Jenni Falconer is a busy woman, but between being a TV presenter and a mother, she still finds time to do what she loves most – running. She ran The Royal Parks Foundation Half Marathon last weekend – one of many she has done over the years. We find out exactly how she prepares for marathons and why she loves running so much
Jenni Falconer, 39, ran yet another half-marathon this weekend, but although she loves taking part in marathons, she admits that it’s become harder over the years because of the changing course of her life. ‘Since becoming a mother, time is an issue and alongside my irregular working hours, it becomes difficult to juggle training with everything else that is going on in my life.’
‘I’ve been running in preparation for Sunday’s marathon but I have only managed to get up to eight miles this time just because of time.’
Jenni reveals that when training for marathons, all she really does is weights and running. ‘I like to use free weights and body weights to do press ups or dips. I go to Barry’s Boot Camp in central London and do a lot of weights there too.’
‘If I go to David Lloyd gym, I occasionally work out with a trainer and it’s then where I’d probably lift heavier weights. Although I’m very motivated, I’m not as good on my own because I don’t really know what exercises to do so having a trainer to teach me really helps. So I try and mix up weight training as much as I can.’
When she’s not training for a marathon, Jenni still does a lot of running, but she also does other things as part of her exercise regime. ‘When I’m not training I still work out Monday to Friday but I like to mix up my work outs more to keep myself fresh and excited. I might do some cycling, some TRX, my boot camp, or I might even go to some hot yoga classes’.
Dedication pays off
Although Jenni is a huge lover of running now, this wasn’t always the case. It was when she was 19 and enjoying university life a bit too much where she started to gain weight. ‘I’ve never had a weight problem, but at that age I was on the larger side and I realised I needed to do something about it so my aim was to run non-stop for half an hour but I couldn’t even manage 10 minutes. Eventually I did reach my goal and I just kind of built it up from there. It was in my 30s that I decided I wanted to run a marathon. I did my first marathon in 2009 and that was it, I was bitten by the marathon bug and I’ve done them ever since.’
my aim was to run non-stop for half an hour but I couldn’t even manage 10 minutes
Jenni admits to being quite a competitive person and it is her competitiveness that enables her to complete marathons. She says, ‘Every time I do a marathon, as I get towards the end I start to want to give up, but then when I see everyone else running pass me I think ‘I can’t stop, I’ll feel like such a weak person’, so I think it’s the competitive streak in me that spurs me on.’
Running is clearly a huge part of Jenni’s life and not surprisingly, is her favourite way to work out.
‘I love running, that is quite frankly my favourite thing ever. Firstly because it gets you from A to B – I tend to run home from work during summer. I finish work by 6:30am and run home which makes me feel great and energised for the rest of the day.’
Running is also a huge stress buster for Jenni. ‘I tend to get stressed out easily but running really clears my head and makes me feel good again.’
She is also a big advocate of running and would encourage anyone to do it. ‘Running is great because it’s free – you just need to invest in some good trainers and a really good sports bra and you can do it whenever and wherever. You don’t have to commit to a time or a class or anyone else because it’s something that you can do on your own and it’s time out just for you.’
Running is great because it’s free – you just need to invest in some good trainers and a really good sports bra and you can do it whenever and wherever.
Be realistic when you start running
But what about those of us that have never run before? How do you go about getting into running?
‘The best thing is to not expect to be able to run continuously at first’, Jenni says. It is important to set realistic goals that are achievable. ‘When you’ve never run before start by running for 30 seconds, walking for 30 seconds and then switch it over, then try run for a minute, walk for 30 seconds, switch it over, and then just increase the running and decrease the walking until you’re maybe running for five minutes and walking for 30 seconds and keep it going until you’re not walking at all.’
In fact, it is not even the running that’s important when you start out. ‘Just the fact that you’re gently jogging and keeping moving the whole time really works and the speed and all the rest of it will come with time – that’s how I did it.’
Jenni has another, perhaps less conventional tip for beginners. ‘Just find a hill and try running up without stopping. There was this hill in Glasgow that I used to train on and it took me about a year until I could run up it without stopping. By setting yourself little goals like that not only increases your stamina and your lung capacity but it also trains you into the way you should breathe when you run and also makes your legs stronger and your mind stronger as well.’
Don’t forbid certain foods
As well as being an expert runner, Jenni admits to being a massive foodie and doesn’t believe in denying herself food. ‘I was always told to enjoy everything in moderation- that’s the best health advice I’ve ever been given. The minute you say to yourself that you’re on a diet and start forbidding yourself certain foods, all you think about is the things you’ve put on your ban list. The best thing to do is allow yourself those treats every now and again when you really want them.’
The minute you say to yourself that you’re on a diet and start forbidding yourself certain foods, all you think about is the things you’ve put on your ban list.
It is hardly surprising then, that Jenni does not follow a diet which is part of the reason she loves exercising so much. ‘Exercising balances out what I eat. If I didn’t exercise, I’d probably put on quite bit of weight because I love my food so that’s probably one of my motivations for exercising.’ I’m not very good at saying no to things I like, so if I wasn’t training, I’d probably be a bit more careful and try not to eat as much rubbish because I’d know I’m not going to burn it off.’
If I didn’t exercise, I’d probably put on quite bit of weight because I love my food so that’s probably one of my motivations for exercising.
She reveals that she’s not very good at resisting temptation, with her biggest weakness being pizza. However, Jenni has come up with a simple solution to her lack of willpower when it comes to treats. ‘I avoid my weaknesses by not buying them in the first place. I don’t buy biscuits as often as I would like to because I know they won’t last long. Instead, I only ever have something if I really want it and I make sure I regard it as a treat so that I really appreciate and enjoy it.’
I avoid my weaknesses by not buying them in the first place
Although she loves eating food, Jenni confesses she’s not the best cook and so she prefers tackling simple, easy to make dishes which makes her daily diet pretty consistent (whether she’s training or not). Because she gets up at 2:30am for work, she opts for a banana to snack on instead of breakfast at that time. She’ll then do her exercise straight from work (which will either be going for a run or to a class) and then come home and have a protein shake smoothie at about 9am. ‘The protein smoothie I make pretty much every day for breakfast is vanilla protein with almond butter, almond milk, blueberries, strawberries and a banana – it’s quite nice as fuel after exercise.’
For lunch she’ll have something like poached eggs and avacado, scambled eggs on toast, or maybe a salad. ‘I try to avoid sandwiches because although I love them, sometimes I just eat too much bread and it makes me a bit more sluggish’ she reveals.
‘Then for dinner I’ll have either grilled salmon with rice, quinoa and vegetables, chicken salad, chicken stir-fry or fajitas. It’s quite basic food but it’s all rich in protein.’
Exercise because it makes you feel good
Although Jenni’s schedule is pretty hectic, she believes it’s extremely important to work out mainly because it gives her a feeling like no other. ‘When I’ve done a really hard workout I love the fact that I can feel that I’m working my heart and lungs out, and I can feel my blood pumping. I feel like I’m really energising my whole body and I feel like it keeps me young.’
The hardest thing to do when it comes to exercise is starting
However, although Jenni loves fitness, she is sympathetic to those who struggle to get going. ‘The hardest thing to do when it comes to exercise is starting. It can be intimidating, scary and daunting and you also have a fear of not being able to do it. So the first thing you have to do is just get up off the sofa and out the door – the minute you’ve done it, you will be so proud and it will make you feel so much better and make you so much healthier.’
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