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running: advice

Monday, July 13, 2015

The beginning of a new chapter in this too-often ignored category here called ‘fitness & health’ – funny how neglected the topic is online when in real life it is such a fundamental part of my everyday life. But that is set to change, you girls have asked time and time again for more informative posts on this subject – perhaps you’ve seen my rants on instagram or the increase of muscle I tend to flaunt over there. Either way, exercise and eating right isn’t an option, it’s an essential. You must see it this way. If you don’t take care of yourself, your body will not take care of you – and for those maybe still a little reluctant, let me give you a more superficial reminder. Gravity is a big huge force and while it keeps us rooted to the grounds of this earth – it does something else too, it makes our body droop and sag in all kinds of ways. While this is a natural part of aging and one we should embrace, we can also slow it down. But vanity aside, the benefits from exercising and eating right are infinite – I promise they are innumerable and invaluable – and you just must must must do it.  Like brushing your teeth or paying your taxes. You really have no choice. But, before I get lost in this very long rant, I am going to move forward here. In the next few months, I am going to be sharing my entire regime – starting today with running, moving over to strength training as well as healthy eating and the changes I have made in the last year in my diet. Now, I am no way a health expert, a fanatic most certainly – but please be advised that like everything shared here, it is personal and while I hope it is inspires you – do what is best for your body at your pace. Running is one of the many ways you can clock in cardio, I am by no means saying that it’s is the ultimate form of exercise – it is simply, the one I prefer and so, I thought, I’d share what I’ve learnt after a very long decade of pounding tarmac, sand and treadmills alike. I hope it helps you.

why i run

I started running at 16 – as a painfully dorky teenager and one that was so often mocked, running felt like a good outlet – and so I started and became a fanatic. I out ran all the boys on the track every sports day and it felt like the one thing I was ‘cool’ at. It was good for me, I needed the tiny successes of winning races because it was a silent triumph over all those kids that made me feel so insignificant.  A decade later and I am still an avid runner. It is without a doubt my favourite form of cardio – as well as the easiest, the most accessible and affordable. And a damn efficient way to burn calories and sweat in the way our bodies were made too. Now, I have been running a very long time – and any runner will tell you, that the first 5 minutes aside, I barely notice I’m running. It’s as if my head is floating elsewhere as my feet are moving. Quite honestly, it is the closest I have ever come to meditating – and as a sufferer of terrible anxiety, I have found no better way to pound out all these quiet stresses and worries that so often consume me. Running has given me hard legs that I like and muscles that I’m proud of. Running keeps my head quiet and my nerves in balance.  I barely drink anymore, I rarely shop and as I get older, my work hours steadily increase – so running really is, quite simply, my only true release.

how i run

For years I would meticulously track every kilometre, jotting them all down and measuring one day against the next. If my distance wasn’t increasing, I wasn’t succeeding. As a teenager, I would often go on two runs a day instead of one just to ensure I accomplished the mileage I had set myself. I don’t recommend this, unless of course you are training for a marathon or a race of some sort (in which case, I salute you in awe, go YOU). Now, I run to simply run, to catch air under my feet and to sweat. I am far more casual about the entire endeavour – and I suggest you adopt this approach too. As long as you are running, that is all that matters. I always track the time and will run continuously (no breaks) – my average is anywhere from 45 minutes to 90 minutes, depending on how I am feeling. But as long as I clock in my minimum of 45 minutes, I am happy. I always incorporatea few  hills into my runs – and I’ll usually walk for about a minute to warm up and then again to cool down. Once a week, I will aim to do a high intensity run which is 1 minute sprinting for every 1 minute jogging. I will clock in about 15 sprinting minutes and 15 jogging, making it the shortest but hardest run of my week. Now I prefer to run outside – but in weather extremes (rain or more recently, intense heat), I’ll hit the treadmill instead. It comes down to personal preference but I tend to get bored on a treadmill ; an outdoor run provides so much more to look at and there are lovely things like the breeze or the beach to enjoy.


running advice: how to begin or improve

If your body isn’t accustomed to the movement of running, it feels like sheer torture. So many of my friends have complained about this to me and I get it, really I do – it doesn’t feel natural. As humans, we are instinctively taught to only run from danger – and the adrenaline is what usually keeps us going. So just to run for the sake of it feels weird and uncomfortable. If you are persistant however you will break through this discomfort pretty quickly. To begin, I would invest in a stopwatch (about 5 euros from an sporting good store) – run for 3 minutes and then walk for 1. As you become more comfortable, mix up your running to walking ratio. In the first few weeks work up to 10 minutes running for every minute walking. Before you know it, you will be running without any walking – and you won’t feel like you’re dying. Bob Glover, author of the book I can only describe as my running bible (will provide a link below) – believes that if you can run for 30 minutes, non-stop, you have become a true ‘runner’. This should be your ultimate aim whether you are a beginner or intermediate runner. If you have already hit the non-stop 30 mark, keep upping your time on the days you feel stronger. And then perhaps do like me and add in a high intensity run. But above all, push yourself, but slowly; be patient and run with diligence –  don’t overthink it, running is easy in that it requires nothing but your two legs. Pay tribute to it’s simplicity by keeping your own runs basic and easy to get through.

