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Seven tips on how to make running a successful resolution


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It’s January and we all feel the need to make some changes. Perhaps you’ll be taking part in Dry January, cutting out the chocolate and treats you indulged in over Christmas or committing to a new study regime.

Weight loss and fitness are usually the most popular New Year’s Resolutions people make, but they’re also some of the easiest to give up on. The benefits of exercise on both physical and mental health have been stated time and time again. That isn’t what this article is about.

This article is about how I, a self-confessed exercise-phobe, made that New Year’s Resolution and stuck to it. I’m not winning Olympic medals, taking whole body selfies for Instagram or becoming an exercise-guru, but I am living proof that you can change your attitude towards exercise, specifically running.

Here are my top tips for reluctant runners:

1.Take it steady

I thought I hated running because my memories were of cross-country runs at school, where we were shouted at to keep going for quite long periods of time. If you want to improve your experience of running, take it steady: too far or too fast too soon is guaranteed to make you think you’re failing.

Try Couch to 5K, an NHS-backed programme where, over the course of 9 weeks, you’ll follow podcasts which guide you from running in one-minute bursts to a full 30-minutes of running. You can even take it slower than that if you like: repeat runs you found tough before moving on or go back to easier runs and try to cover a bit more ground by moving faster. Just don’t expect or even try to run 5K on day one!

 2. Look after your feet

However casual a runner you turn out to be, having decent shoes is important. That doesn’t mean buying the most expensive ones; it means buying the correct shoes for your feet. Lots of sports shops offer gait analysis, a quick easy process where they check how your feet behave when you run. Buying the right shoes with the right support will rid you of those niggling pains which make running a misery.

Top tip: check online for last season’s shoes when you’ve found out what support you need. The prices drop dramatically and no one will even notice!

3. Choose something you want to listen to

The worst part of running is when all you can do is think about running. You need something to distract you. Energising music is the obvious choice, but you might prefer to pick songs you like, even if they’re not especially upbeat.

Personally, I love a podcast, especially anything to do with True Crime. When you get lost in the narrative, there isn't enough brain space left to think about the fact you still have another 10 minutes to go.

You can use the time productively too, by listening to podcasts relating to your course. A good option is BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time podcasts, because they cover such a range of topics and you will finish every one having learnt something. Make your audio something you really want to listen to, and you’ll be much keener to get those trainers on.

4. Celebrate the small achievements

When your friends are posting up personal bests of their latest 10K ‘little run’, it can feel like you’re failing. Keep reminding yourself how far you’ve come from where you started. Every few weeks, I set myself the target of running a mile as fast as I can, and keep a note of my time.

It was a reasonably tiny achievement when I took it down under the 12 minute mark for the first time. Be proud of those steps along the way and ignore the show-offs: unless they’re Mo Farah, I’d take little notice.

5. Friends who run together, stay together

It’s easy to let yourself down on a run, but a lot harder to let someone else down. Find someone else to run with or even just to meet at the beginning or end. It can be frustrating to have to maintain the same speed as someone else, but having somebody to wish you good luck and congratulate you at the end can make all the difference.

If you choose to run indoors at the gym it makes it even easier to have a buddy and make those weekly commitments.

6. Commit to just 10 minutes

So many times, I’ve wanted to forego a run in favour of… well, just about anything. The best advice I’ve been given on that score is to promise yourself you’ll go out for 10 minutes, whether that’s all running or a mixture of walking and running.

After 10 minutes, you can go home and do whatever it is you wanted to, even if that's just watching television. Honestly – it's rare to only stay out for 10 minutes. Usually, I go on to complete a 30-40 minute run-walk session before heading home.

Even if you do only stay out for 10 minutes, it’s 10 minutes more than you were going to and 10 minutes more than most people. You’re already ahead of those people who stayed on the couch!

7. Think about entering a race or a Parkrun

Truthfully, it’s only now, about 3 years into my running journey, that I’m considering this next step, but it is a great aim to have. There are countless 5 and 10K races throughout the year all over the country for so many good causes.

If you prefer something a bit less competitive, try Parkrun, a free 5K every Saturday morning in local parks around the country. You can have your time measured every week and meet lots of other runners. Even if you don't start off with this, it's definitely something to which you should aspire!

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