Even though the days are growing longer again, why is it still tough to get going? Evie Serventi explains how to overcome 10 COMMON BARRIERS to running.
1 – TIME
This is one of the most commonly cited reasons for not exercising. But let’s face it, we all have busy lives. You simply have to change both your mindset and your perspective, and make time if you’re going to get the most from your running.
Solution: CARVING A MERE 15 MINUTES OUT OF YOUR DAY IS A REALISTIC START. And once you get into this habit you’ll start to notice a positive shift in your energy, fitness and mood; plus, you’ll find it easier to inch up the time spent exercising each day. Stop and think about your daily routine and account for each hour. You’ll soon realise that it’s quite feasible to squeeze in at least 15 minutes of exercise. How? Get up slightly earlier, take a shorter lunch break, walk to do errands rather than jumping in the car, or squeeze in a short walk or run at lunchtime. Even parking 10 minutes away from your supermarket and whizzing round the shops will help. Weekends offer greater flexibility to fit small blocks of running/exercising around errands, chores and other activities so that you can maximise the time spent out and about and time spent at home.
2 – WORK
While work commitments often consume most hours in your day and keep you in a fixed routine, why not use this structure to your advantage?
Solution: RESEARCH GYMS THAT OFFER PLENTY OF CLASSES THAT APPEAL; open early/closes late; are on your commute or not far from home, and offer flexible memberships. Look into corporate discounts and health insurer initiatives – some offer points for exercising both at gyms and outdoors. Most gyms offer sharp 20-minute lunchtime workouts too. Use the gym for strength and conditioning/classes, and run on the weekends. Lunchtime running not only helps you sharpen your cognitive tools for the afternoon, it boosts your mood and encourages teamwork. Organise a group run with colleagues a couple of times a week, or check local running clubs near work. If you travel for work, check into a hotel with fitness facilities or aim to stay near a park – this is a great way to get to know another city and it allows you to maintain consistency with your fitness. If meetings are often on your agenda, why not meet between buildings and power walk and talk? Book ‘running time’ as a meeting in your work diary.
3 – DISORGANISATION
Here’s your mantra: diarise, prioritise, and kitchen wall planner! Disorganisation is often a scapegoat for having a lot going on, and being pulled in many directions. The good news is that there are plenty of simple solutions.
Solution: BUY A DIARY THAT HAS A WEEK IN FULL VIEW. Pencil your run into each day, working it around other commitments. Be flexible with your scheduling and write lists so that you can start to get a sense of what you need to prioritise each day. You’ll soon see pockets of time emerge – this is where you pencil in a run – and remember, even a 20-minute run is valid! Purchase a weekly planner and pin it up in a place you’ll see it regularly and complete the same process. Your 20-30 minute run needs to be just as important as the other commitments. Just reading the words ‘Tues – 9am – run with Julie’ will validate your exercise as a priority and reinforce your commitment. It will also help to keep you motivated. Pack/prepare kit the night before your morning run. Plan ahead to the next week and if you know it’s going to be a busy one, make sure you pencil some dates around that week (weekend before, week/weekend after) so that you feel reassured that you’ll prioritise your run/exercise. Planning can help you stay focused and improve your ability to prioritise. Ask family/friends to encourage you by showing interest – this will also boost your mood and motivation.
4 – FEELING GUILTY
Sport England’s ‘This Girl Can’ campaign urges women to get active and stay active. Research behind the campaign revealed that 81 per cent of mums with children under 15 prioritise spending time with their families over getting fit, and 44 per cent of mums say they feel guilty if they spend time on themselves.
Solution: GIVE YOURSELF A GOOD TALKING TO! While your intentions may be good, it’s not really practical to look after others if you neglect looking after yourself. Be honest – if you feel unfit and miserable, it will reflect in your interactions with others. Take note of people in your circles who seem to be able to run regularly and still raise a family. Ask them for tips and advice. And when you do go for a run, instead of feeling down on yourself, spend the time thinking about constructive things – things that will add value to your family.
5 – SELF-CONCSIOUS
New research by Sport England reveals that “fear of being judged” is the main barrier (for women) to exercise. And admittedly, if you are new to running regularly, it can be daunting to step out on the streets, dive in the pool, or work out in a gym. The irony is, everyone has moments when they feel the same, no matter how much experience they have.
Solution: USE YOUR MENTAL STRENGTH! Remind yourself what a great thing you are doing by looking after your health, and focus on how well you feel emotionally and physically after each run. If you are shy, start by getting used to aspects of running like stretching at home with an exercise DVD, or look into a couple of PT sessions. If your routine is flexible, choose quiet times at your local gym so you don’t get distracted by worrying about others. Join same sex classes. Ask someone you trust (spouse, friend) to join you for a run in a park and chat along the way. As your confidence builds, so will your ability to stretch your comfort zone. Tap into a local running group and enjoy the social side of fitness. You’ll soon start to forge new friendships and even enter team events. There’s no stopping you!
