Originally published on The Running Bug

Too fast, too slow, or dangerously competitive? Here’s how to navigate the rocky road of running with your spouse in tow.

Why (and how) couples should run together
In response to a recent Guardian article which suggested running with your significant other was a nightmare, here’s why (and how) running with your other half can benefit your fitness AND strengthen your relationship.

Run at chatting pace

If you and your partner usually travel at different speeds, agree in advance to take it slow and run at a pace comfortable to you both. The ideal running speed is one where you can both still chat on the move.

Every run doesn’t need to be an intense training session and there are benefits to taking it easy. Using this time to talk through your respective days or make plans for the future can help you both unwind. Time spent talking and simply enjoying running together will outweigh the benefits of a high-intensity training session.

‘My husband and I spent years running together as a lovely way to catch up and chat without the usual interruptions of day to day life,’ says Dr Josephine Perry, sport psychology consultant from performanceinmind.co.uk

‘We used to really like running together when we went on holiday as it meant we can explore far more but in a way we still felt safe. We can’t run together as much now as we have a one-year-old, but she loves going in the buggy and they both like to sprint past me at parkrun after saying they’d be taking it easy!’

‘There are no issues of competitiveness – my husband is far far faster than me,’ adds Perry. ‘But he trains for ultra races and I train for much shorter ones so he doesn’t mind running at my slower speed. We actually do help each other when we run. I’m trained in sport psychology and he’s trained as a coach so we can get the benefits of each other’s experience to become better athletes.’

Motivation boost

During the winter months it can be hard to maintain training momentum, which is where the invaluable support of a partner steps in. ‘One of the benefits of training with your partner is the ability to encourage each other gently out on those duvet days when getting out onto the streets or the park is not the most obvious option,’ says Gary Bloom, Clinical psychotherapist (BACP) from clickfortherapy.com

‘It’s important (especially if you haven’t trained for a while) to go slowly at first, accepting that your partner might be fitter/less fit than yourself,’ adds Bloom. ‘It’s key to go at the pace of the slowest runner.’

‘But the psychological benefits of training together will include a greater feeling of joint achievement and also a sense that each of you really cares about the progress of each other,’ explains Bloom. ‘Running can be a very lonely business and having someone who cares for you alongside you provides a huge incentive to get out the door.’

Precious time

With work and family commitments, popping out for a quick run isn’t always that simple and often involves juggling schedules, recruiting a babysitter or taking turns. If you do get the opportunity to run together, acknowledge the benefits of just 30 minutes of exercise and consider it precious time. This way you will savour that time spent together irrespective of the training intensity, and appreciate how important it is for you and your family to keep active.

Before you head out the door, take a moment to discuss what running and exercise means to you as a family and you will appreciate this time together all the more.

Competitive edge

For some couples, a bit of healthy competition with your significant other will motivate you to push yourself further, but for others it can create animosity. Not sure if you can hack it? The solution is simple. Discuss your goals in advance and tailor your exercise session to suit you both.

If one of you is training for an Ironman and the other finds 5K a challenge, you’re going to struggle. So talk about what you hope to gain from running together. If it’s to push each other to succeed, great! But if you just fancy a gentle run to discuss garden maintenance, that’s OK too. Set your objectives in advance so everyone is aware of the agenda and there are no nasty surprises. Then if one of you still can’t resist zooming off, they have to do the washing up!

Be a cheerleader

If you can’t fit in a run together or your training schedules just don’t match up, you can still benefit from supporting each other. Being in a relationship is all about supporting your other half, so what better way to show you care than to be there for each other when you run too?

Accompany your partner on the Saturday morning parkrun and take it in turns to hold the baby/dog every other week. Or go all out and cheer at a race, with a big sign and a beer waiting at the finish line. If one of you doesn’t run, you can still garner enjoyment out of cheering for your partner and the shared encouragement will strengthen your relationship bonds.

‘The physical effects on the brain while exercising have been well documented,’ explains Bloom. ‘It’s a joke in our profession that if any one of us could bottle what happens to the brain when exercising we would be millionaires! Imagine the positive effects on the relationship with both of you feeling great at the same time? You can also discuss and share your training and running regimes, so it becomes a joint venture.’

