Since becoming Running Mayor of Clapham, I've been speaking with local businesses to see how we can work together to help spread awareness of the Runsome campaign in order to encourage more people to run some of their every day journeys and errands.
One of these businesses happens to be the school that my boys go to, a school that has a rather fabulous Wellbeing Hub, providing support to not just the children but to the staff and parents too. The department is run by Paula Kearney and recently we've spoken about ways to promote running in the school and also outside of school by encouraging more people to actually run the 'school run'.
When she then asked me to be a guest on the school Podcast I jumped at the chance, even though I'd never done anything like this before and the thought of doing it filled me with dread and fear!!
Thankfully she gave me the heads up with regards to what she'd like to discuss so that I was able to prepare some notes ahead of the podcast recording, but even so I was still rather nervous when the time came to actual do it! I'm sure I babbled on way too quickly and fluffed up loads of words but regardless I thought it would be useful to share what we spoke about..
"Jules, can you tell me a little about the Runsome campaign and your role as a Running Mayor?"
The campaign was set up by Runners World magazine and Active Things: A coalition of running enthusiasts, organisations, brands and clubs. It's aim is to inspire more people to use running as active form of transport by running some of their errands for example to the shops, dentist or Post Office etc and also more everyday journeys like the commute to/from work and even the school run!
In doing so we are promoting better physical health, better mental health and improved air quality in our communities.
Every trip without a car counts.. running is cheap, it’s typically twice as fast as walking, often faster than driving in congested cities AND has a low carbon footprint. A 1/4 of UK journeys are a mile or less and over 2/3 of car trips in UK cities under 3 miles so there is plenty of opportunity to leave the car at home!
The Runsome campaign and petition hopes to influence the government to recognise running as active travel, just as they do cycling and walking. As part of the Government's Build Back Better plan, we are asking for running to be included in their £2bn budget for Active Travel .. providing funding to make it easier and accessible for people to choose running as a form of active travel.
The petition is also to urge the Government to boost funding and guidance to equip & enable more GP surgeries to prescribe running on the NHS.
A sharp rise in depression and anxiety is occurring as lockdown eases, in what experts warn will be a post-Covid mental health crisis. 4 / 10 people say that Covid has made their mental health worse and a report at the turn of the year by the Centre for Mental Health reported that an extra 10 million people in England alone would need extra mental health support.
In 2020 the cost of mental health support in England reached £120bn, and the Centre for Mental Health reports that Rishi Sunak has pledged a further £500m more to the NHS in 2021, which experts say is not enough. The UK has among the highest use of antidepressant use in Europe, and it’s time to give more priority to complementary solutions:
Running is low cost, can be started by almost everyone at any time; requires no specialist expertise and very litttle equipment, and has been repeatedly shown to have a positive effect on depression and anxiety, with one study showing that just 15 minutes a day of running can reduce the risk of major depression by up to a massive 25%.
Running, in different forms and formats, is already socially prescribed - including referrals to grassroots communities like Run Talk Run, GoodGym and, most widely, Parkrun. Each has significant potential to grow, as well as other formats like RunSome, which engages people to run - and walk - some local journeys and commutes.
The RUNNING MAYORS are Ambassadors for the Runsome campaign. There are over 60 across the UK and even couple further afield, in other parts of Europe and the US.
Our task is to inspire more people in the community to run more or take up running if they don’t already and to become a voice for our local running communities.
Running Mayors champion running as a form of active travel, identify barriers that prevent people from choosing running as active travel and help come up with solutions; for example you may prefer to run home from work so you’re not arriving all hot, bothered and sweaty. The same goes for the school run and you could also choose days when your child is allowed to go in dressed in sports kit and also pick days when you know they have less to carry!
Everyone can join in and spread the work on social media – Simply run some errands / short journeys, share a photo on social media and don’t forget to use the #RUNSOME – EASY!
I have also set up a private Facebook group called Runsome Run Together Clapham dedicated to the residents of Clapham and the surrounding areas. This group acts as a network for local runners, a place to report safety concerns they might have or issues they have come across on their runs, a place to share routes or to buddy up for runs etc.
As a byproduct of the Facebook group I decided to start the Clapham Runsome Social Running Group! We meet on Mondays at 7pm and it is absolutely FREE!! Every level of runner is welcome as we do what is called a 'Loop Back' run, meaning when the faster runners reach the front they loop back around to the join those at the back of the group before making their way back to the front. This way everyone gets to run their own pace but also stays together as a group. It's a great way to meet likeminded people in the community, have a chat and just have fun with your running! If you'd like to join us please register here.
"How can novices work more movement in to their day?"
If you live a little further afield from your destination, then instead of running the whole journey, consider getting off your train or bus a few stops early and running or walking the rest. If you have to use your car, park a little further away than you would normally so you can do the same. Not only will you be getting in some exercise but it will ease congestion around your school and also means you’ll get far less stressed trying to find a parking space!
