Now that we’ve (supposedly) entered the summer, we’re way past the New Year’s resolution season with its pilates class sign-ups and lycra purchases. With every January comes a spike in gym memberships, and many of those memberships are discarded after the first month – along with our best intentions. Who hasn’t enthusiastically applied themselves to their fitness plan, only to drop it when they get busy and stressed at work? Those of you who’ve managed to keep it up, bravo! If you didn’t, you aren’t alone.
If the pre-Olympics coverage is making you feel guilty, don’t despair – there’s a form of exercise that you can pick up whenever you like. It’s addictive, it relieves stress and you can do it on your own or with friends. Best of all? It’s free!
At age 14, I hated sport and would put in as little effort in P.E. as I could get away with. At 24 I had an unused gym membership, a pair of unworn trainers and a growing sense of unease about my level of fitness. I decided to do something about it and applied for Team Bangs on the Run, a running team put together by the inspiration Bangs and a Bun. 5 short months later I crossed the finish line of my first half marathon.
Now, I hate exercise; I hate the chest pain, I hate the shortness of breath and I hate the nausea when you push yourself too hard. But I still managed to run 13 miles without collapsing, and you bloody well can too. Not only does running keep you fit, it makes you more focused and determined in all areas of your life. Plus, with all that Lycra on, you’ll feel like a superhero.
If you’re going to start running, there’s only a couple of things you’ll need:
- A sports bra (if you’re a lady, obviously.)
You might already have these things, and if so, great! I would highly recommend getting a gait analysis though, even if you’re just starting out. Running in the wrong trainers can do damage later on so it’s best to get it sorted straight away if you can. And there is to be absolutely no running in Converse or Vans. None whatsoever. I’ve got my eye on you…
The sports bra is a must, even if you’re a small-chested lass. You really don’t want your boobs swinging in a figure of 8 if you’d like them to stay above your knees as you get older. Plus, it’s really bloody uncomfortable to have them moving around. Strap ‘em in, ladies.
To get started, find yourself a plan. You’re more likely to keep at it if you’ve got some sort of schedule to stick to. There are plenty of walk-to-run plans for beginners that focus on getting you through your first 5k, including the NHS Couch to 5k plan.
Secondly, book yourself on to a race. A race gives you something to aim for, and is another good reason to stick to your training plan. Most Race for Life runs are 5k and have a great atmosphere so it’s a brilliant place to start. If you’re feeling braver, try a 10k instead – that’s just over 6 miles, so it’s a fair challenge if you haven’t run before but it’s definitely achievable. For the crazy amongst you, there’s the half marathon. If you’ve got 5+ months to train, you’ll be fine!
Thirdly, find yourself a running buddy. This isn’t mandatory, and you’d be fine running on your own, but a little bit of support during your first few runs will go a long way. Try a friend that is already a runner, and don’t be scared to run with them. A lot of my friends don’t want to start running with me because they assume I’ll be too fast, which isn’t the case at all. I’m most definitely a tortoise!
If you can, start running on grass as it’ll be easier on your shins to begin with. If you’re running alone, take your iPod and listen to your favourite songs. The rest is up to you! Don’t worry about looking stupid as a) you really won’t and b) if anyone’s looking at you, they’re most likely feeling guilty that they’re not doing the same. Nothin’ to it but to do it.
Finally, STRETCH! Make sure you give those legs a good going over when you’re done – Runners World has a great set of basic stretches here. Also, as with any exercise, make sure you’re keeping yourself hydrated.
Those are the basics, and the rest you’ll learn along the way. Running is just so simple, addictive and freeing. Once you’ve crossed the finish line of a race you never thought you could get around in the first place, you’ll feel like you can do anything.
Good luck! Let us know how you get on – I want to see lots of pictures of your sweaty faces.