Guide for Starting a Running Regime This Spring

runners

Spring is definitely in the air and that means it’s running season again. Of course, the hardcore runners have been out all winter – and good for them – but many of us can’t bring ourselves to head out for a jog in wintertime, whether it’s because of the cold winds, the icy ground, or the dark early nights. Spring is the perfect time to start working on your fitness again and there are some great tips for anyone hoping to avoid injury and make their runs as enjoyable and safe as possible.

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SMART Goals For Running

Girl running

SMART goals are usually used in business rather than fitness – think sales, targets, customers, that kind of thing. But with spring here (or nearly here, at least), you might be feeling inspired by all the runners currently out training for their spring marathons, or by the parkrunners you dodge every Saturday morning when you’re out walking the dogs. 

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4 Ways to Train When the Weather Is Crap

running in the rain

If your weather’s anything like the weather here at the mo, it’s not very inviting to go out and run in. I’m okay if it starts to rain while I’m out – in fact, I can breathe easier when it’s raining – but when it’s damp and grey and drizzly, it’s hard to motivate myself to get out there in the first place. 

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3 Myths About Running Shoes

Asics Cumulus 15

The 16 year old goth me would be horrified

Unless you’re Zola Budd (if you’re under 40, ask your parents who she is), you’re going to need to wear something on your feet (and I don’t mean Heelys or rollerskates like the ones you can buy at Skate Hut). When I started running, I bought a cheap pair of trainers from ShoeZone for £10 and although I don’t recommend you do that, there are some common myths about running shoes. Here are 3 of them.

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3 Reasons to Use a Home Gym

Kettlebells

Kettle bells are cheap and come in pretty colours

Although I love going to the gym, I don’t go as often as I should to get the full value from the monthly membership fee and, so, sometimes I use the gym equipment I have at home instead. Here are a few reasons why a home gym is a good idea.

It saves you money

I’m lucky my gym is cheap – it only costs me £20 a month with my student card (yes, I still have one) and even before I had a student card, it only cost me £25 a month off-peak. Not everyone is a student though or at home in the daytime to go in off-peak times, so gym fees can be expensive, with most gyms charging between £50 and £100 a month.

Aha, you say – treadmills and elliptical trainers and all those machines cost a fortune, don’t they? Well, yes, they can do, but you don’t have to get all the machines – I’ve got a rowing machine, a Swiss ball, a bench, a step, dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, a resistance trainer and a bunch of fitness DVDs and that does me just fine. I do quite fancy a treadmill though. Especially one of those desk ones.

If you do decide to go down the buying-all-the-machines route though, it’s a one-off expense, so you’ll eventually save money on gym fees in the long run (no pun intended).

Convenience

What could be more convenient than going into your garage/spare room/conservatory/bit of front room not covered with kids’ toys instead of walking or driving to the gym. Hell, you don’t even have to get dressed! (Although, for the females reading this, I’d advise you to wear a sports bra. I’d also advise – and this is for the men as well – to keep your curtains and blinds closed.)

Working out at home is also convenient if your local gym holds classes at a time inconvenient for you. Get yourself a fitness DVD or have a look at fitnessblender.com and have your own exclusive gym class in the privacy of your own home. As an added bonus, no one will see you skip the bits you don’t like (for me, that’d be the lying down bits in body pump) and you won’t get told off for not stretching, either.

No people

Speaking of privacy; for the more shy and self-conscious of you out there, working out at home saves you from having to exercise in front of people or getting changed in front of strangers in the changing room (and after seeing a girl dry her armpits with a hairdryer in the gym in London once, I almost cancelled my own membership).

Although I love to encourage people to go to the gym and emphasise just how much everyone is there to do their own thing and NO ONE IS LOOKING AT YOU, I can understand it might make some people a bit anxious. So, unless you ignore my advice above about closing your blinds and curtains, no one will be able to see you, so you can really go for it without fear of embarrassment (you know, like when you haven’t noticed everyone’s on a rest bit in body pump and you’re still going, in a little world of your own).

Right then, now I’ve extolled the virtues of exercising at home, I’m off to the gym. See ya.

If you’re interested in buying an elliptical trainer, here are some elliptical reviews.

5 Ways To Make The Most Of Juneathon

Juneathon

Juneathon: A yearly festival of activity and excuses

We’re a third of the way through Juneathon and I hope you’re all enjoying it so far but I thought I’d write a quick list of a few ways to help you make the most of the month.

1. Interact with others
On Twitter

What makes Juneathon so amazing is the community spirit. We’re all here for each other to support, encourage and to gently (or not so gently) nag when motivation is lagging. Make sure you’re following the #juneathon hashtag (and using it yourself when you Tweet your activities) on Twitter and follow other participants – it’s a great way to gain new followers and make new friends. If you’re tweeting that you can’t be arsed to exercise that day, tag me (@juneathon); I’ll RT it and it won’t be long until someone comes along to ‘encourage’ you.

On Facebook

Same goes for Facebook. Join the Juneathon Facebook Group, share your links and ‘like’ others’ posts.

On blogs

Browse the Juneathon participants page on the website and pick a few new blogs each day to visit and comment on – most of the time, they’ll return the favour and you’ll get more visitors to your blog.

