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Forget those new year fads and start running

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Garry Hill running, around Fen Drayton, Cambridge . Picture: Keith Heppell
Garry Hill running, around Fen Drayton, Cambridge . Picture: Keith Heppell

So another new year has come around and, traditionally fuelled by the guilt of overeating and drinking during the festive period, it's the time so many of us resolve to get fit and lose weight.

Garry Hill running, around Fen Drayton, Cambridge . Picture: Keith Heppell
Garry Hill running, around Fen Drayton, Cambridge . Picture: Keith Heppell

We dig out the old gym kit and throw ourselves into some new fitness craze, but, only a few months later, lose motivation. Instead of hitting the gym, we wind up hitting the sofa with pizza and a box set.

Perhaps I’m generalising, but in the past that has been the case for me. I’d tried all sorts of sports, I believed the claims of being able to get a body like (insert name of ripped movie star) ‘in just three weeks’ that was shouted at me from the covers of men’s fitness magazines. I even tried the celebrity fitness DVDs. Nothing really lived up to my expectations or was even particularly achievable unless, like a Shaolin monk, I devoted my life to the pursuit of these new year goals.

Then one day I decided to try running. At the time I was overweight with a penchant for family-sized pizzas, apple pies and beer. So, I grabbed a pair of trainers from a discount sports store, put on baggy joggers and a huge hoodie and headed out.

I was so embarrassed that I’d run only after dark, trying to run the boundary of a local park’s football pitch. Barely halfway around I thought I was going to have a heart attack and I collapsed in a sweaty, heavy-breathing heap. But I dragged myself up and started again.

After a week of these nocturnal runs around the pitch I tried to extend the distance and actually ran on the streets around my home town. Slowly but surely, combined with a new diet free of pizza and pie, I started running further, getting fitter and losing the pounds. Eventually I ran for three miles with no stopping and, thankfully, no CPR required. I actually felt like a runner!

Ten years on and seven stone lighter, I’m still running. In that time I’ve taken part in more than 60 races, become a UKA Run Leader, started three run clubs and made every mistake in the running book.

Running is the one fitness pursuit that has held my passion as there is always a new challenge to undertake. Run faster, run further, get stronger, win a race and learn new skills. You can see I’m pretty evangelical about running – trust me, make running your new year fitness goal and you won’t regret it.

So, how should you start? First, don’t run in those tennis shoes you’ve had for the last 10 years. Go to a specialist running store and ask for a gait analysis. This will get you fitted in the correct shoe for your running style. You should expect to pay around £120 for this shoe.

No, hang on... I know it sounds a lot, but a good shoe will make a massive difference to your running experience. While at the store, consider investing in some technical running kit, which will keep you comfortable when running too.

OK, you’ve got your bright new shoes and kit, so time to go and smash out five miles? No! Join a beginners’ run group or follow a plan, such as the NHS couch to 5k.

Building gradually allows your body to adapt to the new stresses you are placing upon it. After eight weeks you’ll be able to run three miles – and then the world of running is your oyster.

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