There's no form of exercise that's more divisive than the humble run. Hardcore runners swear by the mystical 'runner's high', but for those of us that are yet to fall in love with running, even the thought of getting out for a short jog can be daunting.
The physical and mental health benefits of running are undeniable (when done correctly). Aside from improving cardiovascular health, helping regulate blood sugar levels and reducing joint pain, being able to meditate and reflect while running can make it an emotionally fulfilling practice.
On top of that, running is one of the most convenient workouts around — you don't need any fancy equipment, a gym membership or space within your home to do it. It's also the perfect way to make the most of your lockdown exercise time and explore your area in a little more depth than usual.
Here's a deeper look into how to start a running routine that works for you — and how to have fun in the process.
Planning is everything
Planning your run before you start so you know what to expect is essential. It's like setting a to-do list in your brain of all the things you'll need to tick off while you're on the journey — because without a clear end in sight, it's easy to lose motivation on the way.
Nana recommends setting small goals before each run to boost serotonin hits throughout your run, with gradual feelings of achievement. For example, you can set goals like aiming to reach a particular landmark or setting a clear path for what your run will look like.
"Your goals don’t always have to be big or related to time or distance. They can just be little goals that help you to build up. If you say, 'I’m going to run 1km further than last time', then sooner or later you will hit your big, overall goal," she said.
"Another big thing I’ve learned is self-talk. Most of the time, we look for other people to motivate us, but it starts from within," said Nana.
"Before I start running, I try to focus on the present moment. I don’t think about 5km from now or 100 metres from now. I think about the step that I am taking."
Part of planning is also preparing your body, which Nana said should involve at least 5-10 minutes of stretching before you start.
Once you've got these covered, you'll be off to a flying start.
Comfort above all
Comfort is a must while running — from the way your hair is tied up, all the way to the socks you're wearing. For Nana, the foundation of a comfortable and enjoyable run is a good pair of shoes.
"Remember to have a comfortable, well-fitting pair of shoes, so you're not distracted by any pain or discomfort. A good set of runners can make a run so much easier and more comfortable. I love running in New Balance Fresh Foam 1080s, which are soft and supportive," she said.
"My favourite quote about running is, 'look good, feel good, run good' because a great outfit makes your run so much more enjoyable. My pick is always a colourful pair of Fresh Foam 1080s, paired with a matched crop and tights"
Make a banging playlist
Like most (or all) tasks in life, running is all the more enjoyable with a good playlist in tow. While there are a variety of pre-made Spotify and Apple Music playlists that serve plenty of motivational run-spiration, try to get personal with your playlists. Curating something that is 'you' to a tee will help get the good vibes flowing before you even hit the pavement.
For Nana, it's upbeat female-vocal jams that set the tone for a good run. So whether it's singing off-key along to 00s RnB or summoning demons with death metal, if it makes you feel like you can conquer the world, it belongs on your running playlist.
"A great playlist really gets me in a good headspace for the run," Nana said. "I find music really motivating and it can change my mood, especially when I’m warming up for a run. I love upbeat music — usually by female singers who are singing empowering songs."
Switch up locations
One of our biggest lockdown takeaways has been that small changes can have the biggest impact when trudging through a mundane routine. Changing your location every so often while running can help shake things up and pose new challenges to push you further.
"You could run on the sand one week, then gravel or a trail the next week. Otherwise, you could find new locations like driving somewhere for a hilly run instead of a flat run," said Nana.
"Mentally, new locations or terrains will challenge you and give you a sense of the unknown."
Bring a friend along
Nana swears by a running buddy as a great way to make tougher sessions more enjoyable, and encourages taking a pal along on your run.
"Having someone with the same goal as you is going to make it a lot easier for you to reach your running goals. In addition, you don’t need to run together for the entire run, as everyone will go at a different pace," said Nana.
"It is comforting to know you started the run with a buddy and will meet up again at the end of the run."
Don't forget to cool down
Taking time to reflect on your run to celebrate your small wins and listen to what your body needs is the best way to treat your body.
"Going for a 5-minute walk directly after the run will really help muscles relax and get back to steady-state. After this, you’ll want to finish the run how you started it, with a 5-to-10-minute stretch." said Nana.
"I’m also a big fan of warm baths to refresh yourself and start the recovery. My body reacts better to warm baths, but you can also have a cold shower after."
Fuelling your body (and mind) is essential after a run — without proper recovery, you'll never want to get back outside (whether it's a 2km or 10km run.) There's no shortage of information out there on how to better serve your journey to mental and psychical fitness too — from fitness TikTokers, to New Balance's tips on how to stay motivated.
After all, it is about listening to your body and detecting what it's asking of you.
Starting to run is easy enough, but keeping a routine up and continuing to find motivation is where it gets harder. That's why finding ways to make it fun (and challenging) for yourself is so important — once you've nailed that combo, you'll be on your way to your own runner's high in no time.