Take a jog

As it turns to springtime, deputy features editor Catriona Aitken discusses the benefits of jogging on such gorgeous, sunny days.

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons

As the days become longer, lighter, and (thankfully!) a bit warmer too, many of us will take exam procrastination to the next level and dare to dream of getting fitter ahead of the summer break.

While, for me, there’s a kind of sunny disposition which accompanies catching a few rays in what was beginning to feel like an eternally grey Scotland, sometimes we still need a bit of a push to do, rather than dream; we need some motivation to dust off that sports gear and actually leave the house. Jogging is cheap, and you can set your own pace, making it perfect for getting some exercise and enjoying the nice weather, without worrying about the cost of the gym, or the chance of an unintentionally coordinating your workout with your classmates’.

Despite a dodgy knee, I quite enjoy going jogging. You won’t see me completing a marathon anytime soon, or challenging Usain Bolt to the 100m. But there’s something quite refreshing about starting the day early, before anyone but dog-walkers and fellow joggers have stepped outdoors, and returning home for a shower, content with having already done my exercise for the day.

So, as a self-confessed, non-athletic beginner, I’ll share a few of my tips and tricks for jogging around this beautiful little town…

Clothes

First of all, it’s important to be comfortable and confident in what you’re wearing. There’s absolutely no need to break the bank, particularly if you’re just starting out. However, investing in a decent pair of shoes will make the world of difference, as there is far less chance of you dropping out after day one due to battered, blistered feet!

Perhaps you could treat yourself to a pair you really like, or throw in some clothes. Having a choice of several pairs of shorts might be a bit unnecessary, but liking your jogging outfit isn’t going to cost the earth and can make a big difference to your motivation to actually put it on, trust me.

For morning jogs, lay what you’re going to wear, shoes and all, out the night before, somewhere visible from your bed. If it’s the first thing you see when you wake up, there’s probably a greater chance you’ll just put them on and get on with it. Sure, you might just do exactly as I have done on too many occasions and roll over for an extra hour or two of blissful sleep. But, hopefully, noticing your perfectly prepared jogging kit when you do wake up will make you feel just guilty enough to fit in a quick jog later on, or at least be a bit more enthusiastic the next time.

Set realistic goals

I’ll be honest, I was definitely delusional enough to believe that jogging was that thing that was going turn my whole life around. You know, when you imagine being that person who jogs and looks amazing and studies hard and eats well and is never sweaty or tired or in need of a haircut? You know, that person who makes a smoothie for breakfast after a 5k run each morning as they pack their kale salad and moisturise their perfectly clear make-up-free skin, ready for a productive day in the library?

Yeah, I came down from that cloud with a significant bubble-bursting fall, the very one that messed up my knee! It’s great to want to be more active and make resolutions to feel better about your lifestyle, but attempting it all at once, or believing one change will magically cure all, is setting yourself up for disappointment. None of us are perfect, even those annoying people who appear to have it all so easy.

It’s also important to be realistic about the jogging itself, and not push yourself too hard too early. Again, it’ll only make it more difficult to maintain consistently, and risks injury or exhaustion. Being determined to add exercise to your routine is great, but don’t do like me and attempt daily runs, lacking warm up or breaks, straight away. It might be annoying to have to keep stopping and starting but start small – a fifteen-minute mixture of walking and jogging around the block is still better than fifteen minutes spent in front of your laptop, right? There’s no shame in keeping it short and building up.

Don’t beat yourself up. It’s a phrase far easier said than done.

There will be days when you just can’t persuade yourself to go for a jog, even though you’d planned too. Perhaps you find yourself overwhelmed by revision, or get offered to go out for food with friends instead. Maybe you’re not in the right headspace, or just can’t be bothered. It happens, and it’s not a disaster. However, I know that I personally am a bit of a defeatist, a drama queen if you will. I justify quitting altogether because I missed one jogging session and so now my schedule is out of kilter and well there’s just no point in trying anymore and I may as well just forget about it forever, right? Wrong. So you hit a hurdle. Give yourself the break you clearly needed and try again soon.

I’ve recently discovered that there are many apps out there that can help coach you into a good jogging structure, if that’s of interest to you. In particular, I quite like Couch to 5K. There are various different versions, but the general idea is that you select a ‘coach’ from a list of celebrities, and they talk you through your jog. Each run on the schedule set by the app is a certain length, usually between thirty and forty minutes, and the app will tell you when you should be running or walking and track your distance. As well as listening to the celebrity you’ve chosen keeping you on track, you can also listen to your preferred music.

It also asks you question about how your runs are affecting your mood, which can help you determine if jogging is the way to go for you, and has optional health and wellbeing information too. It’s a good way to ensure you’re not overexerting yourself, while still feeling challenged, and has helped me considerably with keeping motivated.

Routes

Speaking of apps, I’ve additionally found that Map My Run is very popular. This app not only tracks your run, so that you can save your route to return to when you fancy a jog of a similar distance, but also lets you see the routes of other people jogging around your area, which can provide inspiration.

Last year, I fell into the bad habit of jogging the same route every day. As a swimmer, I’m pretty used to monotony when it comes to sport. But with such fantastic scenery surrounding us, why choose to pass the same concrete building every day? Mixing it up helps to keep you interested and engaged.

It’s definitely worth checking out the app for suggested routes that match your preferred length, but creating your own by incorporating some of your favourite spots helps you to discover what works best for you.

It really depends on where you stay, and how far you’re planning to jog, but some nice jogging places include East Sands, The Scores, and Lade Braes. For me, picking somewhere that’s likely to be pretty quiet at the time I’m going to be running is important, but the most crucial thing overall is that it’s safe, both in terms of being near people and having a suitable terrain! I have previously run on West Sands too, and loved it. But sand was a slightly trickier surface for me. The same can be said for The Fife Coastal Path, which is popular with some. I really don’t trust my very uncoordinated jogging skills so close to a cliff edge!

Wherever you chose, try to be creative and varied.

Music

No matter where you opt to access your music from, creating a playlist is always a good idea, as trying to skip songs while running is a logistical nightmare (yes, I may have bumped into one or two people, or dropped my phone…).

I tend to pick upbeat songs, usually ones I know well enough that I’m not really listening to the lyrics so much as appreciating the overall effect of having uplifting music. In my opinion, the cheesier the tunes, the better. Something that immediately makes me smile. As much as the emotional ballad holds a dear place in my heart, anything depressing is a definite veto for my personal jogging soundtrack.

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I like to jog alone. It’s my time to think and to enjoy the quiet. But, of course, you can make jogging a social event too, if that’s what will keep you motivated. Knowing you’ll be letting your friends down if you don’t show up might be the incentive you need, and the jog is likely to pass more quickly if you’re having a natter.

I suppose the overarching message of this article is that there’s no right or wrong way of jogging, but thinking about a few small details before you begin will increase your chances of integrating it into your routine. I hope it’s been helpful, and now I am going to drag myself away from my laptop and go out and enjoy the sunshine, maybe even go for a jog.

 

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