10 tips for a confidence boosting run

Feeling a bit meh about your progress? I have been recently, especially on the long run front. However – today was a different story, and I think there are a few things that contributed to it.

I realised today that the 24th April really isn’t that far away. 4 weeks on Sunday aka 30 days. And, as off this morning, I hadn’t really had any solid long runs. A crappy 19 and a supposed 19 that was actually a 17 because I got the bus back from Earlsfield because I was just fed up (LOL the benefits of living in London!) There have probably been some OK 15-16s, but nothing really to write home about.

On the plus side, my speed is still sticking around – I had a pretty decent run at the SEAA relays last week at Gravesend, clocking a 6.17 average and hopping my team up a place, which I was quite happy to have done on leg 5, but it was only just shy of 3 miles…nothing major to write home about when you are supposed to be marathon training.

However, back to today – 19.5 miles and I enjoyed pretty much every minute of it. I might not be quite where I want to be as life has VERY much got in the way of training, but today was a perfect mental boost that everything little thing is gonna be alright (singing some Bob Marley here)

So read on for a few tips to help you get your head back in the game, fall in love with running again and, most importantly (well at least for me right now), help you realise that you can achieve your goals…

  1. Enlist company

My mum had her final long run before Manchester on the plan for today. So we started out together and did the first 5 as a team, before I started to play. My dad also kept popping up on his bike and then we all went for breakfast after. There’s something about taking a chunk of a long run up with other people that makes it SO much more bearable. It distracts you and allows you to relax a bit. Running can be a lonely sport – and the more time you spend with your own thoughts, the more time you put an internal pressure on yourself.

  1. Take a route away from your usual.

Switch it up! It’s BORING doing the same thing day in day out. I’ve got used to the same routes and it’s making things stale. It was so nice to be doing my long run out of London. I mean, Richmond Park and the Thames path are lovely as far as London goes, but just getting there stresses me out – traffic, people, too much crossing of roads. I was back in the country lanes, with great scenery and the odd hill here and there. Mentally, this allowed me to switch off a bit more and it seemed like less of a chore. Plus I got views like this:

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  1. Do something a bit different.

I changed it up. I knew I wanted to do around 20 miles. I didn’t know what pace, or if I was doing a few at planned marathon pace in the middle. So instead, I did 5 easy with mum, then proceeded to do 1 around 10-15s faster than PMP (so around 7.35ish), then turn back round and go and find her again and do a slow mile. So this times 5. Which took me to 15. And then really, I didn’t have that many miles left to go! I got to 15 without feeling like I had got to 15, and my focus was a mile at a time rather than the whole 20. Yes, a training plan is generally needed, but it’s not the script of life. One deviation won’t ruin your race.

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  1. Have a vague, not an exact plan

My mum had planned a route, I hadn’t. All I knew was where I needed to be for breakfast. My choice to do on/off miles 100% was not in the plan. It started really so that I could keep running with her but then I kept it going. Then I changed my route in my head. And it all worked out OK.Not worrying about the exact second you have to meet per mile takes a heck of a lot off your mind. I mean the downside is, you end up 10 miles from your front door, so do make sure you check a map.

  1. Don’t be afraid to take a step back.

Around mile 18 I cut into a footpath and there was a fiddly gate. I took a minute or after going through so to regroup and you know what…the world didn’t collapse around me. If you need to walk, stop, breathe, drink, take a week off, take a month off, then do it. It is 100% OK.

  1. Take the pressure off

I didn’t really think about what I was doing today. There was no “I must run at this pace for this long” And you know what…I ran exactly what I needed to! I ran more by feel than looking at my watch and it was a pleasant surprise. I did far better than I was expecting myself to. So throw caution to the wind, leave the garmin at home, turn the screen to be under your wrist, set yourself certain points to check it – running isn’t all about a numbers game, and you may be shocked by what you can do when you aren’t forcing yourself to do it.

  1. Don’t panic.

During the faster one miles, I felt like I was out of my depth. Which is ridiculous, I know I can easily hold that pace for a mile. A bit of internal chit chat and a smoother pace helped me get to it. Panicking and trying to push my pace to make up for it just made me out of breath and even more stressed. Same with hills. Embrace them, don’t chase them.

