Last Saturday I spent three hours thinking about going for a run before I actually went running. As I was running solo I didn’t have a definite plan of action which meant I spent the morning making excuses and doing jobs that were not necessary. I prioritised everything else ahead of my run. I could have saved myself an entire morning of procrastination if I just got up and went for a run first thing.
Some people have an inbuilt discipline that keeps them dedicated to any challenge they set themselves. I don’t have that gene. Folks like me thrive in a group environment where the support and the company keep us engaged. If you are also guilty of being a running procrastinator, never underestimate the power of a running buddy or some local community support in helping you to get moving and stay motivated.
If the voices in your head are experts at creating excuses, try replacing them with encouraging words from others. They may need your support as much as you need them.
The couch potato
The exceptionally long winter this year has meant that much of the new year positivity and energy diminished in late February and March with the onset of snow and then more snow. I have never seen the parks and footpaths as quiet in March. In addition to the weather, the decline in enthusiasm also ties in with the end of TV programmes like Operation Transformation that encourage us all to think more about our food, fitness and mindset in January.
The emotional storytelling combined with practical tips for getting moving guilted many couch potatoes up and out in the depths of winter. Unfortunately, much of the eagerness is shortlived and without regular reminders and accountability, the couch can regain its appeal after a burst of new-year activity.
Some of the people who have remained most dedicated to their training this year are those who are got involved in local walking/running initiatives in the new year and have enjoyed the camaraderie and support of the group. One such group I had the pleasure of meeting recently showed how local collaboration and enthusiasm can carry the most unlikely runner to their first 5k though regular meet-ups and team spirit.
St Oliver Plunkett Eoghan Ruadh GAA Club, based on the Navan Road in Dublin 7, started a new-year healthy initiative with the aim of bringing together people from the wider community to make friends, have fun and improve their health. Trish Maher, its Healthy Club officer, included a ‘Couch to 5k programme’ to its impressive list of new-year exercise options.
The 5k project
I joined the Plunketts runners on their grand finale night, the big 5k, after eight weeks of consistent effort. Under the guidance and enthusiastic support of experienced runners Ronan Doohan and Tony Delaney, the group used our Irish Times Get Running Beginners Programme and followed it religiously though the dark evenings. They watched the videos and read the tips before meeting together at the clubhouse each week.
The programme provided the structure but the volunteers and participants provided the motivation and support. Behind the scenes, WhatsApp guru Ann Tynan made sure there was never an excuse for anyone to miss a run, with regular messages and reminders being sent to all involved. They even went a step further and got a sponsor in their local Meaghers Pharmacy, who surprised all 5k runners with a goody bag on the big night.
A winning combination
While has been lovely to read some of the feedback we have received on our online programmes to date, most of it has been from individuals rather than groups. Plunketts have proven that pairing the programmes with local support can also be a winning combination. It was a pleasure to listen to their runners’ stories and reasons to run and notice the varied age groups and the incredible camaraderie within the group.
Slow and steady was mentioned to me many times when I asked about their 5k strategy. That proves for sure they were following my approach. Having reached this stage, they are all keen to keep running beyond this final night of official training. No one wants to lose the momentum they have worked so hard to create.
Partner in crime
Not everyone has the luxury of a group like Plunketts to support their running. If you are keen to get running regularly but know you won’t keep it up on your own, look around for someone else who may have the same goal. Ask them to meet you for a run, or maybe even a walk to start. It only takes two of you to start a group. You don’t even need to be a running expert. Feel free to follow any of our online plans which will give you the knowledge and step-by-step guide to getting started. All you need is some enthusiasm and a joint commitment to keep each other on track. After that, the magic happens and who knows where it might take you. We have three full months now until the summer madness kicks in and running buddies will be harder to pin down.
If you fear the next three months may slip by as quickly as the last three, then pick up your phone now and send that first text asking for a running date. Who knows where it might lead over the next few months?
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!