2. Don’t get despondent

Far too many times I’ve seen participants get demotivated and give up because they missed a day. DON’T GIVE UP. It’s not possible to fail Juneathon. See the next point.

3. Be creative 

The day’s activity doesn’t have to involve running a marathon or going on a 100 mile bike ride. If you’re too busy/can’t be bothered/in the pub then be creative. Chris at What I Meant To Say pulled a masterstroke in creativity the other day when he used the walkway at Madrid airport the wrong way as a treadmill.

*Slightly* less genius and more in the way of ‘I am a slacker but here is my activity for the day and I’m counting it so there’, was David Lewis who, last year, counted ‘pushed a trolley round Tesco’ as his exercise. If you really are spending more time in the pub than the gym, there’s always the good old ‘bar press-up’ to fall back on.

Juneathon bar press up

A bar press up is a perfectly valid Juneathon activity

And of course, not forgetting the classic ‘Dressing Gown Dash’.

Juneathon Dressing Gown Dash

Travelling Hopefully (accompanied by me) shows how to do a Dressing Gown Dash

4. Set a goal

A challenge within a challenge, if you like. You might want to challenge yourself to run every day (Andrew Fletcher challenged himself to do this in Juneathon 2011 and has run every day since), or you might be new to running and your challenge could be to run a mile without stopping by the end of the month. It’s *your* Juneathon and therefore *your* personal goals. And please don’t be put off by nutters like Kevin Foreman who ran 455 miles during Janathon 2012 or Stephen Cooper who cycled 650 miles in Juneathon 2013; it doesn’t matter whether you run 1 mile or 100, it’s all good – Juneathon is for the ultra-hardcore and us mere mortals. And the mere mortals way outnumber the nutters anyway, so there.

5. Mix it up

Bored with your exercise routine? Try something different. Go on a walk with a local group (try looking on Meetup for your local one), do a fitness DVD (or if you haven’t got any fitness DVDs, have a look at www.fitnessblender.com – there are dozens of free, full-length workouts on there), or try a new gym class (you won’t ever catch me trying Zumba though. Dancing? In public? Sober? Ha ha ha ha ha. No.)

6. Enjoy it! 

I know I said there were 5 points – this one’s a bonus. Juneathon is supposed to be enjoyable. If you’re not enjoying it, you’re doing it wrong.

Let me know if you’re doing anything different this Juneathon or if you’ve got anything to add to the above.

Stats for Day 10 

Rowing machine: 20 minutes
Treadmill: 20 minutes
Cross-trainer: 20 minutes

 

Why I Run With Music

Sony Walkman

I can’t remember if my very first run was done to music. If it was, then considering I only ran about three feet before stopping to have a massive coughing fit, I wouldn’t have got very far through a track (although, possibly approximately twelve Lawnmower Deth tracks). I know I ran with music when I started blogging about my running though, as at the end of each post, I listed the tracks I listened to.

The only time I run without music now is if I’m running in a group and the only time I run in a group is for a speed session as that’s over quite quickly – I’m really not a social runner; I want to be on my own and zone out and listen to music, not chat or be able to hear the sound of my feet thumping the ground or my inelegant heavy breathing.

However, one day in 2008, after reading a debate on the Runner’s World forum, I decided to have an experiment and run without music, and you can read about it here (sorry for the broken links to pics). I concluded my experiment by concluding I don’t like running without music.

I’m also one of those runners people get wound up about by running races listening to music. Seriously, people actually get annoyed by this and apart from them being a touch uptight, I have no idea why this would be something to get annoyed about (unless they can hear music leaking from other runner’s earphones, which would wind me up something chronic). I know some people say you can’t hear the marshal’s instructions if you’ve got music on but I’m not blind and the marshal’s instructions are usually more in the form of pointing, not talking and if they’re your usual happy smiley clappy marshal, they’ll get a happy smiley ‘thank you’ back, as listening to music doesn’t actually affect my ability to speak.

As a back-of-the-packer, I really couldn’t bear to be stuck at the back listening to a load of women chatting to each other and I need my music on to drown them out so, these days, I check race websites carefully to see whether MP3 players are allowed or not. Luckily, MP3 players are welcome at the Dymchurch Marathon I’ve *gulp* signed up to do at the end of November (it doesn’t matter how many times I say I’ve signed up to do a marathon, it hasn’t sunk in yet and according to my calendar, I need to start training for it soon).

When it comes to what music I’ll play when I’m running, I’ve got to say, it’s usually Audiofuel. Audiofuel keeps me running at a somewhat consistent pace, whereas if I’m listening to my own music, I’ll probably end up stopping to skip tracks or I’ll decide I really need to hear a certain song RIGHT NOW and stop until I find it and some of my music just isn’t great to run to in the first place (have you ever tried running to Cardiacs?)

In the gym, however, unless I’m in the mood to hear something specific, I’ll just keep my iPod on shuffle and listen to whatever it throws up. One thing I discovered when I joined Fitness First in London years ago though is that you need some noise-cancelling earphones so you only have to hear your music, not theirs too, otherwise you’ll end up with some weird dance/indie combo. Well, in my case, anyway. You may well end up with a dance/dance combo and not notice any difference.

So, yes, I’m definitely in the pro-running-with-music camp. How about you?