  1. Pick a nice day.

Unfortunately, not always possible, but today it definitely helped. Spending most of the week slogging away in the cold and when it’s always dark isn’t the most inspiring. Good Friday and a day off couldn’t come at a better time. If the sun is out, drag yourself out – you’ll feel better for it.

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  1. Give yourself time.

Again, one that isn’t always possible, but going for a run when there is no pressure to be back is perfect. You aren’t rushing, therefore your time and distance doesn’t matter. And you’ve got time to stretch, relax and wind down at the end of the run. I HATE constantly checking my watch to make sure I’m going to be back in time to get ready for work. You lose the sense of freedom which is so integral to running.

  1. Set yourself a fun activity at the end

We went for a family breakfast at our favourite post run cafe. I knew I had something to look forward to and that helped me take my mind off it. It also meant I knew where I was ending up – so I knew exactly how much longer I had to push for. Visualise the end and it makes it a heck of a lot easier to imagine yourself there.

  1. Remember why you run

Simple as. You wouldn’t be a runner if you didn’t enjoy it in some way shape or form. People fall in and out of love with running on a regular basis and there is a simple way to Make a run happen in the way that helps you reconnect with the reason you love running. This is different for different people – it might be hitting fast 400s, it might be reaching the top of a tough climb, it might be simply feeling the breeze in your hair. You do you. It’s the best way to bring you back to your senses. Take your watch off. Throw caution to the wind. If you need to take a few days off, do it. If you need a few weeks off, do it. Do what it takes to get your head back in the game – running is a one person activity and you’re in charge.

So, anything else? How do you get out of a rut? Any particular workouts that you know will make you feel on top of things?

 

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How much does running really cost?

Running is touted as being a super cheap sport. On one hand, it is. No gym fees, no monthly payments, no feeling of having wasted money if you don’t go.

HOWEVER. And this is a big however. As soon as you start taking it seriously and get over excited about decent kit and races and technology, it quickly becomes not cheap.Trainers, summer kit, winter kit, autumn kit, wet weather kit…multiple pairs of shoes, garmin (s)….then you start branching out into triathlons and it’s a whole new kettle of fish!

The reason I’m writing this is because I just shelled out on a new pair of trainers, and didn’t really bat an eyelid at the cost, easily acknowledging that they were worth it because of the amount of wear I get from them. But, it doesn’t all have to be flashy. There a places to splurge and places to save, and you really really don’t need everything under the sun to take up running.

Trainers. I mean, you could get a pair of trainers for £20. They might fit. They might not. I know what shoes suit me and fit me, and unfortunately, I can’t usually find them in sports direct for £30. If you’re going to invest, this is the area to do it. You want something that fits your feet and suits the amount of running you do. However, do shop around – find a pair that suit you (go for somewhere with gait analysis) and then don’t impulse buy –  have a look online, find the same model in an earlier version or a previous season’s colours and you can easily drop £20-30 off the price.

Worryingly, despite spending all that money, I’m getting pins and needles just like I did in the previous pair I couldn’t get along with. SIGH.

Problem here is that you then start to need multiple pairs of trainers for different activities. OK OK, you don’t actually need them as such. Well, you kind of do. But you can get away with just one pair. But they WILL need replacing on the regular!

Sports bra. I mean this is basically a necessity. I 100% do not buy new ones as much as I should. I have around 10 Shock Absorbers in rotation. Each one is about £30. That is a lot of money’s worth of sports bras. But I am not going cheaper. I do not trust a sports bra from H&M thank you very much.

Club subs. OK, I said it’s not like a gym in that there aren’t regular fees, but if you want to join a club, you have to pay up. However this is generally pocket change, with most clubs charging £20 or less FOR A YEAR! England Athletics affiliation is a bit more (but, you then get £2 off race fees so typically 6 races in a year makes it financially viable, plus you can enter cool running club events like FREE cross country), plus then anything else your club sessions might cost (i.e. track use)

Pants. I do not see the point in spending lots of money on pants. That is why my ‘running pants’ are an amusing story in my family. I once tied a pair together at the side when they split at Thunder Run. I have not thrown them away. This is ridiculous because I bought 5 pairs for £2 in Primark.

Socks. I um and ah about socks. I have special ‘race socks’ which are my more cushioned, thicker, comfier ones, that naturally, cost more money. And I like them. But for daily use, I don’t think you need to spend £££ on one pair. Get a Decathlon multipack.

