I’m a Running Researcher: Laura Johnson

This post is part of the I’m a Running Researcher series. See all profiles in this series here.

Who are you?

Hello, I’m Laura Johnson and I’m a Senior Lecturer in Sport, Physical Activity and Health at Edge Hill University. I’m also an Accredited (The British Association in Sport and Exercise Sciences) Sport and Exercise Scientist Specialising in Psychology. I provide support to individual athletes and teams alongside my teaching and research responsibilities.

What is your background?

I completed a BSc in Sports Science and an MSc in Sport Psychology before getting involved in a number of Physical Activity based research projects at Liverpool John Moores University. I then went on to undertake a PhD at Edge Hill University in 2013 which explored the impact of family background on health and physical activity within a community-based football setting. After completing this, I obtained a full-time lecturing position in 2016 and also achieved my BASES accreditation in the same year.  During a busy couple of years, running was really important to me as a way to ‘switch off’ from my academic pressures and I began taking training a little more seriously, joining a local club and also volunteering as a Run Leader at a local running group.

How long have you been researching running?

Since 2017 when I set up a project to look at the impact of the ‘RunSmart’ running programme (an adapted, face-to-face, Couch to 5km) on motivation, attendance and well-being.

How did you get into researching running?

Becoming a Run Leader and having some involvement with beginner and novice runners really sparked my interest in the area. Myself and some of the other leaders would often speculate on how to keep the beginners motivated during the 10-week programme and what factors led to these individuals either completing the course and joining the main group, or dropping off part way through the course. I also started to think about my own running and how motivation and thought processes may differ across different levels of performers.

What running research have you done?

I have conducted two projects to date. The ‘RunSmart’ study aimed to explore the impact of participation in a 10-week group, led beginners running programme on participant motivation, attendance and well-being using Self-Determination Theory as a theoretical framework.  The second project which is still on-going is a lab-based study which aims to explore the thought processes and attentional focus of different levels (i.e., novice, club and elite) of runners during a 5km treadmill run.

How do you research running?

I use a range of methods through my work and consider myself to be a mixed methods researcher. In the RunSmart study, participants self-completed questionnaires at various stages of the programme, while I am making use of a ‘Think Aloud’ protocol in my current work. This involves runners actively verbalising their thought processes during a run.

What is the most significant, important, surprising, interesting, unusual, or favourite finding emerging from your research?

One thing that I found really insightful from the RunSmart project, was that self-rated mental well-being scores increased (at each stage of data collection) across the 10-week project. For me, this just emphasises the positive impact that running can have on psychological health. Furthermore, the role that feelings of competence appear to have on continued engagement in running is key. This highlights the need for a supportive environment particularly for those just getting into running.

Do you run?

Yes, I started running in 2015 when I was coming towards the end of my PhD, initially just on a social basis. However, as a highly competitive person I soon got the running bug and started training a little more, joining a running club and working with a coach. I’m predominately a road runner and I love racing, especially over the 5km distance, although I also really enjoy some of the slightly longer stuff too, with the Chester Metric Marathon being one of my all-time favourite races. I also love long runs with friends where we generally chat rubbish for a couple of hours and occasionally get lost exploring new routes.  I’m also a ‘new Mum’ with a 14-month-old little girl so my serious running has taken a bit of a backseat recently, but I’m getting back to fitness and just enjoying running with no pressure at the moment. I’ve also started my little girl early; she did her first 5km in the running pram aged 6 months and recently completed her first parkrun!

Where can I find out more?

You can email me at: laura.johnson@edgehill.ac.uk

Find me on Research Gate here:  https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Laura-Johnson-35

And/or you can follow me on twitter: @laurajohnson_88


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