In 1996, I wrote a training program for new runners named "The Couch to 5K Running Plan," a nine-week program that gradually introduces running into your life. By the end of the two months, the program has you comfortably running 5K distances three times per week.
A decade later, "C25K" remains perhaps the most popular get-started program for beginning runners on the web. Hundreds of thousands (!!) of runners have used the plan to change their lives one step at a time. I can't even begin to describe how great it feels to have helped so many people in this small way. Humbling.
How cool is this: The running plan has found a new medium in a great podcast series by Robert Ullrey, who also created a gorgeous blog to share his own experience with the running plan. Robert produced the podcast last summer to give runners a music soundtrack for their workout, along with cues about when to run, when to walk, when to pick up the pace, tips on your form, etc.
The podcast is one of those forehead-slapping ideas of such blinding usefulness that you can't believe nobody did it before. The great thing about it is that you never have to look at your watch; Robert's high-production-value audio lets you know where you are in the program with encouraging reminders sprinkled throughout the high-energy music track.
The podcast is one of those forehead-slapping ideas of such blinding usefulness that you can't believe nobody did it before.
When I first wrote about the Nike+iPod sports kit, I noted the addictive power of your own personal statistics, how inspirational it can be to track your steady progress. That's particularly true for new runners, but with an important caveat: Tracking your progress during the run is no fun at all for beginners.
When you're starting out, running is unfamiliar, uncomfortable. The program gets you through this as painlessly as possible, but it relies on run-then-walk intervals (run 60 seconds, walk 90 seconds), and that means a lot of watch-gazing. Watching a second hand tick while you're doing something uncomfortable tends to make the whole thing even more uncomfortable.
The podcast fixes the problem. The times are given to you as you need them, no need to obsess about the seconds. You can focus instead on the surroundings, on the music, on your own motion. You can revel in the times and statistics after the run when you'll actually enjoy them.
And great news: People are really using the podcasts. As I write this, Robert's podcast is ranked #14 in the health category at iTunes. Congrats to Robert Ullrey on a great idea, great execution, and the well deserved success of his podcast. If you're considering a new running regime, I highly recommend it: Robert Ullrey's Podcast for Running.
Special bonus trivia
I wrote the training program for my original running site, Kick! (still visible via the Wayback Machine), which subsequently got folded into Cool Running, where the "couch-to-5k" lives now. Cool Running was the guinea pig for the original prototype of Big Medium. The system that I built to manage that site eventually emerged as Big Medium (the site still runs an early version of the software).