If you have always dreamed of becoming a runner but never quite managed to get beyond the first flurry of enthusiasm, I encourage you to give it a try this month. Don’t put it on the long finger again. While November is not the most traditional month to take up a new hobby, it is eight weeks until the end of the year, the perfect length of time to go from zero to 5k. You can finish this year in style.
Picture your future
Bring yourself forward eight weeks from now and imagine heading out for a run on a crisp winter morning over the Christmas holidays. Feel that sense of freedom that comes from running comfortably and relaxed in the fresh air. Picture yourself arriving back home full of energy buzzing with post run endorphins. You have just run 30 minutes and you feel amazing. You could be this runner, but you have to put in a little effort now to make it happen. Tempted?
But I am too busy
I know you have a lot on. The to-do lists are endless and it can feel self-indulgent to take time out for something that’s just for you. But, in fact, adding this one task to your to-do list can actually help the entire rest of your life feel more manageable. Take a quick look at your current to-do list. How many items on that list are going to improve your energy, vitality and mood as we head in to the winter? If you are serious about giving running a go and there are no medical reasons why you should postpone starting, could you squeeze something else down your priority list, rather than wait until January?
1. It won’t take much time
Running doesn’t need to take over your life. Aim for three times per week. Each training session will be less than one hour including a warm-up and cool-down. As we close the curtains early on these dark evenings, it is easy to assume the day ends when the sun goes down. But it doesn’t have to. In the space of time it takes to watch one episode of your favourite TV show, you would have completed your training session and returned home full of energy. If you cannot escape for a run in the evening, head out early in the day when motivation and daylight are at their peak. Find the time that suits you best and pop it in your diary.
2. It will improve your mood
Regardless of what time of the day you head outdoors, fresh air is so important for our mental and physical health. But in a very busy world going outside can seem like a frivolous waste of time as it doesn’t appear to knock anything tangible off a to-do list. Having your running training plan to follow does however give you a purpose and reason to get outside. Runners always return home in a better mood than when they left. This positive energy transfers to our home, our relationships and our work environment too. We could all do with more of that.
3. It will increase your energy
As winter approaches we move from central heating to air conditioning and back again. Many of us are living our lives on stale air. It is no wonder that we can feel lethargic and flat this season. By the time Christmas arrives many of us are burnt out or suffering from winter bugs. The entire process of getting outdoors, running and stepping away from our everyday jobs not only impacts our mood, but lifts our energy too. Although we are pushing our body when we run we are recharging it too. Ask any runner and they will tell you that they never regret a run. We come home feeling lighter and more able to take on whatever the day throws at us.
4. It will change your mindset
As a beginner you get to run the longest run of your life each week as you build your running endurance. Every time you head out the door you surprise yourself. You learn more about your body, your resilience and your capability. Most importantly you begin to realise how much you can do if you actually just start and build slowly. The strength, confidence and self-belief you gain in these eight weeks stands to you as you develop mental strength as well as physical endurance. This whole shift in mindset sets you up for a new year of hope, optimism and excitement for all the different opportunities, running or otherwise, that are out there once you take that first step.
The first step
The key to success is to start small and build routine from there. Choose a beginner friendly training plan which alternates running and walking minutes. You can choose to work with a coach, a running group, an online programme or indeed a phone app. Why not rope in a friend to join you for motivation, chats and accountability too? There are so many resources and options available to support you on your running journey wherever you may live.
Finish the year in style
Running gives us energy, perspective, a dose of invigorating fresh air and most importantly head space at a time of the year when we all could do with more light in our lives. Time is precious these days but so is your health. Keep picturing yourself heading out for that Christmas run. That can be you.
You can do it, you just need to start now.
– Sign up for one of The Irish Times’s Get Running programmes (it’s free!) First, pick the eight-week programme that suits you.
- Beginner Course: A course to take you from inactivity to running for 30 minutes.
- Stay On Track: For those who can squeeze in a run a few times a week
- 10km Course: Designed for those who want to move up to the 10km mark. Best of luck!
- Mary Jennings is founder and running coach at ForgetTheGym.ie. Her winter term of running classes in Dublin and online start 7th November and are open for booking.