Q&A with Sally Gunnell



Sally Gunnell has joined forces with a campaign that sees Sport England and cruise line Royal Caribbean working with Run England to get more people involved in running through registered running groups led by qualified group leaders.

Royal Caribbean caught up with Sally for a Q&A to share some of her experience and wisdom when it comes to being active – something she knows a little something about as a former Olympic Champion!

RC: If you’re a complete beginner, what’s the best way to get motivated?

SG: With our Team GB Olympians inspiring people across the country to get off the couch and get active there is simply no better time to get healthy and fit than right now. For complete beginners, I truly believe that the best way to get and stay motivated is to join a group of like-minded people who can provide some support and camaraderie. Signing yourself up to a proper training program like Royal Caribbean Runners is the perfect way to keep this motivation up as you’ll get into a bit of a routine and likely meet a few people along the way who’ll inspire you. Whether you’re a seasoned athlete, a weekend warrior or a beginner looking to start your first run, when it comes to motivation it always helps to set yourself a goal that you can work towards. It can be as small as a 5k charity run or as big as the London Marathon, nevertheless having a date in the diary is always something that helps to spur the motivation.

Sally Gunnell 1RC: What motivates you? How do you keep motivated when it’s cold outside?

SG: While sometimes it’s some upbeat music that gets me out the door, ultimately what motivates me is the feeling I get after a run. I find that going for an early morning run just sets me up better for the day. I can think more clearly. I’m less stressed. I’m a better mother. And having recently joined a group of moms who are also into running I’ve found that they’re the ones that give me the energy to get out of bed. When it’s cold or rainy, if you’ve committed to someone I think it’s human nature to not want to let them down and that’s the motivation I get from running in a group. While I may dread leaving the house to face the elements, once I’ve gotten out there it’s something that I never regret. That wonderful euphoric feeling I get after running, you honestly cannot beat it!
RC: What’s the best way to avoid an injury?Sally Gunnell 1
SG: It should come as no surprise, but the best way to avoid injuries is to follow a proper running program that allows you to build up your training gradually. One of the most common running injuries out there is the knee pain that comes from pounding the pavement day in and day out or overtraining in general. My advice on how to avoid what can often be a career ending injury is to mix it up and change the surface of your runs. Don’t just be a road runner - seek out trails or parks where you can clock up the miles. Varying your training keeps things interesting and allows you to guard against a runners most common injury.

RC: What’s the best food post-run to help you recover quicker?

SG: Contrary to popular belief, the best post-run meal is not fish ‘n’ chips and a pint! One of the most crucial parts of post-run recovery is actually not WHAT you eat but WHEN. It’s really important to eat within that first half an hour of finishing a run. For me personally some of my favourite post-run snacks are fresh fruit smoothies mixed with a little coconut water or something that’s rich in carbohydrates. 

RC: What are the main benefits of running?

SG: One of the main reasons people take up running is because of all the health benefits it brings. Running can help you to lose weight, lower your blood pressure and cholesterol, act as a stress reliever and can literally add years to your life. An added bonus is that it’s cheap and you can do it anywhere. Just throw on a pair of trainers, step out your front door and you’re ready to go! 

RC: What’s the best way to warm up? Dynamic or static stretching?

SG: Conventional wisdom says that you should warm up for a run by doing dynamic stretches as those are the movements that are most suited to what you will ultimately be doing. If you’re doing static stretches before, you run the risk of pulling a muscle as the muscles are not yet warmed up. It’s always best to do your static stretches post-run as that’s when you’re muscles have the most elasticity and thus will be less likely to be pulled.

RC: Are marathons good for you?

SG: Marathons are great as long as you train properly and are well prepared. I think the marathon sometimes gets a bad rep because so many people ‘hit the wall’ or injure themselves before they can cross the finish line. A lot of the time I think this comes down to not following a proper training regime or not fully committing to a program that’s going to set you up for the best possible chance of success.
Sally Gunnell 2From personal experience I think it’s always best to start out small and build up to a marathon by doing some shorter runs first. If you’re a beginner, start out with a 5 or 10k and then work your way up to a half marathon before considering whether you’re going to commit yourself to the holy grail!Sally Gunnell 2
RC: How about training after injury, how do you keep in shape when you’ve injured yourself?

SG: Training after a running injury is not to be taken lightly and care always needs to be taken. Following an injury you should always build up your training gradually and listen to your body for any signs of distress. 

As I mentioned earlier, a knee injury is the most common running injury and one of the best things you can do to speed recovery is some non-impact exercise like swimming, bike riding or getting on an elliptical. Another great workout to help you mimic the act of running but minimize the high-impact element is to run lengths in a pool. Also, never underestimate some much needed rest. Recovery and giving the body a break is just as important as the actual training itself.    

RC: How do you refuel without gaining weight? 

SG: Everything in moderation! I try to stick to a well-balanced diet but like anyone else I like to treat myself every once in a while. I think the key thing to remember is just because you’ve started running, it doesn’t mean you can eat everything in sight. Living a healthy lifestyle is just as much about the food you put in your belly as it is the exercise you’re getting – it’s important not to lose sight of that.
RC: What’s the point of a sports bra?

SG: Support!

RC: How often should you rehydrate when going on a long run?

SG: Proper hydration actually begins the day before a long run. You don't need to drink gallons and gallons of water, but you do need to make sure you’re taking in lots of fluids the day before your long run. Water is the most important part of any run especially the long run. To avoid dehydration you should consume water before, during and after a run. Unfortunately there is no secret or exact prescription for hydration that works everyone. Each person is different and your hydration needs can vary from run to run depending on how much you sweat, the temperature, and your pace. When it comes to hydrating, the key thing is to not just drink when you’re thirsty because by then it’s too late. Sip on water throughout your run and you’ll have won half the battle.  

Royal Caribbean Runners
The new running groups that Sally has joined forces with see individuals take part in a nine week programme designed to improve their health and fitness in a fun and supportive environment. Not just for hardcore fitness fanatics, the new running groups are all about growing grassroots participation in the sport and getting people to see the many benefits that come from staying active in day-to-day life. Open to all and can be enjoyed by anyone, regardless of ability, Royal Caribbean Runners groups are currently available across London and the South East counties of Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire. For more information and to find running groups in your area please visit www.royalcaribbean.co.uk/runners.

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