Chin up, spirits high, legs strong
You have got to train your head as well as your legs if you want to keep on running
Mary Jennings stretches out with the plank exercise. Photograph: Eric Luke
Mary Jennings stretches out with the step-up exercise. Photograph: Eric Luke
Over the past four weeks, you have tried different types of speed, had fun with the Fartlek run and completed the 5k distance last weekend. Well done: the hard work is paying off. This week I look at some sports psychology tips for runners. I also introduce some new strength-training exercises to our running routine.
We are now halfway through the Get Running: Stay on Track programme. No matter how much you love running, there will always be runs when you feel less positive than usual.
I know running is not always easy. We all go through phases in a run when we feel like giving up. We have plenty of time to think negative thoughts while running. These voices in our head shout at us to stop, and make us believe we are fooling ourselves. What we need to do is quieten these voices by working on the positive voices instead.
If you struggle during a run, either mentally or physically, I recommend you slow your pace, even if you feel you would be quicker walking, and try to relax and take a few deep breaths. That will calm and relax you. You have got to train your head as well as your legs if you want to keep on running.
So what do you think about when you run? Are you pondering work, your dinner or how many minutes you have left ? Are you negative or positive when running? If you keep telling yourself you are not able to run, your body will start to believe you. You need to keep your head filled with positive thoughts, even if you have to fake it.
Pick a phrase that you can repeat over and over in your head when you are feeling distracted or negative on a run. This really simple trick works so well for my students. They uses phrases such as “One step at a time”, “Can’t stop, won’t stop” or “I can do it” to keep them positive. Find a phrase that suits you and when you feel that dip on your run, pull yourself up tall and talk yourself back into feeling positive.
Another simple trick to employ when you are struggling is to smile, even if you don’t feel like it. Try it out: it pulls you up taller. You feel stronger and more positive instantly.
Running is meant to be fun. Don’t put pressure on yourself to complete this programme in eight weeks. Repeat a week until you can complete it comfortably. Lots of people are taking this approach. The challenge is not to give up; it is to persist and let the body adapt at its own pace.
I show you three new exercises to do at the end of your run in this week’s video. Experiment with them this week, and we will incorporate them more into the middle of the run in weeks to come. Each of these exercises – step-ups, wall-sits and planks – will help you get stronger in your core and your legs, and make your running a bit easier.
The exercises will take only a couple of minutes to do. Make the time to fit these in. Your body will be glad of them as you build up the runs in your legs. Best of luck with week 5.
A plank a day: We have a Facebook challenge to get people to do one plank every day. See http://iti.ms/ZvSilE
Get Running: Stay on Track is designed for people who can squeeze a 30- to 40- minute run into their busy life three times a week, but who need a kickstart to get going, and support when they run out of excuses. To sign up to this, or to any of our running courses, see irishtimes.com/ getrunning. You can also keep up with us on facebook.com/irishtimesrunning, @IrishTimesRun and email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Live Q&A The next session with Mary Jennings will be next Monday, October 20th, from 5pm to 6pm. If you have any questions relating to running, please log in to irishtimes.com/getrunning, or go to our mobile app, then. You can email questions in advance to email@example.com, or tweet us @IrishTimesRun.