Many people share the opinion that you are either a runner or you’re not, but that simply isn’t the case. The human body is designed to move and, like a machine, it works at it’s absolute best if it is maintained in the correct way; meaning it is given the correct fuel, it is used regularly and it’s parts are oiled from time to time. However, there is also the belief that anyone can run – it just takes some training and the right mindset.
As a non-runner myself, I don’t really get the appeal of bunging on the lycra, heading out in all weathers and subjecting the general public to my puffing, sweaty body and my rather comic running stance. And I think ultimately that is what separates the two ways of thinking; those who care and worry about what other people will think of them and those that don’t even give it a second thought, because they are running for themselves.
So, for the beginner who really wants to try a new form of exercise and likes the idea of running, but is being held back by some of these negative mental blocks, how can they get started?
Well, that is where the all female running group, runnyhoneys, comes in!
Who Are The Runnyhoneys?
Contrary to the name, runnyhoneys isn’t a group about people who like their honey runny, no, runnyhoneys is a running group strictly for the ladies, aka ‘the honeys’, based in Petersfield, Hampshire and Putney, London.
Set up by Head Honey, Sue Browne, in September 2011, runnyhoneys now has four other run leaders spread across the two groups and the Petersfield group alone has close to 100 members.
- Circuit Training
- Distance runs
- Chatty runs
- Park runs
runnyhoneys are also part of Run England, which is a programme designed to get more people running by 2017 and includes the promotional campaign from This Girl Can to actively get more women involved. This Girl Can recognise that the “Fear of judgement is stopping many women from taking part in exercise. But, as thousands of women are proving, it really doesn’t have to”.
Every run leader at runnyhoneys is fully qualified and trained to provide professional and safe running courses for all abilities. Lizzie Mant, run leader of the Petersfield group, has a LIRF (Leadership in Running Fitness) qualification, is fully DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) checked and regularly attends workshops with UK Athletics, including most recently one on Movement and is set to attend one in March on Nutrition. And Head Honey, Sue, also holds a sports injury first aid qualification in addition to all of this.
What Are The Benefits Of Running?
Running, as with any cardio exercise, has a multitude of benefits to your health and fitness. And we’re not just talking physical benefits, there have been various studies that show running is also great for mental health and improved levels of well being.
Take a look at what running can do for your health:
Running improves fitness in a variety of different ways, but perhaps the biggest impact it has on our body is that it makes our muscles stronger, including the most important muscular organ of all; the heart. As we run, our muscles need more oxygen to help cope with the extra strain being put upon the body and evidence of this is displayed through breathlessness and a feeling that we can’t quite get enough air into the body. The heart has to work extra hard to pump oxygen enriched blood to meet the demands of the muscles and consequently our heart beats per minute increase. The more you run, the more practised your heart gets at working to this level, in a sense it becomes more toned, and running will suddenly feel a lot easier.
It goes without saying that exercise, combined with a healthy, balanced diet, will lead to weight loss. What’s so great about running though is that it is a high cardio exercise, which over time requires an increased level of endurance. The more you run, the more experienced and in tune you become with your body and you start to realise that in order to run the absolute best you can and to meet your own personal goals, you need to fuel your body in the right way. This in turn leads to a greater awareness of what you are putting into your body and will hopefully stop you reaching for the sweet tin and instead move you towards the fruit bowl! Think of your body as if it were a car: you wouldn’t put diesel into a car that needs unleaded would you? Likewise, if you expect to get optimum performance from your body, don’t go filling it with junk.
Gets You Outside
There’s nothing more uplifting than getting out in the fresh air and going for a run. Exercising outside gives you the opportunity to blow the cobwebs away, increase levels of positivity and exposes you to some much needed sunlight (well, we can hope right?). The human body naturally makes Vitamin D when it is exposed to short periods of sunshine. Experts recommend that the most effective time of day is when the sun is at it’s highest, between 11am – 3pm. Vitamin D aids the body’s absorption of calcium and phosphorous, which are both essential for healthy bones.
