Run Clinic: ‘I’ve started running again and I can’t bear it. Help’

Expect it to be very difficult in the first few weeks, but follow a few simple tips and it will get much easier


Q I started running again after meeting you and am finding it really tough, I am constantly comparing myself to others. I feel so useless and end up feeling rubbish. Also, I don’t like running! Is this something that will come, as my breathing gets easier will my love for running grow? Don’t get me wrong, I love how I feel afterwards. It’s just during the run I literally can’t bear it!

I fear I have picked the wrong time of year to start up again as its baking hot and I am sweating before I even break a sweat if you get what I mean. Help me before I give up. LB

A Firstly, well done on taking it up again. I know from further correspondence that you have a BMI of 30, have run 5k in the past and that the furthest you have ever run is 6.5k at a very slow pace. You are currently setting out twice a week and have been for the last four weeks since your return to the running fold, but are as yet unable to run 5k comfortably and without stopping.

The bottom line is that running in the heat (let us never complain about it – ever – but . . .) is incredibly hard for everyone. Seasoned pros seek out countries with warm climates to train in, because it is thought that hotter, sweatier climes might confer on them a competitive advantage, so for someone starting out again, and carrying excess baggage, it is unsurprising that you are finding it hard. Very hard.

First things first, give yourself a break – not from the running programme – but from your expectations of how you are going to feel about it. Hot and sticky and positively swollen after your first kilometre, and gasping for breath, you look up through sweaty, glazed red eyes to catch a glimpse of some uber babe gambolling around in a bikini. Not ideal. But remember that running is not supposed to be fun. The first 10-15 minutes of every run – every single time – is horrific and has us all thinking our bones are going to break, our ligaments ping, and that we will have a heart attack as our muscles and lungs react to the exertion. But once our muscles warm, and our breathing steadies, our bodies adjust to the movement and we are able to sustain it over the distance we have trained ourselves to reach. It doesn’t always feel amazing or zen-esque, and certainly not when you are at your stage and have to focus on breathing and making it past that lamppost.

Once you get back to being able to run 5k comfortably without stopping, your confidence will grow and setting out on your runs will feel more like second nature and less like walking onto a stage naked. And you will start to reap the rewards. That spare tyre will shrink with every run done. But none of it is easy and there are no short cuts.

To get to this place – of running 5k comfortably – requires hard work and commitment and it takes time. So don’t expect miracles in the first couple of weeks. Expect it to hurt. Expect it to be hard. And then remind yourself that hard is the new black.

Practical tips
Run as early/late as possible if it’s hot and certainly avoid running between 11am-3pm; jog in areas where you are not going to run into people who make you feel inferior. Run where nobody else goes if it helps. Running very early or very late is also a great way to avoid the masses and bikini gambollers.

Distract yourself from what is putting you off and knocking your confidence. Think deeply about that fantasy project you have been dreaming about starting, that new career, emigrating to Australia, or just redecorating the spare room; or plug yourself into an iPod, and drown out the outside world with stories or music or Run Fat Bitch Run on audio if you have masochistic tendencies – listen to whatever floats your boat and helps get the job done.

Wear loose, light coloured clothing, a cap and sunnies (sensible but also helps allay the embarrassment factor and obscures peripheral vision whilst making you look like a celeb – all good).

Run at least three times a week. Twice a week is not going to cut it and will always have you feeling that running is a chore because it will never become a habit when practised so infrequently.

Never use other people’s stares as a reason not to go running. If they are looking at you (and they almost certainly are not), it is only ever in admiration.

The Grit Doctor says:

Recalibrate your expectations. You are trying to create a new, fantastically positive habit for yourself – for the rest of your life. And new habits take time to bed in, so give it chance to take root.

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