We spoke to Olympic gold medallist and three-times world heptathlon champion, Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill about the Vitality Running World Cup (she’ll be captaining Team UK) – and how anyone (yes, even you!) can sign up to follow her lead…
“Few moments in my life will match the pride and joy I felt as I crossed the finish line of the 800m at London 2012. Not only had I won gold and become Olympic champion, but I’d done my country proud.
I’m lucky – most people don’t get to reach the heady heights of competing on the world stage. But most of us have personal goals – our own finish lines we strive to reach, whether it’s a 3k run or a marathon. And that’s why the Vitality Running World Cup is such a fantastic event. Anyone can get involved, from absolute beginners to those who love running already. It’s so easy to take part: you simply sign up to a national team, then log a 3km run or jog in 30 minutes, via a linked device tracker to win team points.
I’m a fan of anything that gets people active and enjoying exercise. Pitting runners from nations against each other adds a fun, competitive element.
Running is one of the best ways to get fit and feel good about yourself. You don’t need specialist equipment – just a pair of supportive trainers – and you can go running straight from home, find a loop route from your workplace or just go for a run in a local park.
In terms of fitness, running gives you so much. It’s great for all-over toning and, more importantly, it’s great for your aerobic fitness!
As a professional athlete, my event was about explosive speed. The longest I ran in the heptathlon was 800m. But since I retired I’ve had the flexibility to train in a different way. There’s no pressure, no expectation, I don’t have to run a particular time. It’s just nice to get out there and be active. Some days I feel great and want to push myself harder; other days it’s good enough just to get out and move.
The great thing about the Vitality Running World Cup is that it isn’t about being elite – anyone can take part. Every distance of at least 3km that’s completed within 30 minutes will counts towards Team UK’s efforts. And every kilometre will bring with it a multitude of benefits, to your physical and mental health and your general wellbeing.
Run yourself healthy
I know how good running is for my own headspace. After I’ve been for a run I feel really positive and have more energy than I had before the run!
And science backs up the beneficial claims reported by runners. Studies show that regular running can improve sleep, mood and concentration, and it increases our resilience to stress. As a weight-bearing exercise, running is great for your bones. As an aerobic activity, it keeps you at a healthy weight and safeguards your heart; runners are 45% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease, and have a three-year greater life expectancy than non-runners.
Making it routine
Sticking with a running plan isn’t always easy. I found that if I wrote down my training plan the week before, it was easier to keep to. If you plan your time and ringfence it, then you won’t find yourself looking for a spare moment when you can go out for a run.
Committing to going out for walks or gentle runs with a friend can be useful because you won’t want to let each other down, even if you don’t feel like doing the session that day.
The Vitality Running World Cup is the perfect event to get friends and family involved. My kids are active and now that my son Reggie is five, he’ll do a little bit of a run with me or have a few little races up the hill.
I tend to run with friends who are also quite active and I’m on a mission to get my mum and sister to run more. If I’m running by myself, I put my headphones in and enjoy that time for me. I like a beat to get me fired up and in a different mindset. I listen to hip-hop and if I need motivation, a bit of Beyoncé gets me ready to go!”
However you plan to take part, the Vitality Running World Cup can help with your motivation because you aren’t going it alone. You’re part of a team.
- WHO CAN TAKE PART? Whoever you are, wherever you are, you can join in for free. All you need is a smartphone or smart fitness device and be able to run 3 km in 30 minutes. The more you run the better.
- WHAT DOES IT COST? It’s completely free to join!