Helping you get through tough times

Goal setting

Welcome to’s Ask the Expert service

Through this service the team will be working with a group of professionals and experts who have detailed and specialist knowledge of youth mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. They are available to answer questions and address your concerns. The issues covered will be the same as those covered throughout, but through this service we will be able to provide valuable insight into more specific and personal concerns you may have.

Questions and answers

Each month we will concentrate on one particular mental health area and work mainly with one specific collaborator.  Tina Murphy from Run with Tina was out featured expert for the month of January and answered your questions about goal setting and motivation for the new year.

Abbie says:
I’m thinking about starting to run. Some of my friends do and they have apps to help them. What are the best apps, or do I need one?

Hi Abbie,

There are several apps that have great programs for beginners. Have a look at ‘mapmyrun’ or ‘keeprunning’ and also the ‘couch to 5k’ app. These are all good and it’s up to your personal preference which one you prefer. You don’t necessarily need an app though.

A very easy way to get started is to go out for 30 minutes. Start with a brisk 5min walk to warm up, then run a little and then walk again. How much you run, depends on your fitness level but I would not run for more than 1 minute on your first week. You don’t even need to time this – just make sure you stop before you get out of breath, stop while it’s still pleasant. Then walk until you’ve fully recovered and run a bit again.

Over the weeks you’ll notice that you can run a bit more every week and sooner or later you won’t have to walk at all. Don’t expect to make fast progress in the first few weeks and only run three times a week, remember to warm up, cool down with a 5min walk and some stretches.

The key is to go slow and enjoy it. Good luck!


Dan says:
I said as my new years resolution I was going to get fit and I still want to. But I’m at college all day and I’m wrecked when I get home and then I have to study and get dinner. I know I need to get up in the mornings to do it but I can’t get out of bed. How do I motivate myself to get up?

Hi Dan,

Lack of time is a very common problem and you’re right in that exercising first thing in the morning is a good way of making sure you get some exercise. Unfortunately, there’s no miracle fix for this – you are just going to have to bite the bullet and get out of bed when your alarm goes.

Few tips that might help:

  • Go to bed a bit earlier – you should try to get 8 hours sleep every night, or at least few nights a week;
  • Do NOT press the snooze button but get up immediately when your alarm goes.
  • Make sure you have a dinner that’s light and easily digested – you’ll sleep much better and wake up refreshed.
  • Drink a pint of water first thing in the morning – this will wake you up.
  • Place your alarm clock far away from your bed so you’ll have to get up to switch it off.
  • Have all your exercise gear and anything you need laid out so that when you get out of bed you know exactly where they are and don’t have to spend time looking for anything.
  • Plan a reward – maybe a nice breakfast (when you exercise in the morning, it’s important to have a good breakfast with adequate protein) or a nice cup of coffee after you’ve done your exercise.
  • Eat well – avoid sugar, processed foods and take aways that make you lethargic. A healthy clean diet gives you energy and improves your quality of sleep which makes it easier to get up in the morning.
  • Imagine how good you’ll feel – visualize yourself after few weeks of following your routine and feel how fantastic you’ll feel.
  • Do it just once – tell yourself you’ll do it just this one time to prove to yourself that you can do it. I guarantee you after the first time you’ll feel so great you will want to do it again and again.

Good luck!


Tim says:
How long does it take to train for a marathon? If I started now, could I run the Dublin marathon in October? I’ve run a few 5k races before but I’ve never done much more than that.

Hi Tim,

This is a difficult question as it depends on so many things. You could train for a marathon in 10 months but I think this is the wrong approach – people who take this approach often give up well before they get to their target or end up with injuries or if they do complete the challenge, they rarely keep running after the marathon as it’s too hard. That’s not to say you can’t do it in 10 months, you just need to change your focus a bit.

Your first goal should be to run a 5k and run this comfortably. If you haven’t been running in a while, use a program such as ‘Couch to 5k’ to train for it. Give yourself 8 weeks.

Once you have done a 5k race/fun run and provided that it went well, you have no injuries or aches and you’re not struggling to do the 5k, aim for a 10k. Pick a 10k even in about 8 weeks time and train regularly.

Regular training is really important, that’s the only way to improve and to prevent injuries, so run 3 times a week and make sure you take rest days.You could do some cross training, such as yoga or pilates or even swimming.

Once you’ve done your 10k, and again provided that it went well and you feel 10k is relatively easy to run, aim for a half marathon. During this training, do a few more 10k events. Once you’ve done your half, then you can aim for the full marathon, again making sure you train regularly.

At any stage, if you develop any aches or pains, you should look after these, do not run through injuries. A regular sports massage is great for runners.

You should not set a deadline for when you want to do your marathon, do it when you’re ready and that way it’ll be relatively easy to achieve. Take it one step a a time.

Look at for some great training programs for all levels. Good luck.


James says:
Does running help with stress? My mocks are starting soon and I keep thinking about them and I don’t think i’m sleeping properly. I quit soccer cos i was told i should study more but i feel even more stressed now

Hi James,

Yes, absolutely. Running is one of the best ways to relieve stress and it will help you sleep better.

I’m sorry you were told to quit soccer – I think if you want to make the most out of your studies, exercise will help with this.

It helps you focus, keeps you mind sharp and gives you energy plus also is a great way to relieve stress.

It’s important to take breaks from studying and do something completely different. If you can’t go back to soccer, try to get out for a run, walk or cycle every day. Being outdoors is also good, try to go to a park, the beach or a forest as being in nature is really relaxing.

Take care James


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