6 – FAMILY COMMITMENTS
Granted, there are going to be days where family commitments override everything else, but there needs to be a balance if you are going to feel happy and fulfilled.
Solution: THE MORE SUPPORT YOU HAVE in terms of maintaining a fit and active lifestyle, the easier it will be to balance family commitments with exercise. I know many people who fix Sunday morning as ‘family time’ which includes either going for a walk, playing games or sports in a park, or cycling or swimming. It’s almost a ritual and one that the whole family have come to love – and, crucially, to miss, if something else does prevail. Exercising early in the morning can be practical – most family commitments don’t happen before 7am, which means you get to go for your run and feel ready for the day ahead. Find others in similar situations as you; for example, find a friend/other mum who can babysit while you go for your run, and then do the same for them. Learn to negotiate – if you spend half a day with your in-laws, make an agreement that you’ll both have time to schedule your fitness around your commitments. If you drop the children off at an event on the weekends, scoot off for a 30-minute run and be back in time to see them finish. And alternate weekends with your spouse so you both get time.
7 – WEATHER
There will always be days where you’ll think twice before stepping out into freezing temperatures, icy cold winds, dark gloomy frost, or sheets of rain. But will you do it? How will you feel later that day if you give in? Probably disappointed, grumpy and possibly demotivated.
Solution: WHEN YOU FEEL YOUR MOTIVATION LEVEL START TO DROP and your ‘excuse cage’ rattling, just take a moment to think ahead. Realising that you’ll feel worse if you give in to a bit of bad weather might just be the push you need to get you out the door. Professional triathlete Helen Jenkins agrees: “When you are struggling to get out the door (and we all have days like that) just do it – even if you don’t feel like it, get outside and you’ve broken that barrier.” It’s also important to be well-equipped – if you buy the right gear for various conditions, you’ll be more likely to want to get out and run. Waterproofs, base layers, high vis kit, gloves, head lamp for the colder months; shorts, hats, sunglasses, water bottles for the warmer months.
8 – FEAR OF INJURY
Regularly on the mind of every runner, no matter what level you are at, is the fear of injury. This often stems from previous experience (of being injured), inexperience, or projection based on a fellow runner/friend being injured.
Solution: START OFF ON THE RIGHT FOOT (SORRY!). If you are new to running, take it slow (jog/ walk) and seek expert guidance in terms of warming up/down properly, how to build up your miles, and injury prevention. Your local running club is a good place to start. You may already have a good physio or biomechanics coach who can pinpoint any potential hotspots that you need to work on in order to stay strong and supple. Investing in a couple of useful bits of kits such as a foam roller and/or trigger balls, learning how to use them and working even five solid minutes a day of exercises is a lot less time-consuming and cost-effective than regular trips for treatment. And maintain/rotate your trainers – regular maintenance of kit and body is the key to consistent running!
9 – LACK OF SUPPORT
Support can be critical in terms of sticking with your exercise goals and doesn’t just have to come from family.
Solution: SIT DOWN AND WORK OUT who your support networks are so you can ask for their support. You might have your family in one group, close friends in another, a running group in another, work colleagues in another, book club friends… and so on. Identify someone from each group and ask for their encouragement. Turn Saturday morning into a family affair – register with your local parkrun and junior parkrun (www.parkrun.com), sign up with a local triathlon club (many welcome juniors) or swimming club. And when planning holidays, turn some of them into adventures which include cycling, swimming, walking or water sports. Teaching kids that exercise is a part of life is the best way to gain their support.
10 – I FIND IT BORING AND I’M A LITTLE LAZY (BUT DON’T TELL ANYONE!)
Running and being active doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Even the most seasoned runners find their sport repetitive and tough at times. But it doesn’t have to be boring.
Solution: CHOOSE ACTIVITIES YOU ENJOY. If you like running, but not enough to do it every day, try cycling, triathlon, classes or group runs. Vary your routine to keep your week interesting and add a few social runs to your monthly schedule. Even if you prefer to run alone, running with a friend will soon see you appreciate your solo running! Learn new skills and focus on a different aspect of running such as running technique, nutrition, or other types of runs. Be honest with yourself and work with your personality, not against it. Plan a run for a time of the day/week when you know you’ll feel more energetic. Set realistic expectations such as a five-minute jog mixed into a half hour walk. You’ll feel strong and proud as you tick off your goals. Buying new trainers or kit, getting dressed in your running kit first thing and eating a healthy breakfast are all goals of equal measure and achieving them will boost your motivation.