the ugly : and how to ease

I have terrible looking feet – they are rough and blistered and just generally not very pretty – years of running has made them tough. It took almost a decade to get feet like these – and believe it or not, I like them like this because I no longer get blisters from running. They can be incredibly painful, especially for a novice runner. Back when I was a little bit crazy as a teenager, I remember flinging my sneakers off to run bare foot because the rubbing of my socks/shoes made it otherwise unbearable. I do not recommend this. Skip a day & left your feet heal. Invest in a quality pair of running shoes, I always always buy Nikes – and usually a half size too big because I stuff my feet into very thick socks, which I recommend too as it keeps your feet more padded and comfortable. On another note, when you get a stitch, the best way to beat it is to run as fast as you can, I promise this will fade the pain out and as you slow down, it will be gone completely. It is so easy to get dehyrdated on a run as you will sweat profusely, always bring some water with you – a small 500 ml should suffice – and don’t drink it in big gulps but sip instead as you run. Chugging a bunch of water will weigh you down and probably make you feel nauseous.

motivation: how to keep going

Sure, I’ve have been running a long time but don’t doubt for a second that I still sometimes find it almost impossible to get off my butt and actually get going. You can a previous post on motivation here to begin with, which explains how I set my mind on robot mode and just get out there and run rather than allowing myself to think about. Thinking so often leads to excuses which so often lead to missing workouts when really you shouldn’t have. We all fall victim to this, especially in the heat of the summer. My number one running motivation is music – and while I run, my taste in music is so painfully unrefined – I will turn up the likes of Ciara or Calvin Harris, anything with an undeniably energetic beat to keep me from giving up and collapsing with exhaustion. I refuse to run without music, I simply don’t think I could muster even 10 minutes without it. Another guilty pleasure of mine is the beauty of the treadmill TV (if your gym doesn’t have TVs, bring your ipad, if you have one) – whenever I run on a treadmill, I’ll put on the latest episodes of whichever show I’m watching; you would be so surprised at how fast an entire hour of running goes by if you are watching Mad Men, or more lately, Scandal. Like I said, it doesn’t matter how you do it, as long as you do it – if watching TV is the gateway to clocking in your cardio, then so be it. Just do it.


running apparel: my recommendations

I hate expensive workout clothes, I cannot believe people pay 60 odd euros for a sportsbra that will be worn solely to sweat in. This feels like such a waste of money to me. On top of that, my gym membership is  painfully expensive, so throwing more money at exercise just isn’t all that financially feasible for me. This is why, once again, I love Primark. All of my workout clothes come exclusively from the brand and that extends to all apparel featured here too. Primark offer good quality, comfortable – but importantly, very affordable workout wear options.  I’ve washed Primark sports bras time and time again; the lycra stays taut and never loosens, their shorts and running capris never bunch up uncomfortably – and they all have the very practical aspect of a tiny pocket for your keys. I have spent a great many years with the keys to my house jostling around between my boobs as I run – so this tiny feature is immensely practical. I even buy my running sunglasses (always reflective aviators), water bottles, caps and socks from Primark. An entire outfit costs me less than dinner out at my favourite sushi restaurant. It is far more rewarding to save on the clothes and reward yourself with the luxury of a nice gym, it will keep you motivated and believe me, I’ve had to workout in some truly shoddy places – they always seem full of creepy men who come to gawk rather than sweat. Now in terms of what I wear, I keep it relatively simple. In the summer and on the beach, I love to run in a sportswear swimsuit (this one here is also from Primark – it is super fitted meaning a sportsbra undeneath isn’t necessary);  I can cool off in the sea straight after, dry off and then walk home. I’m also a fan of running capri pants, tight and made of lycra – and I’ll usually wear these all year round. A sportsbra, obviously is essential, as well as a fitted tank top. Avoid wearing anything baggy, it will weigh you down. I always put on a cap and sunglasses too to keep my eyes and face sun protected but also, to hide how truly terrible I can so often look when I am exercising. I turn a deep beetroot red during physical exertion. Pedestrians have stopped me in the past to ask if I am okay. It is that bad. In terms of socks, a thick option is best to prevent rubbing and blisters – Primark sell a set of 3 that cover just your feet. I buy these in bulk (and then somehow lose half of them). In terms of shoes, here is where you should spend your money, invest in a good pair and don’t buy them online, try them on.

resources to help you along:

Spotify’s new Running feature – it detects your running pace and then streams music with a tempo that matches your pace.
Bob Glovers’ Running Handbook – available via amazon here and a book I have returned to time and time again ever since I started at 16.
A quick stop at Primark – especially for those socks I mentioned above. You won’t spend much but you will be comfortable. It’s a win-win.
Apps: there are an abundance of apps that aid in tracking your runs, as well as ones that play out narratives to keep you motivated.
Personally, I have tried a few but always prefer music in the end. If you are looking to download one, take a look at this post (here) via Runners’ World.


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