Put a spring in your step for running in February

Stay enthusiastic by doing what you know is possible, not what you think you should be doing

January blues? There is still  plenty of time to become the runner you want to be – you just need to learn from what didn’t work in January and plan February better. Photograph: iStock

January blues? There is still plenty of time to become the runner you want to be – you just need to learn from what didn’t work in January and plan February better. Photograph: iStock

 

It is almost a month since many of you put pen to paper on your running resolutions. Full of new year enthusiasm, you may have signed up for races, invested in new running gear and roped in friends and family to share the miles.

January is Health Month in The Irish Times. Throughout the month, in print and online, we will be offering encouragement and inspiration to help us all improve our physical and mental health in 2020. See irishtimes.com/health
January is Health Month in The Irish Times. Throughout the month, in print and online, we will be offering encouragement and inspiration to help us all improve our physical and mental health in 2020. See irishtimes.com/health

I hope you are still on the right track and feeling the benefits of the time and effort you have invested. Building a running routine is difficult and it takes consistent effort to make things happen, so well done if you are finishing this month on a running high.

Great expectations

If, however, you are not quite on track with your training plan, all is not lost. The problem with January for many runners is the conflict between our enthusiasm and the winter weather. It’s still dark in the morning and still dark in the evening. It takes determination to keep on going long after the initial new year motivation wanes. Many of us overcommit in January and end up feeling a little disillusioned by the end of the month. It is very common so don’t despair. There is another month just around the corner.

Lower the bar

Make your running easier by taking the pressure off the amount of running you are expecting from yourself for the next few weeks. Revisit your training plan. Still aim for three training sessions per week but reduce the length and the intensity of each session. Give yourself more walking breaks, slow your pace and try to build your motivation by roping in friends or even a podcast if it helps get you out the door. If you can build the routine of getting out the door three times a week, the magic will start to happen. We still have plenty of time to become the runner we want to be – we just need to learn from what didn’t work in January and plan February better.

The key to success

Running feels tough until our body adapts to the effort and accepts that it is part of our routine. That is why running comebacks are such a challenge. Our muscles, our lungs, our bones and indeed our mind all work better with regular practice. We are less prone to injury and are more able to listen to our body. Fitness, confidence and motivation all increase with consistently. We need consistency in the number of days we run each week but also consistency in looking after our running body, not waiting for an injury to arrive before we decide to mind ourselves.

Three times a week

Whether you are a new or regular runner, 3 training runs each week you help you build that consistency that makes running feel good. When your run consistently you make progress on all fronts. To put it simply, running becomes easier when it happens regularly. It’s easier to get out the door, easier to ignore the excuses, easier to get faster, run longer and most importantly easier to enjoy running. We have less of a mental battle getting out the door and what once was a challenge on the roads becomes surprisingly comfortable.

Running into February

If establishing a weekly running routine has become a habit for you this January, the year is looking good. You have my permission to feel smug about your progress and you should be delighted to have created a great running base which will stand right thoughtout the year. It is worthwhile taking a little time out now at the end of January to reflect on what has worked well for you. February will be easier now the fitness base and routine has been established. But I can’t have you getting too complacent. So, I will set you an additional goal to add too your routine.

A February challenge

Now you have the routine of getting out for a run, it’s time to start looking after your running body when you are off the road. What little thing could you do each day this February to help your future running body? Go back to your running goals you set out in January and pick one of the healthy notions you had for yourself that you haven’t addressed yet. It might be to drink more water, go to bed earlier, stretch, strengthen or foam-roll. We all know our weak spots and it is our responsibility to look after our body to make running more comfortable and healthy in the longterm. You might decide to plan dinners better, become a morning runner or indeed join a running club. Whatever it is, pick one challenge for February and aim to make this habit part of your running routine.

One step forward

It can be overwhelming trying to do it all, so that is why we shouldn’t do everything at once. Most habits require consistent effort every day to make them happen. We need to be reminded, cajoled and encouraged to keep them going and often we simply forget. Just pick one task and stick with it. It will get easier. Aim to keep the running bug alive by doing what you know is possible, not what you think you should be doing. Let’s give ourselves another month and when we chat next the daffodils will be out, spring will be in the air and I promise motivation, confidence and fitness will be all heading in the right direction.

- Mary Jennings is founder and running coach with ForgetTheGym.ie. Mary’s book Get Running, published by Gill Books, is out now.

Sign up for one of The Irish Times' Get Running programmes (it is 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!

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