With milder weather and longer, lighter evenings, Spring/Summer marks the start of the running calendar.
From now till the end of autumn there are hundreds of events – from guided walks and park runs, all the way to ultra-marathons – taking place up and down the UK.
If you’ve been thinking about getting your trainers back on, or fancy the idea of getting your family into running for the first time, you couldn’t have picked a better time to do so.
Running counts towards your weekly recommended amount of movement (that 20 minutes a day for adults, and 60 minutes a day for kids), it’s free, and you can do it anywhere and at any time.
Like any exercise, running regularly reduces your risk of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer and stroke. It is a great stress reliever and can boost your mood by encouraging the production of endorphins, or ‘happy hormones’.
Best of all, it’s a great opportunity to get out and in the fresh air with your kids.
Walk this way
If you’ve not been active for a while, you’ll need to build up your fitness gradually. Start with gentle walking, picking up frequency, distance and pace over time.
You can then work your way up to a run by alternating between jogging and walking for short intervals, until you’ve built up enough stamina to run for a period of time without stopping.
Be sure not to push yourself too far too quickly. Take it slow and steady so you can establish what pace works for you.
Encourage your kids to get involved by running alongside you, joining you on their bikes, or simply cheering you on as you lap the playground. Your enthusiasm will rub off on them and inspire them to get involved too.
Make sure you start your workout with a warm-up by walking, marching on the spot, climbing the stairs, or stretching and knee lifts.
If you feel really out of shape, or suffer from a chronic condition, speak to your GP or practise nurse before starting out.
Set your own goals
Whether you are just starting out or have been running for a while, set yourself a target. Targets give you something to aim for and have been proven to help people get into an exercise routine.
Your goal could be to complete an event like a half marathon or 5k, or something smaller, like simply reaching the top of the road without stopping to walk.
Getting the whole family involved will help keep you motivated and adds a little friendly competition into the mix. Just make sure you keep at the same pace with your kids and are supportive (not critical) of what they’re doing.
If you’re all different abilities, why not run on adjacent treadmills at the gym? Or try a family relay? Anything that means you can work together will help you reach your goal!
If you find running daunting, or simply don’t know where to start, a running app is a great way to coach you out of your fitness funk.
Audio programmes such as the NHS’s Couch to 5k will help you build up your stamina and keep motivated, instructing you when to walk and run during your workout.
Alternatively, you could join a running club. Most clubs have groups for different levels and are hugely supportive of novice runners – so don’t be shy! Local park runs are also very family friendly and welcoming.
If you are a more competent runner, choosing an app such as Map My Run or Strava will help you keep track of your distances, times and personal bests, as well as helping you come up with alternative or more challenging routes.
While expensive equipment can help improve performance and help you avoid injury, you don’t need these things in order to run. You just need to use your feet!
When you first start running you simply need a pair of trainers and some comfortable, easy to move in clothing (like an old t-shirt and some leggings or sweat pants).
As you start to run more, it’s worth investing in a pair of new trainers which will support you and help you stay injury free.
If you stick at it, you may want to invest in some running specific clothing that will wick moisture (sweat) away from the skin. Many supermarkets now have their own reasonably priced ranges. Women and teenage girls may need a good, supportive sports bra to run comfortably.
Apps and activity trackers aren’t essential but are a good way to keep track of the exercise you’re doing and the progress you’re making. Sync them with family and friends to give them support… and add a little bit of healthy competition and of course fun!
While many runners sign up for marathons and half marathons, it’s important to remember these are extreme endurance tests and require lots of training – something not many families have the time to do.
It’s not necessarily about the number of miles you do, but about finding a fun, realistic and achievable exercise for you and your loved ones. Whatever works for you, stick with it and your family’s health and wellbeing will benefit.