Enjoy the ride

Is your partner a more experienced runner than you, or vice versa? The temptation to ‘coach’ your other half is a common one, but for even the most solid couples this can lead to problems. Unless you are a bona fide fitness coach and your partner explicitly asks you for advice, resist the urge to start relaying fitness wisdom to your beloved or critiquing their gait and just go along for the ride. For new runners, training advice can be construed as condescending when they really just need support and encouragement.

Contrary to popular belief, there is no law about running and no ‘right’ way to do it. You CAN just run for the hell of it and you don’t have to sprint like a gazelle or achieve a PB every week to enjoy yourself. The benefits of shared exercise with your partner comes from enjoying each other’s company, fresh air and uninterrupted chat time. So what are you waiting for? Hit the road!

Originally published on The Running Bug

Low on energy, feeling cranky, lacking va-va-voom? The winter blues can affect us all, but if you’re really struggling and your health is starting to suffer, you could be Vitamin D deficient. Ensuring you receive sufficient amounts of this essential vitamin is important for your health, but it can also play a vital role in your running power. 

Are you getting enough Vitamin D?
Known as the sunshine vitamin, Vitamin D is derived from sunlight on the skin and its primary function is maintaining healthy bones, teeth and muscles. Vitamin D is essential for bone development, as it helps the body to use calcium.

But given that the UK has significantly less sunlight during the winter months, between October and early March achieving the recommended dosage can be challenging for even the most dedicated long distance runner.

Why is Vitamin D so important?

It has been estimated that around 10 million people in the UK have low Vitamin D stores due to lack of sunlight in the winter months. This statistic means that approximately one in five adults isn’t getting the right amount of Vitamin D a day, which can lead to major health implications.

‘Vitamin D is made by the body when sunlight is absorbed by the skin, and is used to regulate our levels of calcium and phosphate,’ says Asina Aktar, consultant dietician at BMI.

‘These two minerals are needed by the bones and muscles to keep them healthy and strong. Vitamin D deficiency can present itself in the form of rickets in children and osteomalacia or osteoporosis in adults. These conditions cause the bones to soften and fracture or start to bend, often resulting in pain and tenderness in the bone and surrounding muscles,’ she adds.

What are the symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency?

Symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency range from fatigue to general aches and pains, increased susceptibility to illness, low mood, depression, struggling to concentrate and even problems with memory.

Dr Sam Rodgers, General Practitioner and Medical Director of Medichecks champions greater understanding of the necessity of vitamin D, and urges people in the UK to have their levels checked.

‘Insufficient levels of Vitamin D are more damaging than most people are aware,’ argues Dr Rodgers. ‘People think it’s just about bone health, and while this is an essential role of the hormone, we are reliant on it for far more. For starters, you are more likely to catch respiratory infections and it can take longer to recover from injury and illnesses.’

‘We see increased levels of autoimmune disease in people with vitamin D deficiency, this includes problems like hypothyroidism and multiple sclerosis,’ he adds. ‘There are also increased rates of heart disease such as heart attacks and heart failure. It is also important in thinking and memory.’

Where do you get Vitamin D from?

The main natural source of vitamin D is from sunlight directly on the skin. ‘It’s also advisable to make sure you get natural sunlight exposure on your face, neck and upper arms every day where possible,’ advises Boots pharmacist Angela Chalmers. ’15-20 minutes exposure each day is adequate, taking care to avoid sunburn if it’s a really sunny day.’

However, sunbathing isn’t always an option in the UK during the winter months. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency you should visit your doctor and ask for a blood test. If results show that you are deficient then it’s worth taking approved Vitamin D supplements, available in all good pharmacies and health food shops.

How much Vitamin D do you need?

The NHS recommends that babies up to the age of one year need 8.5-10mcg of vitamin D a day, children from the age of one year and adults need 10mcg of vitamin D a day.

‘To help maintain Vitamin D levels, you can buy Vitamin D supplements from healthcare retailers including your local pharmacy and you can take up to 25mcg per day,’ says Chalmers.

‘Current guidelines recommend Vitamin D supplement use to prevent deficiency among at-risk groups. These include infants and children aged under 5, pregnant and breastfeeding women, people over 65, people who have low or no exposure to the sun, and people with darker skin.’