Any form of physical exercise is proven to reduce the risk of major illness. Just take a look at these statistics from the NHS Livewell website:
It’s medically proven that people who do regular physical activity have:
- Up to a 35% lower risk of coronary heart disease and stroke
- Up to a 50% lower risk of type 2 diabetes
- Up to a 50% lower risk of colon cancer
- Up to a 20% lower risk of breast cancer
- A 30% lower risk of early death
- Up to an 83% lower risk of osteoarthritis
- Up to a 68% lower risk of hip fracture
- A 30% lower risk of falls (among older adults)
- Up to a 30% lower risk of depression
- Up to a 30% lower risk of dementia
The figures clearly speak for themselves. Running is an accessible form of exercise that pretty much anyone can do. And as runnyhoneys run leader Lizzie says, “Running is the same as walking… just a little faster!”
Going out for a run is a great way to clear the head of any stresses that may have built up over the day. Whether it’s pressures from work or tears from a tantrumming toddler, running allows you to focus on just one thing; running! You’ll either be so busy ‘getting into the zone’ and pacing yourself to whatever music you’re listening to on your iPod or, perhaps more likely, you’ll be concentrating so hard on trying to breathe and making it to your next milestone without collapsing into a heap, that all other worries will pale into insignificance.
Running helps promote a strong, positive body image, which creates a sense of self worth and improved well being. You’ll be amazed by how much the stronger and fitter your body becomes affects the way your view your body. Experienced runners start to see their body like a machine, fuelling it to make it more powerful and becoming increasingly proud of its capabilities.
Why spend an absolute fortune on a gym membership when you can go running for free? There is obviously an initial cost of a good pair of running trainers, a good sports bra and some leggings and a top, but aside from that you’re good to go. Running groups will charge a small fee, but it is well worth paying for the support and expert advice you will gain from it and it is definitely a lot cheaper than most other sports.
Going out on your own for a run can be incredibly daunting, which is why joining a running group can provide the perfect solution. Groups, like runnyhoneys, offer both support from their experienced team of run leaders as well as the much needed support of other runners, who need your support as much as you need theirs! You are much more likely to succeed and to continue running if you have a strong support network behind you, spurring you on and giving you the encouragement and motivation you need to keep on running.
Running groups allow you to meet like minded people, who will often have the same goals as you. It will open you up to a whole new circle of friends and hey, if it means you all end up in the pub for a cheeky glass of something after a hard running session, then that’s surely a burden you can bear to put up with, right?! Running as a group enables you to chat as you run (well it will do once you’ve been going for a while and you’ve managed to sort your breathing out!), which has the benefit of making you forget how hard it may seem and before you know it you’ll realise you’ve run a lot further than you thought you could. From a run leaders point of view, having a chat during a run is a great way for them to monitor how their members are coping with the run. If you are exercising at a level that is right for you, you should be able to at least hold a conversation. If you can’t, then it is a warning sign that perhaps you are pushing yourself a bit too far and should slow the pace or rest for a bit.
If that’s not enough to get you out there pounding the pavements, then I’m not sure what will!
For some women, however, the prospect of going out for a run, in broad daylight, where everyone can see you, with the worry that people will laugh at you, is just too huge a barrier to get over. Our minds can be our own worst enemies and until we overcome any mental barriers, we certainly won’t break any physical ones.
How To Turn Negative Thoughts Into POSITIVE Ones
So, how exactly can we go about turning the negatives into positives and break down some of the self conscious barriers that get in the way of a run?
There is often an illusion that all runners are passionate about their running and whilst that may be the case for some runners, it’s certainly not a belief shared by all. As we’ve discovered, people run for a variety of different reasons and yes there are some who are incredibly passionate about beating their time or distance and challenging themselves to reach greater goals, but for many running is something that becomes a habit; something that simply becomes part of their day. Habits are formed through repeated actions, so the more you do something, the more you enjoy it and the more you come to depend on it. In fact, owner of runnyhoneys, Sue Browne, confesses she becomes very irritable if she hasn’t been for a run!
The psychological barriers that we put up are often a defence mechanism that the mind automatically creates when we feel as though we are out of our comfort zone. Don’t let this defeat you. Life is all about setting yourself new challenges and, looking ahead, imagine how amazing you will feel when you achieve something that you would never have dreamt you were capable of doing. It’s definitely worth a shot, right?
One key thing you have to remember when you start running, or indeed start any new form of exercise, is that initially it is going to hurt. Running is a high impact sport and hard pavements in particular are not going to be especially kind to you. Always remember to include a warm up before going out for a run as well as some cool down stretches at the end; this should help minimise any aching muscles the next day. And remember, all exercise will cause some degree of discomfort. Try to view this discomfort in a positive light, as an indicator that your body has worked hard and is readjusting the balance of how it functions, both internally and externally.
