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Can I run myself happy?

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Can I run myself happy?

University of Wolverhampton

The main purpose of the project was to introduce runners to sport science research so that they can use this knowledge to help them run faster, more often, be healthier, and be happier.

The project began as part of research examining how inner states such as anxiety, excitement, and happiness influence how often, how far and how fast people run.

There were several different aspects of the project:

  • The research aspect: this involved conducting a number of scientific studies where runners participated in research projects. The research examined how emotions influence performance and how runners tried to get themselves into a psychological state that they felt would help them perform better.
  • Working with industry: Namely audiofuel, a company that write music to listen to whilst running.
  • Workshops: In January 2011, a workshop was held for 80 runners funded by Podium. Workshops have also been run at the ESRC science week at the Manchester Museum.

Technology was utilised to recruit, support and feedback to participants in the research. For example, a page on the Runners World website has been devoted to provide recruitment to an intervention focussed project: Running psychology: improve your performance. Runners participating in the Runners World project were supported throughout and following data collection using electronic data collection and feedback. Upon project completion they were invited to a follow up workshop intended to disseminate, illustrate and explain the key research findings. The subsequent development of associated videos available via a dedicated YouTube channel maintains an internet presence and offers a further means of dissemination. They have also published their work in open-access peer reviewed journals to help ensure a wide readership including articles on the effects of interventions to help runners perform better and articles on how runners can feel better.

Project planning and critical reflection were central to the running of this project. This involved having a detailed and considered plan from the outset that makes realistic estimates of the resources required. A common limitation is to under estimate the time and resources needed. To deliver high quality research with impact, thinking time needs to be included. The research informs us that creative ideas rarely come in a working environment where anxiety is the prevailing emotion. Project planning must include creating a working environment that encourages ideas to flourish and one where people can take risks knowing that colleagues will support that decision. A key part of this process is contingency planning; things rarely go as planned and additional opportunities or threats to the survival of the project often present themselves. The research work is reflective and has not only published work in this area but also contributed to a symposium on reflective practice at the recent British Psychological Society Conference (December 2013). The research is always grounded in the experience of users. A variety of methods are used to ensure that this happens including reading internet based blogs hosted in sport forums, holding focus groups, or running pilot projects.