Writing for Hong Kong’s South China Morning Press, Jack Lau tells the story of Couch to 5K, the running schedule I created in 1996. Get the scoop on how the thing came to be and, um, compare photos of 25-year-old Josh running in 1996 to 49-year-old Josh running now.
I created the schedule well before I became a designer, but looking back, I consider Couch to 5K (C25K) to be my first big UX project. The “brief”: onboard skeptical would-be runners to a regular, sustainable running habit. Twenty-four years later, many millions of runners have used C25K to do exactly that.
The secret behind the nine-week plan is to offer kind encouragement to go (very) slow and advance (very) gently. Many come to C25K after defeating experiences with fitness: pain, self-flagellation, boredom, or “failure.” The program turns that around by delivering attainable victories. As Jack calls out in the article, the process has deeper effects than the merely physical. I’ve received a truly remarkable number of notes from people who tell me that completing the program revealed new confidence in what they might achieve.
“If a depressed 33-year-old with bad knees who hates cardio can do it, enjoy it, and start to thrive, anyone can,” one C25K alum told Jack. And that’s pretty cool.