The weather mightn’t have made up its mind yet, but spring is definitely upon us and with that comes warmer temperatures, brighter evenings and the sight of more and
more people pounding their way through the parks continuing their New Year’s resolutions to get fit and start running.
But for many novice runners, once you’ve completed your couch to 5k programme a fear descends about what to do next. Your body has become accustomed to your new-found exercise regime, what used to take you 45minutes now takes 35 and a run that initially put the fear of God into you is now a lunch time jog. Magazines, Facebook and Twitter are full of race notices for marathons, the race series and other adventure challenges but what should you do and why?
When I started Operation Transformation my goal was to be able to run 5k at any pace a couple of times a week. I knew that alone would provide significant health benefits and once there I could see the improvements in all facets of my life. Sleeping better, more energy and more confidence, let alone losing more than three stone in weight. I was over the moon to reach my goal but now that box was ticked the only thing to do was to go further.
The decision to increase my running distance came quite easily, running 5k was no longer a challenge, I began to understand that if I felt this good at 5k, how would I feel after 5miles, 10k or even a half marathon? The first thing I learned was that I’d never discover how I would feel by just sitting on the couch, so I had to take action – I had to enter a longer race. It was that simple, my 5k goal was done, now I had something else to achieve. The feeling of empowerment upon entering a longer race was significant, it changed my mindset of ‘I can’t’ into ‘I have and I will’. There was no reason I couldn’t do this, and there is no reason you can’t too.
But are you able to run further than your now comfortable 5k? Of course you are! The only barriers to achieving what we want to achieve are the barriers we put up in our own minds. By getting from no running to 5k you’ve trained your body and mind to accept the challenge and going that little bit further week by week is a simple case of just adding a little bit more on to your training runs.
How far should you go? That’s entirely up to you, but to introduce a little bit more time on your feet week by week will bring you to 5 miles pretty quickly – 5 miles sounds a lot but that’s 8k, only 3k more than you’re already running. Caitriona McKiernan has a great training plan in this month’s magazine to help you reach your goal safely.
What about time? Well that can’t be an excuse! How long did your first 5k take and how long does it take now? You’re stronger, faster and fitter than you were in January and if you’ve made the commitment to run more then you will find the opportunity to run more, believe me. But remember that it is important to make time in your week for your training, don’t let everything get on top of you. Plan your meal times, watch your favourite TV programme on delay, pull on your runners and head out, it really is that easy. As the months pass we have so much more daylight every evening allowing us to do more outside. Public parks are staying open later and I guarantee you’ll fit your training into your current schedule, no matter how busy you might be.
What is important is that you always keep your eyes on the prize. The science behind visualisation in sport psychology is well established and used by amateur and professional athletes alike. Close your eyes, imagine yourself crossing the finish line, soak in the atmosphere of a cheering crowd lining the finishing straight and listen to them cheering you on. Your family are there and as you cross the line a volunteer puts a medal around your neck. You’ve done it.
That’s what your training for, keep that image in your mind every time you feel like you’ve had enough. Every time you don’t feel that you are a ‘proper’ runner or you can’t go any further, recall the feeling you get when you imagine yourself finishing the race.
The sense of achievement when you set a goal, work towards it and then cross the finish line is what many call the ‘runners high’. You deserve it for getting this far but the only way to discover your true potential is to get up, get out and try. I believe in you, good luck and have fun!