Ask any coach to name one factor that will be key to getting fitter and I’d put money on them saying consistency. If you can consistently train, consistently eat right, consistently sleep well, consistently strength train and consistently not get injured, then you’ll get stronger, fitter and no doubt improve your running.
The factors above are things we can influence to some extent, but what is maybe harder to change is your motivation to put these things in place.
Everyone is different when it comes to motivation, some people are lucky that they seem to be able to run every day without any issues, where as for some (and I’m sure the majority) it can be a big effort to get out the door.
Believe it or not I can struggle with motivation at times too, cold dark mornings and evenings, muddy conditions, the dangers of running at night.. I could make a list go on and on for reasons not to head out.
As we enter February, many New Years resolutions are long gone, old routines have set back in, but I’m sure deep down everyone wants to get fitter, run better and improve whatever aspect of your life you want to improve.
So how are we going to do this? Well I thought I’d jot down a quick list of tips and tricks I use to keep lacing up the trainers and heading out my front door. So in no particular order!
Track your running activity - I’m preaching to the converted if you’re reading this on Strava.. however using websites like Strava, Garmin, RunKeeper and the like can be great motivational tools to see how far you’ve gone (literally!) and show you all the progress you’ve made. You don’t have to spend loads, Strava is free on all platforms, plus it helps make your runs social. But if would like a shiny new Garmin then head over to my instagram page, as I’ve got one to give away this week! https://www.instagram.com/benparkes/
Listen to music, podcasts or audiobooks - I have podcasts that I only listen to while running, so if I want to catch up on the latest episode of Marathon Talk, then I have to go for a run! If you subscribe to Spotify already then they have some audiobooks included plus lots of stand up comedy. Running with headphones has the potential to be dangerous, so if you head over to instagram then I’ve got a brand new set of Aftershocks headphones to give away too. Have a look! https://www.instagram.com/benparkes/
Get social - We all have those friends on Facebook who like to share all their running goals, they may seem a bit annoying, but I bet you they are out there getting the miles working towards their goal. The running community is so inclusive, so why not join some facebook groups, subscribe to UK Run Chat on Twitter and share your stories, help others and make your running part of something much bigger. https://www.ukrunchat.co.uk / https://www.facebook.com/groups/parkrunnerPB/?ref=br_rs
Give yourself a time or distance goal each week or month - Spreading your goal over a week or a month will really take the pressure off if you do have to miss a run, pick up a niggle or life just gets in the way. It’s fine to ‘run tomorrow’ and you can easily adjust your plan. All the fitness trackers will allow you to track your distance or time.
Find some running related bargains on eBay - Who said running was a cheap sport?! They were clearly lying, but luckily eBay is at hand to help us more penny savvy runners pick up some bargains. My last three pairs of trainers have all come from eBay, as lots of mainline retailers have outlets on the site, so I've managed to get them for about £60/pair, verses £110ish usually. They of course have everything a runner could need, GPS watches (I found the Garmin 35 in my instagram give away for just £99!), kit, shoes, nutrition and don't worry it's not all from people selling their smelly old items, there are thousands of professional retailers selling overstocked goods for bargain prices! Some new kit can really get you excited to get out and run, especially if you've got it for a great price!
What amazing goodies can you find!
Enter a race - Maybe the biggest motivator here, get yourself entered in a race to toe the start line. It doesn’t even make to be a competitive race, but having something in your calendar will make you accountable and give you a reason to train. Some races these days can be very expensive, so have a look on the runners world website for more local events near you that won’t break the bank. https://www.runnersworld.co.uk/event/search or if you are in London then check out http://www.runthrough.co.uk
Find a new running buddy. Does someone in your apartment block run? Neighbour on your street? Maybe some work colleagues? Have you searched Facebook for some local running groups? Most gyms and running shops now offer group runs, so check that out next time you’re in.
Try out obstacle racing or trail running. I'll be honest I've never tried obstacle racing, but those people who I know that go, absolutely love it. If you're interested in swapping the clean pavements of your local town for getting muddy, while tackling an army style obstacle course, then check out Tough Mudder or Spartan Race. Or if that's too hardcore, then why not look up some trips to the countryside to hit the trails. If you're in London, then the North Face offer trips for FREE to the hills, including transport and leaders to help you along the way. Check them out on facebook here.
Make a bet with a friend over a goal. Tom Williams on marathon talk came up with one of the best I’ve heard. He’s challenged a friend of his, Nick Pearson to a Parkrun based bet. Each month of 2018 they see who’s run the fastest Parkrun and whoever it is wins that month. What’s a stake? Well the looser has to get the winners Parkrun ID tattoo’d on themselves! Another inspiration was Colin McCourt who made a bet with 18 of his friends he couldn’t break 16 minutes for a 5k. Complete it and they’d each donate £100 to charity, fail and he’d have their names tattod onto his body! Now I’m now advocating tattoo based challenges, but these types of bets can be fun, lighthearted and get some friendly rivalry going. Can you think of a fun way to have a bet with your best friends over a running related theme?
Odd goals - not all goals have to be time or distance based. A friend of mine simply wants to run the north downs way in sections this year, another wants to run down every single road in his town. Another who recently lost a loved one wants to run the south west coast path in stages, a journey they’d planned to do together but never made it. Find something that’s quirky and has a meaning to only you!
Volunteer or go and watch an event. Being around other runners, watching them compete can really help revitalise your mojo. Parkrun is the obvious place to start with volunteering, check out your local runs page and sign up in the volunteer section. Maybe contact any races you’ve done before to see what else they have coming up and if they are looking for some help. Ultra races are always looking for assistance manning aid stations, so why not contact those local to you. It’s hugely rewarding helping other running achieve their goals, plus most races will reward you with a free entry for another race, or at the very least some free snacks!
Single? Find a new partner that runs! Those that train together, stay together right? For me I love it that my girlfriends runs, we explore the world together through racing, running and always have stuff to chat about! It's not for everyone, but I love it! She really pushes me to get out and hit my goals everyday, probably because she wants some peace and quiet at home! Well there are now (apparently!) some new groups that are running specific to dating. I have no idea if they are any good, but could be worth checking out if you are on the look out.
Run for brunch. If I’m in London on a Saturday, I always go to Parkrun then go for a chilled run with friends finishing at a cafe for brunch. It makes getting up early on a Saturday much easier! Plus it can be a great way to meet up with any non running friends you have. Who doesn’t love some avocado on toast on a Saturday morning!
Watch some YouTube movies about running! This online hub can be a great resource for motivation, watching some incredible racing, running or even just tutorials on improving your running. Here are some channels I particularly like
Goodgym. Now I couldn’t do a whole article without mentioning Goodgym. Many Goodgym runners will regularly run to to visit an isolated older person, who might not be seeing anyone else throughout the week. This can be hugely rewarding for both parties and will allow you to make a real difference to someone else's life. www.goodgym.org
So that’s my list! But before you go and get your trainers on do let me know if you think I have I missed anything out?