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Healthy Town: Get out and get moving

Whether you choose an app, a social media support group or a running buddy, the key message of the Pfizer Healthy Town initiative this autumn is get out and get moving

Wanting to be fit and healthy is a personal choice, but at some point we all need a helping hand and some encouragement.

The Pfizer Healthy Town programme is perfect for motivating people to get in shape as it aims to get the whole community in Wexford Town (and beyond) to become healthier together.

Traditionally, people tend to walk and run with friends or in groups, but with the advent of technology, it is now far easier to connect with fellow athletes on the same route or even share tips and words of encouragement with strangers through social media.

James McGarry set up The Runners Support Page on Facebook several years ago in order to find like-minded people who share tips on how to get fit. It now has over 9,000 members and is Ireland's largest online running group.


“The Facebook page works so well because there are so many runners not affiliated to clubs, so you can go to the page and get leading advice from runners of all levels, coaches and people from the running industry to ensure you run safely while making progress,” McGarry says.” It makes you feel like you’re part of a club and you have a community to engage with.”

Sports psychologist Canice Kennedy says that training as part of a group can be uplifting as it helps with motivation, and some of the latest apps can also be beneficial in helping people to stick to their goals.

Technology can also be a great help in training programmes by providing prompts and allowing you to measure progress

“Our motivation can vary up and down and by having training partners (virtual or otherwise) you can get help through the difficult times,” he says. “It is always easier to train in a group than on your own, because it tends to be more fun.

“Technology can also be a great help in training programmes by providing prompts and allowing you to measure progress and record sessions. But the key driver in any training programme is the goals or targets that you set for yourself. So put these targets somewhere you will see them - or be prompted by them - every day.”

Mary Jennings of forgetthegym.ie says sharing a training goal with someone, whether online or in person, is a huge bonus when it comes to keeping up with a fitness plan.

“Being accountable is what keeps many a recreational athlete on the roads,” she says. “Whether its meeting someone in person or being able to share your progress on an online group, the feeling that someone else is encouraging and supporting your progress is very motivating. Like anything, if you are looking for online buddies, it is about finding the right group for you, who will be supportive and understanding for the level you are at.

The most positive feedback is for the widely popular app Strava

“You don’t want the group to make you feel under too much pressure, nor to make your achievements feel insignificant. For the runner or cyclist who trains a lot on their own, knowing there are others out there who are having the same experiences and challenges can be less isolating and more comforting, especially on tough days. One does have to be careful however not to fall into the trap of thinking that everyone else is doing so much better than you. Like everything online, people like to post their positive highlights, not the stories of their lazy days or bad runs.”

Jennings offers some of the latest workout apps which should help offer support and motivation while you reach your fitness goal.

“Without a doubt, the most positive feedback is for the widely popular app Strava,” she says. “In addition to the social element where you can share your progress with others, it tracks every metric about your run, presents it visually and offers the most technical running nerd endless hours of analysis of their running history.

“Similar apps include Runkeeper, MapMyRun, Runtastic and Nike+ Running, which also track running metrics such as pace, distance and route, using the GPS in your phone to give you real-time updates on your run and allow you to view your training afterwards.”

Jennings says new runners can also use apps to help them get started on the road to fitness and recommends the One You Couch to 5K app from the NHS (UK health service) and the Couch to 5k runner from Fitness 22.

For safety purposes, Road ID helps to track your distance and more importantly keep you safe by allowing friends and family to see where exactly you are at any given time.

“As a running coach, I use CoachesEye to analyse running technique and give detailed feedback to runners on how their body moves,” Jennings adds. “And with my ChiRunning hat on, I also use the Metronome Beats app which helps runners find their right cadence and run to the right rhythm for their body. It’s a good alternative to running with a clip-on metronome.”

If you need more than just motivation to help you push through the miles, then Zombies Run is just the app for you, as through hearing zombies getting close to your heels should be enough to keep even the least enthusiastic runner on the move.

But whether you choose an app, a social media support group or a running buddy, the key message this autumn is get out and get moving.

For more on Healthy Town, see www.facebook.com/HealthyTownIreland
As part of this year’s Pfizer Healthy Town, The Irish Heart Foundation will host two free walking leader training sessions in Wexford Town, on October 19th and 20th. Walking leader training is aimed at people wishing to lead a walking group in their community or workplace. For more information, visit irishheart.ie/sli