Taking Up Outdoor Running

Historically, I haven’t been much of an outdoor runner (in my short 26 year history that is). I’d look at people jogging in the rain and think “wow that’s dedication” and then I’d want to go home and have a cup of tea because it’s winter and that’s what people do. 

In the past, running outdoors has been a complete disaster for me. I looked like a 60 year old woman who had spent her life smoking a 20 pack a day - not a good look. Oddly enough, I am not an exercise novice. In fact, I was already a regular gym goer before I started outdoor running and I enjoy a good run on the treadmill (sometimes a hamster just gotta run). However, it turns out this doesn’t mean you can run in “real life”. Real life being the London pavements where the air isn’t air conditioned, the ground is uneven and you can’t set a speed and stick to it. What is this weird place! 

Last summer I decided I wanted to give outdoor running another go. I wanted to be in the sun and to see where it was running to. I had this healthy outdoorsy vision of myself. Plus, I had always had a secret ambition to run a marathon (which I am currently re-thinking) but at the very least, I wanted to take part in my company's annual 5K run.

I decided to get some help from my aunt. ENTER 5 MILES A DAY – 5 DAYS A WEEK AUNT. This is a true story. It turns out average little old me is actually related to a woman who is basically Michelle Obama. She is up at 6 am in the morning, runs 5 miles and is a lean mean mummy machine (she has a daughter which makes everything she does even more incredible). #CelebCrush.

She took me out on a run with her and we ran 10K that day. It was my first ever proper outdoor run and if I am honest, I’ve never run 10K since (it was pretty tiring). She set the pace for the run so I wasn’t going too fast which I think is a common mistake. She also made sure my strides weren’t too long so my legs weren’t over stretched.  What also helped was that she was fit and this pushed me to keep up with her. She was basically my treadmill.

It was a like a miracle. I could RUN. I COULD RUN I TELL YOU. She had taught me the skills of outdoor running. Despite how difficult I had found it, I had caught the running bug. I decided to take up running at lunchtime. Some days I could run a 5K at lunch. Sure I'd run at varying speeds and maybe I'd have a few stops along the way but I would stick it out to the end. Other days, energy would completely fail me and I would turn back fairly quickly, maybe only running for 20 minutes and walking half! But I got faster; my pace improved and the time I could continuously run increased!

Endurance running is definitely a different skill to HIIT or resistance exercises or even running in a gym. You can learn it and you can improve (which is a shock to a wheezy 60 year old). In the summer months, on average I end up running 2 - 3 times a week. It's a great way to be out in the sun, have some me time and fit in a work out during the day.

If you are thinking of giving outdoor running a go then here are some tips to help you on your way.

Tips for Outdoor Running

Running Gear
Supportive trainers are important when running. However, “running trainers” are a myth, there is no science to back it up so don’t spend a tonne of money on expensive trainers. Supportive trainers that fit well and have flexible souls are all you need.  Also, if you need to, make sure you use ankle supports and knee supports. 

Run With an Outdoor Runner
I have some basic fitness levels but it wasn't until I ran with my aunt that I learnt how to run outdoors. You can pick up tips on pace, breathing, stride length and stretching. I would 100% recommend doing at least 1 run with someone who is already in the outdoor running habit.

Keep Pace
Don’t run too fast. You need to build your speed up. When I started running I realised I had been setting myself the wrong pace for long distance running. Remember you are in it for the long game. Another mistake was forgetting to warm up! This really helps your breathing when it came to picking up the pace for the main part of your run. 

If you get a cramp or a stitch while running, stretch it out and breathe deeply to get oxygen to the area.

Run with a Partner
Jogging with a friend is great. It can help you both keep pace and I find it always eggs me on even if we aren’t running perfectly in sync.

Running Routes
Enjoy your runs. Change up your routes or go off course. 

Set Yourself Mini Targets 
When I am on a run, I set myself mini targets to make sure I am pushing myself. Things like running to the end of the road or a certain landmark before I allow myself to take a break.

Increase Your Running Time
One way I managed to increase the amount of time I could continuously run for, was by setting myself a running program. One week I would tell myself I had to run for 8 minutes continuously and then walk for 1 minute. I'd repeat this for 3 miles. The next week I would increase it to 10 minutes with a 1.5 minute walk. Gradually I worked on building up my time but some days I would revert to 5 minute or 8 minute running intervals. It really depends on how you are feeling!

Look After Yourself
Recovery time is really important. Because I was trying to take advantage of whatever good weather I could get when I started running I sometimes didn’t space my runs out enough. My legs would feel completely fine but then my ankles would buckle when I started to run. Make sure you give your muscles time to recover otherwise you are doing more harm than good to your body. 


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