fitness

"I've run 5 times a week for 10 years. Here are my super simple tips to make it easier."

I'm used to the look people give me when I tell them I love running.

It's one of confusion and maybe a little horror, as if the follow-up question darting around their mind like a pinball is 'are you okay?'

I get it. Running gets a bad rap. Its PR is not... great.

Watch: The horoscopes working out. Post continues below video.


Video via Mamamia.

Many people see running as 'punishment'. We're told to 'run laps' as a form of discipline at sport trainings as kids (and adults, actually), and for decades social media has been awash with disturbing images that lay out how long you'd 'have' to run to equal the calories of a Big Mac.

Unsurprisingly, this creates a negative thought process towards running. But running shouldn't be punishment. 

It shouldn't be done so you can 'reward' yourself with food, and it certainly shouldn't be seen as a consequence of eating. Running can be a sport, a hobby or a form of therapy, but it should not be punishment.

I'm not exactly an expert. I just... run. 

I have done so most days for at least a decade, ever since I had a fight with my stepdad and literally ran out the door (true story, and a great indicator of my angsty teenage years). I barely made it down the street without my heart feeling like it was going to jump out of my chest, but afterwards, I felt calmer, happier and... accomplished. Runner's high is no myth.

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Since then, running has become part of my everyday life. How I run has had various stages: along my favourite route from my parent's house, on a treadmill at the gym, the trial-and-error of finding somewhere I like running in a new city and in new suburbs. I've kept it up because it's good for my lungs and my heart, yes, but it's also very good for my mind. 

That doesn't mean I'm necessarily great at it, or that it's easy. Some days I do just want to sit on the couch (which is fine, and if I feel like I need to, I will). But over the years I've just about perfected the approach which will get me out the door and help me feel strong, both physically and mentally.

Here are my tricks and tips:

Think in minutes, not kilometres.

A big mistake new runners make is by thinking in terms of distance: five kilometres, 10 kilometres, a half-marathon, when they really should focus on is time: running for 10 minutes. Then 20. Then half an hour. 

Build the endurance for blocks of time first, then look to better your speed and distance.

It's also a hack for anyone struggling with motivation: My trick? I tell myself I'll run for 10 minutes. 

Just 10 minutes. Enough for one or two kilometres, but a very manageable, small amount of time. 

Every now and again I'll do the 10 and be like... 'okay, great, job done. I'll just... walk home now'.

But I find the first five minutes of a run the hardest, as I warm up and push through that mental boundary, so by the time I get to 10 I've usually found my stride. That means, 99 times out of 100, I'm good to keep going.

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Don't compare yourself to others.

Nothing good comes from comparison, and unless you are literally in a running race, running is not... a race. 

Yeah, you're going to want to see improvements and beat your personal bests. But the keyword there is your personal bests.

Everyone has different abilities and strengths. Exploding out the blocks to match the average pace of the #fitspo influencer you follow on Instagram or forcing yourself to slug it out for a half-marathon because your friend did will not only make you hate the process and want to give up, but it'll also increase your likelihood of injury.

Remember this: the pace or distance you run has no bearing on how much of a 'runner' you are. 

If you put one foot in front of the other, you are a runner.

Realise that not every run will be a good run.

It took me far too long to realise that I'm not going to run my fastest or farthest every time I head out the door.

So don't be disappointed if you go for a run today and are 30 seconds slower than the day before. Or if things just seem harder.

That's normal. Running progress comes in small improvements spread across weeks. You won't improve exponentially and once you acknowledge that, you'll find a lot of self-imposed pressure come off your shoulders.

And if you're really battling, maybe it's a sign that you should take the day off. Your body will thank you for it (and the 'fresh' feeling in your legs as you run after a day or two off is unmatched!)

Set tiny goals.

Sprint to the nearest lamppost. Jog for a minute, then pick up the pace for 30 seconds. Keep a pace for the entirety of the song you're listening to.

Setting up small, achievable goals along the way is a good way to build your endurance, notice improvement and break up the time.

Indoors? Many treadmills will let you choose various paces and switch between them during the workout. Make one a jogging pace, the other a steady running pace, and the last a sprint. Toggle between them and you've got yourself a damn good HIIT workout.

Podcasts, playlists and headphones.

My run is not just exercise: it's also my guaranteed podcast time, a chance for me to spend time with some of my favourite people while also being distracted from my heavy breathing.

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A win-win, to be honest.

It doesn't really matter what you listen to, as long as it's something you enjoy.

If you're a music person, make a running playlist or use one of Spotify's pre-made ones. Use the time to really enjoy your favourite artist's new album. Get re-acquainted with the Spice Girls (I'm not kidding - this works almost too well).

If you're a podcaster, listen to the friends in your ears. 

Whatever it is that makes you excited to grab your headphones, turn running into a date with it.

Double knot your shoelaces and tie your hair tight.

ALWAYS.

DOUBLE OR NOTHING TBH. Image: Supplied.