Races. I mean this is pretty simple, don’t pick a massive race and you won’t pay a massive fee. I mean you don’t even have to race. But I guarantee an adventure race or themed race will cost you way more than a local 10k. Maybe when you start out, the big, expensive races seem more appealing, because the reason they are more expensive is typically bigger locations (therefore higher running costs) and nice gimmicks to try and make you forget you are actually running. Use simple race finders like on fetcheveryone and Runner’s World to find some local races near you and support your local running economy – you’ll also find a lovely sense of community and friendliness. If you want a cheapie, try parkrun – you can’t get much cheaper than free!

Leggings. I mean I have a range – £10 from Sports Direct up to some pricey 2XU compression ones. My favourite are mid-range, Ronhill, decent size pocket, good length, don’t rub, right temperature. Decathlon have some great bargains.

Tops. My only priority here is wicking fabric. Look for races that include a tshirt in the fee, then it’s a win win situation! You don’t have to spend a ton on tops – yes, things like Lulu & Sweaty Betty may look nice, but to be honest,you’re running.It doesn’t realllly matter. Most of the cheaper places now have started doing great designs as well, from your traditional sports shops like Decathlon to places like New Look branching out into fitness, so if looking good is your priority, shop around.

Jackets. I don’t think you need to spend 3 figure sums on running jackets unless you live somewhere where it only ever rains and it’s always about -3 degrees.If you do, then it’s probably a good thing to invest in. Otherwise, get something showerproof and bright for dark nights.

GPS. I love Garmy. I spent a fair amount of money on Garmy. (You can tell my appreciation by the fact he has a name and is a proper noun) But you don’t have to – there are a ton of free apps that will do your basic measurements for you (see, Strava – other apps are available) But I don’t always carry my phone, and if I do I never look at it when I run, and Garmy does underwater and transitions and intervals and heart rate and sleep and steps and elevation and tells me when I’m going too slowly and does EVERYTHING I EVER NEED IN LIFE. So if you are a data geek and want to have an immediate idea of your performance, this is an area to splash out. But there is such a price range on GPS, so you just need to work out the minimum of what you need.

Accessories.  This depends on what you need. If you are commuting, a specific running rucksack is something it’s worth investing in. Otherwise they chafe like hell. If you’re running a lot in the dark, a decent headtorch is probably worth your while. Then you won’t fall down any holes. Gloves – you can get away with 2 pairs for a pound from Primark until it starts to get really cold and rainy, then I would maybe look at something better.

Physio/Sports Massage. Ah yes, when things go wrong. As someone who has had their fair share of physio sessions, let’s just say I’m glad it was covered through health insurance because central London physio prices are not the most kind on your wallet. HOWEVER, I would still have paid for a fair chunk of this myself because it’s important to me. I’ll forego a nice dinner out to get to the bottom of my niggles. As for massage, massage is great – see if you can find someone training/studying (ask at local colleges, they will always need guinea pigs) as it is bound to be cheaper, grab yourself a foam roller from Amazon, OR, just buy a lacrosse ball for a few quid and sit on it.

I think there is a lot about balance – once you start running, you may find yourself spending less in the pub and less going out for dinner. Therefore, NEW RUNNING CLOTHES! I have a weird mentality that buying running clothes is never a guilty habit because I guarantee I get use out of them. This is probably why my boyfriend is fed up of me only wearing running clothes or rotating through several outfits and proclaiming “I have nothing to wear” yet refusing to go shopping for ‘normal clothes’.

However what I do love about running is the ease – once you’ve got your trainers on, off you go and the world is your oyster. Just gotta buy those trainers first!

What is the one thing you will always splurge on? 

Biggest running-related waste of money?

Knowing your limits – how ill is too ill to race?

So, a couple of days ago I had my first DNS. Well, apart from a deferred VLM entry a few years ago because of a stress reaction/fracture, but by the by – I don’t miss races.

I’d booked in to run the Berkhamsted Half a few months ago as it’s my home half and therefore one of my favourites. Not an easy one by half (haha, good joke Katie) but a beautiful route with a couple of challenging hills. And nice scenery.

