Sporting legend Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill has teamed up with the adidas UltraBOOST Energy Crew to give London runners some much-needed encouragement to get outside and train. We asked for her tips on how you too can stay motivated.

Words: Jo Ebsworth

Struggling with workout motivation during lockdown? A recent global study commissioned by adidas highlighted that 41 per cent of people cited bad weather as the factor that prevents them from running. With this in mind, and as the dark mornings continue, adidas have launched the UltraBOOST Energy Crew hotline: a service running until Sunday 28th February, designed to motivate Londoners not just to get out and run, but love it too. We caught up with ambassador Jess to talk about some of the difficulties we’re all facing when exercising in lockdown and asked for her advice on how you can maintain your motivation to work out.

Have you struggled to work out during the pandemic, or has it been business as usual?

‘It’s definitely changed the way I work out. I’ve found I’ve had a little more flexibility with when I’ve been able to train because my husband has been working from home. I can say to him, “right, I’m going into the garage to do a quick workout”, or “I’m going out for a run”. I’ve also had a bit more motivation to train as it gives me the opportunity to get some headspace and take some time off from homeschooling and everything else that’s happening in the home. Exercise has been a really nice way for me to find time for myself in a world where we’re so confined at the moment.’

So many people took up regular exercise during the first lockdown to boost their physical and mental health. Do you think we’ve found it harder to stay active during lockdown 3.0?

‘Yes. I think it’s been harder because the first lockdown was a bit of an unknown and we didn’t really know what it was or how long it was going to last. This time around, it feels very much like “here we go again”, and we’ve exhausted some of our training options, so a lot of people are finding it tough, me included. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a former athlete or you’ve never run before in your life – finding that motivation to exercise can be really hard when it feels like Groundhog Day. We often get a motivational boost with the start of the new year, but if you’ve had a slump or lost momentum, now is the perfect time to get started again or try something new.

How will you be encouraging Londoners to get outside and keep training?

‘I’ll be doing virtual coaching sessions with competition winners who message into the WhatsApp group. I’ve just done a warm-up in my freezing cold garage with three winners and Maya Jama and it was really good fun! None of them had really run that much before and they were kind of nervous, but they were so buzzing on the call and, hopefully, they all headed out for a run afterwards and started that process of getting active again, which can be really hard sometimes. It’s all about having those little ways to encourage people to get their trainers on. And I think having this boost of getting some amazing trainers sent to your house and being able to do a workout with someone you never thought you’d be able to meet or get to chat to is a really good motivator.’

Finding time to exercise has hit some women particularly hard during the pandemic. What advice would you give them on how to incorporate some daily activity into their lives?

‘When you’re homeschooling and working and doing everything else, it’s all about finding those small nuggets of time to squeeze in a short workout. For me, it’s been all about quick 20-minute HIIT circuits. They’ve been perfect as you can do them in the corner of your living room, get your heart rate up really high, work up a sweat and feel like you’ve pushed yourself, but you’ve done it in a very short space of time. It’s all about trying to carve out some time where you can have 20 minutes to yourself every couple of days. Training just three times a week can make a big difference to your life, your physical shape, your mental wellbeing and your mood.’

Running has become one of the nation’s top forms of exercise during the pandemic. Why do you think it has proved so popular? 

‘It’s an interesting one because there are so many people out there who would say they’re not “natural runners” and wouldn’t consider taking up running, but lockdown has forced them to try running because they really didn’t have many other options. And you don’t need any fancy equipment to do it or to follow the latest trends – you just need a good pair of trainers and you’re off! Particularly in the first lockdown, we only had an hour to exercise a day, so everyone wanted to go out for that hour and make it as productive as possible. And I think that’s when many people discovered their connection with running for the first time, while exploring where they lived. I found so many new running routes I never even knew about, and the same goes for many of my friends. If one positive thing has come out of lockdown, it’s that so many of us have been encouraged to get outside and experience everything running can bring to our lives, including the massive energy boost.’

What strength training exercises would you recommend for becoming a stronger runner?

‘For me, some strength work is essential. A lot of runners can be put off from doing weights and strength work as they don’t want to be too bulky or too heavy, especially if they’re doing longer distances. But having some element of strength training in your programme is really important as it strengthens all those key joints and ligaments, and everything else you need to run really well. I’d definitely recommend doing some good feet exercises. It sounds really boring, focusing on your feet, but doing lots of little bounces, jumps and minimal plyometric exercises will help build up your foot and ankle stability which is crucial, especially when you’re running on pavements which can be quite tough on the body.’

How can we stay motivated to train when the weather is so miserable right now? 

‘The best way to stay motivated is to have a plan: keep a diary, schedule in all of your training sessions and tick them off. This will definitely help to keep you motivated. I also find having the right kit and shoes makes a real difference – being dry and warm when it is cold and wet is so important.’

How can we boost our energy levels so we feel more inclined to work out? 

‘For me, it is all about routine, so consider following a training plan or signing up for challenge that will put a bit of a structure into your life. The amazing thing is that the more you do work out, the better you will feel, and this in itself is motivating. I also think it’s best to choose a time of day to train when you are most likely to feel you have the most energy. Then you will  be more up for exercising. If you live with others, get them involved as your sessions will be a lot more fun and harder to miss.’

The end of this third lockdown is in sight, so why is it important that we continue to stay active?

‘To me, being active is the biggest thing. Obviously, I’m biased because I’ve been active my whole life, but more so now than at any other time in my life, I’ve realised how important it is to exercise. Normally, we’d be going out to work and travelling a bit so we would be naturally moving around more and walking and going up stairs. We’re not doing that at the moment, so it’s essential we get out there, get a bit of fresh air and find ways to release those endorphins, otherwise we can slip into that slump of being in front of our computers, iPads and TVs all the time, and at the end of the day, you realise you’ve actually only walked from the living room to the kitchen and back. Exercise is so important for our mental health, and right now, it’s giving us the time to switch off. When you finish a run or workout, you get a buzz that you can’t really get from anything else.’

The UltraBOOST Energy Crew service will be running until Sunday 28th February, and anyone within the Greater London area can contact the hotline. Runners can now WhatsApp ‘UltraBOOST’ to +447767 016137 to receive one of many energy boosting rewards. To find out more, visit adidas