Thinking about a final push to get in shape before Christmas? Better get those running shoes on…
With the cost-of-living crisis part of our everyday conversation, why not take up an exercise that doesn’t cost the earth and will get you in shape just in time before the Christmas festivities arrive? We’re talking running, people.
First off, it’s easy to get started. Running doesn’t require any specific equipment, beyond a decent pair of trainers, and you can quite literally do it anywhere.
Sure, you can later invest in GPS watches and hi-tech workout gear, but when you’re starting out keep it simple. Nip into a local running store and ask to have your gait assessed. They will do some quick checks on your running style to help inform you which pair of mid-range trainers will give your feet the best support.
Physically, running helps shed pounds, boost metabolism and strengthen cardiovascular endurance. It can also lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis. Then there’s the mental side. Running gets you out into nature, which helps ease stress and anxiety. Your body releases endorphins when you run, boosting your mood – not to mention the feeling of satisfaction when completing something. And running can be sociable. There are plenty of running clubs you can join, where you can make new friends and be part of something bigger that you can do with the whole family.
Road running – Just step outside your front door. It involves all kinds of pavements, pathways and tarmac.
Trail running – Usually done on hiking trails, this will swiftly get you out into peaceful surroundings, and can be done on varying terrain. Watch out for the hazards – roots, logs, streams and/or traversing steep hills.
Treadmill – Great when the weather is less conducive to being outdoors, the treadmill is gentler on joints and has an array of options to suit your pace and preferences.
Get a target – Whether it’s training for a 5k, to lose a few pre-Christmas pounds or to beat your personal best, keep a focus and remember to reward yourself. Having something tangible to aim at will keep you motivated when training gets tough.
Routine – Always more effective when it becomes part of your lifestyle routine, training needs to be regular. So, be organised and plan effectively. So many people start out with good intentions but come unstuck when life gets busy.
Start small – If you’re new to it, try combining your running with walking intervals. There are oodles of training plans online and these will help build endurance and manage intensity. You’ll probably want to aim to cut down time spent walking and run for longer, but only at a rate that suits you. Start slowly – Resist the temptation to launch yourself into a sprint right away. When you first start running don’t try to do too much too soon. An average beginner’s pace is around 13 minutes per mile, but if you find that too hard, or not challenging enough, simply adjust your training accordingly. You’ll soon get a feel for what your body can do. And don’t be afraid to cut a workout short.
Warm up – Hamstrings, groin, glutes and calves all need a decent stetch before you step outside so remember to warm up. Find a good routine and stick with it religiously. Moving around gets the blood flowing without breaking a sweat and the cold doesn’t feel so cold when you’re warm.
Remember to stay hydrated– It’s a well-known fact that unprepared runners simply don’t drink enough. When it’s warmer it might be easier to remember to drink plenty of water and while sweat rates are generally higher in hotter conditions, you will still sweat and lose some body water while exercising in cold weather. So, remember to hydrate before and after your run.
Warm down – It’s so important to stretch post-run. Your core body temperature drops as soon as you stop running. To avoid a lingering case of the chills, change your clothes— head to toe— as soon as you can. And drink something hot and wholesome. You can’t beat a winter soup.
And finally – Be sensible. If the temperature has severely dipped below freezing, it might be best to plan a day of recovery. Cold temperatures and dry air can aggravate some health conditions, so use your best judgment as to whether you should run outside. It’s not just about the running either. Getting fit is a lifestyle choice and needs to incorporate your diet too. Drink plenty of water, pack your diet full of high-fibre food like fruit and vegetables, grains and seeds and blow the cobwebs off the oats for breakfast.