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18.01.2021- Getting into a Running Routine

With the start of the new year arrives the inevitable saturation of messaging about getting fitter and healthier, as well as a seemingly never ending stream of diet tips and advice. After falling into a 'healthy eating' trap as a teenager which saw me downing nettle tea for breakfast (spoiler alert: not fun), as an adult I've made a conscious effort to step away from the largely toxic diet culture which is always pervasive, but even more so at this time of the year. I eat a balanced diet, with plenty of fruit and vegetables, but more importantly, I rarely deprive myself if I'm craving something. I have to say that being at home over the last ten months has also made a massive difference in helping me to eat better, and more consciously too- rather than, for example, just grabbing something for convenience on my way to work or when I'd be heading home late from the office. As well as that, after cutting out my commute, it's been lovely to be able to eat my evening meal at a reasonable time of the day (7.30pm rather than the previous 9pm!), and I've definitely felt the benefit of having time to digest before hitting the hay. 

As well as getting into a better routine of eating, I've also been able to adjust my exercise routine to encompass an increase in my running. Pre-pandemic, I'd be lucky if I could get out a couple of times a week, but since March last year that's increased to five or six, with a bit of walking thrown in to make sure I'm not doing too much. I started running nine years ago, and it's without a shadow of a doubt the best thing I've ever done for myself. For both my physical and mental health, I find it to be essential for keeping me on an even keel, and I really notice the difference when I don't do it- I feel antsy, anxious and stressed rather than calm and in control. Don't get me wrong, arriving at becoming a regular runner was a challenge and a half (to say the least!), but getting into a regular routine was one of the keys in helping me to stick to it. So, if you're feeling motivated to give it a go, here are my top tips for getting started:

- Diarise your exercise 
This is without doubt my top tip for helping to stick to a regular running regime, or indeed any exercise. Putting pen to paper and committing to specific slots in the week not only helps you visualise how your time is shaping up, but also creates a sort of contract between you and your to-do list- definitely a hack which works for me. 

- Invest in some good gear
I learnt the hard way that plopping on an old pair of trainers and sports bra which has definitely seen better days definitely isn't the best way to hit the ground running, so to speak. Starting off on the right foot with your kit is essential- I'd always advocate trainers and underwear being top priority, but in the years that I've been running I've also learnt that it's well worth investing in a good pair of leggings too. 

- Take it easy
Don't put too much pressure on yourself to be channelling the spirit of Usain Bolt from the get go. Rome wasn't built in a day- the same with building up your stamina and cardiovascular strength. Couch to 5k is brilliant if you're starting your running journey, and always remember to factor rest days into your schedule too.

- Find your motivation
Ask yourself why you're running. Are you working towards a fundraising event? Simply looking to move more? Or training for something longer-term? I started running in the first instance to get fitter, but as the years have progressed I've realised that it's the mental health benefits which I really reap from it. Moving my body undoubtedly has a huge impact on my mind too, and recognising this was a great step in helping me to stay motivated...even on dark and rainy days! 

As always, these are not failsafe hacks, but the tips and tricks which still work for me! Please also ensure to abide by the current restrictions when exercising.

(Image credit: Sarah Farrell, please do not reproduce without permission.)

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