We spoke to the experts at runnyhoneys and asked them to give us their top tips to make running just that ever so slightly bit easier!
What to Wear
The only real investment you need to make is in trainers and a good sports bra. Ideally, trainers should be fitted in a shop that specializes in running shoes. Alexandra Sports in Portsmouth offers a fantastic Biomechanical Assessment service that determines the structure of each foot and your personal running style to help ensure you find the best running shoe in terms of comfort, to help promote a better running style and to help avoid injury. Bras also need to be properly fitted, because as Lizzie puts it “no one wants spaniels ears!” good quality, fully supportive sports bras will not only feel more comfortable, but will also help you run. The last thing you need to be worrying about whilst running is that your boobs are getting more exercise than the rest of you, that any passing dog walkers are going to be copping an eyeful, that you might give yourself a couple of black eyes or, most importantly of all, that you’re not going to be in pain! www.shockabsorber.co.uk have carried out extensive research and tests with sports scientists at the University of Portsmouth to provide the ultimate running sports bra that helps minimise breast movement and provide optimum support whilst exercising. And www.lessbounce.com offers a wide selection of incredible sports bras, including the often hard to find broad back fitting for 42″+ chests. In the winter months, when the evenings draw in a lot earlier, it’s really important to wear hi vis gear to ensure you can be seen by drivers. It’s up to you whether you go the whole hog and kit yourself out in a full on vest, or wear tops and leggings with plenty of reflective strips, you might even consider wearing a head torch, which also proves useful should you accidentally drop your keys mid-run! Talking of keys…where on earth are you meant to stash them and any other valuables when you head out for a run? OK so you don’t need to take much out with you, but keys, a bit of money and a phone, especially if you’re going out on your own, are not exactly going to fit into the pocket of some tight lycra leggings, are they? The solution…a Running Buddy. These beltless, lightweight, bounce free pouches use revolutionary magnetic technology to keep all your essentials safe, dry – from rain and sweat!, without getting in the way of your run. And finally, if you live in the UK you’ll know how temperamental the weather is; one minute it’s freezing, the next the sun comes out and it feels warm and then before you know it…it’s raining. Which is why the last piece of advice we can give any runner when it comes to knowing what to wear, is quite simply – layers!
Take it slowly
No one expects you to go from never having run before to suddenly being capable of running a marathon. It’s not realistic, it’s not safe and the only thing that’s likely to happen is that you’ll injure yourself! Start walking, say for 15 minutes, and see how you feel. Introduce a 1 minute run into that 15 minutes and over time gradually increase the amount of 1 minute runs. You will start to become more aware of how your body handles these runs and although it’s important not to push yourself too hard too soon, it is equally important to not go too easy on yourself. Your aim is to eventually get to the point where you are running for the entire 15 minutes and more so, but remember this will take weeks, not days!
Finding someone who you can go running with is such an important factor to successful long term running. Ideally, you should aim to go to a group class once a week and then buddy up with someone to go out for two extra sessions in the week. If you don’t do this extra ‘homework’ it can be incredibly difficult to keep up with others in the group who have done it and you will soon see the gap in stamina start to widen. There are so many advantages of having a running buddy.
It allows you to:
- Be competitive
- Feel less self conscious
- Feel safe – particularly at night
- Forget that you’re running, which makes it seem easier
Listen to your body
Your body will tell you if you shouldn’t really go out for a run. If you are ill, exhausted, or have any injuries you need to start listening to your body and take a break. Over time you will become more in tune with your body and you will recognise the signs, just remember not to confuse the messages you receive from your body with those from your mind!
When you start running it can often feel as though you can’t get enough air into your body. Put simply, if you can breathe in, you can breathe out! Remember to use all of your lungs capacity and take slow deep breaths.
Having a good posture helps with most things and that is also the case with running. A good posture gives you a better running stance and will help avoid injury. Try also fitting in some time for a yoga or Pilates class, which will also help stretch you out, develop a good posture, tone your body and will create a positive sense of well being.
New runnyhoneys member, Frances, tells us her story and the reasons why she’s recently joined runnyhoneys:
“OK, so take yourself back to your school days; there were those that could jog, run or sprint, and then there were those that lagged behind in every 100m or cross county run there was.
Being more of a shot putt kinda girl, I was definitely the latter!