However, proceed with caution and speak to your GP first if you’re not sure about the correct dosage, as it is possible to take too much Vitamin D. ‘Excess Vitamin D causes high calcium levels in the blood, and can result in nausea, confusion, constipation and an upset heart rhythm,’ says Asina Aktar, consultant dietician at BMI.

‘The advised limit is 100mcg and most overdoses are caused by having too many supplements rather than from the sun or certain foods.’

Can you get Vitamin D from foods?

While sunshine and supplements are the easiest ways to ensure you receive sufficient levels of Vitamin D, you can also derive it from certain foods. ‘You should increase the amount of vitamin D rich foods you eat,’ recommends Dr Sam Rodgers. ‘The richest dietary sources of vitamin D are oily fish such as salmon, sardines, mackerel and fresh tuna.’

‘Mushrooms (particularly if you leave them out to bathe in the sun) are the only good natural source for vegetarians,’ he adds. ‘Egg yolks contain Vitamin D, however you need to eat 20 a day to meet your basic vitamin D requirements, which may prove difficult! There are also a range of fortified juices, cereals and other foods so it is always worth checking the nutrition panel to see how much of your Vitamin D requirements are provided by packaged foods.’

Do runners get enough Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is particularly important for runners and fitness fans. ‘Many of us strain our bodies, by squeezing in as much exercise as we can to our busy lifestyles, in order to meet our fitness targets,’ says Cassandra Barns, nutritionist for qnutrapharma.com. ‘Vitamin D makes sure we absorb enough calcium from our foods, which helps to support our muscle growth, joints and immune system.‘

If you run outside regularly for 30 minutes a day or more, then technically you should be getting ample Vitamin D during the summer months, but in the winter this can become more of a challenge and even runners can struggle to get sufficient amounts.

‘In the UK from mid-October to the start of April, the sunlight doesn’t have enough UVB rays for the skin to create vitamin D,’ says Aktar.

‘This inefficiency leads to lots of people becoming deficient of vitamin D with a reported 39% of the population having a low vitamin D status in winter. It’s also typically more difficult for people with dark skin to get enough vitamin D because they have more melanin in their skin, which absorbs UVB rays.’

Vitamin D supplements

Top up your Vitamin D stores with one of the following supplements, and don’t forget to run outside as much as possible!

Originally published on The Running Bug

Gearing up for your first 10K or taking on a marathon? Whatever the distance, our race-day survival tips will get you across the finish line with a smile!

6 race-day survival tips

Wear your name

This is an obvious tip, but many runners often overlook the opportunity to pretend to be famous. It’s a simple equation: wear your name across your chest and people will cheer you on by name. The louder the cheers, the more you feel like a celebrity and the better your race day will be.

Chances are you work in an office/warehouse/aquarium and running a race will be your only opportunity to experience what it feels like to be a rock star. Wear your name, work the red carpet and enjoy your moment to shine.

The rubber band technique

A trick often employed by people who suffer from anxiety, the rubber band technique is ideal for runners who struggle with self-doubt. Wear a rubber band around your wrist on race day and every time a negative thought sneaks into your mind, ping it.

The little pinch is enough to snap you back into race mode and remind you about the task at hand: being fabulous.

Walk the walk

If you’re new to racing and taking on your first long-distance event, don’t be afraid to factor walk breaks into the day. We all need to start somewhere and expecting to finish a long-distance run without the odd break is a big ask.

If you mentally decide to allow walk breaks in advance, you also won’t feel guilty about it come race day, so you’ll be more likely to maintain a positive mindset as you strut down the red carpet in style.

Talk the talk

Should you start to struggle, find an interesting looking runner in your close vicinity and strike up a conversation! A few words of encouragement will work wonders for both of you, take your mind off the miles ahead and who knows, you might even make a new friend.

Dress for the occasion

Wear your favourite running gear that makes you feel sexy and your race is guaranteed to go well. (Don’t forget to opt for kit you’re used to running in to avoid the dreaded chafe.) Or if you’re feeling exceptionally brave, don something fancy and work the crowds! Look good, feel good, run better; simple.

