One thing I’ve been asked lots in the past few months is how did I get back running. I have actually always been a runner, I ran competitively for many years as a youngster but it’s funny looking back now to think that 800m used to break me mentally and physically, I was a sprinter and a field athlete and never really believed I had the mental strength for longer distance running. And then I had kids, and on my first lady I realised that unfortunately the weight you put on gleefully during pregnancy is actually rather difficult to shift after the baby lands. So I went back running after my first lady 7 years ago now and it’s always been a constant between the babies and the breastfeeding.
I love running for a number of different reasons, I love it mainly for the headspace it gives me that I often desperately need after a day minding small kids. I love it because I can pack a lot of exercise into a short space of time, I don’t waste time driving to and from the gym, I simply put on my running gear and start running from the front step. I love that I get fresh air and it means I am freer to eat the foods I like because I do love good food. I also love that you can do it anywhere, holidays, when I go home to Sligo etc, the gear you need is cheap and portable so you can bring that sense of freedom with you anywhere.So how did I get back into running. I never followed any training plan, I know the couch to 5km is a popular one but honestly I think that in those first few weeks and months of running you will breed more success if you listen to your body rather than try to follow a programme that may not work for you. This is probably especially important if you are going back running or walking after having had a baby. I went back running after Alice and put my knee out for months requiring physio in the end because I didn’t listen to my body and ease myself back into it gradually. So if you’ve had a baby make sure you get yourself checked out by a womens health physio espeically if you have issues with your pelvic floor. I map out a 5km loop and that’s where I start. Then I start by walking it with the buggy in my free mornings. Then I might run a couple of hundred metres with the buggy once the 5km walk gets easier. Then I move to going out on my own in the evenings and I run and walk that loop as I see fit. There is no shame in stopping and starting, you’re better off go and enjoy the run and leave yourself eager for it the next time rather than pushing yourself so hard you’re absolutely exhausted and end up dreading going again. And eventually in time you will find that you run more and you walk less and you enjoy it more and you start to reap the reward both physically and mentally.
Some people find it good to sign up for a 5km race or to take part in the park runs around the country. I’ve done a few 5kms and I have to say I enjoy them. They give you an extra focus if you need it (I actually generally don’t though I like to run for the sake of it!) but sometimes running can be lonely so it’s nice to take part in a run and get a bit of an extra buzz from the comradery. And don’t be afraid about going on your own, so many do and when you’re running you’ll find so many people give you encouragement as you go, its fab. Another good way to stay focused and give yourself a challenge to set out a distance you want to run in a week, I want to run a half marathon a week, 21.1km which is manageable in about 4 to 5 short runs in the week.
When you’re starting out I would advise ditching the music. I find if you just run and listen to your breathing you will give yourself a much better chance of success. Listening to your breathing helps to keep you at a nice steady pace that is manageable. When you start your run start ‘stupid slow’, so don’t go flat out at first, start off really slowly and that way you set yourself up for a much better run. If you start too fast you’ll find yourself puffing and panting after a few minutes and it’s very hard to get back from that. Start slow and keep your breathing even and deep, in through the nose and out through your mouth. In terms of gear you don’t have to go mad – I would say the essentials are a decent pair of runners, a running bra and a high vis vest. After that leggings and a tshirt are grand. I did invest in a Garmin running watch last year which I adore, it is totally not necessary but I wanted to run further so found it good for telling me the distance, I also find it good for pacing myself. I got the Garmin Vivoactive 3 which has built in GPS and music so I don’t need to bring my phone.
I think the most important thing about running or any exercise is not dwelling too long about starting. Decide one evening you’re going to stick on your runners and just open the front door and go. We can fuss and get caught up in buying the right gear or waiting until this Monday or that Monday to start but why wait. I can’t even begin to describe how satisfying to see the kilometers get easier as you get better and I can guarantee you will look and feel a million times better.