Conor Pope: the running mistake I won’t be making again

Learning the hard way: there is a reason experts tell you to warm up before jogging

It's cold. It's raining. It's threatening rain. It's getting dark. It's already dark. I've to work. Dancing with the Stars is on in a bit and I need to nip down to Tesco to get Doritos. My knees are dodgy. The dog ate my runners. I'm old.

When it comes to finding excuses not to go running, I'm rarely found wanting, particularly in the post-Christmas dead of winter when pounding the pavements Dublin's north inner-city is as appealing as a Brussels sprout sandwich washed down with a cup of cold sick.

Now that’s not to say I don’t like running.

I do. I love it in fact, and for more than 30 years it has been my long-term exercise partner.


I’ve not – however – been entirely faithful to it.

There have been others. There was a torrid affair with tag rugby for a couple of long hot summers in the early part of this century. I’ve fallen in love with boot camps and with swimming and had frequent dalliances with increasingly eclectic elements in my gym. There was TRX, kettle bells, boxing, body pump (weight lifting to dance music), body attack (imagine finding yourself in a Broadway musical chorus line and not being able to dance).

I’ve loved and lost hot yoga, cold yoga, Pilates, yogalates.

And recently, I came dangerously close to getting caught up in – literally – some class of yoga-related activity that sees people hanging from the ceiling of my gym in what looks like curtains.

Enduring love

I am, as you may be gathering, faddy when it comes to exercise. But running is my first and my most enduring love. I love how it clears the head and I love that smug and sweaty sense of wellbeing that comes in the wake of a hard run.

But, mostly, I love running’s lack of complexity. There are no membership fees and no requirement to be in a certain place at a certain time. You don’t need to rely on anyone else. You just put on your runners (and your shorts and top, obviously) and away you go.

It is simple and it works. The more you run, the fitter and the leaner you are. That is a plain and simple fact.

It has, however, been more than two years since I have run consistently. But while the gap’s been long I still think nothing of it when I head out into the teeth of Storm Eleanor for my first run of the year and of this programme.

I don’t bother with any warm-up – obviously.

Or any warm-down.

Not a bother

I just run, run like Forrest Gump. I am delighted when my phone tracker tells me I've covered just over 5km. "And not a bother to me," I think. "I'll have the 10km goal reached in a week."

I’m writing this from my bed.

Fit to run: “I am delighted when my phone tracker tells me I’ve covered just over 5km,” writes Conor Pope. “And not a bother to me – I’ll have the 10km goal reached in a week.” Photograph: Cyril Byrne

I’m writing this from my bed because it is 24 hours later and my legs don’t work. Or, at least, they don’t work well enough to allow me descend the stairs, what with all the lactic acid coursing through my veins – or my muscles or wherever it is poxy lactic acid courses.

I am, in short, in bits.

And I really, really wish I’d heeded the experts advice and done a proper warm-up and maybe set my target for day one with just a little more care.

I won’t make the same mistake next time.

Sign up for one of The Irish Times' Get Running programmes (it is free!) and Get Healthy for 2018. 
First, pick the programme that suits you.
- Beginner Course: This programme is an eight-week course that will take you from inactivity to being able to run 30 minutes non-stop.
- Stay On Track: The second programme is an eight-week course for those of you who can squeeze in a 30- to 40-minute run three times a week.
- 10km Course: This is an eight-week course designed for those who can comfortably run for 30 minutes and want to move up to the 10km mark.
Best of luck!

Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor