European Mountain running champion Jacob Adkin talks about the combination of education, running and university life.

Running to Your Best Degree

Heading to university, one of the biggest causes for excitement was the prospect of having a greater focus on running (the reality of studying dawned later) and all the fast new people I’d be doing it with.

It was almost dreamy; I left school where there were few who’s enthusiasm for the sport matched mine, and jumped into a place where, after finding the right circle, the feeling was shared amongst many. However, I experienced and witnessed first-hand the negatives and positives with running at university. To this end I have compiled a tips from the mainstream university guides, and given them a running twist.

Learn to budget

During your time at university, you will more than likely have moments of panic at the sight of your bank balance, regretting falling for those Sainsbury’s cookie deals (if you know you know).

I wished I had kept a track of my spendings instead of avoiding the bank app, the thought process being that if you ignore it, it’ll work itself out. This was sometimes the case for the running ‘budget’ too. 

Although you should defintely be adventurous with your running, exploring new surroundings, new training groups, it’s well worth the effort to keep a track of your training. Reflect on it week by week and change it accordingly to balance the books in a healthy way amongst all your commitments.

It’s much easier to save yourself from edging into an energy overdraft if you are able to spot early on the signs that your bank is being overworked. There are few loans of good value in running, unfortunately.

Make friends with lots of people

A big network of friends is not only handy when it comes to deadline season, supporting each other through long library stints (and then celebrating afterwards), but also essential when applied to in your running.

Make an effort to get to know a wide range of runners, as this will ensure there is a number of run options available. I agree that it’s nice to have a conistent training group to bash out sessions and the like, but giving time to at least easy run with others outside of this core circle is very beneficial.

It prevents the risk of unconscious competition within every run, which left unchecked will lead to undue tiredness and leaves you susceptible to all the risks of overtraining. Running at a wide spectrum of paces while enjoying different craic will keep you feeling fresher, more motivated and happier in general – win, win. 

Deal with chores before they get out of hand

Nothing seems more bothersome than the stack of used pots and crockery from dinner, still sitting at the side of the sink from the previous night, or week. It plays on your mind as you ignore it for another day, until the pile builds up to toppling heights, until one day it creates a more serious mountainous, and mouldy problem. In some way, this is similar to the neglected strength exercise plan (sorry to say).

When you’ve maybe progressed to two runs a day, or have only a short gap in the day to fit one run around your univeristy schedule, there’s not the same motivation to hit the yoga mat for some planks, or take to the weight room to prove to the bodybuilders that runners can lift.

However, it’s much more beneficial to start a routine early on so that you don’t put cracks in the crockery, and run the risk of injury to a point of no return. Strength training is a key component to building a stronger body and greater injury resistance. It can be just important as physically running, so it shouldn’t be seen as a lesser to that, but something that can replace it without guilt. 

Seek to create a simple exercise routine, one that doesn’t take an age to complete. It doesn’t even have to require a multitude of gym equipment – one can base a very beneficial plan around a theraband in your bedroom, which can be completed after a run session for example. Keep it sustainable and it’s much more likely to be maintainable.  

Learn how to sniff out a good deal

It’s a skill that is truly honed throughout life as a student and one that has as much right to a place on your CV as any other. Running kit can be costly, but take a little bit of time and confidence and you may be able to wangle yourself some treats.

Get to know which shops offer discounts to athletics club members, scour the internet for discount codes for online retailers, or even check out the job availabilty of local running shops (free shoes are often a perk of the role). [Maybe check out some pre-loved clothing at ReRun too – Editor]

Figure out the washing machine

This one is a given. Unless you enjoy pulling on muddy wet socks…

You can thank Jacob at the end of your first semester

So there you have it – a hopefully handy pocket-sized guide of tips that I believe are good essentials to keep in mind so that running remains healthy and happy throughout university. Be open minded, it’s not so much a time to be writing plans and goals in stone but one to enjoy and explore what running can open up to you.

Most important of all, speaking from experience, university is about finding the balance in your life. Running should not and cannot be something that overides everything else and becomes so prioritised that it prevents you from enjoying other parts of life.   Training is important, but you will look back more fondly on a time when you chose a night in the pub with friends over an extra 5 mile run in the rain. 

RELATED: How to regain your running mojo

Jacob Adkin features in the ‘Fast 10: class of 2019’ and over the course of the year will share his running journey. You can follow Jacob on Twitter and Instagram, while further information about the ‘class of 2019’ can be found here.

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