They call the third Monday in January 'blue Monday' because it seems that the poor weather, debt accumulated over Christmas, failing our New Year's resolutions and low motivational levels can leave us feeling at our lowest ebb. Here are 5 things you can do right now to pick yourself up and instantly feel better this January.
1. Get moving
It may seem obvious, but regular exercise will always be at the top of the list when it comes to getting out of a slump and making yourself feel better. The wonderful thing about exercise is that it releases 'happy' hormones known as endorphins and so even if you're working on 4 hours sleep and feeling rotten from a common cold, doing some exercise – even just something light – will instantly make you feel better.
Get out and go for a jog or a walk to brush off the cobwebs and get your heart beating. You'll enjoy that famous 'runner's high' and it will also help to relax you and work off any frustrations you may be holding on to.
Read more: Benefits Of Outdoor Training
2. Call a relative
Many of us don't enjoy being forced to spend time with relatives over Christmas, but January can end up being a lonely time if we distance ourselves from everyone around us. Give your parents or siblings a quick phone call to check in on them; if you're feeling low, maybe they are too and hearing your voice will pick them up. We often take our close family for granted, so it's important to check in from time to time.
3. Eat your vegetables
All of the sugar, fat, salt, and alcohol that you've consumed over the festive period won't be doing your physical or mental well-being any good and chances are you haven't been keeping up your fruit and vegetable intake (Brussels sprouts aside). Make a conscious effort to eat more fruit and vegetables throughout January to top up your micro-nutrients and give your body the best chance at recovering and helping you feel good.
Read more: Which Vitamins Should I Be Taking?
4. Take a Vitamin D supplement
On the same note as the previous point, keeping your Vitamin D levels topped up is vital throughout winter months. Taking a Vitamin D supplement can help to boost your mood instantly as well as reducing the likelihood of catching common colds and the flu as it will give your immune system a well needed boost.
How often do you take time to slow down and focus on yourself? Getting back to work after the Christmas break can be a real shock to the system and suddenly you have a million things back on your to-do list and 250 unread emails in your inbox. Add this to the stresses of home life and you've got a recipe for disaster.
Take some time to meditate, whether this is 5 minutes in the morning or 20 minutes in the evening before bed, it will all make a difference.
Read more: What Are The Health Benefits Of Meditation?
We spoke with prolific cyclist and fitness blogger Lisa Thake about how to make winter cycling more comfortable, enjoyable and safe so that you don't have to take all of your rides indoors and can still enjoy cycling in the beautiful outdoors, whatever the weather.
It looks as though the colder weather is here for another couple of months, but that doesn’t mean you need to stop cycling outside. They say, "There is no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing choices" and this is very true, along with some other changes you can make. Here are my top 5 winter cycling tips.
Dress In Layers
Depending on temperature and personal preference, you can start with items that can be added and removed very easily such as arm warmers, leg warmers and a cycling gilet. Even some waterproof jackets can be stored away small enough to tuck into a jersey pocket if necessary. I personally opt to change from bib shorts to bib tights in winter so I do not need leg warmers.
You'll also want a good thermal cycling jacket that is breathable and temperature regulating so that you can stay warm without overheating. Base layers are all too often overlooked and with good wicking material, even if damp from sweat or rain, will retain the properties that keep you warm.
I opt for clothing that is also water-resistant to ensure I stay warm but that if I am also caught out in bad weather, the rain will simply run off. Swapping to full finger winter gloves to ensure your hands stay warm is essential and I also opt for glove liners with mine as some winter gloves can get sweaty inside.
Toe covers or cycling overshoes, again those where water beads off, will help maintain your cycling shoes and ensure your feet stay warm. Very often, if your feet are cold, the rest of you can feel cold too. I always cover my ears as they are often the first place where I really feel the cold – you can use a wide headband for this or a thermal under-helmet skull hat, both of which do the job well. Lastly, the humble buff – such a versatile item that can be used in multiple ways. I mostly use mine as a neck warmer but during events I have done through the night where the temperature drops, I have pulled it up over my head and neck for more coverage. Whilst not technically kit, I also swap my glasses and on some you may be able to change lenses too – a yellow lens is great for low light or overcast conditions and clear are perfect for night riding.