Smile like a rock star

Don’t forget to smile! Even if you’re having a tough time, grin like a Cheshire cat every single time you see a camera en route and you will sail through. A recent study published in Psychological Science found that even forced smiles can decrease your stress and make you feel happier.

Smiling not only makes you feel good, but you’ll also look considerably better in your race-day pictures, which you will treasure forever after smashing your first race like the star that you are.

Originally published on The Running Bug

New to running and not convinced you fit in? Stop feeling like an imposter and bound your way to running success in five easy steps.

How to stop feeling like a running imposter

Do you enjoy running but feel like a fraud if you call yourself a ‘real runner’? We’ve all been there, but whether you’re running one mile or 100, there’s no reason why you should feel that way. Follow our simple steps to stop the cycle and accept your status as a bonafide runner.

1. Log your miles

When you can see your progress first hand it’s much easier to accept that it’s reality. Jot down your miles in your daily diary or log them on the Running Bug and see how they quickly add up. The miles don’t run themselves, do they? You do. 

2. Earn some race bling

One of the best ways to realise that you’re a real runner is to put your training to the test and take your legs to a start line.  The cheering crowds will make you feel like running royalty and you’ll soon see that your ability is just like the other runners around you. Regardless of whether you’re going for gold or simply happy to cross the finish line, this victory and your newly-earned medal should leave you beaming with pride.

3. Treat yourself to new kit

Sometimes it pays to treat yourself to a new pair of trainers, a snazzy running watch or a cool outfit. Style isn’t everything in life but comfort and feeling your best are big factors to running well. Invest in some technical running kit and you’ll definitely start to feel the part.

4. Patience = progress

Whether you’re just starting out or taking on an important challenge, remember that any progress takes time and patience. No one was born with the instant ability to run marathons, not even Paula Radcliffe. So if you want to push yourself, accept that you might fall at a few hurdles before getting there. And that’s perfectly fine.

5. Stop comparing yourself to other runners

We’re all different people, with different bodies, goals and dreams. Within that we all have certain things that we might need to work harder at than others. Don’t feel bummed out because your workmate is quicker at 5K or runs half marathons for breakfast. Be happy for them and use their success as a goal to aim for, not compare with.

In the words of marathon runner John Bingham: ‘If you run, you are a runner. It doesn’t matter how fast or how far. It doesn’t matter if today is your first day or if you’ve been running for twenty years. There is no test to pass, no license to earn, no membership card to get. You just run.’

Originally published on The Running Bug

New to running and not sure where to start? Joining a club could be just the ticket.

4 great reasons to join a running club
For beginner runners, the prospect of joining a running club can be intimidating. If you’ve only been running for a short time, you might not feel like a bona fide runner and worry about keeping up with Lycra-clad athletes.

But becoming a club member can improve your running in a myriad of ways. Now is the time to lace up your kicks and join the running revolution!

Friends for life

Perhaps one of the biggest incentives to join a running club is nothing to do with fitness at all – it’s actually the people you meet! Running clubs are packed to the rafters with likeminded people and you’ll soon make lots of new friends to chat to about your favourite sport.

Running pals also provide an excellent incentive to return every week, so sign up today and start making friends.

Make great strides

Surrounding yourself with experienced runners may be scary at first, but if you’re brave and make the leap, your run club buddies will have a positive impact on your running. Learn from your friends, reap the benefits of expert coaching available and watch your running soar.

Your fellow runners are also the best people to talk to about pacing, local physios, new running routes and kit tips.

Mix it up

We all have a favourite running route, but while it’s great to stick to a routine, sometimes you need to mix it up. Running clubs will encourage you to vary your training and add something different into the mix.

Many clubs work with coaches who organise different sessions including speed work, hills and longer runs. Take advantage of the experts and enjoy mixing up your runs.

Become a bona fide runner

When we first start out, many of us struggle to even call ourselves a runner. By entering a running club you will feel like you earned your place in the running community and embrace your new role as a bona fide runner.

In the words of the athlete Kara Goucher, ‘It doesn’t matter how fast or how far you’re going. If you’re putting on your shoes and going out for a run, you are a runner, you are in that club.’

To find a running club in your area visit runtogether.co.uk or chat to fellow runners right here at The Running Bug!