Did you have bold plans to start running more at the start of the summer, but things just didn't pan out? It can be tough to just go out for a free run when you're still working on your form and endurance.
That's where using one of the best running apps can come in handy. The most popular smartphone apps for runners are the Couch to 5K training programs. They are typically built around an 8- or 9-week program that eases you into running using the interval training method. The goal is for you to be able to complete a full 5K run with no walking breaks needed by week eight.
Go from couch potato to hero with these Couch to 5K apps
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If you search for "Couch to 5K" in the Google Play Store, you're going to find dozens of app options to choose from, so which one is right for you? The C25K - 5K Running Trainer program helps you get started in as little as 30-minutes a day for just three days a week. You'll find integration with MyFitnessPal, and there's so much more under the hood.
Next up, we have the aptly named Couch to 5K, which is the "official" Couch to 5K app on mobile platforms. There is an upfront cost that opens the doors to various training plans, along with virtual motivational coaches to help guide you through your journey.
Rounding out our top three favorite Couch to 5K apps actually isn't designed just for the C25K movement. Nike Run Club is a favorite for those who just want to do some workouts, maybe start running, and more. There are specialized training programs built right in, including a couch to 5K option.
1. C25K - 5K Running Trainer
It can be challenging to find the right motivation to get off the couch and into running shape. The C25K Running Trainer app comes from Zen Labs Fitness, which already has a bit of experience with its other running trainer apps. These include the likes of Couch to 10K, 7 Minute Workout, and Half Marathon Trainer.
Without paying a dime, this app gets you started by running for just 30 minutes a day, three days a week, for eight weeks. You can map your run and see at what pace you were running. Then, you can share your progress across all social media platforms. But the really neat aspect is the integration with MyFitnessPal, the best Samsung smartwatch, and even the best Fitbit.
While there are many features available just by downloading the app, there are even more available with the Zen Unlimited Pass. The company provides music curated by DJs, calories and distance stats, along with full access to all of the Zen Labs Fitness running apps and programs.
Unlock the power
Designed for first-timers
From curated playlists to audio coaching and integration with your favorite wearables, C25K - 5K Running Trainer has everything you need to get started and push your limits. And if you want to sign up for Zen Unlimited, you are provided with even more access and features to keep your motivation levels up.
2. Couch to 5K
Couch to 5K is the "official" app for the program and offers a bit more without the need to sign up for a subscription. After paying the "entry fee" (the cost of the app), you are provided with a slew of options, including specific training plans, four different motivational virtual coaches, and human audio cues to guide you through your workouts.
There's free GPS support, so you can figure out exactly how far you ran, along with the pace. As time marches on, some information graphs are included to help you compare your distance between workouts. This will assist in determining which route, pace, or area you should run in to get into the best shape.
You don't have to worry about only listening to the in-app trainers, as there's a built-in music player as well. And those who can't make it outside for a run don't have to fret, as the app sports treadmill support with manual workout entries.
The official app
Used by thousands
The "official" Couch to 5K app has everything you need to get off the couch and into shape for a 5K. There are built-in virtual trainers, along with access to all of the critical information you'll need to know what works and what doesn't.
3. Nike Run Club
It's an odd time in the Play Store right now, as some apps are free, others require payment upfront, but the rest try to take advantage of "in-app purchases." So when you find an app like Nike Run Club, which is not only chock-full of features but completely free, you have to consider it.
NRC is not your traditional Couch to 5K application, but there are training programs designed around just that goal. Along with working perfectly with the best Wear OS watch, NRC also features "audio-guided runs" with various Nike Coaches and Athletes. This helps you train for your first marathon but is also great if you just want one of the best running apps for Android.
But perhaps the best way to keep you motivated is by challenging yourself and your friends. With this app, you have access to an entire community of like-minded Nike Running Club users. With the help of challenges, you may be the one helping someone else out instead of the other way around, and you'll end up feeling amazing.
Free and feature-packed
Nike Run Club is not designed explicitly for the Couch to 5K program, but it's one of the best running apps on the Play Store. There are challenges, guided audio runs, personalized coaching plans, and even support for Google's Wear OS.
Other great options
Though they didn't quite make it into our top three, here are some other excellent apps for you to try out if you're looking to start a Couch to 5K program.
