NHS Couch app review at 5k

The Couch to 5k app is a great way to introduce yourself to running. You can choose your coach, set your own goals and take breaks when it gets too difficult. It also offers a very gradual climb up to the full 5km distance – most early runs are equal parts walking and jogging.

Before each race, you will be able to see the session structure, so you know what to expect. You will also be able to track your progress, as a run log is built into the app. There are some challenges in the program as the intensity increases week by week. But you will find that you can achieve something in a week that you thought was impossible the week before.

We think it’s the best running app for beginner runners, especially those who have never raced before. Its progressive and gentle approach makes it accessible to all. Read our Couch to 5k app review to learn more.

NHS couch to 5k review: Interface

NHS Couch to 5K Runtime Interface

(Image credit: NHS)

The Couch to 5k app is easy to use, with a simple design and layout. There are only four sections in the bottom menu: My Rides, Discover, Support, and Settings. Setting up your account is also quite simple. Once you load the app, it asks you what your goals are (allowing you to select more than one) and you can set up notifications or run reminders.

During a run, you’re given a colorful visual graph to indicate how much of each session you have left and where the warm-up and cool-down are coming from. This is handy if you find looking at the remaining time daunting.

Before using the app, we recommend changing your device settings to allow the app to stay open in the background. If you don’t, the app will close when you run and you won’t be notified. This quirk has clearly frustrated some runners, as several negative reviews point it out online.

NHS Couch to 5k app review: Features

NHS Sofa Features at 5K

(Image credit: NHS)

You can choose from a variety of trainers to keep you motivated during your runs – a nice touch that means you’re not burdened with a voice you don’t resonate with. Not all coaches are athletes either, which is a breath of fresh air. Our favorite was Sarah Millican, a British comedian who openly admits she’d rather eat cake than run.

These trainers will guide you through each run, telling you when to stop and start – or when to transition from walking to running.

You can also choose from motivational playlists on BBC Sounds via the Discover part of the app, which links you to BBC Music Mixes. However, this opens a web page and not the BBC Sounds app – even if you have it installed on your device. It would be much better if the Couch to 5k app could be integrated with a music platform, such as Spotify or BBC Sounds. It’s not a dealbreaker for us, but it does make the app feel outdated.

5k couch screenshot

(Image credit: future)

The Discover section has links to other articles and videos to help you get healthy, and we like that the app isn’t all about running, but offers a more comprehensive approach to fitness. It’s also fantastic that the app is more inclusive than most, and that part of the Discover section is dedicated to people with disabilities.

We felt there were too many strokes in the first workout for a complete beginner – but at least there’s a pause button if you need it. Although there are pointers to various videos in the app teaching you how to stretch before and after a run, your trainer makes no mention of them, which feels like a missed opportunity.

When you are halfway through the session a bell will ring which has been helpful as the runs have become more challenging as it has helped us stay focused. We also liked the “best advice” before and after races, which helped our technique.

NHS Couch to 5k app review: Groups and social media

There is currently no community within the app itself. However, there is a lot of useful information in the Support section. It points you in the direction of Every mind mattersan NHS initiative for mental health, and HealthUnlockedan online community.

The Couch to 5k forum on HealthUnlocked is a little clunky to use, but the principle is sound. There’s also a Couch to 5k Facebook group, but again, that takes you out of the app – it would be better to put a community in the app itself.

There are no challenges you can complete with friends in the Couch to 5k app, so there’s no way to use your friendship group to stay motivated. You cannot search for friends on this app and befriend them like you can on other fitness apps.

NHS Couch to 5k app review: Verdict

Overall, this app is simple, encouraging, and easy to use. Its simple nature helps build the habit of building a regular exercise habit and makes running truly accessible.

Giving users a choice of trainers is a great idea and helps keep your runs fresh. It’s admirable that the app also focuses on diet, mental health, and other ways to stay healthy.

Still, we’d like to see music integration, as well as the ability to connect with friends or a social community and participate in challenges.

Couch to 5k app is definitely an app for beginner runners. For regular runners, Strava or Runkeeper would be better options.

Lance B. Holton