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Are you ready to take the challenge?

Running – Are you ready to take on the challenge?

Marathon season is now full swing. There are 5K and 10K races happening all over the UK this summer, making it the opportune time to lace up your trainers and get fit and healthy. 

Last April, more that 38,000 running enthusiasts took part in the 26.2 mile long London Marathon, the biggest number in the event’s 35-year history. And this weekend, the Color Run will take place in London. Billed as the happiest 5K run on the planet, it’s a fun and lively event that attracts all kinds of runners and people from all ages and fitness levels. So whether, you’re taking up the challenge for the first time or you have already built up your speed, strength and endurance, this event showcases the love for the sport like no other. 

There is no doubt that signing up for a race can be a fantastic way to get motivated and increase your fitness levels. Running is a great cardio and whole body exercise. Your legs do much of the work but your arms propel you on to the next stride, while your core provides stability and balance. 

It’s also a sport that allows much freedom as you can do it pretty much anywhere and anytime, whether you’re traveling or not. After all, there is always a park nearby or a new neighbourhood or city to explore. And there is no pricey gym membership to pay each month. All you really need is a good pair of trainers and for us women, a quality sports bra! 

What are the benefits of running?

Well, it goes without saying that exercise is great for your physical wellbeing and mind. An active lifestyle results in a healthy body and positive outlook. 

Research shows that regular running has the ability to not only instantly lift your mood by making you happier as chemicals, called endorphins, are released from the body, but running can also protect against depression, anxiety and stress as well as improve brain function. It can also help to prevent obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and some cancers. 

A 2014 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that runners were 45% less likely to die from heart disease, sudden cardiac arrest or stroke, and on average, lived three years longer than non-runners. 

How do you prevent injury?

This time of the year, many runners focus on achieving their goals and might forget that injury prevention is also an integral part of their training. 

It’s an all too common sight. Aches and pains start to appear, you continue with your training and an ice pack on the knees soon follows. Medical experts say they see a huge increase in running injuries at this time. The most common ones are caused by muscle overuse, most often runner’s knee. 

Investing in a good quality pair of trainers that fit properly and comfortably, stretching after each run, building a strong core, improving strength and flexibility, having a regular massage, ensuring you consume the right nutrients, building up your training slowly to allow your body to cope with the added stress, and crucially, listening to your body, are all important factors to consider if you want to minimise the risk of injury. 

Honestly Healthy asked Louise Hazel, an Olympian and Commonwealth Heptathlon Champion and a personal trainer, to inspire you to start running and regal you with the 5 most common excuses she hears for not taking on the challenge. 

  1. It’s cold outside 

This excuse always makes me laugh - for three reasons. 

The first being that once you start to exercise your body will naturally produce heat, so you shouldn't feel the cold. Secondly, that is exactly why lycra was invented - to keep you warm and mobile. And thirdly, us girls do not complain about feeling cold when we have a new dress and heels to show off on the weekend. Suck it up sister! 

  1. You’ve just had your hair blow-dried

Now I totally understand this excuse. I have naturally very curly afro hair that curls at the mere suggestion of moisture so I totally empathise with all those of you who have spent a packet on getting your hair done. I understand that you don't want to un-do your hairdresser's hard work. That would be a waste of money. My solution is go running before you get your hair done. That way you'll feel like you have really earned it and maybe a few highlights as well! 

  1. People laugh at you in the street

I have clients that can feel extremely self-conscious when exercising in public places and I often end up posing this question: "Would you rather they laugh at you in the street with your clothes on or on the beach in your two-piece?" Needless to say, most of them give them and me a "mental middle finger" (not a real one) and get on with it.

  1. It’s boring

I'm an Olympian and sometimes I even find running boring. So to make sure that your exercise doesn't become monotonous, always set out for your run with an aim in mind, whether it be to beat the time of your previous run or just mix up the pace and intensity at which you are running. Let your inner sprinter out and run as fast as you want! You go get 'em girl!

  1. You get embarrassing sweat patches

There is nothing worse than sweat patches in places where ladies shouldn't sweat! My advice is to steer clear of grey clothing. This will only emphasise any embarrassing underarm excretions. It’s good to also wear dark running leggings/joggers that will not show any embarrassing "lower body" sweat!

It's true that running can be a bore, but that's only if you resign yourself to the idea that it can't be fun. Inject a bit of energy back into your exercise by being the motivator. Get your girls together, find some disastrous lycra and sprint like Usain Bolt is watching. Fall back in love with running again and ignore anyone who isn't having as much fun as you! 

 And remember, you're a gazelle!

 By Chantal Ouimet, Honestly Healthy Editor, and Louise Hazel, Olympian and Commonwealth Heptathlon Champion

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