I’m 36 now, with two young children; working, doing nursery and school runs, fund raising for the PTA and much, much more and have reached a point in my life where I am mentally comfortable with who I am and where I fit in.
I met one of the run leaders from runnyhoneys, Lizzie, last year through school and we became friends. We talked about her passion for running and my desire to be able to put the memories of school behind me. Being a size 22, weighing 18 stone plus and not doing any real physical activity, however, meant I was really, really concerned about how my body would cope with running. I asked Lizzie if runnyhoneys would be able to do an extended, plus size course for people like me.
And…6 months later here I am!
I have signed up for the 10-week course (rather than the usual 6) and am feeling really positive about giving this the best shot I can. I want to prove to myself that with hard work, determination, support and encouragement from other people in similar situations, that I will be able to run.
I accept that I might not be the fastest, most glamorous runner on the block, but that’s OK, because I am doing this and I am doing it for me!
So, the first week involved a meeting in the pub (I like those kind of meetings!) to discuss the history of runnyhoneys, course expectations, what we would be doing each week and cost etc. It was great to meet the other people who were also signing up and a day was set for the first session.
At the first session, (7.15pm on a cold January evening) we started what I am going to describe as the start of my running journey. It was a completely achievable 30 minute power walk and guess what…?
I could do it!
I wasn’t at the back and in fact for some of the return journey I was even leading. We were given our homework, which was to do this same power walk twice more before the next session the following week.
2 days later, full of positivity, I headed out again. This time I went out on my own and by mapping where I had been, I even managed a further distance in the same time and I was less puffed out on my return home. I felt slightly odd when I was doing it, as I’d often heard people talk about the sense of freedom they feel when they run, but I could never imagine what they meant by that. However, getting off my rear and getting myself out there, even though I was only power walking not running, has given me a little taste of what that feels like…and I want more!
I know it is very early days and the actual ‘running’ has not yet truly begun, but the only way I am ever going to know if I can do this thing is to keep at it!”
Catching Up With A Honey
We were fortunate enough to catch up with Petersfield’s runnyhoney run leader Lizzie Mant before she headed off on another run. Here, she shares her own experience with running and offers some fantastic words of wisdom!
Why do you love running?
“It makes me feel good about myself, gives me a good fitness level, helps me mentally keep my thoughts in order and allows me to eat and drink pretty much what I want. I haven’t been on a diet for years!”
How long have you been a runner?
“I’ve been running on and off all my life. My Dad was a runner and I ran with him as a kid. I’ve been running 3 or 4 times a week for the last four years.
Do you do any other form of exercise?
“Cycling, swimming and walking. I don’t have a car so fitting exercise into the day is easy!”
“Firstly, I think its helps us feel good about ourselves. It’s also great for cardiovascular health, great for bones, helps aid digestion and helps put your thoughts in order after a hard day. Check out the runnyhoneys website…the reasons why we run. Join a local group and make new friends! Pairing up always makes running more successful, as you’re more likely to go and it’s nice you can share your pain!”
How can someone, who hasn’t run before, get into running?
“Start a beginners program, preferably with a local club, as you are more likely to go then. If not, try the Couch to 5k plan; download the app today! Put those worries aside and try it…you might surprise yourself! If you have body image issues, it’s great to start running in the winter under the cover of darkness!”
What are the advantages and disadvantages of running on your own v’s running in a group?
“Running on your own is easy, as you can go when it suits you and sometimes it’s nice to have the freedom. You get into a rhythm where all you can hear is your own breathing and the tap of your feet hitting the tarmac. Just you against yourself pounding the pavements…its very therapeutic! It can be harder to motivate yourself on your own, whereas in a group it’s lovely to have a chat with others and you learn a lot about other people when you run with them. You develop some valuable friendships very quickly and it is definitely much easier to motivate yourself when you’re meeting someone else!”
Any words of advice?
“Just get out there and do it…You’ll never know if you like it unless you try!!”
Lizzie joined runnyhoneys in September 2014 and qualified as a Run Leader in May 2015. Her passion “is to see others achieve – nothing is more rewarding than seeing some of the ladies achieve goals they never thought possible”. She juggles being a wife and mum to two kids, with runnyhoneys, her own running, as well as her new Virtual Assistance business, Falcon VA. She is basically superwoman!
If you are interested in joining a running group, take a look at the runnyhoneys website or leave them a message on their Facebook page.