Invest In Bicycle Lights
It's surprising how dark it is early in the morning and how quickly it gets dark in the evening, so good bicycle lights are key. There are many lights on the market to choose from; I recently got a light from Bontrager and although the price tag is quite high, it is really bright and the battery is long-lasting. As I commute and take part in events that go through the night, good front and rear lights are a wise investment. When commuting, I add extra lights for added visibility. I know many people who also recommend lights from CatEye and Lezyne.
Go High Vis
Following on from lights, being safe and seen is very important and reflective fabrics or accents to clothing and bags are great as an extra safety measure to ensure visibility on the road and cycle paths.
Choose The Right Bike Tyres
There are a lot of different opinions on this, but it stands to reason to choose tyres appropriate for the weather. The fact is that the wet washes more flint, stones and everything else on the road and this causes punctures. I usually ride Continental 4 Seasons all year round and find them great. My new bike came with S-Works tyres and whilst I have put in some decent mileage, they recently needed replacing and, on recommendation, I have swapped to Continental 5000, which also had a very positive review on Cycling Weekly.
If you are fortunate enough to have different summer and winter bikes, you will find this time of year is when you check the forecast and make a judgement as to which bike you want to be using and over the coming months it is more than likely the summer bike will be hung up for a while. You may also opt to ride with an additional spare tube and gas canister as there is unfortunately an increase in punctures during winter months.
Happy winter cycling!
Whether it's for charity, to prove to yourself that you can do it, or just for fun, running your first marathon is a huge milestone. We're here with all of the information you need in preparation for running your first marathon.
Choosing your marathon
Choosing the right marathon can have a huge impact on your success and enjoyment on the day. Most people opt for one of the six World Marathon Majors as their first marathon as they are the most renowned. These marathon majors are London, New York, Chicago, Boston, Tokyo, and Berlin. These are the marathons that have gained iconic status over the years due to being so well organised, having such great support, and being set in beautiful cities.
Due to being so popular, these marathons all have difficult entry processes and you cannot simply pay an entry fee to gain a place.
London Marathon Ballot Entry
There are three ways to enter the London marathon: enter the public ballot, run for charity, or achieve a Good For Age place.
The London marathon public ballot opens at the beginning of May of each year, about a week after the race, and is open for a week to give everyone a fair chance of entering. Results are then published 6 months later in October when eager hopefuls will either receive a magazine through the post notifying them that they have been successful or a commiseration email telling them they have not got a place. A record 414,168 hopefuls entered the 2018 ballot to run in 2019, making the London marathon the most popular marathon in the world.
However, this also means your chances of getting a ballot place are very slim. In 2016, almost a quarter of a million people entered the ballot in the hopes of achieving one of the 17,000 allocated ballot places. That means that each person only had a 7% chance of getting a ballot place. With nearly twice that many people entering the ballot in 2018, your chances of gaining a ballot place are pretty tiny.
One of the easiest ways to run the London marathon is by gaining a place through a charity. There are numerous charities who provide runners with places in return for raising at least £2,000 for their charity.
Finally, there are Good For Age places. However, you have to be very speedy to attain one of these places. For a man under the age of 40 you'll have to be able to run sub 3 hours and women will have to run sub 3 hours 45.
The Boston marathon is also famed for its strict and tough entry process. For this race, you can only enter if you achieve a 'BQ' or a charity place.
If you BQ, that means you have managed to run a marathon in a Boston qualifying time. For men under the age of 35, that's sub 3 hours and for women of the same age it's sub 3 hours 30. However, it is made even harder by the fact that entries are always over subscribed each year, meaning the actual BQ time is often lower than this target.
