03 Jul 2022

Research reveals running offers a positive outlet in Lockdown

Niall Fergus: Running isn’t an exact science, it should be enjoyable

With the uncertainty of the last few months, many of us have turned to running to relieve stress, clear our head and to feel more in control according to findings of research undertaken by Irish Life Health.

Amidst the isolation of lockdown, Ireland has fallen in love with running with close to three quarters of a million Irish people out running regularly since the start of Covid-19 restrictions. 20% of all runners (480,000) are also running more often than they did pre-pandemic restrictions. Since the start of Covid-19 restrictions 120,000 adults have taken up running for the first time and continue to run at least three times a week. 

The mental well-being experienced by runners equalled the physical benefits with 2 out of 3 stating that running not only made them feel fitter/stronger but it has helped them to cope mentally and to clear their head.  Interestingly 2 out 3 runners prefer to run alone as it provides much needed ‘head space’. It has offered a controllable in times of uncertainty with 2 in 3 (66%) wanting to continue their running routine and to set an achievable running goal for 2021. A similar number (62%) say they would benefit from having a detailed plan and expert advice to help achieve this goal, ideally by having a target distance to run each week.

Irish Life Health has developed the ‘Runuary’ programme  with Athletics Ireland to support the running community so they can have a positive and healthy start to 2021. The programme offers a four-week training plan, plus tips and advice from a team of experts, you can run your chosen distance of 5-mile, 10 mile or 31km on 31st of January. With level 5 restrictions now in place runners are urged to adhere to the Covid-19 restrictions and run within the 5km radius of their home and to run with only one other person who also lives within that zone. Entry is free of charge and you can sign up at

Jessie Barr’s top tips to get “Runuary” off to a great start

Jessie Barr, Olympian and performance sports psychologist, who is part of the expert team for ‘Runuary’ offers her top tips for an ideal start to running in the New Year.  

Set yourself a goal: Did you complete a couch to 5km during lockdown? Why not take on a 5-mile in 2021, it is only 3km more!  
Acknowledge any potential challenges & make contingency plans: Working from home in a crazy busy household? Is there a best time to fit in your run? If you dread the cold and rain, have you got the right gear? Try a simple windcheater to keep you dry.
Find a “Green or Blue” running route. Research shows that exercising outdoors, especially in green or blue spaces, gives us an additional mental boost. Running in a park or forest, or by the water, within your 5km radius even once a-week, can feel like a real treat.
Get a running buddy: Not only will this keep you motivated and accountable, but it makes running fun and distracts you when you’re feeling uncomfortable. In current restrictions you can exercise with one other person but please be aware this could change.
Remember the Runner’s High: Extrinsic motivations (time targets or race days) are good but remembering how great you felt afterwards – the sense of accomplishment and endorphin rush or ‘runner’s high’ you get – are intrinsic motivators which are even more powerful.

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