If you think that smug running types don’t get it when you explain that you just ‘can’t run’, you’re very wrong. I was that person; embarrassed to run in daylight hours, utterly fearful of being seen, clueless and definitely sports bra-less.
But somewhere, somehow, something changed. I became the sporty Mum at the school gate (groan), someone who craves exercise and gets the right hump if my weekly runs get cut short by bad weather or general life chaos.
And yet, once upon a time I’d only ever run for the last train or last orders at the bar, and been more likely to be smoking a fag behind the sports hall than running cross country.
So what would I tell the me back then? When she declared herself ‘not a runner’ but a new Mum willing to give something a go, post bedtime in a bid to escape the house and shift the baby weight?
Get some proper trainers
It’s funny – you wouldn’t dream of taking up many sports without forking out on a bit of kit, but going running is a little like shopping in Primark – the less you expect to pay, the less you want to pay. But, after years of running on a pair of random trainers my knees found out the hard way that investing in the proper gear will pay back dividends.
Hit a running shop, get the assessment done and cough up a few quid for a well supporting pair of kicks. My painful knees cleared up almost immediately and I can’t believe I didn’t think to do this sooner.
A ton is a small price to pay for your knees.
Be your own motivation – Run alone
For a really really long time, I ran with a friend. It was a brilliant way to build confidence but ultimately, when you are so reliant on another persons life / schedule it can bring your running to a standstill.
By learning that you can run alone (for me, always safely in well lit public areas) your window of opportunity explodes exponentially. The beauty of running is the ability to be spontaneous, so when the moment presents itself, grab your gear and go.
Ready, Tech, Go
There are a whole host of running apps to see you on your way. Couch to 5K, Strava, Nike Run, Spotify for running…If technology is your thing, get downloading and track your routes, your progress, your calories burnt, your pace…the sky is the limit. Just bear in mind that if the computer says no (as mine often does), don’t spend too long trying to fix the glitch in the matrix, you can run tech free….and actually, every now and again, I quite like to.
If you really can’t deal with running alone, but can’t face a running club, Park Run is a free global organisation which holds local timed runs through volunteering and sponsorship, and always attracts a big crowd.It’s really chilled and gets a huge mix of people at all levels.
It took me years to build up the courage to go to Park Run, and it’s something I wish I had known about sooner.
Hell No H20
It’s a personal choice, obvs, but my running hero, my sister in law, educated me in the boundaries of running without water. Assuming you are properly hydrated (and it’s not a roasting day) you should be fine to run 10K before needing a drink. So all those years I sloshed around a water bottle with me to run 2K…I needn’t have worried.
As much as I’d love to run free as a bird, there is always a bare minimum amount of stuff to take – whether your keys, phone or park run barcode, it’s a case of trial and error working out how to carry all your stuff around without jingle jangling or pulling your trousers down.
Another sister in law tip; The Flip Belt. A simple design which allows you to stash keys, phone, credit card close to your body, safely flipped and tucked in, and readily available for the perfect photo / song skip as needed.
My personal secret to a feel fab run is to choose your route wisely. For many, many years I did the same grey route like groundhog day. Uninspiring, drab and repetitive; it fed the desire to give it a miss.
In a moment of desperation I threw caution to the wind and mixed up my route – doing it backwards. That inspired me to try a different circuit, and eventually, to head towards places of natural beauty to optimise the hell yeah feelings those endorphins rushing will bring. Run somewhere lovely, always, and you will not regret it.
It feels sooo good
It’s hard to remember a time when I didn’t know that I’d never regret a run. But in time, you soon learn to appreciate that post run buzz, glow, endorphin boost of feel good that makes you feel alive. No longer a sense of punishment, but an actual life pleasure. That has to be almost the biggest surprise of all…well if it wasn’t for this last one…
You can run
The twenty something year old me would have fallen off her bar stool to see me now. She believed she could not run; she would never be fit and sport was something for other people, not her.
But do you know what, YOU CAN RUN. I can run. Anyone can run.
Yes it’s hard to begin with; there is no escaping that. Yes you feel like you might throw up / pass out / spontaneously combust at first. But it gets easier, little by little. Not overnight, but slowly you start to see your progress, your ability to run a little further, a little faster or a little less red and puffy-er.
The point is, it’s just a case of stop telling yourself you can’t, and see if you can.
You’ll surprise yourself. I should know, I’m still surprised.