The beginning of a new academic year is an ideal, if cliché, time to start healthy habits. Even more so in the middle of a pandemic, where our normal way of life is shaken up, and could change at any time. Running as a form of exercise fits the bill in so many ways that, though an intimidating sport to get into, actually has a very low barrier for entry. So, it’s my hope that this article can be useful to anyone who is interested in starting something new over their next year at university.
It is important to remember that the ‘point’ of running is whatever you want to be. Millions of runners all do it for their own different reasons. Many are of course there to keep fit or to lose weight. Many like chasing race times, closely tracking their body’s performance on multiple levels. But there are also a substantial number of runners who are there for its social aspect – meeting friends old and new at weekly races and parkruns – who don’t really care for PBs or split times.
Beyond all that, there are those who run as a form of relaxation and mindfulness, which, to be honest, probably includes most people from those other groups, too. Running has well-documented benefits on mental health, and is also the perfect opportunity to be amongst nature – a great mood booster in itself.
The simple act of running can become a retreat from the bustle of daily life where you can allow your mind some freedom
So, essentially, you can decide what your goal is when you go on a run. It sounds obvious, but it is important to remember that there is truly no pressure.
What to Know When Starting
The first thing that anybody who wants to start running needs to know is that regularity makes a huge difference to your experience. As long as you are stepping out the front door or onto a treadmill regularly, your body will adapt and you will improve. Distances you find hard now will soon be much less daunting, and pace will naturally creep up.
A factor of running that is often ignored is the extent to which it can be mental battle. To keep going when every part of your body is telling you to just go home is a powerful act of will. But that is not to say you will have to face this constantly.
Once you have built up your fitness to a level where you can maintain a consistent pace for a few minutes at a time, it won’t be long before you might find yourself naturally tuning out the ordeal your legs and lungs are going through. It takes some work to reach this point (see: regularity!), but the simple act of running can become a retreat from the bustle of daily life where you can allow your mind some freedom.
Nottingham is a fairly flat city, which makes it one of the more comfortable environments to run around
Okay, this is a quick fire round covering things that beginner runners might worry about when they’re thinking about getting out there:
- Nobody worth their salt is bothered about how you look. In fact, quite a few people you pass are either runners themselves, or wish that they were.
- Running is always at least a little hard – it’s not just you.
- It does not matter how far or how fast you run. You can decide to make it matter, if you want to push yourself, but you can equally decline to even give it a second thought.
- It’s okay to walk!
- Please, running does not destroy your knees. You can injure your knee through running (I did last summer, it took about 6 weeks to recover), but this tends to be down to things like overtraining, not the simple act of running.
Running in Nottingham
Nottingham is a fairly flat city, which makes it one of the more comfortable environments to run around. One of the best areas for this level terrain is Nottingham and Beeston Canal, which can be followed for miles from the city centre through Beeston and beyond. It’s a great way to run if you want to be away from the traffic and, being a canal, its fairly difficult to get lost. Keep going for long enough, and you’ll end up at Attenborough Nature Reserve, which has plenty of waterside trails.
Most towns and cities will have friendly, supportive running clubs if you find yourself in need of friendly faces, not to mention UoN’s Recreational Running society
For some more varied terrain, Wollaton Park is an ideal place to go. Close to the uni, the park has multiple paths with plenty of hills to battle. It can get muddy in the wetter months, but it’s always a treat to run into some deer on the way round. Though not running currently, Wollaton also has its own parkrun, as does Forest Rec.
All of the above will give you dozens of miles of ground to cover, and, if running outdoors isn’t for you, there is always the option of a treadmill.
Finally, all of this doesn’t have to be solitary; most towns and cities will have friendly, supportive running clubs if you find yourself in need of friendly faces, not to mention UoN’s Recreational Running society. Hopefully, if running is something that interests you, you can find a way into it that works for you and your particular needs – whether that is churning out miles solo in the early hours, or running in a group with your eyes on the drinks afterwards.
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