But, I just didn’t feel up to it. It wasn’t an actual injury, it was just a cold. A stupid flipping cold. I’m fairly hardy and tend to run through anything, and this is the first time it’s actually made me decide not to participate. And that was a big step. So I had a think about knowing when not to race – not necessarily just run, but race – and particularly when it’s due to illness rather than injury as I think it’s often harder to judge.

**Disclaimer – I am not a medical professional; please consult your doctor if you’re concerned about an illness impacting your ability to run and train**

This has annoyingly been a two week cold – I was pretty stuffy a couple of weeks back when I did a 19 miler, but also put this down partly to several G&Ts the night before. I then spent the next few days sneezing and spluttering, but able to train and had cleared it by the Thursday.

However, I then went away skiing for a week and it sneakily crept back in. A couple of missed nights out, a couple of mornings waking up like I was swallowing razor blades and a ton of paracetemol meant I realised my delightful cold had not quite left. Add to that a 3.30am resort – airport transfer and absolutely zero sleep in Grenoble airport, I was already debating by Saturday evening whether I should run or not. I managed a solid 9 and a half hours of sleep and when I woke up…the first thing I did was cough.

After being forced to actually think about it properly by my mother and boyfriend (dad’s response was along the lines of  ‘man up I’m sure you’ll be fine’), I decided the best thing to do would be to sack it off. And I’m glad I did.

So what are some of the things you need to consider if you’re not feeling 100%?

  • Will you actually gain anything from doing the race?

It wasn’t my goal race.It never was. It was merely a nice marker, a tune up and a route I enjoy. It wasn’t going to be a PB, I didn’t have to prove anything.I mean something around a 1.36/1.37 would have been lovely, but just that really (I mean also, looking at the results I could have been round about top 15 on current form, but not dwelling on that).

  • What knock on effects will it have?

Prevention is better than cure. I guarantee 13.1 miles probably would have delayed my recovery by a couple of days and then I would have missed more training and got more grumpy. Even if I’d switched down to the 5 miles (that felt doable more than 13.1), I know I would have tried to race it and it probably wouldn’t have ended pretty. For at least a week (again, checked the results and would have been challenging for 3rd. No way I wouldn’t have been pushing myself hard for that if I’d been out there)

  • Where’s the illness?

The general rule of thumb is ‘above the neck, you can probably get away with it’. I had a lot above the neck, but also a pretty hacking cough which wasn’t getting any better. It was also pretty flipping cold out, which I tried to claim would clear me out, but was promptly told would have the opposite effect. If it’s a fever, fatigue, aching muscles – definitely don’t run! You know your body well enough by now to distinguish between the symptoms and what you can cope with – but make sure you listen to it.

  • Is it really going to impact your fitness?

No is the answer. A couple of days off is far, far better in the long run for your overall fitness. One missed run doesn’t suddenly take you back to square one (take note y’all)

  • Race or run?

I mean yes, you might be able to run, but doesn’t mean you can race. And it doesn’t mean you can run the set distance. Like I said, I could have probably boshed out a few easy miles. So this all depends on how you feel, how competitive you are, and back to point 1, what does the race mean to you? Take it down a notch and go out for a few easy miles if you have to, but I wouldn’t really race anything above a 5k…

  • What did entry cost/take?

I didn’t pay much for entry so it wasn’t a big deal, but I can understand if you’ve put in a lot of cash and/or qualifying hard work for a goal race, the decision isn’t as easy. HOWEVER, there is 99% always going to be another opportunity. Can you defer?

There are some serious risks associated with training through illness – take heed and listen to your body; if you don’t feel like it’s a good idea, it probably isn’t. It’s also not a good idea if people specifically tell you NOT to run after spending 12 hours listening to you being a bit snotty and coughy (potentially not a word). They might also say things such as “I can’t tell you what to do but you probably shouldn’t run”. The main reason for this is so that you don’t blame them if you then get upset about not running, or, so that you don’t blame them if you do run and then get pneumonia or something.

On the plus side, I was a much better spectator this year. 3 years ago I cried watching this half when I couldn’t participate. This year I ate a sausage sandwich and cheered on everyone. Mightily impressed by the small children storming the 5 miler.

PS HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY. She had a great run. I had a great scone. My dad did a fairly decent job as well after a rugby match in a quagmire the previous day.