Running is definitely a marmite sport. For many, the idea of hitting the paths and pounding down a few miles in a sweaty, aching mess sounds like the ultimate hell, and I’m not gonna lie at first running is frustrating and difficult. REALLY ANNOYINGLY DIFFICULT. At the start of my degree I couldn’t run a mile without collapsing and demanding sustenance and would’ve choked if you’d said I would ever run a half marathon! But it’s all perseverance and training (and having something to stew over to distract yourself – like dissertations!)
Humans are not really designed to run. As a zoologist I only have to look at the physiological evolutionary history of the differences between ‘fight or flight’ species. Flighty animals are generally four-legged, agile and aerodynamic, and I can speak for humankind in saying I am none of those things. On top of this running is notoriously harsh on the joints and connecting tissues, often leading to long-term injury.
Yet running is commonly cited as one of the best forms of cardiovascular exercise and is one of the most rapidly growing sports in the UK with over 75,000 now running in the nationwide ‘Parkrun’ events every single Saturday. Boasting the ability to burn fat fast, tone the legs and even the core muscles with the correct form this is unsurprising but many more people give up rather than pursue running as a sport. So here are a few ideas from personal experience and research to get over that running blockade, make solid progress and switch off from the frustration of really hating those first few miles. Soon, you’ll be feeling the benefits of this great sport:
- Run when you want to. No exercise is fun when it’s forced, especially mindless cardio workouts. Sure, you might benefit from the runners high after you’ve struggled through 5 miles of utter hell on Tarmac but is that worth it? It doesn’t last that long anyway and nor does the cake you reward yourself with afterwards. Running is only fun when you have the energy, the willpower and need a positive outlet. It’s only then that I reach for my trainers, ignore my run trackers and run for as long or as little as I WANT, not that I feel I have to.
- Run with friends. Running can be the perfect way to have time to yourself but it can also be tedious. Sometimes its so much more fun to ditch the headphones, grab some friends and have a chat as you enjoy a casual jog, no personal targets or goals, just the time to catch up and enjoy being outside
- Work on your core strength. I never believed this one but gaining some core tone does wonders for balance and therefore stamina. When you feel like you’re dragging, lifting your shoulders, looking up and engaging your middle gives a new lease of life!
- Eat to run – this should probably be first on my list. I never used to notice what I ate before I ran, I just ran (or figured if I ran on an empty stomach I’d burn more?) Boom, no way. Eating some carbs and protein before running fuels those legs allowing a longer, more energetic run and enables much faster recovery. Therefore you can go more often and actually enjoy feeling strong, while before I was dragging myself along and resented every step. My favourite is definitely peanut butter and banana on toast 1-2 hours before and timing my runs to have a sizeable meal shortly after getting back. WalkJogRun have a great recipe list to gain inspiration.
- Rock out or groove on up. Both Spotify and RunnersWorld have some fab playlists to choose from sorted by genre, tempo, sport and even some chosen by well-known international athletes, tailored to their chosen sport. Music can be the best pick me up, especially when running alone. I’m often the odd looking jogger bopping along the trails rather than concentrating on a PB (I have no idea what mine is to be honest!)
- Have a long term goal to really set your sights on. It doesn’t matter if a personal milestone, a race or just the ability to do a certain loop with ease. Every time you run you’ll get that little bit closer and be that little bit more determined. I don’t tend to go for times but just recognising points in a route where you used to give up while now you breeze in through is a personal and incomparable achievement. Runners tend to naturally competitive so aiming for a target will really push those pins!