One of my resolutions for 2014 was to get outside more and lace up my trainers more often. Before this year I used to run once or twice a year, then decide it was a bit too hard for me and let my running shoes gather dust for a few more months. So I'll share with you the 10 things I've learnt since I've started getting outdoors a bit more often.
1. Set yourself an unavoidable goal
I signed up for a 10K run in Sheffield this year which takes place in late September. Having started a little bit of running/walking over the past few months, this goal gives me enough time but not too much time to get more serious as time goes on.
2. Take it slowly
Rather than getting up off the sofa and deciding to run a marathon, I've downloaded a C210K (the C25K programme but with a few weeks added on the end to get you up to the longer distance. This programme starts with small bursts of running and ups it each week, gradually gearing up to a 10K run with no walking breaks.
3. Use the spring weather
Being outside in the sunshine makes a world of difference. That way by the time winter rolls around you have had a chance to get into running enough to want to be outside when it's lashing with rain and you feel like your fingers are going to fall off.
This weekend has been the first time I've not worn a windbreaker to run in and it felt great. Just remember that running is hard on your face as well as your feet - wear suncream.
4. Steal inspiration from others
I love running and I like to run on my own. But I also like to read about other people's running experiences to make sure I'm not going entirely crazy. My favourite so far is Running Like a Girl by Alexandra Heminsley - she's run marathons so if there's anything to know about going out and getting going, it's her. The book was, practical, honest, and clever.
5. Buy the right trainers
My original running tactic was to buy trainers I wanted to run in. I went for bright blue Nike Free Runs, which made me feel a bit of an expert and made me want to be outside.
Unfortunately I think I may well have made the wrong decision. If you're actually serious about starting to run regularly, I think it's a better plan to go to a running shop and get them to check your gait. My hips and knees are complaining a bit after a month or so of being out regularly and now I face some appointments with a podatrist who might well give me insoles. All avoidable!
6. The hardest bit is opening the front door
This pre-run picture is making it all look a bit painful, but I usually find that once the running clothes are on and I've bothered to get outside it doesn't seem so difficult any more.
7. Plan a route you like
It doesn't have to be very long. Do loops if you want or need to. I tend to enjoy running on grass first to get going, and then finish up on roads or paths where I feel quicker.
8. Take pride in progress
Seeing yourself run a tiny bit further, or a tiny bit quicker, will make you realise you're not as hopeless as you may have feared. I use Runkeeper on my iPhone to track all my runs. That way I can see how many workouts I do a week, how fast I run each kilometre, and you can also add your friends if that's something that floats your boat.
9. Take breaks
It's not worth it if it's hurting, or you simply feel the prospect of a run is horrific. It's not meant to be punishment, even if you want to get fit.
The absolute key to making sure tomorrow you can walk, let alone run again. Make sure to stretch the more neglected leg muscles too, especially those along the outer thigh and around the hips. It'll make a world of difference.
I'm not an expert at all, and I'm learning all the time, but I'm definitely looking forward to feeling like I can run a proper distance! Hopefully it won't be too long before I break the 5K-with-no-walking barrier.