How to fall in love with running this summer
What is it about running that means people either seem to absolutely love it, or loathe every single moment? Our opinion is often determined early in life - many of us have one horrible memory of finishing last, with an aching stitch, in a school race - while others wrote off jogging as repetitive or boring years ago.
But running, for so many reasons, can be a hugely enjoyable and rewarding journey - and it doesn't matter whether you can complete a marathon or a lap of your local park. As sports go, it's probably the most accessible as it's free, all you need is a pair of trainers, and you can go anywhere you please at any time that suits you.
Redefine 'a runner'
We're often nervous about calling ourselves something unless we feel like an expert - but it shouldn't be like that. Wearing a bikini on the beach? You have a beach body. Going more than 4mph in workout gear? You're a runner. Contrary to what you might see on Instagram, it's not an exclusive club where everyone is marathon training.
"Most new runners go off too fast, feel horribly uncomfortable the whole time and burn out their energy after just ten minutes or so. It's not exactly going to make you want to do it again," says PT and ultra-marathon runner Amy Curtis. "Try to go at a more comfortable pace - you don't have to be gasping for breath for the run to be doing good!
"If you run with others, chat while you're going along to achieve a 'conversational pace'. Running on your own? Think of a few lyrics of a song and speak (or sing) them every so often - if you're too breathless to do that, you're going too fast."
Make it your 'me time'
Jogging alone means it's just you, the sound of your feet pounding on the path and the fresh air - embrace the alone time and use it to clear your mind or think through anything important.
"For me, as a mother of four, exercise is escapism and my me time," says Stacey Jackson of StaeFit women's workout wear. "I put on some pumping music and I get lost in the vibe - the way I feel afterwards justifies all the effort."
Get some kit
Initially, you can wear just about anything, but soon you may feel the need for suitable kit. Lightweight running trainers with arch support, a breathable running top, a good sports bra for women and underwear designed for running (like the brand Runderwear) can do wonders for more comfortable runs.
If you find running with only your own thoughts for company difficult, lose yourself in an audiobook or podcast.
"One of the most enjoyable ways of passing the time on a run is to learn. I listen to endless podcasts - on self-improvement, running, business, creativity and lots of other topics," says marathoner and Saucony ambassador James Williams. "By learning, you make the most efficient use of your time."
Learn how to breathe
"Improper breathing is the number one mistake made by beginner and intermediate runners and can result in a stitch," says David Wiener, trainer at fitness app Freeletics. "While running, you should use deep belly breathing because it's better for efficient and maximal oxygen uptake than shallow chest breathing.
"You should also breathe through both your mouth and nose to maximise oxygenation. Rhythmic breathing also works well for runners, and normally during a medium-intensity run a person will use the 2:2 rhythm - two foot strikes while breathing in and two foot strikes when breathing out."
Celebrate your progress
"Many people who first start running and tell me they have lost interest do so because they haven't been measuring their progress," says Josh Hackford, PT from FourFit. "The addictive nature of running comes from getting that bit better with each run. Whether that is completing 3km for the first time or reducing your split time on a 5km, there are many different ways to challenge yourself."
Eventually you might sign up to a 5k or 10k race - and there are many inclusive, supportive and fun events, held in and around London most weekends, to try when you're ready.