PUBLISHED: 11:30 14 November 2012 | UPDATED: 22:21 20 February 2013
Lissa Cook goes for a run with Jog Derbyshire, the project that's aiming to help us get fit
There are so many reasons I love running. Its a cheap, hassle-free, stress-relieving way to get out and exercise. You dont need to join a gym. I can pull on my trainers and be out of the door in five minutes. It keeps the dogs fit and gives me the excuse for an extra helping of pudding or a glass of wine. And best of all Ive made loads of friends.
On the other hand, if youre not a natural athlete (and you can probably guess from my calorie/exercise trade-off logic that Im not!) then theres nothing quite as intimidating as running. Its physically tough. I remember my first ever run all I could manage was a slow and painful hundred yards. Its non-stop theres none of the recovery time that you get in team sports when someone else has the ball. And worst of all for the less than lithe are the clothes short shorts or tight lycra.
Its the fear factor that Jog Derbyshire is aiming to overcome by encouraging people to start jogging on a regular basis with people of similar fitness levels. Set up by Derbyshire Sport the projects now run by the High Peak based Community Sports Trust. Their two county coordinators Michelle Simmons and Natalie Trethewey manage a network of volunteer Jog Leaders who are qualified to lead local groups through gentle, progressive programmes.
I joined Jog Leader Heddle Munday and her group for their regular Tuesday night 40 minutes run from Buxton Opera House. As we got to the top of the steep climb up past the Duke of York pub I breathlessly asked Caroline Rigby, whod never run before joining the group two years ago, what her first run had been like. We were doing a minute run, minute walk round the park. It gave me confidence I thought I can do it. Shes now completed two Manchester 10k races in a very respectable time of an hour. She says: Ive lost lots of weight as well and have gone down a size and a half in clothes. When you get home from work I think Oh no but afterwards I always feel really good. When I caught up with the guys, who had split off into a faster pace group, they agreed. Aaron Page, Steffen Wragg and Richard Bouglas said for them the benefit of group running is the combination of motivation, fitness and confidence.
Fellow jogger Anna Simpson had also never run before but last summer completed the hilly and challenging Buxton Carnival five mile route in 50 minutes. She admits the first time she came along she was nervous. It was strange how quickly I got into it. You get in shape much quicker its probably done more for me in six months than two years of being in the gym. But its not just the physical benefits. Anna works with adults who are mentally ill. My jobs quite stressful so when youve had a tough day and dealt with a lot of problems its good to clear your head so you dont take it home with you.
The volunteer Jog Leaders I spoke to also find it very rewarding. Heddle was a keen runner and had an academic interest in setting up a group. Her dissertation for the University of Derby studied the efficacy of the Jog Derbyshire beginners course. Yasmin Harrison set up Willington runners with her friend Denise Randal last October after being approached by South Derbyshire Village Games officer Toni Jantschenko.
For them it was about providing activities in the local community. Yasmin says: Willingtons a tiny village of just 2,000 people. We wanted to get people out and about. We started off with just one or two and within six weeks had a group of around 18-20 people. Theyd see our posters and phone up saying I dont run. And wed say just come along and walk-run. Now they have a complete mixture of ladies and men of all abilities and have split into sessions for beginners and intermediate runners and are keen to recruit more Jog Leaders. Yasmin, a member of British Airways Senior Cabin Crew, says shes not a natural runner so getting her UK Athletics licence and setting up the group gave her self-esteem and motivates her to run more.
Rachel Titley joined the Willington group six months ago. She commutes to her job as a quantity surveyor in Birmingham so wanted a way to get out and meet people in the evening. I hadnt ever done any sort of exercise really but they were very gentle with me. I literally started off running for 30 seconds, then walking. It used to sound a bit pathetic when Id go back into the office and other people were training for a marathon. That had always stopped me before. It was a bit like going on a cookery course to learn how to make toast or boil an egg! But I can now run two miles non-stop and I did the Race for Life 5k in August.
Darren Ward set up a group in Eckington three years ago. For him the beauty of Jog Derbyshire is that it gives people who would be intimidated by a regular running group the chance to have a go. Theres no pressure and they can set their own goals. Weve found jogging in a group has really brought people together and they motivate each other. They achieve much more than if they went out on their own.
As a Jog Leader I love seeing the progression people make and the elation when theyve completed a race. Over the years people whod never run before have taken part in the Race for Life, Sport Relief and local 5 and 10ks. Some are even training for the Spire 10 mile race in Chesterfield.
For those who get the running bug and want to take it to the next level Darrens helped set up the Jog Derbyshire Dynamos club for anyone in a local group who wants to benefit from the race discounts and insurance offered by UK Athletics membership. It really seems like theres no stopping Derbyshires fledgling joggers. n
To find your local group, find a beginners session or get information about how to train as a Jog Leader go to the Jog Derbyshire website http://www.activederbyshire.co.uk/jog/. Groups are often free and never more than 2 a session.
Personal trainer Nik Cook, whose book 28 Weeks from Non Runner to Marathon Success has just been published, gives his top five novice running tips:
Walk to run: Dont try to run continuously to start with. Alternate one minute of running with one minute of walking. Once you can manage that for 20 minutes, gradually reduce the walking breaks until youre running for the full time.
Easy pace: Novices always try to run too fast. Run at a pace that allows you to maintain a full conversation. Dont worry if you feel like youre just shuffling along, youll soon get faster.
Find a friend: Running with a friend of similar ability is a great way to stay motivated. Youre far less likely to skip a run if you know youll be letting someone down, itll be more fun and you can check youre sticking to that talking pace.
Be consistent: To make progress, you need to be consistently running three times per week. Try to have a rest day between runs and gradually increase the amount of time youre out for.
Hit the trails: Off-road running is much more fun than pounding the pavement, better for your joints and keeps you out of the way of cars. Dont worry if you have to walk uphill, its time out on your feet and in the fresh air that counts.