For example, those who entered to run in 2019 had to achieve a time 4 minutes and 52 seconds faster than the qualifying standard. Therefore a man under the age of 35 would have had to achieve a BQ of under 2:55:08 - very speedy!
Entering your first marathon
Due to the strict and often difficult entry processes of the World Marathon Majors, it may be an idea to run your first marathon somewhere that allows simple paid entries. Unless you are willing to take on the stress of raising a huge amount of money alongside the gruelling training, there are plenty of other marathons out there that are perfect for your first marathon.
Three such popular marathons in the UK and Europe are Brighton marathon in East Sussex, England, Paris marathon in France, and Edinburgh marathon in Scotland. Each of these races simply require you to pay the entry fee and you're in. They are equally well organised with fantastic routes in beautiful cities and still benefit from overwhelming positive support at the sidelines. It's certainly worth considering a less famous marathon to be your first.
What is a good time to run a marathon?
Finding the right pace for you is hugely important for your first marathon, but don't try to achieve an unrealistic time. Everyone is different and a good time for your marathon will depend entirely on your age, gender, body weight, how long you've been running, and your ultimate goals. Are you just running to have fun and enjoy the experience or are you competitive and looking to run as fast as possible? As this is your first marathon, you don't yet have a personal best time to try and beat, but having a goal in mind is a great motivator.
Of course, the previously mentioned Good For Age times are an excellent indicator of just that: what is a good marathon time for your age. However, so long as you enjoy yourself and get out of it what you wanted, your time really is irrelevant.
That said, it's important to train enough that you can run a sensible pace and not end up on your feet for too long. Putting your body under that much strain can be pretty dangerous and you want to be able to put up a good fight rather than having to walk most of the course. After all, the quicker you run the quicker it will be over!
Training for your first marathon
The most important factor in your success of running a marathon is your training. Whether you're a complete beginner to exercise or you've run up to half marathon distance, running a full marathon is a completely different experience and requires full dedication as well as knowledge on nutrition and hydration.
Finding a good training plan
Your first port of call should be finding a great training plan that suits you and your goals. One of the most popular places to find marathon training plans is Hal Higdon's website. An American writer and marathon runner, Hal has written over 30 best-selling marathon training books and guides and has contributed to Runner's World longer than any other writer. His training plans cover something for everyone from the beginner to the intermediate to the advanced. For your first marathon, it's recommended to go for one of the beginner training plans.
Fitting training around work and home life
Before you commit to running a marathon, it's important to know that you must remain dedicated over several months and put in the time to train. This means your social life will likely suffer and you may need to give up things like alcohol and tighten up your diet. Speak with your family and friends about your intentions to make sure they are on board as their support could be invaluable to your success.
You also need to make sure you have the time to fit training around your work life. There are plenty of ways to fit training into your daily routine, such as running early in the morning before work, working out at work such as at lunchtime, and incorporating training into your commute. Explore these avenues and find out what is going to work best for you.
Many of the popular UK and European marathons take place in spring time, meaning you will be training over winter. This comes with its own perils such as unexpected snowfall and freezing temperatures. Make sure you have the right activewear for winter running as this will make winter training more bearable. Your essentials should be a long sleeved training top with temperature control to keep you warm without overheating and a water resistant running jacket and glove to protect you against the elements.
Many people who have run a spring marathon say that training through the winter is the toughest part. Dark evening runs after work and cold early morning starts can make motivation difficult, but if you keep your goals in mind and stay dedicated you will be able to enjoy working out and stay motivated.
Both Berlin marathon and New York marathon take place later in the year, meaning the bulk of your training will take place over summer. As we saw in 2018, a freak heatwave can really make a difference to your training and it's important to stay safe when running in hot weather. Be sure to carry extra water and be flexible with your training. Listen to your body and adjust your speed accordingly, as running at 100% effort in soaring temperatures and blazing sunshine probably won't end well.
