We all know exercise can clear your mind and release endorphins, but it can be hard to motivate yourself to pull your trainers on and get out there. Closer’s Deputy Features Editor Francine Anker shares her tips for training for a half marathon and explains how it helped her focus on the future...
I came out of an eight-year relationship last year and had to really pick myself up and start all over again.
A lot of my friends had settled down and were starting families, while I was swiping left on Tinder. And alongside sorting out somewhere to live and getting used to the weird world of dating apps, I wanted to give myself a new challenge to focus on.
So when a friend suggested I do the Simplyhealth Great Manchester Run, I decided to go for it. I’ve always tried to keep fit, going to the gym and doing classes, but a 10k was as far as I’d run.
A half marathon seemed daunting, but I knew I needed to push myself. So, armed with a training plan of runs (three 3-5 mile ones in the week and a longer one, max 12 miles, at the weekend) and a super-motivational Spotify list, I got going.
I was nervous about pushing myself through the 10k barrier, but the first time I did it I felt amazing. I’m not looking to do the race in a particularly fast time, I just want to run it continuously and keep up a steady pace.
And my training has had some really great side-effects, as I've found that running really helps me feel positive about things. Having a goal to focus on is a good distraction from heartbreak and I know I’ll feel a great sense of accomplishment when I complete the half marathon.
So if, like me, you'd like to push yourself and do a half marathon, here are my top tips...
Put your best foot forward (Credit: Getty)
1. Fab footwear
It’s absolutely essential to have the right footwear when running regularly. Runners Needs offers a free gait analysis service (with no obligation) to ensure you’re getting the right support.
2. Get kitted out
Don't worry, decent kit really doesn’t have to cost the earth. Bellum Active do gorgeous tops and bottoms – sale vests start at £8. Zakti Active is another good option with sale vests starting at £10. If you’re looking to spend a bit more, Victoria Beckham was recently spotted in these snazzy 2XU compression tights!
3. Plan your work outs
It’s a really good idea to follow a running plan to help build up distance and pace. It's also a good idea to include a day of other exercise, but if you want to avoid forking out for a gym memberships check out Beach Body On Demand. They have over 400 workouts available, and an access all areas pass costs just £2.99 a month!
4. Get fuelled up
Good nutrition is vital for running long distances. If you’re keen on post-workout protein drinks, try MissFits Nutrition. Their lean-pea protein shakes are vegan, gluten free, zero sugar and designed just for women. Track your training with a smart watch (Credit: Getty)
5. Pace yourself
Now you have a goal in mind, it's a good idea to start tracking your runs. If you want an accurate measurement of your speed and distance choose a running watch with built in GPS, such as the Fitbit Surge.
6. Stay supported
Ladies - DO NOT even attempt to run without a well-fitted sports bra. There are LOADS on the market, but personally I love this High Impact sports bra by Chantelle.
7. Smalls but essential
And finally, our secret weapon is running undies. Yes, seriously! We love Runderwear - brilliant name, brilliant knickers.
Running is good for the soul (Credit: Getty)
But obviously, training for a half marathon isn't just about having the right kit. Here are four expert tips from physio Jenny Blizard, who is working in association with Simplyhealth - a leading provider of everyday health cash plans, dental payment and pet health plans...
1. Don't panic - niggles are natural
Niggles will always come and go when running, especially in the first mile or so. See it as a sign that your body is adjusting to the change in posture from whatever you were doing prior to your run.
2. Keep moving
If you have decided that your ‘niggle’ is not going to go away, then rest initially and seek help. It is very rare that I will tell runners to stop running. Often when seeking help early, you can keep running alongside treatment. This is the preferred option, especially when you have a target race in mind.
3. Ease into it
Ensure you start off with a walk, then a jog before you get locked into your required pace for the run. This should take at least five minutes. I don’t even look at my watch until the first mile clicks in.
4. Listen to your body
Don’t be afraid to re-schedule a harder/faster paced run for a different day if you have had a long/stressful day, it is always counterproductive to force things when your body and mind are saying no.
5. Choose your trainers carefully
When choosing appropriate footwear, seek reputable advice at a running shop and ensure the shoe feels comfortable to run in.