The biggest challenge you face when you decide to take up jogging is knowing where to start and, once you have committed to the idea, the next major obstacle is your mind.
Many of my clients are surprised when they realise that their biggest hurdle is not the distance, speed or their fitness levels, it truly is the mind. Becoming mentally focused on the goal ahead is vital.
Your mind can be your arch enemy or best friend. So, before you set out on this life-changing path, remember that each jog will be different -- they will not all be gut-wrenching, some will actually feel fantastic -- but as long as you keep your mind strong and focused, your body will follow.
Telling yourself that you can do this, even if sometimes you don't believe it, is more important than you can imagine.
Being positive and believing in yourself also makes for a more enjoyable experience. If you are feeling low and defeatist, jogging won't be much fun. Give it socks and approach every workout with high energy and expectation, who knows where you will be this time next year!
First things first, you must get the right pair of trainers. This will be your biggest expense but your best buy. Go to any reputable sports shop and get gait analysis on your feet -- this will determine which trainer is right for you. It is imperative to jog with the right trainer if you want minimal injuries and comfortable jogging.
You must have a goal. Without this, you have no focus and you will most likely give up during those bad days and weeks. Pencil in a race like the FIT Magazine 5k/10k in the Phoenix Park on March 9. This will be your main goal and gives you plenty of time to build up your fitness safely. You also need weekly motivation, otherwise the main 5k goal will feel overwhelming. Your weekly goals will keep you motivated with three workouts to do each week.
We all need a direction and if you get overwhelmed just focus on that week's training. Remind yourself why you are doing this and think about how great it will feel when you cross the finish line.
Yes, it might sound simple, but you must be able to walk before you jog. Many people attempt the 5k by trying to jog the full distance, or close to it, on their first training session! Follow the programme (right), even if sometimes you are tempted to keep going, and you will safely make it to 5k in eight weeks.
Commit to three workouts a week. This is the minimum required for you to progress from walking to jogging safely.
Couch to 5k is not about the pace, it is about the distance. So slow down! The most important thing is DO NOT STOP. Slow right down and don't worry about how long it takes or who is passing you out. This is your goal not theirs.
Ensure you warm up and cool down before and after your jog. Stretching is very important also, especially after your workout, to minimise soreness. If jogging at night, wear high-visibility clothing.
It may seem crazy, but it's natural when you are exerting yourself to hold your breath. Don't do this! Your breath is your energy, so learn to master it. Try to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Pace your breath with your steps, this technique also helps to take your mind off the pain!
You are embarking on a new form of exercise so expect to feel pain in muscles you never thought you had! Listen to your body, pay attention to aches and pains, if you are in doubt about anything see a physiotherapist. If you leave niggles they can become full-blown injuries and this will put a stop to your 2014 jogging plans.
Rest is hugely important and a key element in injury prevention. You must allow the muscles time to recover in order for them to work efficiently.
You may find as you train harder you need extra food. This isn't a ticket to fast-food heaven. Maintain a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, lean protein and complex carbohydrates to fuel your new jogger's body.
Talk to people who have done this before, learn from them. Joggers are always more than happy to talk about their experiences.
Train in a group -- I teach Couch to 5k classes and the camaraderie is great. Everyone is in it together and there is a sense of achievement when the group reaches the 5k mark. You learn from the people you run with too. If you are signed up for a class, or you have arranged to meet people, it is much harder to give up.
Best of luck to you all. I have seen so many people achieve their 5k goal and I know you can, too. And remember . . . a 5k is just the beginning. Where there's a 5k, there's a 10k. And where there's a 10k, a half-marathon lurks just around the bend.
Before beginning this programme, build up your fitness by power-walking three times per week. Build it up to 30 minutes non-stop.
You can repeat any week if you feel you aren't ready to go on to the next week. Just stick at it!