Yesterday my little sister, Jenny, bravely went to the gym with me to test out the Couch to 5k program for those who are not joggers.
First of all, please note that we were doing it on a treadmill. Jenny suggested afterwards that it would be quite a different experience outside as judging the speed would be hard.
The first thing we realised is that Jenny's natural 'jogging' speed is about 8km/h, which for her feels reasonably fast. However, the Couch to 5k program promises by the end that you will be able to run 5k in 30mins, which means it expects you to run at 10k/h which is quite a bit different.
So, what it calls 'jogging' might be a quite a fast pace for non-joggers.
However, she agreed to start off doing 10k/h on the treadmill for her jogging sessions. As it turns out, she managed to get all the way through alternating between 10k/h and 5k/h.
Based on my experience supporting Jenny, I highly recommend using a heart rate monitor, or just after coming to a walk using the heart rate grips on the machine. During the jogging part, your heart rate should go up quite significantly, but during the walking period it should drop right down again. If your heart rate is not dropping down enough, it means you are not recovering in between and should probably take slightly longer breaks or walk slower.
For Jenny, her heart rate in the first few intervals hit around 176 then dropped down to 135-145ish. As she progressed, it hit a maximum of around 186 and only dropped to around 145. The 186 indicates that she was pretty much at her limit, and I wouldn't want her going any faster/longer.
Afterwards she said she felt good. Her breathing had become tight, but not painful. This morning she could still walk, and reported not much pain at all.
She definitely like the interval training more than trying to stay at a jog for longer bursts. The minute was short enough that she could hold out and so push herself more than she probably would otherwise.
However, she still can't imagine being able to run at that speed for 30mins in 9 weeks. We shall see.
She is going to try and continue with the program, but since her own treadmill has just died, she will have to be running outside and so isn't sure she will be hitting the 10k/h in the jogging sections.
Review so far: the science behind doing intervals is pretty solid. It is meant to be one of the fastest ways to increase speed. However, it does mean in the interval pushing yourself harder than you would normally go.
We're not yet sure how it will go when the program starts evens out, as most interval training works on the principal of continually increasing the speed of the interval, not necessarily the length.
Jenny's Verdict: It's hard, but not as hard as you would think.
So, get out there and try it!