Feeling your shoelace loosen, your tights fall down or your hair slip out of its ponytail is distracting and irritating. It will ruin your mojo and throw off the entire run.

Nail down these small details before you step out the door so you can focus on literally anything else.

Warm up AND stretch.

I can feel you rolling your eyes and I'm sorry, but you can never be told the importance of warming up and stretching enough.

It's dull and monotonous and probably the most crucial part of any training. 

To make this easier for you, here are some very easy, quick warm-up and warm-down videos from my friend Chloe at Go Chlo Pilates.

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Save them, and refer back before and after each run.

I've been doing each for the past few months, and my VERY SHORT, VERY TIGHT hamstrings are singing her praises.

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Find your favourite, scenic route.

I don't find much joy in running through suburbia or cities, and much prefer to be surrounded by the sea breeze or greenery. 

Beautiful views (and the #content that comes with them) are bloody good motivation so even if it's not possible every day, try to #treatyourself to a scenic run on the reg. 

Yes, you might need to drive somewhere to then... run and yes, I realise that seems counterintuitive, but it's fun to keep things fresh and it's amazing how running with a view can change your entire outlook.

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(If you're in a gym, cycle through the pre-set 'routes' on a treadmill. Because you might not actually be running around a pretty Canadian lake, but there's no harm in pretending.)

Remember why you're doing it.

This is one of those cheesy "you never regret a workout" kind of quotes that are just... ick. I know. I'm so sorry.

BUT THIS IS LEGITIMATELY VERY HELPFUL, I SWEAR.

Hold on to the feeling you're left with after a run: the clear mind. The tired but powerful legs. The satisfaction.

Remember it when you're feeling unmotivated to lace up your shoes or really battling through a rough kilometre.

RUNNER'S HIGH IS GLORIOUS AND YOU WILL SOON HAVE IT!

Wear your sports bra just... all the time.

I pretty much wear sports bra exclusively, and not just because they're comfy. 

My routine usually sees me running after work, which means the hassle of having to change. Mentally, that just feels like a slightly less... arduous task if I've already got the sports bra on.

I'm already semi-ready, so I may as well keep going until I've got my tights and shoes on too, right? 

Plus, it always feels a bit weird to take off a sports bra you have not... sweated in at the end of the day.

You don't need all the gear... but some gear will help.

In theory, if you're living without a disability you don't really need anything to run. Just able legs and the great outdoors.

But in reality, there are some items of clothing that will make your running experience better.

The first is a decent pair of shoes, of course. This is the most important, because the wrong pair of shoes can lead to injury. The best way to find the right shoe for you is to get your foot scanned, which many shoe stores offer. 

Otherwise, it's a matter of what you're looking for. I run in Nike Pegasus', which I adore because it feels like there are mini trampolines in the heels, but you're going to want to try on a bunch of shoes in order to find what works best for you.

The two other most important pieces of gear: A supportive sports bra, and good pants.

Keeping the gals supported is super important when running. I recommend Triaction and Berlei for guaranteed support.

Now onto my true passion: leggings.

Leggings are, in my humble opinion, humankind's greatest invention. I love them with my whole heart, and consider myself somewhat on a legging connoisseur.

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I've spent far many years running in pants that fall down at the waist, are too loose at the ankle or show your entire arse. I don't wish that on anybody.

Now, if there's one thing I won't compromise on, it's the leggings I run in:

Lululemon's Fast and Free high rise tights, $139.

Image: Lululemon.

These are my holy grail.

They are expensive as hell, but I practically live in them so I figure it's a worthwhile investment. I have four pairs in a range of colours that just live in a constant rotation.

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They have everything you could possibly want: lots of pockets, including side pockets for your phone, a draw-cord so you can tighten the waistband if required, reflective detail on the ankle and sweat-wicking material you don't have to worry about going see-through.

There is not much I wouldn't sell in exchange for more Fast and Frees, tbh.

Lorna Jane Lotus Ankle Biter Leggings, $99.99.

Image: The Iconic.

Lorna Jane's legging material just... feels so good. I feel so SLEEK and CHIC wearing these.

Super supportive with a thick waistband, they kind of feel like you're not wearing... anything. It's quite a magical experience.

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The LJ website also has regular deals on the Lotus styles which can bring them down to as low as $50, so it's worth signing up to emails if you're on the lookout for a bargain.

Rockwear Movement 7/8 Tights, $79.99.

Image: Rockwear.

If you're after the best bang for your buck, Rockwear is it.

I also have a lot of Rockwear gear, which is a great Australian brand that makes high-quality leggings without the Lulu price tag.

The brand also has the best sales section, updated regularly, where you can score leggings and sports bras for $40 and tops for as low as $10. I highly rate it and do a giant haul at least every six months (everything is just really pretty - I can't help myself).

Plus... there's something about the chance to break in new activewear that really helps with motivation.

And that's it. That's how I keep on running. 

I hope there are some tips here that will help you learn to love running (or at least no longer look at me like a psychopath when I tell you I do!)

See you on the pavement.

Feature image: Supplied.