If you’re new to the positive life plan, let me recap: it’s basically just a lovely way to keep track of all the different areas of your life: health, fitness, money, beauty/personal style, relationships, work, quality time, aspirations, self, and really there are no rules (apart from one: everything has to be positive, so no being hard on yourself for anything). It’s a great opportunity to spend a bit of time on you and perform a positive life edit that you can continue to work on and update. It’s also a good excuse to buy a new notebook, and you know how happy that makes us. I’m now trying to devote a whole post to each category. So last time was self, and this time the focus is on one of the toughest categories in the positive life plan: fitness.
In my original positive life plan post back in May 2016, I remember writing about how good it felt after Erica and I had been more active on our holiday. As I’ve gone back to this category to update how I’m feeling, all I ever seemed to write was ‘I wish I could find an exercise that suits me’. I think one of the main issues with me is that I’m not particularly a ‘joiner’. I joined a yoga class, but the people were all retired and much older than me, and I only lasted the one lesson (although I paid for a course of six. Duh).
One of my oldest online friends, Nickie O’Hara, has been running for a while and I’ve watched her updates with interest. Nickie is part of a unique running community in Blackburn and has been coaching new runners of all ages through the Couch To 5k and 5k to 10k programmes for three years. She also is founder of an online support network for women who need to be motivated to get fit and stay fit.
I messaged her a while ago and – half joking – asked her if she’d teach me to run. She recommended the Couch to 5k app as a great way to introduce yourself to running, and honestly, I’m absolutely loving it. The app starts you off gently, with lovely Jo Whiley encouraging you as you do your very first 60 second run (the feeling of elation after that very first run is incredible). Slowly, slowly, every run takes you a tiny bit further down the path and soon you’re really running. Last week I did week 5, run 3: a full 20 minute run. This from someone who’s never run in their life. It’s amazing, and invigorating and I’m really loving it. I love the fact that it’s flexible – you can run whenever and wherever you want – and every time you reach a new goal there’s such a feeling of exhilaration! There’s also a very supportive couch to 5k online community where you can connect with runners at the same level as you, and ask any question without feeling silly (and I’ve joined Nickie’s own Facebook support group too – contact Nickie to join – which I’ve found invaluable). Nickie’s been so helpful to me, giving me advice about everything from rest days to those all-important warm-down stretches. For those of you considering taking up the challenge, I asked Nickie for her top tips for new runners:
Invest in proper footwear
You need to look after your feet so nip to a local sports store and ask to have your gait checked (you will be filmed whilst jogging on a treadmill). This will determine the right type of shoe you need to wear depending how your foot strikes the floor when you are running. Once you have this information you can buy your trainers from anywhere. Trainers usually last between 200 and 500 miles however you should look at investing in a new pair every six months or so.
Set a goal
This can be anything; complete the Couch to 5k plan, join in a Race For Life in your local town, simply get fit – whatever the motivation have an end date in mind and work your way sensibly towards your goal with a proper training plan (there are lots available online for the beginner runner right up to training for a marathon).
Find your “happy pace”
Running should be comfortable and not every run should be a race. Start out by running slower than you think you need to and find a pace that suits you. If running with a friend or in a group, you should be able to talk whilst running. Also, don’t be afraid to take a walk break if you have to. Take 21 paces and start again – this allows you to catch your breath and get focused again but doesn’t give your heart rate enough time to drop to a resting rate.
Remember to rest
When you run, your body uses muscles and joints in different ways; they pull and stretch to accommodate the different movements during your high-impact exercise. Those muscles and joints need time to recover in between runs and learn new muscle memory ready to support you on your next run. Also, never run on a niggle as this will aggravate a possible injury and put you off the road for an extended period of time.
Make running part of your routine
Have a set day and time to head out for a run – something that fits in with your lifestyle. It may be a good idea to join a local running group (look for community running or road running) for support.
What about you? Tempted to take up the Couch to 5k challenge? Or have you found something else that suits you? If not, don’t give up, just keep noting down your feelings and keep trying new things – your perfect fitness plan is out there somewhere!
Running gear: Nike LunarStelos running shoe: £42, Reebok sports bra, bought in the sale from Next (now sold out but similar available). Adidas three stripe capri leggings £25 from Next. Vest £5 in the sale from Next.