Nutrition and hydration
Any marathon runner will tell you that you could put in endless miles and countless training hours but it will all be for nothing if you don't crack your hydration and nutrition strategy. As we saw in London in 2018 when a woman fell into a coma after crossing the finish line, hydrating with only water can be potentially dangerous and it's important to replenish your electrolytes and sodium as well.
Drinking a sports drink and taking sodium supplements will combat this easily so make sure they are a part of your hydration and nutrition strategy. It's also important to be able to adjust your strategy for the weather on race day, as you could have been training in sub-zero temperatures but will need more water than you think on an unseasonably hot April day.
Finding what works for you
There is no one-size-fits-all hydration and nutrition plan; you will have to devise your own. Some people are fine with a few litres of water and some energy gels while others find that fuelling with real food is much more effective. You can even make your own energy gels and bars for endurance training so that you know exactly what's gone into them; especially effective for those with a sensitive stomach or a food intolerance.
Make sure you trial different things in your training to find what works for you so that there are no surprises on race day. It's also important to be as self-sufficient as possible once you have found what works for you, as not all races will have what you need at the aid stations.
What to eat during a marathon
Some of the best foods to eat during a long endurance event like a marathon include:
- Protein balls
- Peanut butter sandwiches
- Pretzels (good for sodium but can be very dry, especially if you’re dehydrated)
- Pickles and pickle juice
- Dried or fresh fruit
- Sugar cubes
- Energy gels
- Sports/electrolyte drink
Top Tip: If you take on a lot of energy gels and sugary drinks during training, brush your teeth as soon as you get home to protect against cavities and tooth loss due to the excessive sugar consumption.
Cross Training For Runners
Once you have your training plan in place, you need to make sure you are also doing effective cross training. Putting in a lot of miles is a given for marathon training, but in order to avoid injury and perform at your best you will also need to cross train.
Cross training for runners is any other type of training apart from running that will supplement and enhance your training. Some of the best types of cross training are strength training at the gym, swimming, and cycling. All of these are low impact sports which will give your joints a chance to rest after pounding the pavements for hours on end while simultaneously working your muscles and increasing your power and strength, all necessary for putting in a good performance on race day.
What to expect at your first marathon
As the big day draws near it is completely natural to start to feel nervous. You will be wanting to know what to expect at your first marathon so that it doesn't come as much of a shock. Here are some of the most common things you're likely to experience at your first marathon.
Long toilet queues
If you've done a lot of races you'll already know the frustrations of a couple of portable toilets trying to accommodate thousands of runners and this won't be any different at a major marathon. The key is to join the queue early and be patient. So long as you get there with plenty of time, you won't miss the start and the time you spend in the queue would just be time spent pacing back and forth in your starting pen anyway. A top tip is to take a small amount of toilet paper with you as there probably won't be any by the time you get to the front of the queue.
A busy start
The start of a marathon with thousands of runners is always going to be busy and it may take a while to cross the start line. At this point you will be feeling pretty anxious and nervous but also very excited. Take this time to make sure you have everything you need and in place ready to run. Make sure your running watch is ready to go and switch it on early to make sure it can find a GPS signal among all the people.
Setting off too fast
All the excitement of the start may well cause you to set off too fast. Stick to your pacing plan and keep an eye on your watch to help you stay on track. Don't be tempted to rush off with everyone else; keep calm and start sensibly so that you can enjoy the race.
Hitting the wall
This is one of the most common fears among marathon runners and for good reason. Hitting the wall can take the form of anything from feeling a little lightheaded to physically not being able to move. The key to not hitting the wall when running is to stick to your nutrition and hydration strategy and to stay as hydrated as possible.
Read race reports
If you want to be well prepared on what to expect for the particular marathon you are running, it's a great idea to read race reports from people who have been there, done it, and got the finisher's t-shirt.
