Monday, 5 May 2014

Lifestyle: How I Got Into Running

When I was at school, PE was by far my most hated subject. I couldn't wait to finally get out of school and not have anybody force me to run around in circles on a track or get me to do any other strenuous activity that I simply saw no point in. Fast forward a couple of years and I'm quite willingly taking out at least half an hour out of every other day to head outside, come rain or sunshine (though preferably sunshine) and run my heart out.

There are loads of benefits to running and there are tonnes of information on it, but I thought I'd just give you a brief overview of the things that got me into it and little hints and tips that I've picked up along the way.

The one thing that gets me to keep coming back to running time after time is the fact that it is just so damn convenient. All you really need is a decent pair of trainers, a sports bra and some comfy clothes and you're good to go. Over time, you might want to pick up a few extra bits here and there. In my personal opinion, a good lightweight jacket that you can just layer over anything else is a great investment and an armband you can strap your phone into and pop some keys and maybe a bit of cash in is also very helpful. Apart from that, it doesn't really matter whether your workout clothes are from Primark or Lululemon, as long as they're comfy and don't chafe, that's all that really matters.

Preparation is key
The number one rookie error which I was also originally something I did, is to just head out the door, go way too fast way too soon, exert yourself too much and then not want to go out again. There are lots of Couch to 5k plans available online, but if you're completely new I'd definitely recommend getting the free C25K app for your smartphone. At the start, all you have to do is run for one minute and anyone can do that! But, rather than having to check your times all the time to know when to take a walking break, the app will give you an audio cue every time you need to switch up your pace, so you can focus on your actual running form.

I also purchased two books to read up on all the running related basics and know-how and the one I would happily recommend to anyone who's new to running or even considers themselves an intermediate runner, is the Zest: Running Made Easy guide (available on Amazon here). It cuts straight to the point, offers easy to follow advice and has lots of motivational stories inside that keep you going on those grey "I-don't-want-to-get-out-of-bed" days.
The other book I went for is the Runner's World Complete Guide to Women's Running (available here). This one offers a lot of more in-depth information and is probably better suited for those who are a lot more committed and serious about their running. For beginners I find it to be a tad intimidating, as there is just so much stuff to get your head around.

Getting high
Occasionally, you might hear people talk about this apparent urban myth called a runner's high. Believe me, it's not a myth. Running will leave you feeling elated and incredibly proud of yourself for getting out there and doing something good for your health. From personal experience, once I've built up my stamina enough to keep going comfortably for at least 40 minutes, come about half hour into my run, I get a tingly sensation that makes me feel like I could literally carry the whole world in my little finger. It's tricky to describe until you've felt it for yourself, but it's a feeling worth putting all the effort in for!
Another thing that makes a tremendous difference is having a good, upbeat playlist to listen to. While it's nice to just shut out all the noise and run in silence from time to time, it's just so much more fun when you're pounding the pavement to a happy song!

Keeping motivated
I've had more gym memberships than I really want to think about (my last one lasted literally one month) and fitness fads come and go, but I keep getting drawn to running and picking up my trainers again and again. In part it's the convenience, in part it's also the monotony that really lets you clear your mind and come back relaxed and refreshed. Even though my job requires me to be on my feet all day long, I am actually more energetic if I've been on a morning run before work, than if I had an extra half hour in bed.
Another huge motivating factor is also continuously seeing your body and your fitness levels improve. I started out wheezing after running for a minute and with patience and perseverance I was soon averaging 15 miles a week. I really love the Map My Run app for this reason, as it lets you track your speed and distance via your phone's inbuilt GPS signal and it's just a great feeling to see your stats improve week after week.
Finally, the biggest and best motivator of them all is to sign up for a race! Be it a 5k or a marathon, just make sure it's a realistic goal and then you'll think twice about skipping a session if you know that race day is just around the corner. The actual feeling of running a race is indescribable. Basically, it's a lot of happy people in one place doing the best they can, often for a good cause raising money for charity - what's not to love?

These are just a few basic thoughts on what got me to be what I consider to be a "runner". Don't hesitate to ask any questions in the comments below and I'll try my very best to answer them!

Are you a runner?

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