It’s a month to go before the London Marathon – some may be embarking on their first big run, others will be standing on the sidelines on the day, while many of us will be watching with our feet up on the couch and the telly on.
So getting soaked in sweat, tears and tendon injuries while out racing 26 miles on a Sunday doesn’t appeal to everyone.
But the London Marathon is a great way to get inspired and move you from the sofa to the start line – even if it’s just a jog down the road, getting active will do you wonders.
Before you start protesting – I’m too old, too unfit, it’s much too hard – spare a thought for Jean Harcourt. The 83-year-old great-grandmother is running the London Marathon on April 22.
She started training in June last year, by jogging for just a minute a day. She’s now running 36 miles a week.
So what’s your excuse? Even if you’re out of breath after just a few minutes, you’re on the right path. Just by getting off your bum, grabbing those trainers and getting outside you’ve achieved so much more than sitting down and doing nothing.
The key is to be the tortoise, not the hare – start off slow and steady. You may feel silly, plodding along, going barely faster than walking pace and stopping every few moments to collect your breath – but it gets better.
Remember the ‘but’ is important, it turns a negative into a positive – that run was terrible, BUT tomorrow I’ll aim to go a minute more, I ate a Full English this morning, BUT tonight I’m going to run it off.
Diet is equally important to remember – just because you were out the house for 10 minutes doesn’t mean you can start carb-loading.
We all know chocolate, crisps, sweets and other high-sugar, high-fat foods will do us no good. Try to limit the number of guilty pleasures you pop in the shopping trolley – if they’re not in the house, you won’t be tempted to eat them. Grapes, berries, granola bars, Greek yoghurts and even popcorn are great ways to quell your cravings and slowly cut back on the sweet stuff.
Remember fruit is your friend – as is moderation, good things come in small packages; keep that motto in mind when picking out your portions.
As well as what to eat, runners need to bear in mind when to eat. If you’ve chowed down a large meal, it’s best to wait two to three hours before heading out. For the brave souls embarking on a more intense workout, going on an empty stomach will mean you’ll feel fatigued sooner, plus you’ll have a much tougher time meeting your goals, so plan ahead.
A pint of water and a banana about half an hour beforehand can provide a good energy source. However for a morning jog of no longer than 40 minutes at a steady, relaxed pace (think the kind you could have a conversation through) a glass of water might be all you need.
After oxygen, water is a close second on the list of essentials for life so remember to stay hydrated.
Running is no easy journey. There will be times you curse the floor beneath you and feel physically not up to the challenge.
But whether you’re a mini Mo-Farah or more Fred Flintstone, nobody is perfect and it’s unnatural to feel 100 per cent 100 per cent of the time. What’s important is to forgive yourself and keep moving forward to those goals.
If you skip a run, you won’t blow up your entire fitness plan. The world will not end, the weight won’t come tumbling back on and you won’t be back at the beginning. Keep persevering.
If all else fails, remember Michael Jackson’s wise words – you are not alone – there’s always some other soul out there, struggling, sweaty, but still pounding the streets, doing their best.
Top tips for how to stay on track
Start off slow – If you’re a newbie, try alternating, even if it’s just one minute jogging and one minute walking, you can then start increasing your intervals by a minute per workout. Remember to avoid overexertion, pain or even injuries by pacing yourself.
Forget the speedsters – Don’t go out with any expectations for your first few runs, otherwise you risk losing motivation. Set your goals once you’ve figured out your pace. Compare yourself with yourself, there will always be someone faster and fitter out there, so stay focused on your own improvements.
Don’t panic – When a side stitch strikes, slow it down and walk. Breathe evenly and press your hands against the area that hurts. To avoid getting the pain in the first place, ensure you stay hydrated, avoid heavy foods beforehand, focus on your breathing and try strengthening your core (think planks and push-ups).
Stay motivated – Dark nights and cold weather can challenge any runner, not least newbies, so remember why you’re doing it. Whether it’s for a charitable cause or health reasons, hold on to that thought when you’re struggling with soggy socks and staying power.