Winter’s Running Journey #1

It is 5.30pm on a miserable September evening in Drogheda. My plan was to run today. A short one with plenty of stretching afterwards. But with every drop of rain that hits the window in front of me, my motivation is slowly slipping away. My motivation is particularly low because I feel like this is the turning point of the seasons. Yesterday the sun did its very best to keep us warm and dry, but today, the wet, the cold and the dark have all barged back into Ireland and parked up. Today feels like winter. Day 1 of winter.

So I’m going to allow myself this day to sulk and remember the glorious running weather that we have enjoyed all summer. The type of weather that draws you outside. And instead of running in that muck out there, I am going to begin to plan and prep for the shivery months ahead.

With planning and preparation for winter running, there comes a sense of excitement too. Through years of Gaelic Football, Soccer and Running I have become acclimatised to wearing shorts in December (2.5 inch GAA shorts at that). And thinking about it now, there is something extremely satisfying about braving the bad weather, defeating it, and getting your training done regardless.

So let’s look at it differently. With September, comes a clean slate in a runner’s calendar. Whether you are just lacing your shoes up for the first time, or you are a seasoned athlete, you now have 8 months to propel yourself into the summer of 2019. I will be embarking on my own running journey this winter. I’m calling the Boyne 10k the finish line, but the goal is to enjoy every step between now and then. My invitation to you is to join me on your own journey. Seize the opportunity this winter to become a runner.

Every 3 or 4 weeks I will be posting an update on some of my own training, while sharing hints and tips on how to ready yourself for the new season, and hopefully, together, we will enjoy this winter’s running journey.

Your First Steps

If you are new to running, it is important to remember that you will need to give it some extra time before you see or feel the real benefits. If you are looking for a quick fix, or some instant gratification, you might be better off joining a gym or signing up for some body conditioning class. These are a great way to feel the endorphins and notice the changes right away. Running, on the other hand requires some more patience. Think of it as The Wire or The Sopranos of the fitness world. It demands some investment from you before you start to take back the benefits, but once you do, you’ll curse yourself for not starting sooner.

My advice to you is to find a device that you can track your activity on. Something that can track your time and your distance using GPS. This doesn’t need to be a new Garmin watch, just download MyFitnessPal to your phone or something similar. I just want you to track your very first run of this journey for now. It is important for you to have a baseline, no matter how high or low it is. On your first run, run at a comfortable pace – around 6 or 7 out of 10 on the RPE Scale – for as long as you can without stopping. Once your body or your lungs bring you to a halt, press stop on your device and save that data.

When you feel ready for a second run – 2 to 3 runs per week is loads – give yourself a goal based on the data from your baseline run. Taking either the time you ran for or the distance covered, aim to run comfortably for a couple of minutes longer, or a few hundred meters further. This is all relevant to your own baseline but think of a 5-7% improvement, nothing crazy. DO NOT worry about speed yet. All you’re looking to do is slowly increase your cardiovascular fitness, and get your body used to running that little bit longer/further.

Try to maintain this new target for 3 runs before taking the next step – only doing so if you feel like its getting too easy. But even then, take another small step. Remember, the idea is to become an athlete by April, not to pretend to be one for a few weeks in October. My advice is to continue with this pattern for the first 3-4 weeks. Keep the runs comfortable. You might see no improvements between now and then and that is completely normal. You will still be 3-4 weeks further up the mountain that is becoming a runner.

Having completed your 3 to 4 weeks – around 10 runs – you should be ready to check for your progress at least. To do this, do exactly the same as run #1. Set off on a comfortable run with your tracker, not worrying about pace or time during the run, and stop when you feel like you have to. Hopefully, you will see that you have made an improvement. And even if you didn’t don’t worry, we’re all individuals and some of us may need longer for the physical improvement to happen. So if this is you, be patient. If you make it this far, and you intend on going further, get ready to feel the endorphins flow through your body. And be warned, once you feel them, it’s hard to look back. Running really is a sport that ticks all the boxes!

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If you enjoyed this blog, check out Goal Setting #1 – Lose the Ego and The Inside Out Approach to Fitness and Health for some further inspiration on taking up this challenge. My next entry to ‘Winter’s Running Journey’ will be on ‘The Running Muscles’ and will give you important information to help you prevent those niggly injuries that may have haunted your running past. If you have any questions or queries please do not hesitate to ask. Good luck, and happy running.

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