Runuary: Start 2021 off on the Right Foot

Woman running on road

It’s hard to believe we’re coming towards the end of the year, and that before long, Christmas and the new year will be upon us. 2021 will hopefully see a return to some sort of normalcy, but in the meantime, it’s important that we continue to look after ourselves, both physically and mentally. To help get the new year off to a good start, Irish Life Health is introducing Runaury, a set of dedicated training programmes to help you commit to running for the month of January, no matter your age, previous experience or level of fitness. 

Repercussions of Covid

Olympian and sports psychologist Jessie Barr is one of the project’s mentors. She’s seen first-hand the stress caused by coronavirus in the Irish sporting community. “You wouldn’t think elite athletes ever feel demotivated”, she begins. “But the first lockdown was very stressful for them, because of the uncertainty around the Olympic Games. Once they were officially postponed, athletes definitely experienced challenges to their motivation. It’s quite refreshing, to think that everyone feels those same dips, whether they train every day, or just go to the gym to keep fit.”

Couple running in the park

The Importance of Simple Exercise

The idea around Runuary is simple; sign up, check out the various training programmes and supports on offer, and hit the pavement! For Jessie, 2020 served to highlight how important this simple exercise really is. “During lockdown, a lot was taken from us”, she notes. “We couldn’t play on teams, and gyms were closed. But no-one could take away going for a walk, run or cycle. Having that small sense of control and certainty in our days was really beneficial.” 

Addressing Mental Health Issues

This year has also seen a bigger conversation around mental health take place, something Jessie is passionate about. “Physical activity has positive effects on mood, stress relief, and even reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety”, she says. "This year, we were all facing the same challenge, which was so unusual. But the pandemic helped create a safe space to speak about mental health, because everyone could understand those feelings of anxiety. I feel like the conversation has become more normalised, which is great. It means that people are starting to see the real value of looking after their mental wellbeing.”

Interested in taking part in Runuary? Discover more here.