Couch-to-5K Program App: Ease Into 5K

This app moved me from couch to 5K--more than once.

Ease into 5K - Couch to 5K program app

If you're ready to make the move from walking to running, but want a coach you can take along with you, a couch-to-5k program app is a good bet. It helps you gradually increase your speed with helpful cues right in your smartphone, using a 9-week program for running beginners.  

But this app, Ease Into 5K from Bluefin Software ($2.99), is no longer as helpful as it once was.

Ease Into 5K - Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Couch to 5K-style program allows anyone to get started as a runner
  • App is simple to navigate and set up
  • Customizable settings (e.g., turn audio alerts on or off)
  • Allows users to play their own music
  • Record and share workouts if desired

Cons:

  • Support from developers is lacking (app has not been updated for more than one year)
  • Cool-down doesn't include stretching

Ease Into 5K - Review

Update, November 2016: I first reviewed this training app (then called Couch to 5K, now called Ease Into 5K) several 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 an app like this can help you do that. (Or, of course, help you get started for the very first time.)

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.

This app's 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. Each workout is 30 to 40 minutes long (including warm-up and cool-down)

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. Unfortunately, in recent months, the app has become less reliable, with voice prompts not happening on time. Obviously, this is a big issue and makes the app pretty much useless. 

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. 

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. 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. However, some users have reported issues with this feature of the app as well

For $2.99, this app is reasonably priced even though its quality can be uneven. (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. As of this writing, the app is not compatible with the Apple Watch.

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