Cheapo fitness – Couch to 5K

Running – no fancy fitness equipment needed

As a way of getting fit, I do not recommend drinking too much and telling your friend that sure, you’ll run the marathon with them.

(Although to be fair, we were talking about a marathon next year, rather than next month. I wasn’t that drunk).

However, it did focus my mind on my rather sparse fitness regime. And by sparse, I mean non-existent.

I have at various times in my life done assorted sports, most of which are currently ruled out due to needing a team, pricey equipment, expensive membership, loads of time, far off facilities or a higher temperature. I’m not joking about the temperature – Hadleigh swimming pool is handy but frosty, unless you’re sitting at the side watching your children’s swimming lessons, in which case it is roughly as hot as a sauna.

Realistically when it comes to getting fit on a minimal budget, I’m looking at running.

Now, I am not a natural runner.

I cannot sprint to save my life, and when forced into the 800m race during school sports day, I was lapped by other competitors.

My physique is hardly suited to running. When attempting to train for a long-ago sponsored race in a local park, a group of teenage girls shouting encouraging comments along the lines of “wear a sports bra”. Embarrassingly, I already was. So much for training – I ended up as the woman who walked the Race for Life.

Subsequently, when my son started nursery and I had a few hours child-free, I did attempt to get out running. I even got as far as one of the specialist shops that video you from unflattering angles and flog you expensive running shoes. (I am reliably informed this is officially known as “gait analysis”. All I know is that I’m glad I don’t usually see the back view of me running).
In one of life’s little ironies I then promptly got blisters not from running but a long walk, and by the time they’d healed I got out of any running routine.

So now I’m back at square one, and recognise that running itself is free, the equipment is minimal, you can do it straight from your front door and there are loads of free training programmes out there.

I have even attempted a couple of running programmes in the past, and can recommend Couch to 5K.

There’s an assortment of Couch to 5K apps and podcasts out there from different providers, but the basic idea is that the programme takes you from a coach potato to running 5 kilometres in 9 weeks, just by committing about half an hour three times a week. Realistically, you may need to add a whole load of time after the half hour for recovery, if your fitness level is currently closer to the couch than the 5K.

The real bonus is that you have someone in your ear, telling you when to start and stop running,  accompanied by enouraging music. This means you don’t have to faff around with some kind of stop watch or timer, clasping a bit of paper and forgetting how many repetitions you’ve done.

I’ve started out on the NHS podcasts in the past, which have the benefit of simplicity. By this I mean there’s nothing you can customise, and you won’t recognise any of the music:

Anyway, now I’ve joined the 21st century by buying a smartphone, I can even download the podcasts onto my own device, rather than borrowing my husband’s elderly iPod.

If you look at any motivational ads for running, all you seem to require is a fancy pair of trainers and a swishy ponytail and you’re good to go.

However my attempts did not get off to the best start. It took me three days to actually start running, after a day full of good intentions but no action, and a second day when I entirely failed to find my fancy running shoes.

By day 3, I had finally managed to download podcasts onto my phone, and unearthed sports bras, sports socks, headphones and some tracksuit bottoms. I still can’t find my running shoes, but I did discover some trainers, so elderly they are older than my children.

Despite the shocked disbelief shown by my husband, and my daughter’s supportive comments (“But you’re not ready to go out yet, you’re still wearing your pyjamas…running clothes? But your trainers are WEIRD”) I did finally manage to do my first Couch to 5K running session today.

I may have looked slightly odd, clasping a DVD alongside my water bottle and phone, until I’d run past the library to return it. I may have avoided any eye contact with passing pedestrians, joggers, dog walkers and a whole posse of hikers, especially when red in the face and yanking up the saggy elastic on my tracksuit bottoms.

But I did complete Day 1 of Week 1 of Couch to 5K.

Just another nine weeks to go.

Anyone else have any top tips on exercising without expense? I think I may need inspiration if I’m to get as far as a second session…

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  1. 23rd March 2016 / 5:02 pm

    I've also put off exercise for all those reasons. I've got a bike, so I'm going to dig that out and cycle to and fro work (about 3 miles but with a killer hill on the way there).
    Not free, but (relatively) cheap is a yoga class that's started in my village hall. I really love it. I've always had a bad back, with a particularly nasty bout of sciatica a few years ago, and it's helped so much. My core strength and balance is atrocious and it's really helping.
    It's £7/week- no intimidating gym or membership fees, no driving or parking, so it's a bit of a bargain I think 🙂

    • 24th March 2016 / 8:44 am

      Good luck unearthing your bike. The yoga class sounds brilliant!

  2. 25th March 2016 / 10:04 am

    I used my Club card vouchers for a months membership at a fancy gym Inc the classes and pool. It was lovely ☺

    • 26th March 2016 / 8:50 am

      Great idea! I'll have to check if there's something like that nearby with Nectar points – I've got loads of those, but very few Clubcard vouchers.

  3. 25th March 2016 / 10:04 am

    I used my Club card vouchers for a months membership at a fancy gym Inc the classes and pool. It was lovely ☺

  4. 27th March 2016 / 9:32 am

    Totally understand not being a natural runner!! I have managed a few races over the years (inc the New York marathon!) but hate every minute. However it is cheap and it does help keep my weight down.

    For other general fitness I use a university gym. Much cheaper, no frills and lots of free advice from staff who are all doing their Masters in sport/fitness.

    I also use Pinterest and Youtube for ideas and advice. Totally free 🙂

  5. Susan
    26th September 2016 / 9:06 am

    If you like yoga, I highly recommend Yoga with Adriene on YouTube. Free videos for a home practice with the mantra Find what feels good.

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  11. 21st June 2022 / 4:41 pm

    I have really been a car, so I’m going to that and car out and cycle to and from work (about 4km miles but with a fitness couch way there).
    Not everyone is free, but (relatively) affordable is a yoga class that’s started in our hall

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