Jogging can be difficult, particularly if you’ve had to take a little break. But there’s a simple way of getting over the hump: errand running.
Getting back into running after you’ve taken a break can feel rotten. You may have stopped because it was too bloody hot to jog, or you reached your 5K goal a little while ago. Perhaps you simply got bored with running or picked up an injury. Whatever your reason, the longer you avoid getting out there, the more stressful the prospect of returning to running can be.
But we’re entering arguably the best time to re-lace your trainers. The temperatures are set to be cooler, the days are still long (meaning that you can run in daylight before or after work) and there are fewer cars around at peak rush hour now that the schools have broken up. The simplest and least stressful way to get back into the swing of things? Errand running.
I first started errand running a few years ago, after moving to a new postcode. All the shops and cafes in the area were close enough to make cycling seem an unnecessary faff, but were far enough away that walking took up a big chunk of my lunch hour or pre-work spare time.
Today, it’s my go-to exercise when I’m not training for anything or don’t have the motivation to push myself. I don’t want to give up on running altogether because it makes me feel good, but I also don’t want to devote masses of time and energy to it all year round.
It’s 3K to get to and from the gym – which is perfect for warming up ahead of a session and cooling down after. It takes 15 minutes to run to the supermarket, which inevitably means running at least 5K altogether.
Some weekends, I spend an hour jogging to my parents’ home, which is still quicker than taking public transport. And if I’m back at their house for any amount of time, I go running in the morning to collect my dad’s newspaper. It doesn’t matter how short the errand run is, or how fast you run it. This is about fitting movement into your everyday life. And I’ve also found that this kind of multitasking offers loads of benefits.
Errand running saves time
Fundamentally, this is all about combining activities so that you don’t have to waste precious time carving out exercise windows in your day. If you’re working from home and are running low on various essentials, merge the time you’d normally exercise with a shop-run – you’ll end up with more spare time at the end of the day.
If you’re really organised (and have a good base level of fitness), you could run to or from the office. I don’t do it as much now, but a few years ago, in the lead-up to a 10K race, I did all the training by running to or from work. That’s still my 10K PB. It’s amazing what you can do when you’re not running down the Holloway Road at 7am with a laptop on your back.
There’s less pressure when you’re running for a reason
Apps like Strava can be incredibly useful but for some they add yet more pressure on to what is an already stressful activity. Errand running, however, is pressure-free. You just set out and do your thing. Heck, if you care what your Strava followers think or you want some proof that you didn’t just go out for a super-slow 5K, label the run as ‘run to Sainsbury’s’ or ‘jog to pick up the cat’s worming tablets’.
You get to have a mid-run break when you reach your destination
If the idea of running for 30 minutes non-stop freaks you out, or you’re not sure that your fitness is high enough to do a 10K, then this way of training really is for you. When you next run out of coffee or fancy a mid-morning croissant from that cafe that’s usually a 20-minute walk away, get into your running kit and jog over to the shop/pastry place. You’ll need to run for 10 or 15 minutes but then you’ll get a break.
Stop outside the shop or cafe, catch your breath then buy whatever you need; by the time your transaction is complete, you’ll probably be back to breathing calmly and be ready to run home. This isn’t continuous cardio, it’s more like mild interval training.
Running of any kind improves your cardio fitness
The most obvious benefit of running is that it’s great cardio, and that’s true whether you’re running long, running fast or making several stops. I actually find that I tend to work harder when running with groceries, because I’m carrying extra weight and trying to maintain speed between stops. Often, that doesn’t translate into actually running that fast but it feels like I’m putting the effort in – which means that, regardless of speed, I’m getting a good cardio workout.
Running with a backpack makes your body stronger
OK, so running to pick up a newspaper might not add much weight but if you’re running to pick up a carton of milk or a bunch of veg, you’ll soon find your backpack getting heavier. It’s kind of like you’re running with weights on your back which, in theory, should make your quads and hamstrings work harder. Spend a few weeks doing your small grocery shops like this and I guarantee that the next time you try to go out for a regular 5K jog, it’ll feel easier.
Miranda Larbi is the editor of Strong Women and Strong Women Training Club. A qualified personal trainer and vegan runner, she can usually be found training for the next marathon, seeking out vegan treats or cycling across London on a pond-green Tokyo bike.