Break down your fitness barriers

29 August 2017 by
First published: 14 September 2017

Break down your fitness barriers and achieve your goals.

Do you have a goal, something you’ve been trying to achieve for a really long time, but feel like your doubts and fears have been holding you back? There are many reasons why you may not be reaching your full fitness potential. Perhaps you’re scared of running alone, or the idea of exercising in a busy area puts you off.

In a study led by Dr Liba Sheeran at Cardiff University, 121 novice runners (40 male and 81 female) were assessed in order to determine what the main obstacles are and how we can overcome them. Dr Liba Sheeran took us through five of the main fitness barriers that could be stopping you from performing to the best of your ability.

Being too busy

‘The main barrier put forward by respondents to taking up regular exercise was work-life commitments, reported by both men (84.6 per cent) and women (79.9 per cent),’ says Dr Sheeran. ‘While some people feel that juggling a job and home life leaves little room for much else, running requires less of a time commitment than many forms of exercise. I would suggest that finding the right motivation is crucial. For example, the research by Cardiff University indicates that entering big events inspires people to get active and stay active, although there are many reasons why people choose to run. Our research respondents said motivators included a sense of wellbeing, getting outdoors, and better health. If you’re motivated to run you’re more likely to find the time to do it.’

Fear of running alone

‘The second most frequently reported barrier was safety while running alone. This is a particular issue for women with almost one-third reporting it as a barrier, compared to 15.5 per cent of men,’ says Dr Sheeran. ‘Aside from running with friends or work colleagues, one possible solution is the growth in social community-based running groups. While the study found that novice runners were not attracted to traditional running clubs, more informal running groups are a particularly useful option for less experienced runners. First-time runner Ali Abdi, who took part in the Cardiff University research and has since helped set up an informal running group in Cardiff, said such groups “encourage you to run regularly and train with fellow novices”.’

Concern around running in busy areas

‘Running on busy roads was the third most frequently reported barrier (11.9 per cent), equally represented by both sexes.’ Says Dr Sheeran. ‘In addition, having safe places to run was listed by research respondents as among the “facilitators” to running, so this is an important issue. Again, informal running groups and clubs provide a possible solution because they will usually have knowledge of a variety of running routes in an area. Eight out of 10 respondents to our survey said they used running apps so that’s possibly a way of identifying new, safe routes in your locality. Some apps allow you to share information and see which routes other runners are using.’

Fear of running in front of a large crowd

‘Our research found that some women were put off by running in front of a crowd, while this is not such a factor for men. This is interesting because we also discovered that a lot of people are very much motivated by running in mass races,’ says Dr Sheeran. ‘The beauty of running is that it can be done alone, in small groups or in a crowd so this does not preclude staying active. One point to note is that our results highlighted differences in attitudes between the sexes. For example the main concern for women wanting to run was not being fully prepared. This would suggest that separate strategies targeting women and men are required to get people active.’

Fear of not achieving your targets

‘This was the main concern for men who want to run. There will be many, many reasons for people not achieving their goals but the right kind of support is important. Our survey found that injuries were a significant issue for many novice runners,’ says Dr Sheeran. ‘However our physio-led injury prevention programmes – involving face-to-face workshops and online videos – appeared to have a protective effect, with those attending being 50% less likely to report an injury affecting their training. We hope to see changes from mass race organisers, sponsors and running clubs, in partnership with physiotherapists, to take greater responsibility over the health and wellbeing of the novice race entrants.’