Run For Your Life
It requires no costly equipment, needs little in the way of planning, and it’s good for body and mind. No surprise then running remains one of the world’s most popular sporting and fitness pursuits. In lead-up to this month’s London Marathon – and a host of other local runs – we look at what motivates Kent’s legion of runners.
Let’s face it, pretty much anyone can put on a pair of trainers and hit the pavement or park. And, no, you don’t have to be one of the thousands in dedicated training week-in, week-out for elite events such as this month’s London Marathon.
From short runs to speed walking, country jaunts to fun events and charity fundraisers, getting outdoors on a regular basis is proven not only to help shed a few pounds but can be invaluable as one way of helping to manage stress.
Emma Emin is a personal trainer offering running classes in King’s Hill for children as young as six through to those taking it up in their fifties.
“I could list a thousand reasons why running is such a fantastic fitness pursuit but the biggest one for me is it helps keep my sanity,” says Emma, who began running whilst at university in 1988, adding that – as a businesswoman and mother to three young children – she needs the discipline and distraction as much now as she did then.
“When life is hectic, running can be the last thing on your mind. But within minutes your brain releases hormones that naturally improve your mood. There are few things in the world that are better or can treat feelings of stress, anxiety or milder forms of depression as effectively as exercise.”
“It’s all very well,” you might say for someone who’s been committed to running for 20 years to say that – “I have enough trouble getting myself through a busy week!” Over to Emma, who says she’s lost count of the number of people who’ve told her they’ve never been able to run and “just can’t do it”.
“I’m yet to be proved wrong in my theory anybody can run. This is what I love most about it. It’s totally inclusive and open to anyone of any age, size or fitness level. All you need is a pair of trainers and the desire to get out and change your life. I have turned hundreds of people who ‘just can’t run’ into running fanatics,” she says.
“Whilst my desire for running stems mainly from improving the mind, there are many other ways it can benefit your health. The most obvious is you can keep in shape by burning calories.
“However, as an England Athletics qualified running leader of all abilities from novice to advanced I often hear one of the major incentives for runners to keep training each week is the social network and the continued support they gain from being part of a group. They start as a band of runners and finish as friends. This is something of which I am extremely proud.”
MOJO Running and Fitness is a group for women offering a range of opportunities in a non-competitive and supportive environment. Founded by Jo Kingston, it now has many coaches offering runs of different lengths and pace. They include Emma Holmes and Emily McMillan, who’ve been busy leading marathon training courses across a 16-week programme where the ‘marathon girls’ cover up to 20 miles in their longest training run, whilst mixing it up with speed, hills and tempo runs.
A major concern amongst runners, especially at elite and competitive levels, is staying fit and remaining injury free, explains Emma Holmes, who is in the final stages herself of training for the London Marathon on 22nd April.
“If you’re in serious training, it’s always advisable to follow the advice of a coach who can help develop a plan to suit your end goal and level of experience. It’s also good to vary the surfaces on which you run as hard roads can be tough on joints and ligaments so try and get out on softer trails if you can.
“And mix up your runs each week. At MOJO we recommend one long slow run, one hill or speed session alternating each week plus either a tempo or marathon pace run weekly,” she advises.
“It’s also important to look after your legs with a regular sports massage. And make sure your trainers haven’t clocked up too many miles – most manufacturers recommend changing them after between 300 and 500 miles.”
And, as Emma Emin is keen to reinforce: “Running is great for the mind, body and spirit. So, what are you waiting for?”
RunTogether has been created by England Athletics with the aim of connecting all the work it’s doing to increase participation with a focus on recognising people who exercise and train with others are more likely to continue.
All its programmes, such as groups, routes and services like Find a Guide (a training and licencing scheme for runners wishing to become guides and a national database of ‘guide runners’ to help match them with visually-impaired individuals) and Mental Health Ambassadors all share a common theme – to help people run with others and benefit from the motivation and support it offers.
• For more information, visit www.runtogether.co.uk
If you want to keep those extra pounds in check, tone-up or simply spend time switching off from the pressures of everyday life there are few better fitness pursuits than running, says Phil Wyatt, Wellness Manager at Sevenoaks Leisure Centre, where the gym has just unveiled a £1 million upgrade.
“The beauty of running is just about everyone can have a go. You’re not in competition and, as all good trainers will tell you, it’s ideal for someone starting a fitness journey as you can begin with short walks, move onto to speed walking, gentle jogs and progress at your own pace,” says Phil, who reminds those not used to exercise they should consult their GP before getting started and who recognises just hitting the pavement as a newbie isn’t for everyone.
“The gym can obviously be a good place for someone new to running to get started as you can begin gently on a treadmill and get a trainer to devise a programme and advise you on really important things such as stretching and warming-up.
“As part of our refurbishment we’ve installed an Outrace rig, which is one large piece of kit featuring a range of equipment for exercising on your own or by joining a 30-minute class under the supervision of a qualified trainer. And we now have a Skillmill machine, which is like a treadmill but is non-motorised.”
• Fore more information, visit www.sencio.org.uk
For more information, visit: www.mojorunningandfitness.com; www.traineronthehill.com; www.englandathletics.org; www.runtogether.co.uk; www.kentsport.org; www.twharriers.org.uk; www.sevenoaksladiesjoggers.co.uk and www.paddockwoodac.co.uk
• The Run Britain website (www.runbritain.com) has a section in which you can search local running groups.
• Emma Holmes is running the London Marathon in aid of Great Ormond Street Hospital. Search emmaholmes18 at justgiving.com. Emma Emin is running for Family Action (search her name at uk.virginmoneygiving.com).