5 Running Apps For Beginners That Aren't Couch To 5K

Lockdown has changed the way we exercise, with many of us having to rethink our routines without the luxury of gym classes or group activities. As a result, people (myself included) have taken up running – but starting from the very beginning is never easy. With that in mind, I have compiled a list of alternative options to the NHS' Couch To 5K, which, although helpful, may not be right for everyone.

When it comes to keeping fit, aiming to run 5k is a good (and realistic) goal to have in mind says Daisy Hughes, ultra-marathon runner and Lululemon ambassador.

"Five kilometres is one of the most accessible and fun distances to run," says Hughes. "Whether it takes you 16 or 60 minutes, it’s a short enough distance that anyone can achieve."

However, if you're starting from square one, it's important to understand the impact running can have on your body. "Running is an impact sport," Hughes reminds us. "We put three times our body weight through our legs with every step. To stay injury-free, it’s important to give the body time to build up the strength it needs in all of the muscles, joints, and ligaments to run pain free."

As well as making sure you regularly check in with your body, learning to run 5k is made a whole lot easier with the help of an app, podcast, or programme. While I've found Couch to 5k super useful, it may not work for everyone. Some people find the app slightly flawed in that it doesn't have any strength or mobility component built in to help your muscles prepare for your new exercise. Another suggestion is that the app may even go slightly too quickly, and that certain weeks should be repeated because of this. I can actually relate, as I found that there was a huge sudden jump between running for 10 minutes, and then suddenly 25 in weeks five and six. As a result, I have had to repeat week six several times in order to build up my stamina.

For these reasons, it may be worth giving another 5k starter app or program a go — check out these five to find your perfect one:

None To Run

If you find Couch To 5K a little speedy, an app like None To Run is a good shout. Instead of nine weeks, this one takes you on a 12 week journey, meaning progress is more measured and gradual. It's a great all-rounder, too, as it includes simple strength and mobility workouts to help you progress in your running, which is something most starter apps don't usually have. You definitely won't feel left to your own devices with this one. Check out the app in the app store.

Axiom Run

Axiom Run is not an app, but it's a pretty comprehensive running plan that sets monthly running time targets. For example, your first week's target is to get to 20 minutes of running by the end of the first month. The targets are in time, rather than distance, which many find easier to follow as beginners. The ultimate goal is to reach 60 minutes of straight running by the end of month four, but you can stop at any time when your own personal target is reached. Check out the plan online.


Nike+ Run

The cool girl of running apps, Nike+ Run may seem a little scary, but you can actually create a personalised plan for yourself, taking into account your fitness level and goals. There are a number of cool features with this one, including guided runs with Headspace, integrated Apple Music playlists, elite athlete encouragement, and progress and sharing tools/trackers. You can find out more information, and download the app, online at

Novice 5K Training Plan

Marathon legend Hal Higdon created this app is ideal for those who want to take things to the next level more quickly. It runs for eight weeks, and by the end of the period, you should be able to run a 5k with ease. It does take some commitment; a typical week will consist of three days running, three days walking, and one day off. You can use the app to track and record your runs, meaning charting progress is easier than ever. And after the 5k? There are plans for everything from 10k, to your first marathon. Seriously. Check out the app on the app store.

Zombies, Run!

Now one for fun: the 5k app which has the added incentive of out-running a hoard of hungry zombies. If you're a fan of The Walking Dead, this one's designed specifically for you, and it truly does make running fun. The audio-led runs will tell you when to run, walk, and stop and stretch, all while telling a story of the beginning of the end for civilisation. You'll need to collect supplies and out-run your zombie friends over the eight week training course, which will result in you being able to run a 5k distance. Literally so here for it. Download this hoot of an app at the Apple store.