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How to enjoy running: A beginner’s guide

One of the best pieces of beginners advice I received from Olympic Athlete Steve Solomon, was ‘find ways to enjoy running’. Running is probably one of the hardest forms of exercise I’ve ever done but with the right approach, it can be extremely rewarding and not just bearable but fun!

I am nowhere near Stephen’s level of skill, and I’m still better off on a treadmill than outside (in part asthma related) but over time, introducing running into my exercise routine - even if only in short bursts - has been extremely rewarding. Based on the endorphin rush, and the sense of freedom that comes from engaging with one of our most primal movements, I think running can have huge benefits for our mental health above anything else.

Whatever your fitness level, or experience, the key with sticking to and really getting the benefits of any exercise is to find ways to fall in love with it. So, inspired by Steve’s advice and based on my experience - as someone who finds running really hard - here are some tips on how to enjoy running…

Set reasonable goals

Having high ambitions in life is fantastic, and over time if you keep working at your goals you will achieve them! However, when you begin running it’s important to set your first few goals at a place that’s reasonable for you, as if you don’t reach them you will feel demotivated and won’t enjoy the experience. Pushing yourself too far on your first few runs could also lead to injury, a tale my partner learned the hard way and had to spend months recovering from.

Start by setting yourself small goals, whether it’s time based or distance based and over time as your body gets used to the movement and your endurance increases, raise the bar higher and higher until you are running for as far or long as you’d like to!

Take it slow

Running is not an easy sport if rushed into too quickly you can get hurt, so it’s important to take it slow. Remember, most of us are not training to be professional athletes like Stephen, and even if you are, you need to be kind to your body in order to achieve your goals. If you push yourself too fast at the beginning - a mistake I certainly have made - then you’ll end up out of breath, uncomfortable and feeling like you aren’t capable.

If you are new to running, maybe start with a light jog or run short distances and then take walking breaks in between. As you keep running and keep building endurance you will be able to go faster and faster. Take the time to feel your body out what it likes and what it doesn’t and push yourself to go faster and further as and when you are ready.

Focus on the feeling

Goals are all well and good and for some people, having a specific goal to reach is key to their enjoyment of a sport. However, it’s also ok to just focus on the positive feelings in your body and mind that running brings. In essence, run without purpose, run purely for the experience and the happiness you get from going through the motion.

On a personal level, this is where I get the most enjoyment out of any exercise, and what motivates me to keep going. When you don’t have specific goals or achievements in mind, the sense that if you don’t do something ‘right’ you won’t get the benefit simply falls away and it’s so much easier and more enjoyable to engage with.

Stop worrying about what other people think

No one is judging you and if they are, screw them! So often we are worried about how other people might be looking at us exercising that we are afraid to get ourselves out there. But no one cares or should care about how you look when you are exercising, they are just happy to see you doing it. Even one of the best runners in the world, Steve Solomon isn’t focusing on people's faults when he sees them running, in his own words, he’s simply thinking “good on you”!

Don’t let the fear of other people’s observation stop you from running, this is your time to focus on an activity that’s good for you and will help you feel good mentally and physically. It doesn’t matter how you look or whether you are a ‘good runner’, be proud of yourself for simply taking those first steps and going for it!

Don’t compare yourself to others

Unless you are a professional athlete, and your job is to be better than others at running, there is no need to compare yourself to others. Almost everyone is at a different fitness level and ability when it comes to running, and wherever you are, that’s ok, the important thing is you are doing it.

Comparing ourselves to others can often lead to feeling disheartened and demotivated. Remember that you are on your own unique journey with running and over time you will achieve what you want to. Just trust the process and keep going in a way that makes you happy.

Find a running community

In the words of Steve Solomon, “running is a very communal if you pick up and move, you will find a community that will accept you” and support you. Running alone is great, if that’s what suits you, but having a community around you with a similar goal can be a motivating and driving force.

There are hundreds if not thousands of running clubs and communities around the world, so it’s easy to find a club that suits your pace, schedule and will create an enjoyable running experience for you.

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