Zombies, Run! 5k Training
The standard Zombies, Run! app only focuses on tracking and guiding you through your runs. The 5K training version is designed with beginners in mind. When it comes to the training plan, this was specifically created by fitness professionals who have already "been there and done that."
As you follow the story and escape the zombies, new secrets will become available, and you will be able to do all of this while listening to your favorite Spotify and Pandora playlists. With over 25 different workouts, this eight-week program will ensure that you outrun the zombies and stay off the couch.
Don't get caught
Not for the faint of heart
This eight-week program ensures the zombies won't catch you while training you for the 5K you've always wanted to run. Then, you can go back and share your story after surviving the apocalypse.
Just Run: Zero to 5K
It's not often that you find a great app that is still being developed by just a single person. But that's just what you'll find with Just Run: Zero to 5K. The app is pretty simple and straightforward, but you won't have to worry about ads, and it'll provide you with access to trainer voices for motivation.
The developer also made it so you can use your favorite music streaming services while letting Just Run continue to notify you when it's time to run or walk. And those who want to jump into Premium will have access to more trainer voices to follow along with, as well as a few new themes that aren't available for the standard version.
Just one person
Indie developer FTW
Just Run: Zero to 5K provides everything you need to train for a 5K. The developer has even unlocked all premium features temporarily for everyone.
Start to Run. Running for Beginners
On its surface, Start to Run aims to just get you in the habit of running. There are standard features such as distance and pace tracking, along with a calorie counter and a built-in pedometer. But Start to Run also has an "alternative" training plan built-in for those who want to run a 5K.
There are four different workout levels, each of which should be performed three times per week. Eventually, you will reach your goal and be able to enter a 5K near you or just continue following the plan to become an even better runner.
Get out and start
Just start running
Getting started with 5K training can be tough, but Start to Run makes it easy. There are various levels, along with the necessary charts and maps to keep track of your progress.
Couch to 10K Running Trainer
Zen Labs Fitness already has a slew of great running and workout apps. We've even featured their Couch to 5K app as our favorite of this lot. But Zen Labs has pushed it up a notch with the Couch to 10K application. The company has even partnered with the likes of Samsung and Fitbit, so no matter whether you have the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 or the Fitbit Sense, the Couch to 10K Running Trainer app will work perfectly.
If you have already started to Couch to 5K program, you can just skip ahead and keep going on the road to 10K. But if you haven't started, the app will guide you through the 14-week program, with all of the features you'll need.
Step it up
Push your limits
If you want to break past the 5K barrier and step things up, the Couch to 10K Running Trainer app is perfect. Either start from the beginning or pick things up after the 5K training ended.
5K Run - Couch to 5K Walk/Jog Interval Training
When it comes to running or even jogging, it can be a bit daunting to get started. That's why using an app like 5K Run is so useful, as the trainer will tell you when to run, walk, cool down, and stop. Playing music in the background is no problem, and you are given an overview of your running plan.
The best part is that you don't even have to run outside, as you can run on the treadmill if that suits you better. If you need to stop or pause the run early, you won't be guilted and can just start it back up when you're ready.
Build your strength
The voice guidance you need
From a running plan overview to controlling your intervals, 5K Run is a great companion to get in shape. This app will make sure you have the cardio and body strength to complete a 5K with ease.
Adidas Running App - Your Sports & Run Tracker
Like Nike Run Club, the adidas Running App doesn't exactly help you follow the steps to go from zero to hero, but it will track all of your workouts, runs, and everything in between. You may not know this new app, but it's actually the Runtastic app rebranded after Adidas acquired the company. The app is free to use while sporting built-in GPS tracking and the ability to track your activity across 120 different workouts.
As you might expect to find from one of the best running apps, the adidas Running App integrates quite nicely with apps and devices from the likes of MyFitnessPal, Garmin, and others. You can participate in virtual races to help compete with others that aren't running on the pavement right next to you, likely adding that little push you need to reach your goals.
Old but new
Leave the potato days behind you
5K Runner transforms you from a couch potato into a well-oiled machine in just eight weeks. With all the tools and audio coaching, training for a 5K never has been more accessible.
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Andrew Myrick is a Senior Editor at Android Central. He enjoys everything to do with technology, including tablets, smartphones, and everything in between. Perhaps his favorite past-time is collecting different headphones, even if they all end up in the same drawer.