Experiencing the best day of your life
Even if you're hobbling along with sore feet, painful joints, and no energy, when you hit that finish line it will all be forgotten and you will remember this as one of the best days of your life. Running a marathon is a huge accomplishment and all of the long training sessions, dedication, and compromise will be worth it when you cross that line. The elation you feel will be like nothing else.
Getting to the start line uninjured
One thing you will hear from a lot of people training for a marathon, whether it's their first or their 10th, is that getting to the start line uninjured is a big deal. It can be all too easy to over-train and end up with an injury that hinders your chances of performing at your best or even running at all. Some of the most common running injuries are caused by pushing yourself too hard and doing too much too soon, especially if you're new to running.
In order to stay injury-free, always listen to your body during training and don't underestimate the importance of rest. Some of the best ways to deal with running injuries are not to push through the pain, learn from your mistakes, and don't rush your comeback. Rest up and ease back into your training gently. Ideally, you shouldn't get injured at all when training for a marathon. So long as you eat well, train smart, and listen to your body, you should be good to go.
Organising with family and friends
Of course, for your big day you will want your family and friends to be there to support you. There's nothing worse than running along wondering where they are and when you'll see them, distracting you from your performance. Before the race, make sure you all agree where they will be standing to watch you so that you know when to expect them.
A top tip is to see them towards the end of the race when you're needing some extra encouragement. Not only will they encourage you towards the finish line, but knowing that you get to see them soon could keep you going when the race starts to get tough at the halfway point. We recommend Mile 20 as the optimum place to arrange to see your supporters.
If you're new to exercise, the fitness industry can seem daunting and impossibly complicated. Follow our 5 top tips so that you can wade through the misinformation and start getting fit the right way.
1. Consistency is more important than intensity
One of the most common trends for exercise beginners is to go in all guns blazing and then burn out because it's not sustainable. If you've never exercised before or you're coming back from a pregnancy or injury, you need to take it easy. Exercising as a complete beginner can be a big undertaking and you need to have a plan of action as well as realistic goals.
Focus on keeping up the exercise consistently in a way that you can maintain for the long term. The secret to a lot of fitness professionals is that fitness is their way of life, so try to incorporate your exercise into your daily life. Walk to work or cycle to the shops and make sure you enjoy your workouts so that they aren't a chore. A small, short workout is better than no workout at all.
Read more: How To Set Fitness Goals
2. Talk to a fitness professional
When starting from scratch, it can be easy to make mistakes and believe fitness myths that could send you in the wrong direction. Before you embark on a new exercise regime, talk to a personal trainer or fitness instructor so that you can get some advice to get your started. A lot of personal trainers will offer a free taster session so make the most of this, especially as they may do a fitness assessment for you so that you can see where your starting point is relating to your fitness levels.
Additionally, most gyms will have personal trainers and fitness instructors wandering around the gym, so feel free to ask them for help if you're struggling with an exercise, they'll be more than happy to help you. If you're opting for a group fitness class, talk to the instructor either before or after the class so that they can give you advice and get you started.
3. Don't copy what other people are doing
This is a common mistake to make: you see someone doing something, it looks interesting, so you copy it. However, a lot of the time you will find that they are not doing it correctly or they are performing the exercise with bad form and therefore by copying them, you are picking up bad habits early on.
If you're going to copy someone, copy the exercises and movements that a personal trainer is doing with their client. People do all sorts of crazy and unusual exercises at the gym, some that they've just made up or some that they saw online. Not only this, they might be training for a specific sport or goal that is different from yours, and they may well have completely different experience to you. Avoid copying others and you'll avoid getting injured and picking up bad habits.
Don't copy crazy exercises like this just because you see someone else doing them!
4. Invest in your fitness clothing
If you're going to make fitness a part of your life and you want to get fit for good, it's definitely worth investing in good gym clothing and fitness wear. Seek out brands which are designed by and endorsed by athletes as this activewear will be intelligently designed with the wearer in mind so you know that the running leggings won't fall down as you run and the gym tops won't chafe or rub as you move.
