Run for your life
Thursday 28th February 2019
It's free, it gets you off the sofa and out into the fresh air, and more and more
people are taking up running to keep fit, make friends and provide a sense of
achievement. Could running be the sport for you too?
'I think we all should have something, which takes us to our happy place,' says Olympian Dame Kelly Holmes, who has recently published her new book, Running Life (Kyle, £20). 'These days, running gives me freedom, headspace, confidence, fitness and is part of my lifestyle rather than a career. It's an amazing form of exercise and works your whole body as well as being good for the mind.' If you're thinking of getting your running shoes on, here's some advice to get you off on the right track.
Be your own champion
You need to be mentally as well as physically ready to embrace a new fitness regime. 'I have certainly always believed that people "win" because they have the right mental attitude,' says Kelly. 'In my mind, it is all about believing anything is possible but that doesn't automatically mean everyone is a winner. Because when two people have the same qualifications, experience in the workplace or time and distance on the track, it's the mental attitude, focus and selfbelief that can set them apart. Now, when we are talking fitness and sport, this is so true. Anyone can go to the gym and train if they choose to. But it's all about making the choice to be healthy in the first place – deciding to do the best by our body starts us on the path to fitness and consistency. We all know it's easy to say "no", or "I can't", but no one will do it for you – you have to want to be your own champion.'
Get kitted out
Running is a budget-friendly sport, and doesn't require a lot of expensive equipment. But your most essential piece of kit is well-fitting trainers – and if you decide running is the right sport for you then investing in a pair of professionally fitted specialist running shoes will be money well spent. Women definitely need a good quality sports bra, and if you plan to run in the dark, then a high-vis jacket is a sensible safety precaution – as is plotting a safe, well-lit route and running with a friend or a group. Other than that, make yourself an energy-boosting playlist and if you enjoy monitoring your progress, an activity tracker is a fun way to help you see how much you've improved.
Walk-run to 5K
All the experts agree that it's best to walk before you run, and the walk-run approach is a proven way to gradually increase your fitness and stamina as you alternate walking with increasingly longer bursts of running. There are lots of 'couch to 5K' programmes available online and via podcasts or apps, which typically encourage you to run for three times a week with rest days between, over a period of 9–10 weeks, until you can run 5K without stopping. It's a tried-andtested method that's worked for thousands of newbie runners, and you can take it at your own pace – simply repeat weeks if you're finding the pace too tough or life gets in the way. Take a look at nhs/livewellc25k.
Fuel for fitness
Just because you've taken up running doesn't give you a licence to eat lots more food! It may be fantastic for improving your health, giving you bags of energy and maintaining your goal weight when you get there, but if you're running to lose weight just bear in mind that you would have to run for almost half an hour to burn off a small chocolate bar, so you might want to rethink ordering that takeaway pizza after a quick jog around the park! However, according to Rugby Union player James Haskell in his latest book, Cooking for Fitness (James Haskell Health & Fitness, £19.95), we shouldn't be afraid of carbs either. 'Proteins, fats and carbs should all be consumed as part of a healthy diet… eating carbs will not make you "fat" but eating more than your body requires will make you fat. Your level of activity has to match your diet. Remember this lesson and you will never stray too far out of shape.' To keep you fuelled for regular running, James suggests including a balance of healthy fats, plant-based proteins and complex carbohydrates in your diet, such as oats, potatoes and wholegrain cereals, to give you a prolonged energy release.
One of the advantages of running is that you can go at your own pace and at the times of day that suit you best – no booking classes in advance or driving to the gym, simply open your front door and go. But a survey by England Athletics revealed that 90 per cent of runners were happier running with others and making new friends. Plus, if you find a running buddy or group, you are 25 per cent more likely to stick to running regularly. Running clubs are popping up all the time and most will have a beginner's group, while runtogether.co.uk can help you locate a group near you. Parkrun is another great way to commit to a regular group run – all over the country people meet at 9am on Saturday mornings (9.30am in Scotland) to run a timed 5K course in local parks. 'I am a massive fan of the Parkrun movement because it's for anyone and everyone,' says Kelly. 'No matter what your age, size, shape, ability, background, we all turn up for the same reason: to complete a 5K.' So, don't be intimidated – it's not a race and although your time is logged it's only to help you measure your own progress, so you can keep improving your PB! Find out more and register at parkrun.org.uk.