We spent the dark winter evenings looking forward to the long summer days.. Running was going to be easy in the summer with bright mornings, warm weather, kids off school and a more relaxed atmosphere in work.
We anticipated that by August we would be energised, strong and bronzed from a summer in the great outdoors. We imagined escaping for leisurely morning holiday runs, returning home invigorated and glowing. Well, it is now well into August. I hope your summer of running has lived up to your expectations.
Although some people have managed to carve out the time to run this summer, I know so many are still playing catch-up and looking forward to "some time" in the future when you will have more time on your hands.
Let me tell you a secret. You will never have the time to go for a run. There will always be something more urgent to be done. It’s a bit like laundry: no matter how much of it you manage to clear, you will never be completely free of it for very long.
Running often drops down the list of priorities as no one asks loudly for it to be done right now. No one else suffers when you skip your run.
Although delaying one load of laundry for 24 hours won’t make a difference to our life, we are still guilty of prioritising such jobs as urgent tasks ahead of thinking of the long term and what is really important: our physical and mental health.
I’m sure there are some things you are doing today that don’t have to be done right now. Although running makes us feel so good, we often feel guilty about leaving jobs behind and spending time on something that is just for us and no one else. The feeling of completing a run cannot be beaten, yet we deprive ourselves of this as we are so busy being busy. Sometimes it’s easier to not run and to use our busy lives as an excuse.
There are times when it is impossible to run but there are windows in every week we could take advantage of if we took the time to see them and not fill them with other jobs. Each day that you skip knocks a little piece off your fitness and your running confidence. The more days you miss, the less likely you are to run tomorrow.
Even with the best of intentions, it is hard to get out the door. You love running and how it makes you feel, but it’s hard to prioritise yourself ahead of everything and everyone else. Make it easy, so that when you do spot that window of opportunity to go running you can take advantage. The trick is to find a way to make running a non-negotiable part of your week.
Steal the secrets of dedicated runners. Always have your running gear ready to go in a corner of your room. You are significantly more likely to run if you are at least dressed to go. Arrange to meet someone else. If you have made a plan to meet, you will turn up.
Get the family involved. Running doesn’t have to be structured. You can get the full benefit of the fresh air in the park chasing a Frisbee, a ball or a child. It’s too easy to stand still or sit on a park bench watching others move. When going to the beach with children, wear clothes you can run and move comfortably in. You won’t sprint in sandals and a summer dress, but you might just get involved if you are in your running gear.
If you cannot get motivated to run, why not help someone else to start running? Become their motivator and coach and run with them. Arrange to meet a friend for a run rather than a coffee, or choose to leave the car at home when you need to nip to the corner shop.
Try to make running an important part of your day rather than an optional luxury for when everything else is done.
We still have a couple of weeks in August to take control of our running and get that routine in place for the autumn. It won’t be long until we are back into school lunches, studying, ironing shirts and enduring darker evenings. The to-do list will get longer in September and it will be harder to start then. Get ahead of yourself and take advantage of the wonderful month that still brings us bright mornings, long evenings and quieter roads. Carve out a little time in your day for you. No one will thank you for that extra load of laundry. Very soon you will be looking back nostalgically at these long summer days. It’s up to you to make the most of them.
Mary Jennings is founder and running coach with ForgetTheGym.ie. Mary trains beginners and marathoners and everyone in between to enjoy running and stay injury free, and designed the Get Running courses for The Irish Times, which you can join at any time. See irishtimes.com/getrunning