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Olympian Jessie Barr’s 10 tips to keep running in 2021


by Lauren Heskin
04th Jan 2021
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Based on the busy pavements over the Christmas break, it seems like lots of us took up running in 2020. We chat with Jessie Barr about Runuary and how to keep up running habits in 2021.


While gyms and swimming pools were shut, running was a straightforward exercise to take up that required nothing but a pair of trainers and could be done within a five-kilometre radius.

“While we can’t remove many of the unknowns from our lives at the moment, we can add some sense of certainty through our daily actions. Having a weekly running routine can provide stability. It can help us feel more at ease by enabling us to regain some control of our lives,” explains performance sports psychologist and Olympian Jessie Barr.

However, with a new year and no definitive end to the bleak weather or the lockdown, it can be difficult to stay motivated. As Jessie explains, “Human behaviour though is complex and there is a lot of behavioural science behind why sticking to our resolutions is so difficult. Having the best of intentions is great, but that alone is not enough to sustain a behaviour over time.”

Jessie Barr

So what should you do if you want to keep running through the chaos of 2021? Here’s Jessie’s guide to keeping you on track this year.

1. Set a goal.

If you want to stay motivated you really need to understand why you’re doing something. Rather than thinking ‘I’m going out running because it’s good for me’ find a specific goal, even if it’s something like timing your regular run and improving on it. Make goals, meet them and make new ones.

2. Set Processes.

The “why” is sometimes easy, the “how” is often much harder. That’s never been truer as so many people are now working from home, spending long hours on Zoom calls in the middle of their family life and with less daylight hours to get outdoors.

3. Track your progress.

There’s loads of ‘tech’ for doing this now but I still prefer to write it down in my training diary. Technology tends to only record statistics but writing things down allows you to record how running makes you feel. In psychology that’s called ‘subjective measuring’. It’s hugely motivating and can be very instructive.

4. Find a running buddy.

Apart from the distraction and fun it creates during your run nothing is a greater motivator. Running with someone else makes you accountable and less likely to make excuses. Having a running group is also really great for helping women to feel safe on the roads at night.

5. Get yourself the right kit.

For you! I think some people’s issue with running is that they get far too hot. They’re told to layer up and wear far too many layers and then get uncomfortable. Why not do your warm-up indoors before you go out? I do this and then just run in a long sleeve t-shirt and a windcheater, something that I can easily tie around my waist if I get too hot. Experiment. Find out what works for you.

6. Identify your personal barriers and how to avoid them.

You have the best of intentions, get all the new gear and then you struggle to get out the door. I’m the worst in the world when it’s dark, cold or wet. Those are my barriers and I recognise them and have a contingency plan. Can you do a bit of strength and conditioning or yoga or mobility indoors instead on those nights? What is it that’s stopping you?

7. Make the time.

Even us athletes moan that we’ve ‘no time’ but how much of it do we spend scrolling on our phones, reading news or Instagram. I’m the worst for picking up my phone and mindlessly scrolling. Couldn’t 20 of those minutes be easily given to running?

8. Catch the Winter sun.

Getting more light into our lives in Winter is proven to improve our mood. Trust me I’m not a morning person but catching the sunrise on your run is a real boost. If you’re struggling to get up early give yourself rewards, like a great breakfast afterwards.

9. Run somewhere beautiful.

Even if it’s only once-a-week and you have to plan it, this is really worth doing. Research tells us that being in green (parks, forests, mountains) or blue (anywhere with water like sea, rivers or lakes) spaces really boosts our mood. Running in those spaces is even better.

10. Remember how good your last run made you feel.

If you’re lying in a cosy bed or on the couch just remind yourself how energised and great you felt at the end of your last run. Do you ever come home feeling worse? No! You always feel better mentally after exercise so keep reminding yourself of that.

Jessie has teamed up with a physiotherapist, nutritionist and Athletics Ireland qualified running coaches to create the Irish Life Health Runuary programme.

It’s a supplied free tailored four-week training programme with videos and the expertise needed to keep you moving through your miles. The idea is to unlock you “ inner drive” and keep you ”on track not only in January but beyond because running is a great activity for life, not just for lockdown,” says Jessie. you can sign up here, it’s completely free and tailored to your level.

Featured image: Amy Sibert on Unsplash


Read more: The more I run, the more I learn how much I need to run

Read more: Running and safety: the reality of being a female runner

Read more: How to get through Christmas with your health intact

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