Author and running coach Mary Jenning shares her advice on remembering the basics when you’re embarking on your parkrun Resolutions.
Armed with your new year motivation, I bet many of you have made a parkrun resolution to walk or run a little bit more (or a little bit faster?). But before you rush out the door it is worth remembering a few basics which will help you enjoy the process all the more. After all, if you don’t enjoy it, you will find it harder to stay motivated and we can’t be having you giving up on us!
So, whether you are walking or running as you embark on the coming weeks, try your best to follow these tips:
Work out your starting point
Don’t expect yourself to be at the level you were a few years ago if you are on a comeback. Start slowly, stop when you need to, and accept the level you are at now. There is no point in pushing yourself to your limits. We are all coming from different starting points, so work out where you are at right now – and use that as your base for building your routine and plan.
Set your goal
Set your goal. This will help you structure your training. If you can walk 30 minutes comfortably by now, you can (if you wish) build up by running your (not)parkrun through a walk/run strategy. If you are already running, you might like to be able to run faster or run more consistently and comfortably. You get to decide your goal. Make it one that is realistic, but also something that will inspire you to keep going.
Create some structure
It really helps to have structure in your training. One you know where you are and where you want to go to, get yourself a training plan which will support your progress - parkrun have a walking plan or you could also try C25K. Getting out three or four times a week is plenty and remember that rest and recovery is also part of training. Warmup and cooldown are as important as the main event. You might prefer to warm up indoors before you head out into the winter weather, especially if you will be tempted to start running straight away.
In this winter season we have to pay more attention to what we wear and what paths we use. If you are training in the dark please make sure you are very visible to other traffic but also choose a route that has plenty of space for you and other path users to remain socially distanced. Well lit routes are the most safe. If you have the flexibility in your day, train in daylight. It opens up more opportunities for routes within permitted distance from home and can help free up the paths for others. In these COVID days we do not want to add any unnecessary stress to others or ourselves as we maintain social distance on our routes.
Dress for success
Comfort is key. There are no set rules on what you should wear as long as you feel good and are bright and visible if heading out in the dark. A good pair of comfortable shoes will be fine and, for women, a high impact support bra helps with comfort and support. You will work out very quickly which clothes suit you best. You will warm up, so you might need less layers than you imagine. I find wearing a hat and gloves can keep me cosy at the start but can easily be taken off and tucked into the top of my leggings as I warm up.
Writing a diary will really help you track and see your progress. You might like to take photos, write a journal or simply put a tick box or sticker on a wall-chart after each session.Very quickly we can forget these early days. Our weeks can blur, so from the start keep track of what you do. It is not only mileage you can track, it can be lovely to keep a note of virtual conversations, routes and lessons learnt along the way. A paper diary or indeed online can work as long as it’s something you see regularly so it will remind you to keep it updated. Just imagine now what it will look like at the end of February if you update it each day or week.
Manage your expectations
The biggest mistake most of us make is starting out too fast, and so you might want to slow down a little.This is not a competition, in fact, it’s much more than just a physical challenge. If you are putting pressure on yourself to attain a certain level of fitness and find that it is detracting from your enjoyment, be brave enough to step back and lower your expectations. Choose to enjoy your time in the fresh air more than any tangible time/distance goal. The fitness will come and the more you relax about it the more you will gain. Your next few months will teach you more about yourself than you imagined and being open to adapt your training by listening to your body is really important.
Choose to enjoy it!
Let’s make our parkrun resolution journey fun, safe, within guidelines and rewarding. That way we will continue to get out the door on the days when we might be looking for an excuse to stay on the couch. I’ll be back next week to check in and share with you some more tips for helping you enjoy it even more. For now, take it all one day/week at a time.
Mary Jennings is the founder and running coach at Forget The Gym, author of Get Running (Gill books) and running columnist with The Irish Times.
Congratulations to De O’Connor who has been selected as the final winner of the #Vhi parkrun social media competition. De has won a pair of wireless Apple AirPods headphones, which will no doubt come in handy for all her future runs! De is living in Dublin, and her local parkrun is St Anne’s…
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