A couple of years ago, I wandered through the door of my Granny’s house, sweating like a pig, having just run for an hour and a half in the pouring rain of Cornish summertime. Despite being soaked to the bone, I had a huge grin on my face, making for my family to question my sanity…
What the hell was I thinking, they asked; and why do you look so goddamn happy?!
Truth is, running is the ultimate remedy for any sort of mental block or dip that you experience in everyday life; anything from an out-of-the-blue mood, to chronic mental stress.
In the case above, for example, my beloved Brighton & Hove Albion had just lost their first game of the season, so naturally I needed some sort of pick-me up.
With so many proven mental and physical benefits of running, I thought I would share the methods and techniques I have used over the years to develop motivation, persistence, and resilience to lacing up and hitting the roads…
Running The Road to Better Health
As you’ve probably guessed, I am a massive advocate of steady-state aerobic exercise (cycling, running, swimming etc. for 15+ mins) as a way of improving general wellbeing. But don’t just rely solely on my humble opinion; a huge number of scientific studies have proven the mental benefits of running on the regular…
Hundreds of fitness professionals, psychologists, and other academics have conducted clinical trials and research on the subject, all of which point to the same conclusion: people who participate in regular exercise, regardless of the type, display more desirable health outcomes, both physical and mental.
More specifically, lower intensity, steady-state (LISS) activity has been associated with particularly significant mental benefits.
This is due to the simultaneous release of endorphins and flushing out of the hormone cortisol; in a nutshell, extended bouts of exercise lead to chemical changes that stimulate improved mood and reduced stress.
Turns out I wasn’t going insane on that rainy day in Cornwall then…
So, if there are so many proven benefits, why aren’t more people getting on that wagon?
Running requires time, effort, and a heavy supply of blister plasters: a trio that many simply do not have. Furthermore, people tend to think that in order to reap the benefits, you have to be smashing out a half-marathon every other day, when in actual fact all you need is 30 mins, 2 or 3 times a week to make a difference.
Additionally, one of the biggest problems facing prospective runners is finding ways to enjoy it because, at the end of the day, why dedicate your hard-earned time off work to an activity you hate with a passion?
Over my life, I have developed a sound list of tactics to help maintain the enjoyment of running on a regular basis…
Get The Ball Rolling
The hardest challenge on your journey to becoming an avid runner is starting from scratch. For example, my beloved sister approached me one day saying that she wanted to get into running. The next day, we went to the gym together and went running on the treadmill, only to finish the session to the tune of : “That was f***ng horrible; why do you do this to yourself?!”
After that first fateful session, we worked together to put a plan into action so that she could become what she’d always wanted to be: someone who gets it.
6 months later, she told me she had just smashed a 5k in her local park and loved every minute of it. Through implementing the following strategies, she was able to go from loathing novice to enjoying regular:
#1- Start a Routine
Getting into habits is the best way to start the road to a long-term healthy lifestyle. Start by allocating two 30 minute time periods during the week dedicated to lacing up and hitting the roads (or treadmill…). Once you develop a routine, things get a hell of a lot easier!
#2 Find a Friend
Struggling to crawl out of bed when its -2 outside and hosing it down? That’s when you need the accountability to keep to your targets.
Chances are that someone you know will have similar goals, aspirations, and mental barriers towards running, so why not team up and workout together? Not only will this help you to stay on task when starting out, but the added benefit of having a gossip while you jog might be the tonic you’ve needed to start enjoying it…
#3 Join a parkrun
My Old Man is (and he won’t mind me saying this) a bigger bloke whop isn’t exactly built for running. He has always been at a loss as to how I can find so much enjoyment out of going for a jog, but even he has found ways to enjoy the sport. Enter the wonders of parkrun…
Similar to #2, parkrun is great for adding a social element into an activity traditionally thought of as rather solitary. Plus, there is significant evidence to suggest that we push ourselves much harder when an element of competition is introduced; if you want to sound fancy, this is known as social facilitation.
Parkrun is a 5k community race that lacks the intimidating atmosphere that comes with more formal events, therefore aiming to develop confidence in those people who are self-concious or fear judgement from others. At my local parkrun last Saturday, for example, there were 233 runners in total, with 47 people running in 35 minutes or longer.
I highly recommend signing up for the local parkrun, and it is completely free of charge so there really is no excuse! (might explain why my dad was able to get into it…)
Go the Extra Mile
You’ve got into your groove, found a rhythm, and now you want to take it up a level. Here are some of the strategies I use in my own training for when your motivation is low, or you are simply need to spice things up with your stale routine…
#1 The Ultimate Running Jam
Music is the maker of an enjoyable run, in my humble opinion.
There is no right or wrong soundtrack, and you should spend some time creating your personalised playlist to help keep your spirits up on the grind. Luckily, streaming apps like Spotify have done a lot of the hard work for you, with a crazy variety of workout playlists to fit every
#2 Plug into a Podcast
Running to music isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, so why not hop on the podcast-wagon?
Audiobooks, comedy sketches, news items; anything that makes the time go by, really! Engineer the experience to your individual tastes so that you create positive affirmations with the act of running.
If you are into serious long-distances, then podcasts can be an absolutely lifesaver when it comes to grinding down and zoning out. My personal favourite is chowing down on Rosie & Chris Ramsey’s “Shagged, Married, Annoyed”; you might get a few odd looks laughing out loud whilst running though…
#3 Dress the Best
Investing in quality running gear will help you stay accountable to your training programme, and can help give you that boost of confidence which you may be lacking. Head down to your local sportswear or running store and grab yourself a windproof jacket, some solid thermals, and a decent pair of gloves to help optimise your performance on the roads.
#4 Location, Location, Location…
A word on how to run for the most enjoyment. People forget that you are not confined to the treadmill in order for you to achieve your goals; indeed, taking your session into the Great Outdoors poses more benefits to your general health and wellbeing than being stuck inside the four walls of the gym.
In and around Tunbridge Wells, we have so many beautiful parks, woods, and forests that make for revitalising training sessions surrounded by awesome scenery. So next time you are thinking of cracking out a 5K on the treadmill, why not take it to Dunorlan Park and bask in Nature’s Finest!
The Final Word
There are so many ways to make running enjoyable. By putting some of these strategies into practice, your morning jog will go from joyless grind to effortless enjoyment in a blink!
….and what about if you’ve tried everything?
Fact: Running isn’t for everyone. If you have tried, tried, and tried again to “get into running”, you may have to look elsewhere for a form of exercise that you actually enjoy. That’s the main purpose of exercise in my book, so don’t flog a dead horse; try something different!
If you have any questions regarding training for endurance, running or nutrition, drop us a comment below or email me: email@example.com