Trying to train in old cotton sweatshirts and worn out trainers may be fine to start, but you will soon find that you are uncomfortable and unable to reach your full potential at the gym. Invest in good quality gym wear and you'll be more motivated to train hard and consistently.
5. Don't give up
Research shows that 43% of people expect to give up their New Year's resolutions by February. Fitness and exercise are easy things to give up on when they get hard and then you're back to square one. No matter what, you need to be dedicated. Follow the above 4 tips to set you up for success so that you're less likely to want to give up, and make sure you don't quit when it gets tough as that is when you will start to see results!
If you haven't exercised in a long time, if you're overweight, or if you've never exercised at all, the prospect of joining a gym or going for a run can be overwhelming and just down right terrifying. We're here with top tips and advice for getting active as a complete beginner.
There's no better time than right now to change your life. If you've been thinking about getting started for a while but you've been putting it off or making excuses, you need to just start. There will always be a million reasons why you can't get out there, but it won't be until you've broken the ice that it becomes easier. Go ahead and join that gym or buy those running trainers.
Treating yourself to fresh activewear is a great way to get motivated and start you off in the right frame of mind. Having comfortable, proper gym tops rather than an old t-shirt and a stylish sports bra instead of your normal bra can be the difference between a terrible workout and a great one and will make you want to exercise so that you can show off your new fitness clothing!
You're already exercising more than you think
If you take your dog for walks or go walking at the weekend with your family, you have already made a great start! This is an easy base to improve upon, by making those dog walks longer and brisker, and by finding more challenging routes to walk at the weekend with your kids. If you take public transport to work, you perhaps have to walk to the station or from the bus stop to your office. Have confidence in yourself and make sure you know that mentally you're not going from complete scratch. This will make increasing your weekly exercise easier mentally.
Find a type of training you enjoy
There are so many ways to workout; you don't have to slog on a treadmill for hours or do some crazy manoeuvre that you saw someone else doing at the gym. Activities like yoga are very low impact and are a great way to build up your base fitness if you haven't moved in a while. Walking is also perfect as it's free and you can do it anywhere! If you do want to try running, you may benefit from group running as it takes the guess work out of it and will mean all you have to do is turn up and run. In the same light, there are many benefits of joining a running club such as companionship and making new friends.
Working out when you're overweight
It can seem very daunting to start exercising when you're overweight. If you're not ready to join a gym or hit the streets with a run, you can easily make a start in the comfort of your own home. Try a home workout that doesn't require any equipment and just uses body weight. By getting up and getting moving, you are making an excellent start.
When overweight, it's important not to put your joints under too much strain. Start with low impact movements like body weight squats, lunges, and sit ups. Go back to basics with a simple circuit training routine that gets your heart rate up without compromising your health and making you feel like your chest is going to explode!
If you are coming back from an injury or from having kids, you need to take it slow. There are lots of easy ways to exercise when you have kids, but getting back into it after giving birth can be a scary prospect. Take it slow and always listen to your body.
If you're looking to try a new sport, break it down into manageable chunks. Activities like cycling are much more accessible than you think and you don't need all the fancy gear to get out there. For something more complex like a triathlon, find a triathlon training plan for absolute beginners that you can follow which guides you through the training process and helps you understand what you need to do to succeed.
Make it enjoyable!
One of the biggest reasons why people give up on exercise is because they don't enjoy it. There is absolutely no reason why you need to be forcing yourself to go running or lift weights if you don't enjoy it. These days, there are unlimited ways to get fit from gym classes to dancing and it's all very accessible. There are some surprising ways to get fit like hula hooping and trampolining which are far more fun and enjoyable than pounding the pavements for mile after mile. If you enjoy your workout, you will be far more likely to continue the trend and stick to it.