When I signed up for the Virgin London Marathon, I couldn’t run for longer than 5 minutes. Seriously, I ran down my road and headed towards the park, feeling sporty and energetic, for about a quarter of a mile. Then I had to stop. I tried to style it out by stretching against a post box, but I wasn’t fooling anyone. I hated that run. And I hated the subsequent couple of runs, most of which included me clutching my ipod in one hand and my stitch in the other, gasping for breath.
Need a reason to run, why not sign up for a race. It will give you something to train for, ensure that you don’t skip out on runs, and when else in adult life do you get a medal for finishing something?! It doesn’t matter if you’re not competitive; on race day (unless you are super speedy) the only person you’ll be in competition with is yourself. There are a range of distances to choose from and many ‘fun’ runs now, like the Zest Challenge (http://www.zest.co.uk/general/sign-up-for-the-zest-challenge-2013-with-alpro/4852.html), Colour Run (http://www.colour5k.co.uk/locations.php), Mo Run (http://www.mo-running.com/) as well as charity runs like Race for Life (http://raceforlife.cancerresearchuk.org/index.html).
When it’s just you deciding how far you’ll run on any given day, nine times out of ten, that distance will be zero (or is that just me?). If you have a scheduled distance to run you are far more likely to complete it. I love finding or making a training programme, writing it up in calendar format, (with bright colours) and sticking it to my fridge. More importantly, I love the satisfaction of crossing off completed training runs. I find that Hal Higdon (http://www.halhigdon.com/) and Runner’s World (www.runnersworld.co.uk) have the best free training plans.
A new hobby is the perfect excuse to buy yourself some new kit, Sweaty Betty, H and M, and Nike all have great stuff at a variety of prices. The most important piece of kit is your trainers. Ideally head to a specialist shop such as The Sweat Shop or Asics, where they have a treadmill set up for you to run and have your gait (whether you pronate or not) and running style analysed. The right shoe is key to running comfortably and pain free. Don’t forget to change your trainers at least every 500 miles, and try not to wear your running shoes to do anything but run in, as you’ll wear out the support!
Music can really keep you motivated and feeling strong whilst running, especially during training runs. Download some new tracks, create a playlist and hit play. No-one need know it’s the Glee soundtrack that’s pushing you on. Faster songs will generally keep you trucking along at a quicker pace. If you’re competing in a race, make sure you set up your playlist (and take it off shuffle) so that the songs that you love, and will keep you smiling, are near the end of your race. (Unfortunately my ‘finishing’ song during my marathon came on during mile 18- fail.)
Getting techie over your running stats is not just for the pro’s, it is a great motivator to see how far you’ve run and how fast you’re going. Most apps will also download your route and the profile of your run. Keep track of these and watch yourself improve. I run with a Garmin watch that I love, but also have RunKeeper and Nike+, both free apps, on my phone. Plus, they sometimes send emails of encouragement…
You’re less likely to miss a run if someone is relying on you to do it with them, and doing something with a friend, partner, colleague or family member makes the time fly by. Running with others is really sociable, even if you can’t maintain a conversation for the duration of your run. You may even run faster than you would on your own!
Find somewhere that you’ll enjoy your run, whether it’s through fields, parks or along a river, having something to look at other than your feet will make it more enjoyable. Or why not run home from work, then you’re exercise is complete and you’re at home, on the sofa.
Run slow, run fast, run long, run short. Run wherever and whenever you like. Just don’t run the same distance at the same speed every time, you will get very bored, and so will your body. Mix up your routine with interval runs on the treadmill, hill workouts, speed workouts, long runs and easy runs. For treadmill workout inspiration hit Pintrest, or I find pbfingers.com has a great variety of workouts for the treadmill or crosstrainer. Runnersworld.co.uk also has a great selection of workouts to choose from, as well as explaining the science behind the type of run.
When I am lacking inspiration, I turn to running and fitness blogs to give me the motivation I need to go for a run, hit the gym or sign up for another race. I love reading other people’s race recaps, training plans, runs and running goals. A good place to start is healthylivingblogs.com, most of the big ones tend to be American, but lots more British running blogs are springing up (like mine- shameless plug!)
Nothing is worse than running through pain, whether that’s a blister, shin splints or an IT band problem. Make sure to stretch properly after every run (there is much debate about whether you should stretch before, personally I do a little to warm my muscles up), ice anything that gives you trouble and REST! Start with low mileage, and build up, increasing about 10% a week, if you like. You’re better off running faster for shorter distances at first so you don’t put your body under too much stress.
The more you run, the easier it will get and the more fun you’ll have. It’s a fact of life, you enjoy the stuff you’re good at more than the stuff you’re bad at. So lace up your (new, correctly fitted) trainers and head out there- make running something you’re good at!