Running is a fantastic way of keeping fit and healthy, warding off illness, and keeping your heart and mind healthy.
But it’s also something people are often a bit nervous of trying believing they are too unfit to start, too old, or simply that they won’t enjoy it – perhaps viewing it as a bit solitary, even though it can in fact be one of the best (and cheapest!) family and group fitness activities out there.
With that in mind, here are a few of the most common concerns I hear from people, together with hints and tips on overcoming them to find your inner runner, no matter what your size, age or fitness level.
I’m too old or unfit – start at your pace
It’s never too late to get your trainers on and get moving more. If you haven’t run before and aren’t already active, start small. Apps like Couch to 5K are a great way to get your body used to running in a safe and sustainable way. Start by running for 30 second intervals and increase your time the more you go out.
If you struggle with mobility or knee/hip/ankle injuries, try walking each day rather than running. When you first start out it’s best to run at an ‘easy’ pace – but remember, this is different for everyone! The best way to determine the right starting speed for you, is to try and hold a normal conversation whilst running. If you start getting too breathy to speak clearly (or to sing along to our favourite tunes if you are by yourself), you might be starting out a little too fast.
I’m embarrassed – get a confidence boost from friends and family
Everyone has to start somewhere, so you should never feel ashamed of your body or ability.
You do not have to wear skin-tight Lycra and expensive trainers to get the benefits of running. Comfy trainers and clothing which is easy to move in will be just as effective.
Running with a friend or members of your family will help you build confidence and have fun along the way. Alternatively, joining a running club will ensure you are grouped with people of a similar ability – you are not alone!
Breathe easy – getting a little out of puff is fine
It’s perfectly normal to find running difficult if you are just starting out. You will likely get hot, flushed, out of breath and sweaty as your body gets used to the physical exertion. Concentrating on your breathing will help you maintain a steady breath. Use both your nose and your mouth to breathe in, then your mouth to breathe out fully. If you find yourself struggling for breath, slow your pace down a little.
Cramp concerns – take time to wake up your muscles
Getting a stitch or cramp can cut your run short no matter how enthusiastic you are.
These annoying and painful conditions are generally caused by failing to warm up properly and exercising too soon after eating.
The best time to eat is about an hour and a half to two hours before. Eat something high in carbohydrates and low in fat, protein and fibre. A slice of wholemeal toast and peanut butter, hummus and pitta bread, or a banana and glass of milk are all good snacks.
Warm up by walking and stretching your leg muscles.
It’s boring – so mix it up a bit
With park runs, obstacle course racing and organised races taking place up and down the country, there really is no reason why you or your family should find running boring.
Bubble runs, colour runs, and rock and roll marathons are all designed to bring entertainment to the run, while tough mudders and pretty muddy encourage team camaraderie and enjoyment.
Downloading podcasts, audiobooks and playlists will keep you entertained during training, while switching up your routes and exploring new places will also make your runs more interesting.
I don’t have the time – in that case, running is perfect!
Running is one of the easiest things you can do if you’re short of time. You can start and end at your house without having to drive or go to a gym, and you don’t need to book in advance – just pull on your trainers and go.
And if childcare is a problem, take them with you! Running as a family is a good way to keep everyone healthy. It also helps keep you motivated and adds a little friendly competition into the mix. Just make sure you keep at the same pace and are supportive (not critical) of what they’re doing. Kids get dehydrated quickly in hot weather, so keep an eye on them.
Weather worries – wetter can be better
A bit of rain shouldn’t put you off a run, and once you’ve got into the habit, you may actually find you a little precipitation cools you down. The important thing is to take the first step. Once you have been for a few runs in fair weather, you’ll be more inclined to go out in the rain and probably enjoy the experience – it can be quite invigorating.
But if it really is too wet, windy or cold to run safely, don’t forget about the running machines at your local gym – many of which will have different terrain and sometimes visual settings to keep you busy and bring the outdoors, in.
So, have you run out of excuses?
Running for 30 minutes every other day will go towards your recommended amount of movement for the week, reducing your risk of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer and stroke. It’s inexpensive, can be a family, group or solo experience and is also a fantastic stress reliever that can boost your mood by encouraging the production of endorphins, or ‘happy hormones’. So, go on. No more excuses – give it a go!