Updated May 28, 2015.
If you're ready to make the move from walking to running, but want a coach you can take along with you, this couch-to-5k program app, Ease Into 5K from Bluefin Software, is a good bet. Gradually increase your speed with helpful cues right in your smartphone.
- Couch to 5K-style program allows anyone to get started as a runner
- App is simple to navigate, set up, and use
- Customizable settings (e.g., turn audio alerts on or off)
- Allows users to play their own music
- Record and share workouts if desired; compatible with Nike+
- No prompts or how-tos for stretching (although you can download a related app for this)
Ease Into 5k - Description
- 9-week program for running beginners
- Each workout is 30 to 40 minutes long (including warm-up and cool-down)
- Tracks workout history
- Listen to your own music
- $2.99 from iTunes
- Requires iPhone OS 4.3 or later; works with iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad; also available for Android devices
Ease Into 5K - Review
Update, August 2013: I first reviewed this couch-to-5K app (then called Couch to 5K, now called Ease Into 5K) more than three years ago. At the time, I thought it would be a one-time deal: Use the program to start running; become a runner; stay a runner for life. But it turned out, my path to running was not so linear. I've completed the program, then returned to the couch—or other forms of cardio fitness—more times than I can recall.
As any runner will tell you, if you stop running, it's not easy to pick up where you left off, with the same speed, distance, and time you achieved before.
Instead, you need to ease back in, and this app can help you do that. Sure, I could run intervals on my own. But I prefer the leveled guidance, and little pushes, I get from using the app. Starting partway through the program and following it to the end works for me, whether I'm training for a race or just want to add running back into my fitness routine.
So if you want to start, or restart, running, this is the app to get. Its developers took the existing, popular beginners' running Couch to 5K program and turned it into an app called Ease Into 5K. The program takes you through an incremental, nine-week plan, starting with a 20-minute session that includes eight 60-second jogs alternating with 90-second walks (plus five minutes each of warm-up and cool-down). By the end of the program, you'll be able to run 30 minutes without stopping.
This couch-to-5K program app supplies visual and audio cues so you know when to walk and when to run, without having to keep track of time and intervals yourself. At the same time, you can listen to your own music from your device's library. The app keeps track of your progress, starting you off on the next day's plan each time you reopen the app after completing a workout. You can also keep notes on your workout, such as how you felt, whether you ran outside or on a treadmill, and so on. You can opt to share these notes via Facebook or Twitter right from the app.
I downloaded this program for my iPad because I had been doing some walk/run workouts on my own on the treadmill, but didn't like calculating how many minutes to do, then constantly looking at my timer or watch to follow my progress. I also wanted to increase the number of minutes spent running and needed some kind of program to coach me through that. This couch-to-5k program app does that.
I now use the app on my iPhone when I run outside and on my iPad if I'm on the treadmill. I still value the prompts I get from the app even though I can see my time elapsed on the treadmill display. And of course, these prompts are even more useful if you are running outside and don't have a big digital clock right in front of your face!
This app was easy to use without reading any instructions; just download and go. There are some simple settings to turn on and off, such as whether you want the songs on your playlist to shuffle or not, whether you want reminders that you are halfway through your workout, and so on.
My one wish for the app: I would love to be able to flip to a screen with suggestions or prompts for post-workout stretches. It's easy to forget to stretch after a run or to be confused about what stretches to do and how long to hold them. Since the app contains a timed warm-up and cool-down, it would be great if it also included stretching how-tos.
Once you complete the 9-week training program, you can use the app to do maintenance runs of 30 or 45 minutes, with prompts letting you know how you're doing on time and distance if you wish. You can also log and track your runs even after you're done with the training program.
For $2.99, this app is a great buy for beginning runners, or sporadic ones like me. (You can also find a version of this app for Android, which I have not tested.) Both versions of the app have an optional GPS feature for another 99 cents.
This app was not provided free for review. I purchased it from the iTunes store.