29th September is National Women’s Health and Fitness Day, and the perfect time to take up a new hobby that will improve your physical and mental health.
Many people have found their weight altered recently either through a newly discovered love of baking, comfort eating or a reduction in exercise. Very real problems can occur as a result of excess fat consumption, such as certain types of cancer, high cholesterol and heart disease. Very real problems can also occur as a result of storing and consuming too little fat.
Ask yourself if you’re really hungry next time you reach for the snack cupboard. Many of us are reaching for food to provide comfort right now, which comes as no surprise given the stressful life situations we are suddenly facing and the constant worrying news updates streaming from our phones, newspapers, televisions and radios. Whether we like it or not, the way our bodies look and feel are affected by the food we eat and the things we do. The comfort it provides is only fleeting.
Life will eventually return to normal, and your previous, healthier lifestyle will return too. As life is not yet ready to return to normal, it’s time we all established a healthier relationship with food and our bodies. Taking up running isn’t only an option for people who are athletes – or aspire to be one. Take Jim Scott as an example. Jim began running in January 2003, a month after he turned 60. He finished the New York City Marathon in six hours just 10 months later.
Many of us are exercising less than before, despite all of the online fitness options and yoga zoom calls we tell ourselves we’ll join. Your fitness goals don’t have to change just because access to the gym has been patchy over the past two years.
Before taking up running and completing his marathon, Jim Scott – a radio talk-show host – didn’t do much in the way of exercise. He never found the time for regular workouts, though he played golf as often as he could. But for someone who isn’t a regular gym-goer or doesn’t have time to join a team, running was the perfect choice: It comes with a host of health benefits including increased metabolism and improved cardiovascular health, and is one of the cheapest forms of exercise you can do. It can also offer a significant mood boost, as anyone who has ever experienced a ‘runner’s high’ can attest to.
What’s more, you can fit your runs to your schedule. If you’re a morning person, you can get out, go for a run and have the first success of your day before 7AM. It’s also the best time for outdoor exercise as there are less people on the street to watch you sweat! If you’re more of a night owl, a quick run before or after dinner may be more your speed. Schedule this exercise in your diary as a non-negotiable appointment, and decide in advance exactly what you’re going to do and when.
If you don’t feel ready for a long run, don’t sweat! If they’re not your thing, you don’t have to force yourself to do burpees and push-ups. Remember: Self compassion is more important than ever at this time of heightened stress. For now, you can start by alternating between running and walking. Let’s get you out there.
Ready to Go?
It’s worth investing in a few essential pieces of kit before you hit the road.
Getting the Basics Down
At the beginning of your journey, it’s easy to get dazzled by all the high-tech kit out there, but all you really need is a decent pair of trainers and some comfortable running apparel.
The most important investment you’ll make is your running shoes. It’s a good idea to try on as many pairs as necessary to find the right ones for you, and it’s a good idea to go to a store that specialises in running gear, where the staff will be more knowledgeable about the products. You won’t enjoy running with shin splints and blisters, so a good fit is essential.
You’ll be in a better place to figure out what upper, support and cushioning you need in shoes after you’ve been running for a while so don’t drop £100 on a pair of shoes just yet. For now, go with something that’s high quality but still affordable. If you really want to splash the cash straight away, you can make sure you’re getting the right shoes by contacting a sports physio for gait analysis (even some independent sports shops may offer this service!)
Whatever you do, do not try to run in your regular trainers, casual shoes or tennis shoes. Running can put your body under a lot of pressure. It creates a unique combination of forces, which can be painful and damaging to your feet, legs and back if you aren’t wearing the right shoes. Running shoes are not something you should get attached to, though – they have a very limited lifespan.
The average running shoe will last for about 500 miles of running. After this point, their shock absorption will diminish even if they still look good.
Complete the ‘Fit’
For the rest of your running gear, you’ll need clothes that won’t restrict your movement but aren’t too baggy either.
Sweat-wicking fabric is a good idea, but you don’t have to go out in head-to-toe lycra (unless you want to). Blisters are a risk when you take up a new activity and new shoes, so investing in blister-prevention socks is also a smart move.
If you plan to run early in the morning or in the evening or night, hi-vis clothing and a clip-on light are essential to keep you safe and visible.
Your First Run
It can feel a little intimidating to go out in public and run for the first time. It can feel like everyone is looking at you, which makes for a daunting situation. If you’re feeling really self-conscious, you could even try running in sunglasses or a hat to make you feel less exposed. Running on a treadmill is very different (and generally a less effective workout) than running on the road, but it’s a fine alternative if you really don’t fancy running outside.
Do whatever you need to do to make yourself feel comfortable enough to focus on your run. Thankfully this feeling doesn’t last, so try not to worry. After all, how often do you stare judgingly at runners in the park? Chances are, the answer is ‘never’, and other people generally aren’t staring either.
Take It Slowly
Experts say it’s wise to consult your GP before you start any new fitness programme, especially if you’re a man over 45 or a woman over 50.
To find out more about the changes you can make this National Women’s Health and Fitness Day, check out The Essential Guide to Women’s Fitness from Need2Know Books!