03/01/2014 11:22 GMT | Updated 05/03/2014 05:59 GMT

Girls, Get Running!

I started running when I was nine years old and have really never stopped. My running life has been amazing and has taken me to two Olympic Games and some of the world's top races. I'm also a busy Mum but running is still very much a part of my life. I know it's not like that for everyone. I meet many women who say running simply isn't for them. More often that not they'll say they don't have time, they are not built to run, they don't like running or they simply 'can't' run.

If you're thinking about getting fitter in the New Year, aiming for your first 5k or park run, even if you thought you'd never toe the start line of a running event and are full of anxiety and apprehension, don't panic! Everyone starts somewhere.

Why running?

Running burns more calories than almost any other activity. At around 100kcal per mile (regardless of how fast you run) it beats other sports like cycling and swimming by 'miles'.

Regular running has also been shown to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes, lower blood pressure and risk of hypertension, reduce cholesterol levels, lower body fat, improve circulation, improve skin tone, reduce stress levels, increase positive mood through the release of 'feel-good' endorphins, and even improve your sex life!

Running is also really time efficient. It fits perfectly in with a busy and hectic schedule.

You don't need loads of time or flashy, expensive gear - just a decent pair of running shoes and some comfortable kit, you can just get up and go and in the time it takes to sit and have another coffee or drive to the gym you're back!

You can run pretty much anywhere too. On the treadmill, on the roads, off road on trails, in parks, along canals, forests and even up mountains - one step at a time!

You can run with friends, or on your own. It's great as a social activity to catch up on the girly chat but it's also a brilliant de-stressor and gives you valuable 'me' time.

Yet despite all the positive benefits sometimes it can still feel pretty daunting.

I know from my own training that the winter months can be the toughest to get up and get started with a new exercise regime.

Get going

If you're new to running don't be daunted by the prospect of getting started. The hardest steps to take for many new runners are the first ones up off the sofa and out of the front door. Taking those first tentative steps outside in running shoes and getting going is easy once you've decided you want, and can, do it.

First steps

Getting your first run right is really important. A classic mistake made by many beginners is to charge off, red faced and puffing and unsurprisingly at the end of the road stop and gasp 'I knew it, it's no good, I can't do this running'. They give up and drag themselves home, exhausted, disappointed and dejected.

Remember that it takes a few weeks for the benefits of running to start to come to the fore so don't expect an overnight fitness miracle. The great thing about starting running is that it's more about your journey to become a healthy, active and energised woman than it is about how fast or how far you run.

Everyone feels nervous when they start something new. Be brave, you can do it.

A great way to getting started and keeping motivated in the New Year would be by signing up for Jantastic!

Jantastic is a personal running challenge that'll help you get into running, run more and have some fun with other people. You participate in your time, on your terms. It's not about miles, distance or pressure, but about your motivation and consistency during January, February and March 2014.

Jantastic is motivational, although it's a 'virtual' online challenge you do it with other people. Everyone keeping going at their own level. You also set your own personal targets, can decide when you run, there are no times and no one caress what you wear! It's about your levels of commitment and effort to a healthier, fitter you.

Get out and get started and you'll soon find that you are an inspiration to other women just like you.

You can register at jantastic.me