My running story began, as so many peoples’ do, with the C25K program.
It’s a good program. Very approachable, and I knew that it had a high success rate. I also knew that the length of the workouts was manageable for me (at around 45 minutes each), and while I preferred to run outside I would also have the option of doing it on the treadmill if I really wanted to. So I took the plunge.
I started with one of the free C25K trainer apps (because, really, who is going to remember ever-changing intervals while feeling like they’re going to die because OMG RUNNING IS HARD?). It was a simple interface with a kind female voice that would tell me to “begin running” or “start walking” and, most importantly, I could use it while playing my music.
I found that I had a hard time sticking with it. The voice became sterile after a while, and when I had to repeat hard weeks here was no incentive to get to the end of the run other than to say that I “really” did it rather than dragged my sorry behind through it. When I began to loathe starting up the app, I decided it was probably time for a new approach.
So I downloaded the Zombies, Run 5K trainer. Zombies, Run is an awesome game. Part radio play, part video game, the premise is that you turn on an episode every time you go out for a run and you’re in the middle of the zombie holocaust. You’re Runner 5, a runner who lives in a settlement called “Able Township” and is frequently sent out of the base to do supply runs, intel gathering, or recon/rescue missions. The full app has a lot of great features, but I’ll leave those to review for another time.
The 5K trainer is very similar to C25K in that it’s based on an interval running program. You run for a certain amount of time, then you walk for a certain amount of time. Over the course of eight weeks with three workouts per week, your walk intervals get gradually reduced and your run intervals gradually increase until (voila!) you’re doing a 5K.
The only difference with this program is that it includes “free form runs”. These periods of time, I have found, can be really intimidating to beginning runners (I know they were for me when I first started!). These “runs” actually aren’t runs at all; but rather a chance for you to push yourself in the program. While the ultimate goal is to run for the entire free form run, you are welcome to walk and catch your breath for whatever period of these runs you need to. I found that, while I was intimidated to look at how long some of them were going into a run, I often surprised myself at how much of these free form runs I could actually run. Let me tell you how AWESOME it felt to run for 20 minutes straight for the first time!
Zombies, Run 5K trainer also includes an assortment of exercises in between your intervals. Heel-raises, knee-lifts, squats, and even skipping are thrown in to various weeks of the program to strengthen your calves, quads, and glutes (important muscle groups for a runner to develop). These exercises are interspersed with your workout and you are not expected to do them on your own outside of your run. Pretty sweet if you ask me!
The best part is that you get a radio play, and an independent plot arc, to help you along your way. The 5K trainer introduces you to characters who you will meet once you graduate to the full app, but it is also a stand-alone story that feeds into the main plot of Zombies, Run. For those keeping track, the 5K trainer’s story fits in between Season 1 episodes 1 and 2. I found that I grew really attached to Sam and the Doc during my 5K training, and it made running feel much more fun. I actually looked forward to my workouts since I was invested in the story and the characters. At that point in my running training, being invested was a huge component of actually doing my workouts.
In short, I’m not sure I would have gotten my 5K if not for the Zombies, Run 5k trainer. It’s available on the apple store and google play for android; and last I checked ran a whopping $1.99 for the whole 8 week season. Well worth the investment if you ask me, and definitely less expensive than hiring both a personal trainer AND a zombie hoard!