10K more than once (it wasn’t a fluke!) and we’re still only 4.5 months in,’ enthuses Gemma. ‘We’re happier, healthier, slimmer and more confident. And we’ve made some great new friends!’

Starting Couch to 5K as part of a group has had a dramatic impact on Gemma’s life. ‘Personally I am so much more comfortable in my own skin. I feel great for the exercise both physically and mentally. It’s also great to run with all these women who don’t care who you are or what you do – you all have the same fears and the same goal.’

‘We were all in the same boat at the beginning of the process – no one could run, no one had the right kit, no one wanted to run in public! We’ve encouraged each other, we’ve laughed, we’ve cried, and we celebrate our success with wine!’

Gemma offers the following advice: ‘Put your trainers on, stand on your door step, and see what happens. Stepping out for the first time is the hardest bit.’

Edinburgh Gossip Girls

Kylie from Edinburgh started a Couch to 10K programme earlier this year and has loved every minute of her new lease of life.

‘We’re a group of 45 ladies at varying levels of fitness but all had one goal – to complete a 10K in October!’ says Kylie. ‘It’s very supportive and non-competitive, we are lucky enough to run with the most incredible views, including Arthur’s Seat and Edinburgh Castle.’

The Edinburgh Gossip Girls started a three month plan with Breaking Strain Events. ‘It looked achievable from the start, meaning everyone taking part was massively positive and buoyed up about the challenge,’ she explains. ‘We knew we were in it together which helped too, I never knew the value of running buddies until now!’

Achieving her 10K dream has had a hugely positive impact on Kylie’s life. ‘As well as completing the run in a pretty good time (even if I say so myself), I feel happier, healthier, more relaxed – all those things that busy working mums strive for but don’t know how to achieve, running is the answer.’

Running with a group was also beneficial. ‘I struggle training by myself, don’t underestimate the power of team training. The best part is the good chat and a shared desired to get fitter – both help you forget sore legs and distance still to run! Get outside and enjoy the fresh air, your body will thank you for it.’

For more information, visit Edinburgh Gossip Girls

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