Think you need to join a training group to stay in shape? When you’re balancing running with family life, you can get fit on your own!
Sarah IvoryRead More
Here’s something you might not know – female runners are masterful multitaskers. Somewhere between heading to work, cooking dinner and helping the kids with their homework, they still find time to pound the pavements. It’s not easy but the minute they get out of the door – albeit sometimes bleary-eyed and foggy-headed – running proves itself to be entirely worth it. Not only is it great for muscle and cardiovascular fitness, but the endorphins released when jogging can also make you feel a bit more energised. Running does come with a compromise, however – most women run alone. With running club sessions taking place in the middle of family routines, and few friends being able to train off-the-cuff when you do manage to grab five minutes to yourself, there’s little choice other than to jog on your lonesome. And this can make sticking with a routine doubly difficult. After all, science shows that having a workout buddy can increase your dedication to exercise. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to boost your motivation. Here, our panel of experts reveal how to increase your mojo. Notepad ready?
Running after a long hiatus, whether that’s the school holidays or just a break in the sun, can feel like a chore. Getting out of breath after jogging a few metres down the road is frustrating but don’t put too much pressure on yourself to run hard. “Be committed but be kind to yourself,” says Claudia Schroegel, Adidas Runners captain. “Try a walk-run strategy – for example, run for two minutes, walk for 30 seconds, and repeat. Increase the running and decrease the walking time as you progress. Aim to do this two to three times a week for around 20 minutes or more.”
As the adage goes: if you want something badly enough, you’ll find a way to make it happen. And the same can be said for running. Trouble is, after a busy day, running can seem like a chore. Don’t think of going for a run as a tough task; think of it as a way of re-energising. “As a busy mum, finding time to take care of yourself can be difficult,” says Mackenzie Havey, author of Mindful Running. “But running can provide a rare bit of time to just focus on doing something good for yourself – time to simply enjoy being in the moment away from life’s other responsibilities. Even on days when I feel less motivated to run, I know that, when I’m done, I’ll feel refreshed. And that makes me a better mum, wife and friend. That fact gets me to lace up and run a few miles, even on the days when I feel tired.”
No time for a long run? Try breaking your runs down into snack-sized chunks. “There’s a lot you can achieve in 20-45 minutes,” agrees Schroegel. “Run little and often. And try incorporating some basic conditioning exercises into your day to day. Brushing your teeth? Do some calf raises. Invest in the time you have.” And don’t forget that some gyms offer childcare, so you can always train on the treadmill if your children are too young to leave alone. Speak to other running mums in your local area and find out how they do it.
Have a realistic goal. If you can only dedicate one hour a week to running, accept that now is not the time to sign up for a marathon. “Be clear about what you want to achieve but also don’t be a slave to it,” agrees Schroegel. “Goals need structured plans. They must be specific, realistic and set to a date. ‘I want to be fit’ isn’t specific enough. Write down what your goal will look like, how you want to feel once you’ve achieved it, and what others might say to you. Visualise your personal finish line.” Running a fast 5K or doing a 10K is a great goal for new runners. Try Adidas’ new City Runs series (adidascityruns.com).
You might not be able to make that club training session but you can join a community of like-minded runners online. Social communities, such as TheRunningBug.com, Strava and Garmin Connect, can provide you with all the motivation you need to keep going. “If you fall off the fitness wagon because life gets in the way, don’t give up,” says Schroegel. “When motivation wanes, have your support network there for virtual cheers.”
Getting out of the door is one thing, but knowing where and what type of run to do is another. “Make sure each run has a purpose,” says Siobhan Dockerill, head coach for Odlo Run Club (@siobhanrootes). “Knowing what the purpose of that run is will help with motivation. Is it an easy recovery run to loosen the legs off from a previous hard effort? Is it a long run to help build aerobic endurance? Is it a threshold run to help with speed endurance? Or is it a hard interval run to help with your speed? Knowing what you’re doing and why you’re doing it will keep you on track.”
Whether it’s six runs a week or six runs a fortnight, knowing when you’re going to run will help you to mentally prepare for the session. “Having a routine will help you to keep it up,” says Dockerill. “Choose a time that fits in with your family’s routine, so that you feel as guilt-free as possible when leaving the house. Running can be a great way to have some ‘me time’, whether that means planning the dinner while you’re running or just zoning out from it all. However, always remember to be flexible. If you miss a run because your child is unwell or you have a big meeting at work, don’t play catch up – just accept it and move on.” Amen to that.