Whenever possible use the stairs rather than the lift or elevator – at work, shopping centres, hotels etc
If working from home, try a higher surface for your laptop and stand for a while you work…. Even include some simple exercises like calf raises while you’re standing at your desk (GREAT exercise for runners if they want to avoid injury!).
If you are sitting for a long time, make sure you set reminders to get up and walk around… take a proper break, go for a walk to get a coffee rather than just walking to your kitchen to make one!
Try some stretches.. you can even do plenty of effective stretches whilst sitting at your desk!! Things like shoulder rolls, neck stretches, side bends and ankle rotations.
Join something like a gym class or running group – you are more likely to stick to exercise once it is scheduled in your diary on a regular basis. Signing up for a regular class or group holds you more accountable and you will feel more motivated by exercising with others.. not to mention have a lot of fun!
"What if you don't like running or can't run for some reason?"
Then walk! Walking can provide similar health benefits to running without the impact on your joints. There are plenty of walking groups out there as well as running clubs and groups. The RunTalkRun website I mentioned earlier also have many WalkTalkWalk groups!
Swimming is also a good option if you want a low impact exercise – you can even try Aqua Running (running in the pool). Gyms also provide plenty of low impact cardio equipment, with machines such as a spin bike or ELLIPTICAL trainer (cross trainer). Of course all of these options are not forms of active travel but still great just to get you moving.
"Do you have any tips you can give on how to get children involved in running?"
It's important to make running and any kind of exercise fun no matter what age you are! Nobody is going to want to do it if it feels like a chore.
For younger kids you can engage them in games that encourage them to run around more. The ActiveKids website has plenty of ideas.
Make the run home from school in to a treasure hunt where they have to spot different objects along the way. Perhaps they get a tiny treat each time they find one.
Set up a family sports day in the summer holidays – especially because we can’t be part of their sports days this year!
Children can be quite competitive so why not encourage them to try Junior Parkrun. Just as with the adult Parkrun (returning soon I hope!) they get an official time when they take part. The closest Junior Parkruns to Clapham are in Tooting Common, Wimbledon Park and Brockwell Park.
You could try setting a goal with older children or other family members. Do the C25K together and then even enter a 5k race!
Whatever you do with your children don't forget to praise them for their efforts no matter how big or small! Become their best cheerleader and they will hopefully want to do it again!!
"Some people might be put off in case they get injured. Do you have any tips on how to prevent injuries?"
Don’t do too much too soon. Always build up the amount of days you run and the distance you run gradually. The NHS C25K app is good however if you prefer to run with others then I offer a ZERO to 5K course. This suits some people more as you get more motivation from a group, weekly coached sessions AND strength exercises to do at home support your training!
Strength training is so important for runner to build resilience in the muscles you use for running and in your supporting muscles around your joints. Bodyweight and Resistance exercises are both good and very easy to do at home, you don’t need a gym!
I am also a big advocate of Cross Training. Choose activities that work different muscles so you are not putting more unnecessary stress on the major muscles used in running. Choose low impact activities so as not to put extra stress on the joints. Basically the things I mentioned earlier.. swimming, cycling etc are a perfect accompaniment to running.
Pilates and Yoga are also great. Not only are they low impact but they are perfect for mobility and posture which is important for good running form, therefore minimising injury.
It's important to get in to good habits from the start. Always include a proper warm up and always stretch after your run!
At home you can use tools like a foam roller or massage gun and if you really want to look after your body I recommend regular sport massages. They are not the most relaxing of experiences but well worth it to keep injuries at bay!
Lastly ALWAYS LISTEN TO YOUR BODY! If you feel something isn't right, don't be stubborn and push on. Take a few days rest and then try again. Better to approach it this way rather than causing damage and having to take weeks off rehabbing an injury that may have been prevented! I have been the stubborn runner way too many times and even now I'm still learning the warning signs..
"Finally, do you have any pearls of wisdom for novice and experienced runners alike?"
Make running enjoyable – look around you, notice new things and breathe in the fresh air!
Smile when you’re out running. It makes harder runs so much more bearable and smiling is infectious so spread your happiness with others you meet on your route!
Don’t compare yourself to other runners. We are all on a different journey, have a different amount of experience and are striving towards different goals.
If you find exercise hard to stick to make sure you actually set time aside in your diary and write down when you will do it. This is why joining a group is a good idea or working with a coach who can write a personalised plan for you.
Social Media tends to be a place where we can often find stories of people doing brilliantly and can sometime make us feel like we are not doing as well as others – BUT YOU ARE DOING BRILLIANTLY! Any form of active travel you can include in your daily life without hopping straight in the car means you are doing something brilliant for yourself; for your physical and mental health, for your family by perhaps inspiring them to get active too, for your community by helping to make it a happier and healthier place AND the environment by improving the quality of our air…. so BE PROUD!
Just remember YOU DON’T NEED TO RUN FAR, YOU DON’T NEED TO RUN FAST, YOU JUST NEED TO RUN SOME!