Are you a ‘natural’ at running? Is anybody? Mum of three Sarah Hughes writes about her love/hate relationship with running and also offers-up her tried and tested tips to reap the rewards of pounding the pavement (or treadmill).
By Sarah Hughes
My name is Sarah and I hate running. Well; let me rephrase; I have a love/hate relationship with running. I love what it does for my shape; nothing strips the few unwanted inches I might accrue on holiday or over Christmas faster than hitting the pavements. But I can’t deny that I often hate the act of it, and I hate the idea of it even more. Sometimes I find it mind-numbingly boring, which is ridiculous when I admit I live on the most beautiful coastline and have picturesque routes on my doorstep. On other days I have aches and pains and my knees and hips scream at me “Why are you doing this to us!?”
Those things compound to make me think I’m kind of, well… bad at running. And you know, I have enough things to beat myself up about witout adding my running ability to the list. So I was very relieved when I came across a recent study carried out by the running app Strava (you know Strava right? It’s the tool of those smug people who post their training stats on social media to make the rest of us feel guilty). It surveyed 25,000 respondents who class themselves as runners, for their study entitled Why We Run. It found that staggeringly, only 8% of them claimed to enjoy running! In fact 50% of the respondents admit they either hate running, or at best, ‘merely tolerate it.’
I felt seen, validated, vindicated! I knew running was horrible.
But the little voice in my head whispered to me insistently… “Sarah, you know it’s great for your weight… and you can’t deny that when you’ve finished, you feel blinking great don’t you? Proud as punch and buzzing with all those lovely endorphins.”
Don’t you just hate it when the voice in your head is right?
If you’re like me and lacing up the trainers to hit the streets fills you with a fair amount of dread, I’d like to let you into some little tips I’ve picked up over my years as a personal trainer (encouraging my poor clients to go out for a run) as well as things I find help me become a slightly less reluctant runner.
● Think of the Nike slogan
Just Do It! There’s a reason that slogan has stood the test of time, emblazoned across posters, clothing and TV adverts. It’s simple, snappy and packs a punch. And it packs a punch because it’s true! Stop overthinking how hard the run is going to be, how long it’s going to take, how much it might hurt… Just Do It.
I am a huge fan of early morning exercise because I think if you prioritise it at the start of every day it’s so much easier not to procrastinate than it might be in your lunch break or after a long day at work. If you’re able to, I highly recommend waking up, pulling on the running gear, having a drink of water and heading out the door for your run before you do anything else. Just Do It!
● Do it consistently
And when you’ve managed to just do it… do it consistently. Running is always going to be hard if you only do it once a month! I’m guilty of being an inconsistent runner and I’ve suffered for that. It’s a shock to the old system if you leave weeks in between every run. My advice with this is the same as with any form of exercise; plan your week and carve out non-negotiable time for your runs. Then when you’ve decided where you can fit it in, write your schedule down and stick it somewhere you can’t miss it; the back of your front door is a winner! Tell your partner or a friend about your schedule and ask them to help you stay accountable.
● Work out if you’re a solo or sociable runner
My friend Emma loves a run and a chat. I wish I did. We mainly see each other for coffee and cake and it would be a far healthier friendship if I could bring myself to go out running with her. But no; even when I’m at my fittest, I hare running and talking at the same time. It makes me feel breathless and extra knackered and I just always wish Emma would slow the heck down. Emma instead runs with her friend Elle. They have a much more similar pace to each other (I don’t know what the pace is but it looks flipping fast from where I’m standing) and they love putting the world to rights while they jog. They’re sociable runners.
I on the other hand am a definite solo runner. Running is my time to think, to unscramble my stressed mind, and I choose not to share that time with anyone.
So find out what type of runner you are. If you thrive on company while you exercise, rope in a pal or join a running group. If you enjoy a solitary sprint (or stroll) be firm with anyone who wants to join you on your run and explain that this is your ‘you’ time.
● Optimise your run time
We are all so time poor these days and sometimes fitting in exercise can make us feel guilty when there are so many other things we need to be getting on with.
If this is you, try to get a double whammy with your run. How about learning a new language through a podcast while you run? If you need to see more of your friends, ask them to run with you. If you never get around to watching the news and feel a bit out of touch, how about listening to it on the move? It doesn’t have to be a huge thing,you could have your run time as the one time during the week that you listen to music for a solid half hour; embrace it.
● Run without your rules
This one is a huge one for me. Like most women, I’m pretty darn hard on myself and insist on setting myself targets and imposing rules which do nothing but impede my enjoyment when it comes to running. In the past I’ve told myself I have to do at least 5k “otherwise there’s no point heading out there at all.” I’ve also told myself that I have to run the whole way, even if I’m in pain because “I have to push through it.” I’ve forced speeds on myself that have been frankly unpleasant and left me feeling a bit nauseous and shattered.
Now, after reading the Strava ‘Why We Run’ study, I have chucked my running rules right out of the window.
I run for as long as I feel like it on any given day, and I don’t check my pace on a fitness watch or app. I challenge myself as much or as little as I fancy. Sometimes I stop for a walk, especially if I want to take in a beautiful view or if my old knees are asking me to chill out. Getting rid of my self-imposed rules around running has been super freeing… and guess what? It’s even made me enjoy running a little bit more… who’d a thought it?