Take a quick guess at running’s number one enemy. What do you think it is? Injury? Ill health? Manic drivers? Blistered toes? No, the nemesis of the modern runner is excuses. They stop more people running than anything else. In a perfect world there would be no episodes of the Weakest Link to distract us. Our body would digest jam roly-poly pudding within minutes, and there would be no injuries, hecklers or bad weather to derail our efforts. Here’s a series of tips designed to obliterate the 10 most common excuses. With these tactics, you’ll never miss another session.
“I’LL MISS MY FAVOURITE TELEVISION PROGRAMME”
Summoning the energy for après-work running is fine on club nights. There are stories of Hard Terry’s Nettle Warrior to look forward to, among other things. But your favourite soap is on, and you’re beginning to think running will have to wait until tomorrow. Celebrity trainer David ‘The Body Doctor’ Marshall says you should train early in the day instead. That way, you make sure you get your session in. And morning running has the added benefit of raising your metabolism – so you will burn more fat all day long. “Exercise at 8am and your metabolism will be elevated till nine or 10pm,” says Marshall. “But if you train at 6pm, you only get that benefit for a few hours.” The more vigorous the session, the greater the rise in your metabolism.
Top tip Buy a new alarm clock
“I’VE JUST EATEN”
It’s widely accepted that once anything solid has passed your lips, you should give it a two-hour grace period before running. But if waiting 120 minutes after finishing your tarragon chicken is ruining your plans for an early evening run, take heart. New research suggests that you may not have to wait that long. “Each runner is different, and you should experiment to find out how long you need to wait before running,” explains nutrition expert Asker Jeukendrup. “But we believe that people can run within as little as a hour after eating.” So you can still train after an evening meal.
Top tip Eat, wait an hour and then go for your run
“I’M TOO BUSY”
Personal trainer Mark Ford says building running into your non-running routine is a great way of making sure you get out more often. If Saturday begins with a drive to the shops to pick up the papers, try running instead. Ford, who trains people at London’s Fitness Exchange, says you don’t have to run hard and fast to turn your paper run into a mini-session. He also recommends lunchtime work-outs. “They’re a great way of building running into a hectic work schedule and building stamina.” Running to the gym for 30 minutes of lunchtime cross-training will keep you on top of your game throughout the afternoon.
Top tip Investigate the newsagents in the next village
“I HAVE NO ONE TO RUN WITH”
Runners are sociable animals. And many miss runs because they would rather not run alone. Geoff Wightman – head of Road-Running Policy Support at UK Athletics – says that, because of the number of clubs around the country, there is no reason to suffer from ‘loneliness of the long distance runner’ syndrome. “Training with a partner is great fun and will make sure you don’t miss your sessions.” Geoff also advises joining a club and most have groups for people of all abilities.
Top tip Search out runners at your office
“IT’S RUINING MY SEX LIFE”
If for some reason you must mow the lawn, then – sure – a run may well leave you too tired to push the Flymo. But don’t feel that you must scrap a session in case it ruins your performance in another area. Research shows that running actually increases your sex drive. Experts at www.pponline.co.uk say that men’s testosterone levels increase after a work-out. And a recent survey reported that women who listed running as their favourite sport also had more adventurous sex lives. All of which should put an end to ‘no sex’ complaints.
Top tip Convince your partner to start running, too
“IT’S RAINING OUTSIDE”
Mass-participation events such as the Flora London Marathon, Race for Life and the Nike 10K lead to a seasonal upturn in the number of runners. But this tails off as the weather cools and the lure of the sofa increases. If your enthusiasm flags in winter, take to heart the Russian saying “there’s no such thing as bad weather; just bad clothes.” Current fabric technology means that you can buy kit that will keep you cool when it’s warm, and dry when it’s wet – so there’s no excuse not to run. Of course there are also perverse delights attached to running in the rain, which some consider liberating.
Top tip Get the gear
“I’VE RUN A MARATHON AND NOW I’M BORED”
Now, just think about that for a minute. Running has energised your life, recharged your sex drive and left you healthier and happier than the average couch potato. You’re not bored with running, just your running routine. It’s time to add variety to your sessions and set new targets. Aim for a new PB at 10K. Or try orienteering or trail running. Amelia Bell, of the orienteering group Southern Navigators, suggests that both will provide new challenges to keep your running fresh and exciting. “And taking yourself on to the trails or into the woods is a great way to beat runner’s blues,” she says.
Top tip Learn how to use a compass
“MY LEGS HURT AND I’VE GOT SORE KNEES”
Serious injuries are no fun. But minor niggles, aches and pains are all part of progressive training. It’s perfectly normal to feel sore after a tough speed session or long run. The important thing is to recognise the difference between the pain of injury and the pain of improvement. “If you have persistently sore joints and muscles, think about where you are running and look at your shoes,” says RW Medical Adviser Dr Patrick Milroy. “It could be that you are doing too many miles, too quickly on the roads, or that your shoes are either the wrong type for your gait or worn out.” A pair of serious running shoes should last 400-700 miles. After that, they need to be replaced. Check for obvious creases in the midsole, which indicate over-compression, and stand the shoe on a flat surface and look at it from behind. If it leans over to either side it’s time to buy new shoes. If you’re uncertain about midsole wear, go along to a specialist retailer and have them look at your old shoes and then compare them with a similar new pair.
Top tip Log the mileage for each pair of shoes alongside your total weekly mileage
“I’M TOO FAT AND I’LL GET HECKLED”
Being heckled is a big deal for runners of all sizes. There’s nothing so galling as the invective of a spotty teen as you reach mile 11 of a Sunday run. And the comments endured by some are enough to put many off the sport for life. But it shouldn’t. Ford says that running will help you lose weight quicker than any other sport. “A 30-minute jog will burn about 300 calories, depending on your weight,” he says. And the more you run, the quicker you get. Which means that next time you’re heckled you’ll be able to catch the offender and give them a piece of your mind.
Top tip Plot your weight loss on a chart, and keep it on your fridge
“I’VE FALLEN IN LOVE WITH ANOTHER SPORT”
When you first started running, you swore you’d never love another sport. But the lure of the Sunday afternoon bike ride has proved hard to resist. And now you’re torn between the thrills of two-wheel travel and your regular long run. A spokesman for cycling magazine Mountain Bike UK says that running provides a great fitness base for alternative pursuits. “Most forms of exercise are complementary to other activities. Regular running will provide a great fitness base for mountain biking. For a start you’ll have strong legs, which are an enormous asset.” The good news is that combining another activity with running will help you keep your training fresh. Once you’ve dabbled in different activities such as skating, surfing or biking, you’ll rediscover just why you liked running so much.
Top tip Dabble away, but remember that running will benefit your fitness for most other sports