As a young girl, I always loved running. Take me to a park, and I would entertain myself by running laps for most of the day. I’d be the first to sign up for the cross country or the 800m race at sports day (the day I finally got gold in the last year of middle school, will stay with me forever!) But then I hit my teens and suddenly, it wasn’t cool to do laps round the park, it was way cooler to sit by the skate park, waiting for the boys to impress us.
In my early twenties, I dabbled. I didn’t really commit the time, but when I was having a “fat” week, I’d take myself off for a run or three, convinced that would suddenly make me skinny and super fit.
It’s not until now, at 35, and over two years into a regular running routine that I can truly appreciate the benefits I get from running, from a health and fitness perspective, and also from a mental health and well being point of view.
So, whilst I’m not a fitness coach or qualified trainer, I thought, I’d share my real life tips on how to get into your own running routine.
It’s the easiest thing to say: ‘I’ll go tomorrow’, or ‘I’ll start next week’. Well, tomorrow and next week very rarely turn up, so you need to find your way to commit if you really want to start running. There are a few ways you can do this…
Sign up to a charity run – This is such a good way to make yourself accountable. You have something to aim for, something to train for. And if you’re raising money for a good cause, that’s a big motivator. You can go for anything from a 3k or 5k, up to a half or even a full marathon. It depends how big your goal is, but if a challenge is what drives you, this is perfect way to kick start your running routine.
Join a local running group – If you’re not keen on the idea of running solo, have a search online or on social media for a local running group in your area. There are often groups associated with local gyms, or community centres. They usually have a mixture of levels from beginner to more seasoned runners – they might even organise runs on different days to accommodate.
Buddy up – If joining a group of strangers, puts your teeth on edge, try persuading one of your friends to join you. Remember, going for a run doesn’t mean you have to break any records. Turn your run into a social jog and use the time to catch up. If you start associating running with the good feeling you get from spending time with friends, you’ll be more motivated to keep it up.
Follow a training programme – We’ve all heard of Couch to 5k, and if you’re a total beginner, it’s a great place to start. There are loads of different versions of the app that you can download to your phone, but one I used to start with is called ‘Only You Couch to 5K’. This app features choice of four trainers, including Sarah Millican and Jo Whiley, who motivate you every step of the way. It’s a flexible programme, which you can complete in as little as nine weeks. If this doesn’t float your boat, a quick google will give you a number of different options of running programs to follow including: MyProtein, Runners World and Military.com. Take a look and see what one works for you.
Plan ahead – Give yourself the best shot at success by carving out the time you need to include runs into your weekly routine. A good starting point is to aim for three runs per week, so pick your days and make sure you free up 20-30 minutes. Give yourself the best chance by picking the days where taking 30 minutes out will have the least impact on your current commitments. This will make it easier to stick to. Remember, it takes an average of 21 days to build a habit, so keep going!
Get the right kit – Another way of making sure your running journey goes smoothly, is to get the right gear, especially trainers. Invest in a decent pair, making sure they provide the right support and cushioning, as well as being the correct fit. The last thing you want is to be mid-way into a run and for your trainers to pinch or rub for the rest of the way. Blisters are not a runner’s best friend.
Know your reasons – One of my biggest tips is to understand why you want to run. Is it getting fitter, simply starting a new hobby, working towards a bigger goal, or to help improve your mental health? Knowing your why, and keeping that in focus, will help you to continue to push on the days that feel the hardest.
Don’t give up – Finally, please don’t give up… at least don’t give up easily. There are going to be days when getting through your run is the hardest thing ever. We ALL get those days. It can be down to a huge number of factors, what you’ve eaten, how much sleep you’ve had, stress, mood, and for the ladies – that time of the month. And remember on the flip side, there will be days that you will feel like you could run forever…
Keep going, one step at a time.