Finding running routes in urban areas may not be as hard as you think. Mountain runner Max Nicholls tells us how he trains for National and World Championships by finding routes in South London.
When it's cold and dark, or you're tired, or just not in the mood to exercise, it's very easy to find an excuse not to go for a run outside – yet running is one of the best forms of exercise out there. In an attempt to get you out there, we've put together 20 reasons to love running!
1) It keeps you healthy: As you know, any form of regular exercise is good for you and running is proven to help you live longer, through reducing your chances of developing heart disease and other illnesses. It strengthens the heart, keeping the arteries open and the blood flowing. The hearts of inactive people reportedly beat 36,000 times more per day than those of active people.
2) You improve quickly: Unlike some other hobbies, improvements in running are noticeable. You might only be able to endure half a mile on your first go, but the next could see you break through the one mile barrier, or your times could be that bit quicker. This, of course, serves as great motivation.
3) The gear is cool: While you can run in any t-shirt and sweatpants, the range of proper running clothing is temptingly good. It’s also specially designed to wick away sweat, keep you warm or cool as appropriate, and to ensure that you are seen in low light. Plus there are some crazy designs out there.
4) It makes you feel good: Running releases endorphins; the hormones that make you feel happy and give you a boost. These chemicals also mute pain, helping you to go that bit further. The feeling can actually be addictive and how often do you come across a ‘good’ addiction?
5) Anyone can do it: The great thing about running is that it’s pretty much all inclusive. You don’t have to be a six foot, 25-year old male or petite 18-year old to run, anyone can do it. You can start with short, gentle runs and then build up. Though it might be worth checking with your GP first, if you’re not sure whether running is right for you.
6) No equipment necessary: Most sports require a racket, padding, balls or nets. In fact, running is probably one of the only equipment-free sports. A good pair of trainers is all that’s required to get you started. This also means that it’s a cheap hobby to take up. Double win!
7) See different parts of the countryside: As you’re not restricted to defined roads and paths, as you would be on a bike for instance, running effectively opens up the whole country for you. Discover areas – both near and far – that are beautiful and totally new to you. Pretty soon you’ll realise that the UK is one great, long running track.
8) Goodbye stress: There’s nothing better for alleviating stress and promoting calm than running. You can actually feel the pressure drop with every pounding footstep. It’s also great for getting rid of a rage. Again, the feel-good endorphins come into play, making you feel far better than you did before.
9) Nip that cold in the bud: Okay, so expert opinion appears to be divided over whether you should run when you have a cold, but the general consensus seems to be that if it’s just a head cold, then get those trainers on. Researchers find that regular activity can actually halve the likelihood of catching a cold in the first place and in the event you did, make the infection less severe.
10) You can eat (almost) guilt-free: On average, running burns around 100 calories per mile, which means you are perfectly justified in consuming that post-run burger/pint/chocolate cake. In all seriousness of course, we all know that regular exercise and a balanced diet is the way to go, but you do need to make sure you eat enough of the right things to provide enough fuel for your run. Bananas and carb-rich foods like pasta and quinoa are perfect.
11) You don’t have to go to a special place: Open that front door and go! You don’t need to drive to a track, a court, a green or a centre to run. Even circuits of your garden will do, providing you don’t get too dizzy. Could it get any easier?
12) Flattens the belly: If this isn’t motivation to run, then I don’t know what is. Running burns visceral fat, that’s the stubborn, hard-to-shift abdominal stuff, aka the wobbly belly. As you run, your core naturally twists and lengthens - you’ll feel your tummy tighten. If you can hold the muscles in at the same time, you could really help slim that roll. Keep at it and you could see that stomach become more defined.
13) Gadgets: it seems a day doesn’t pass without a new running gadget being launched at the moment. Whether it’s a new app for your phone or a fancy Fitbit to assess your performance, taking up running pretty much entitles any gadget freaks out there to go shopping!
14) Doesn’t matter if you go alone: Some sports require whole teams of people, meaning your activity is reliant on others actually showing up. Not running, though. With running, you are free to go out alone, to go as far or as fast as you like. You alone determine each and every run and you answer to no one!
15) You can enter a fun run: Don’t groan, these can be really enjoyable and allow you to do some good. A fun run gives you a goal to reach, a target to meet. It assesses your progress while enabling you (perhaps) to raise some money for a good cause. Plus you can get away with running in fancy dress.
16) Counts as ‘me’ time: We’ve already extolled the benefits of being able to run alone in terms of determining your own run, but running can also serve as an opportunity for ‘me’ time. Runners can invest in their own health and fitness - away from work, the family or whatever else - without feeling overindulgent or selfish. Running can help clear your head and some people find they have their best ideas while pounding the streets.
17) Promotes quality sleep: Providing you don’t go too close to bedtime, running can help you sleep. Naturally, you’ll be tired from the run, but with any luck, you’ll be less stressed and feeling good, too. This is a cyclical benefit: the more the sleep you get, the better your next run could be.
18) You can make friends: Why not join a local running group and make some new friends? You’ll find people of all abilities at the group and could pick up some useful techniques which could stop you developing bad habits. Sometimes it’s nice to run with a friend rather than just your iPod.
19) The whole family can get involved: If you are looking for an activity that can bring the whole family together, then running could be it. Lots of children love running with their mums and/or dads; it gets them off the sofa and enables you to spend more time together. You could even nurture a young Jo Pavey or Mo Farah, who knows?
20) You never know what you might see: One blogger said he saw some real sights on his early morning runs, suggesting more people should keep their curtains closed. Jokes aside, you never know what you might see on your run: deer in a field, a super attractive fellow runner or even just a beautiful sunrise. No two runs are ever the same.Find running trails with OS Maps Top tips for Winter Running