This is the day when everything changes!
Note it down on your phone, tablet, laptop or even a good old-fashioned piece of paper if you like.
This is the day when you resolve to take those first courageous steps on the road to being the new version of YOU. Behind you is the over-indulgence of the festive season, you are now determined to make a new start with the New Year and turn the weirdness of 2020 into a much more positive 2021. The way you are going to do it is by starting running.
I congratulate you on going for an activity which I guarantee will give you all the highs and lows you can handle and plenty in between. Maybe your building upon the fitness foundations you laid during the first lockdowns or your starting from scratch.
Running is one of the best activities to improve your fitness and your mental health. You can explore the area you live in to find some hidden gems you never knew existed, you can run on road or off road, alone with music (only one headphone for health and safety) or socially with friends.
A member of staff in my local coffee shop asked my advice about running recently and her experience may sound familiar to some of you.
“I got out and ran as hard as I could for a couple of miles,” she said. “It was horrible!”
My immediate reaction was that she had simply been trying too hard and put her body in crisis mode. She asked too much of it, too soon!
When you first start out your body will yell “What the heck are you doing? What’s wrong with walking?”
This is a natural response. You are pushing out your boundaries with this new activity and it is to be expected that there will be times when it feels uncomfortable. That’s all part of the process and any discomfort you may feel will be balanced by the satisfaction you get as you progress.
What you have to do is persuade your body that the new sensation isn’t life-threatening. Your first sessions will inevitably be taking you out of your comfort zone as you encounter the fundamental principle of training ie putting in some effort and then recovering so your body adapts to the extra load that has been put on it.
The trick is to make it a gradual process. No big steps – rather plenty of little ones.
The good news is that running isn’t a mystical science. It’s something our species has been designed to do. You can just step out of the door and run. Simple as that.
“But how far do I go?”
“How fast do I go?”
“How often should I train?”
Help is at hand in the shape of a structured training schedule that we have put together, to encourage you to build up your running in a safe and sensible manner towards a goal that is attainable. You can read and print our training plan here.
I once coached one of my triathlete colleagues through her first marathon. At the time I suggested that from the first day of their new training programme they regard themselves as a marathon runner.
“The moment you start the training you ARE a marathon runner, not just when you cross the finish line!”
The same is true if you are just starting out running, regardless of distance. It’s a matter of mindset.
They often tell me that the little inspirational advice made a massive difference to their motivation throughout their training journey, which gave them a very respectable marathon finish time.
Accordingly, on your first day of venturing out you need to proclaim to yourself (and anyone else in earshot), “I am a 5k runner!”
Cue theme from Rocky!
Motivation is the one thing that may swing like a pendulum. Some days you’ll be raring to go and on others, where it’s freezing cold and lashing it down, you’ll want to sack the whole thing off and have a coffee and a cake.
When you feel like the latter, these are the times when you need to force yourself to get out the house, even if it is a short run walk session, you have a least got out the house. I guarantee you will feel better for it.
Here are some ways of motivating yourself.
- Seek out other new runners in your area so you can support each other, or better still, start your running journey with a friend. Easier said than done under the current ever-changing restrictors, but daily exercise is currently allowed so take advantage of that and make the most of it.
- Consider joining a running club (you may have to wait until restrictions are eased). This may sound a bit scary, as surely running clubs are full of ‘serious’ runners who are very, very good, right? Not true. Most clubs have different groups for different abilities and some even have dedicated C25K programmes. Us runners are a supportive bunch too, so you’ll have an abundance of encouragement, lots of advice and a whole new set of runner friends.
- Treat yourself to a gait analysis and some new running shoes suited to your needs. Gait analysis? What’s that? A person’s gait is basically the way they walk and run. Gait analysis involves walking / running on a treadmill to identify how your hips, legs, knees and feet all work together. It will help identify which type of running shoes will work best for you while you take on your new-found hobby. Running shops offer gait analysis once they are able to re-open.
- Take out a subscription to a running magazine so you get a daily fix of running features , advise and ideas, guaranteed to get your legs twitching in anticipation of your next outing. Runners World, Women’s Running, Trail Running, there’s lots out there to choose from.
- Take advantage of the sales to grab some snazzy running gear. You can reward yourself when you pass important milestones which could even be getting out on that night when the weather was particularly horrible. My tips for the best winter running gear can be found here.
Most importantly – stick with it!
There will be times when you are convinced that you are on the brink of death as your lungs feel like they are burning and your legs have either turned to lead or jelly. This is most likely to occur when you succumb to the temptation of racing and not pacing yourself.
But, there will be times of euphoria and triumph when you know all the hard work has been worthwhile.
You may even catch the running bug, participation in events is addictive!
Welcome to the great adventure that is running!
Couch to 5k Training Plan 2021
You can read and print out Couch to 5K training plan here.
Vincent Boit in 2015
Amanda Crook in 2013
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|1st||Omar Ahmed (Birchfield Harriers)||1:03:53|
|2nd||Tom Merson (Exmouth Harriers)||1:07:46|
|1st||Alice Braham (Ealing Eagles Running Club)||1:18:08|
|3rd||Sophie Delderfield (Vale of Aylesbury AC)||1:18:52|