Once again, your New Years resolution is to start running. And you appear to have come to me for advice.
Let me preface this by saying: I am in no way a running expert. I am a begrudging convert to the sport: my version of exercise is a slow, sweaty 4k, cursing under my breath along to Charli XCX. Running is not my passion, nor am I a graceful, effortless sportswoman. I avoided all kinds of physical exercise until a couple of years ago, when I stumbled upon the fact that yes, it does actually help my mental health and yes, I do feel significantly better after I do it.
But that doesn’t mean I have to like it.
What follows are some running tips from the most reluctant runner in the world that might make this New Year’s resolution slightly easier to bear.
Run with a goal
I joined a running group when I moved to the UK for a year with the aim of meeting new people and improving my mental and physical health. If you’re naturally a social person, this can be a great way to start, as it takes the focus off the sport and puts it on forming relationships instead. Set yourself an achievable goal and work up to it, and then set a harder one. Whether its a time or a distance to beat, start small and progress at whatever pace works for you.
Use a running app
An app like Couch to 5k can be really useful for those struggling to know where to start. It can help you build up your speed and distance at a comfortable, manageable pace, and also helps set the aforementioned much-needed goal. Alternatively, you can track your runs on an app like MapMyRun if you want to keep tabs on your distance, speed and route, and see how far you’ve progressed.
Make a running playlist
Nothing gets me in the running mood more than a carefully curated playlist of bops. Sparkly pop music does it for me; Kim Petras, the 1975, even reggaeton, anything will a good strong beat. It takes my mind off the task at hand, meaning I can run further and faster without getting distracted or demotivated. If you’re feeling especially sporty, you can find Spotify playlists at different BPMs to suit your speed.
Get your breathing right
This is possibly the hardest thing to figure out when running. Getting into a rhythm here is key: it’ll throw off your pace and make running much less effective if your breathing is irregular. I like to breathe in for three steps and out for three: it’s a simple enough technique but will make all the difference to your stamina. Watch this handy video for tips and tricks on how to manage your breathing.
Find a nice running route
A nice location is important while running. Being surrounded by greenery has been scientifically proven to improve our mental health, and running on grass is much better than hard concrete for your knees. If you don’t live in a rural area with much greenery, run in a local park. If that’s out of the question, try and vary your route: I know that pounding down the same area of concrete doesn’t inspire me to run and variation is important to keep the mind active.