It is about this time of year that the streets of the United Kingdom start to undergo a subtle change. Only a couple of weeks ago, if you had poked your head out of the front door on a weekend morning then there would be every chance that your retinas would have been scolded. That is the risk you run when staring at the Day-Glo waterproofs that often envelope the slowly shrinking girths of the legions of 'resolution runners'. However, this post New Year phalanx of huffers and puffers is now slowly beginning to dwindle as they realise just how demotivating running in the chilly drizzle can be. It takes supreme reserves of mental fortitude to pound the streets whilst enduring the horizontal rain, particularly when Saturday Kitchen is on the telly.
Certainly, this is the stage I am going through at the moment. Since starting running again about 5 years ago, I have made the classic journey of moving from shorter races onto more extreme challenges before taking on a Half-Iron Man Triathlon last year (incidentally, this is where I had a moment of running epiphany. Half way through the agony of the final discipline I resolved to never race a full Iron Man, and I intend to stick to this promise. The memory of being in such post-event pain that for the next week I could only walk down the stairs backwards is still too fresh) I have now rescaled my ambitions somewhat, resolving that this year - my 40th- is when I try to run as fast as I did when I was 12, which (rather depressingly) is when I peaked as an athlete. Although achievable, it will involve an awful lot of hard work, which at the moment I am struggling to put in.
Motivation is starting to ebb away, and many parents of schoolchildren probably share the latest obstacle to my ambition. With half term creeping up, we are due to go away on a family holiday, and all I can foresee is a week where my desire to stay in shape goes all wobbly.
Time then to reach out for some expert advice. Rebecca Cox is a personal trainer. But not just any old personal trainer, because she has some serious credentials. Rebecca is a veteran of 12 marathons and she has also run 100 miles in 24 hours around a 400m track. In other words, if anyone knows how to find the inner strength to keep running through the boredom, then it's her.
I asked Rebecca to come up with 3 bits of advice that could help those trying to keep to their fitness resolutions whilst on vacation. Could she do it? Well, seeing as a normal challenge for her is running the notorious Marathon des Sables, (156 miles across the Sahara); this particular test was a walk in the park. Or in her case, a series of 10 sprints in the park with a 60 second recovery between each one.
1- "If it is important to you to keep training whilst you are on holiday, then use the chance to explore wherever you are. Before you leave home, map out a route or a series of routes. Find places to run by going onto a local running forum or websites like Mapmyrun.com"
2- "Your training need not just be running. Use holiday time as a chance to cross train, with some running, cycling and swimming. Try and use other activities to develop muscles. Rather than worry about missing out on training use it as a chance to do other types of activity that will improve your running."
3- "Finally, holidays are a good opportunity to get a good rest and put your feet up. I take off one week in every six and it is good for you mentally and physically. You return home looking forward to getting into training. Basically, don't beat yourself up if you can't train whilst on a family holiday!"
At the moment I intend to follow at least one piece of Rebecca's advice to the letter - no prizes for guessing which one. However, here's something for those of you who treat a holiday as an opportunity to go jogging. Rebecca may have pulled on her training shoes all over the world, but when it comes to the best places to run, she wouldn't leave these shores.
"There are so many amazing places to run in the UK. For example, the hills and mountains of the Lake District give you a real variety and range of running and hiking experiences. But I'm a Cornish girl, so anywhere along the coast here is good for me. It has beautiful scenery and you are never too far from a pub or a pasty!"
Beer and pasties eh? If that doesn't inspire you to kick-start your fading New Year's resolutions, then nothing will.