Running is something I took up at the beginning of the first lockdown and it’s almost become a meditative practice for me in the past year. No matter what happens, running calms me down and clears my mind. I started running because I felt like I needed to get out of the house, and I also wanted to keep relatively in shape despite the circumstances. However, since I took it up, it has been something that has centered me through several lockdowns and settled my mind during exam periods in my bedroom. Now, it’s even something I look forward to throughout the week. I’m not even remotely a sporty person; other than ballet lessons as a child and martial arts lessons as a teenager, I wouldn’t necessarily workout regularly at all.
Going on a run has become an integral part of my daily routine. However, getting started and sticking to it is not something that I would say is easy. Since last March, I have tried and failed many times to stick to it, or to even get started. I reckon I have tried every single app on the internet trying to find the right guided runs for me, and the right methods of running for my body. Not everything works for everyone, and if you’re thinking of taking up running, a bit of trial and error is definitely required. But, as I’ve said, I have tried nearly every method offered to us through apps available on the AppStore, and I have a breakdown of which apps and ways of running may be best for you.
The Best for Beginning: Couch to 5k
Couch to 5k is probably the best app to start with if you’re thinking about taking up running. Not only is it slow paced, but it allows you to start, as the name suggests, from right off the couch. The runs presume that you have no running experience, and therefore do not expect any continued running for long periods of time, and establish a clear set plan for your running, which will end with you being able to run 5k. The guided runs are set out for a nine week period, where you are expected to put aside 20-30 minutes three times a week to get out. While the audio on these runs wouldn’t be my favorite, they were encouraging when getting started and had a variety of coaches, from Johnny Dead to Sergeant Block, to guide you through getting started with running. An extremely important part of taking up running is trying to avoid injury from doing too much too soon, and for that reason, the Couch to 5k is the perfect pace for getting started. The app is also straightforward and easy to use, as it doesn’t over contemplate tracking the speed or distance of your runs. Couch to 5k is available on the AppStore for €3.49.
“…no parameters are set, you can walk or run for however long you want, there’s no strict intervals, and it’s an opportunity to really listen to what your body wants during a run…”
The Best for Tracking Runs: Oasis’ Runkeeper
If you are a more experienced runner, and are simply looking for a way of tracking your speed, distance and time throughout a run, Oasis’ Runkeeper may be the app for you. While this app also offers a bunch of beginner guided runs by several coaches, the biggest benefit of this app is its feature of tracking runs, which offers to give you stats on your distance, speed and time throughout a workout. The app offers a setting for tracking runs that entails a very AI type of voice appearing every 5 minutes throughout the run, and offers you the ability to see how you improve week on week, run after run. Not only does Runkeeper track runs though, there are also settings for this app which allows you to track walks, cycling, roller skating, swimming and more. Even better, this feature of the app is completely free, with the option of buying the full version of the app for more guided runs. While I liked the guided runs, there are certainly better options on the market, but for its tracking capacity alone, Runkeeper is certainly worth the download. My favorite part of this app is the fact that no parameters are set, you can walk or run for however long you want, there’s no strict intervals, and it’s an opportunity to really listen to what your body wants during a run rather than what a guiding voice is telling you.
The Best for Clearing your Mind: Headspace
If you’re after a run to clear your mind and de-stress your life, Headspace is definitely one of my favorite apps on my phone. While it’s main objective is meditation, a monthly subscription of €4.99 to Headspace also gives you access to guided runs and workouts with several couches, one of them notably being Kevin Hart. There’s something about Kevin Hart guiding you through a run which may feel kind of strange, but his upbeat and encouraging attitude has gotten me through some of the toughest runs I’ve ever gone on. It’s invigorating, and it also allows you to run and really feel your body running and be present, without music also pumping in the background. It’s good for centering, and definitely a different type of workout than one I would be used to. A subscription to Headspace actually gives you access to Nike Run Club and Nike Training, which allows you to incorporate mindfulness into your workouts, such as the “Stress Free Run” with Coach Bennett from Nike and Andy Puddicombe from Headspace. Although it’s one of the more pricier apps on the market, the ability to have these three apps under one subscription is a huge benefit and on it’s own, Headspace is a fantastic app for centering your mind throughout your workouts.
“…the ultimate app for running in my view would be Nike Run Club, as it encapsulates all the important things a run should have.”
The Best Overall: Nike Run Club
Nike Run Club is the best overall for running in my experience. Not only does this app have a wide range of encouraging coaches and an even broader variety of guided runs, each run comes alongside a suggested playlist on Apple Music or Spotify (depending on which you use). If you’re anything like me, and can never find the appropriate soundtrack to your running, I found this to be a major advantage to the app, as the guided runs almost seem to mold with the playlist itself. The broad range of guided runs available is also any advantage, meaning if you’re only taking up running, you’ve done it once or twice or you’ve been running your entire life, Nike Run Club has a run just in mind for you. The coaches on these guided runs are also my favorite from any app, as for me, the tone throughout all the runs I’ve tried has been very realistic; at times, it almost felt as though they were running alongside me. It is very inclusive, and the coaches throughout any of the workouts are always encouraging you to push yourself, or back off, depending on the state your body is in. This is also an advantage, as pushing yourself too early on in a run increases your chance of injuring yourself. Even the end of runs on Nike Run Club are super encouraging, with an audio message popping up at the end of every run congratulating you, the first coming from none other than Olympian Runner Mo Farrah. For all these reasons, the ultimate app for running in my view would be Nike Run Club, as it encapsulates all the important things a run should have.
Taking up running is possibly the best thing I’ve done throughout the pandemic, and something I hope I’ll keep up well beyond it. Running really allows you to escape whatever is going on in your life, and gives you an opportunity to refresh your mind and exercise your body.