Thoughts on Being a Runner

A few months ago I confessed that I’d signed up to the British 10k. I’d spent the day watching the London Marathon and if the London Marathon doesn’t inspire you to put on a pair of trainers, then nothing will. Watching those many thousands of people of all ages, shapes and walks of life running that incredible distance, you can’t help thinking “maybe I could do that too…”.

Well, in my blogging absence I did it. I didn’t run a marathon (God forbid!), but I did run 10k. Ten whole k’s. I used to only run for the bus. Then I met my boyfriend – my Strava-addicted, trainer-obsessed, marathon nut of a boyfriend – and in my attempts to hold an intelligent running conversation with him, I got a bit interested. Now look at me! I’m a changed woman.

IMG_3009 (2)

Going from the sofa to a 10k finish line is not impossible. Far from it. Most people have run at some point in their lives (even if, like me, it was only for the bus). For a 10k that just needs little refining. If I can do it, you can too.

*Sign up for a race: Give yourself something to aim for, it’s the easiest way to keep motivation high. I’d recommend a local race but with as many participants as possible so you have the excitement of a large event but without all the stress of travelling. Don’t be put off if the entry fee is a bit steep – it usually means you’ll get a good t-shirt and medal at the end.

*Get the kit: Everyone knows that a new hobby opens up a whole world of shopping opportunities. Embrace it. You don’t need to buy huge amounts, and running kit can get very pricey, but I would recommend a few items. First and foremost, a good pair of trainers. Did you know that some trainers are ‘fashion trainers’ and not meant for any proper physical activity? AVOID those trainers. Places like Sweatshop analyse your running style so they can recommend the best trainers for you. This is quite scary, but definitely worth it. Secondly, proper running socks. Seems silly but normal socks will rub your feet. And lastly, if you’re a girl, a sports bra. A great one is truly life-changing.

*Get a running buddy: Talk one of your friends into signing up with you and then support each other through the whole process. Go shopping together, drag each other out for runs in the rain and hold hands over the start line. It’s the best way to keep motivation high. Preferably, find someone to run with who is better than you. If they really know their stuff they’ll be able to pace you properly, recommend the perfect pair of trainers and encourage a little healthy competition – noone likes being left behind.

*Remember that it’s OK to hate your running buddy: The aforementioned marathon nut of a boyfriend was my running buddy. We had some tough runs. He lied about distance, tricking me into running 2k further. I told him I wanted to punch him in the face. He ran off without me. Expletives were hurled. He quoted Muhammad Ali at me (irritating), he didn’t need a post-run shower (devastating) and he foam rollered my legs until I screamed in pain (entirely unnecessary). Just remember that running you and rational you are two entirely different beasts. And know when to say you’re sorry.

*Create a running plan: Draw up a plan of all the runs you want to do leading up to the race. Remember to taper the week before the race. This is the best week where you don’t have to run and, instead, eat as much pasta as you want (apparently it’s good for you). Include some interval sessions, long runs and short, easy runs. Think about what you want to achieve from each run – for the longer distance ones forget about time, they are just about upping the kilometers. You don’t need to do the full 10k before the race, but if it’ll reassure you that you can actually go the distance then do it.

*Don’t stress out too much about said plan: Sometimes it’s raining. Sometimes you’ve had a bad day. Sometimes it’s raining and you’ve had a bad day and there’s a pizza in the oven and a new PLL episode on Netflix. Treat your running plan as a guide rather than strict commandment. Missing a couple of runs won’t kill you. If your running buddy refuses to get on board with this attitude, see above point that it’s OK to hate your running buddy.

*Get involved with Parkrun:  Parkrun is the absolute best. Granted, the 9am Saturday morning start time doesn’t feel so wonderful but the fun, community atmosphere and encouragement does make it all worth it. Parkrun is all over the country and is simply a free, timed 5k. There are the super-keen fast runners but the huge majority are just there to have a good time and run the best time they can. And a volunteer runs at the back so you will never come last. Genius.

*Enjoy it: Running can be fun. It’s so good to get outside after a long day in the office, feeling yourself improve and getting involved with the sportswear obsession. And to run a proper 10k race and have a proper medal at the end does feel like a huge achievement. Just remember, the day after the race, that noone has ever died from a pulled muscle. And that you’re entitled to not take the stairs for at least a week.

How to Spend… January

January, the month that sees gyms full and bank accounts empty. I always find January a bit of an odd time, a strange mix of misery that Christmas is over and excitement for the year ahead. If only the weather would perk up it could all be very merry. Here are my suggestions to see you through to spring (or at least February).

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0016.P1030028 (3)

*Set yourself a tough resolution for January: New year resolutions tend to spark mixed opinion. Are they (like rules) only something to break or are they a worthwhile challenge? Personally, I quite enjoy them. They’ve seen me stick to a proper skincare routine, drink more water and actually run in the past, so I’m not going to knock them. But this year, I’m trying something new – a tough resolution just for January. Dry January is the classic example of this, but mine is all healthy work lunches. Chocolate gets passed around like oxygen in my office and PRs send us all kinds of delicious treats, which is all good and fun, but it’s time to make some healthier choices. We’ll see how I go! Rather than setting yourself a huge challenge for the whole year, try it in a bite-sized chunk just for this month. You get the feel good moment of achievement sooner, and it just might push you on for the rest of the year.

*Get creative with your workouts: Skip the gym this January. The novelty wears off, it gets boring and you’ll be done with it by spring. Or, join the gym like the rest of the world but don’t stop there. Have a go at running outside. Try yoga. Do the 30 day abs challenge. Join an exercise class. It is so difficult to sustain repetitive exercise, so mix it up! There are so many apps, YouTube videos and classes out there to help you, and it is the best way to really enjoy exercising. I’m currently in love with the Nike Running app, which tracks your runs so you have something to analyse proudly at the end. I also love Cassey Ho’s Blogilates workout videos on YouTube. There are so many, they are really creative and entirely free!

*Get planning: The best way to be productive is by planning your day properly. So treat yourself to a new diary/planner and go to town. This doesn’t just have to be boring, worky things though. I’m busy planning as many fun things for January as possible at the moment. It can seem a bit miserable with the festivities over, so gather up your friends and go to all of those places you meant to visit in 2015. Shop the sales, eat out and have fun.

*Finally, go easy on yourself: New Year’s resolutions are all well and good, but they shouldn’t make you miserable. You don’t have to be productive 24/7, go to the gym everyday and just eat leaves. Down days exist for a reason, use yours to recharge and your productivity, exercise regime and general health will really benefit. So spend an afternoon watching films, have a bath and eat a slice of chocolate cake. Everyone deserves a break – use yours well!