People who have known me a long time are fascinated with my transition from couch potato to fitness fanatic. Long Sunday runs, grueling hill reps, swinging a cast iron ball around my living room. The very thought of these activities would’ve fatigued me two years ago; yet I now do these things on a regular basis. In fact, I enjoy them. It wasn’t always this way.
|Me, the couch potato!|
I’ve always admired athletes, in particular endurance runners. Watching the London Marathon one year, it seemed inconceivable to me that some people could run, and keep running, for 26.2 miles. Although impressed by the elite athletes taking their gazelle-like strides towards the finish, I was humbled by the efforts of the thousands of (extra)ordinary runners who flooded the streets in aid of their favourite charities. Partly inspired by these runners, and also with the view of shifting the extra weight I was carrying, at my next gym session I stepped on the treadmill. Gradually inching up the speed, I increased my stride accordingly to keep up. I increased the speed some more, and broke into a tentative jog. Immediately something was wrong: my chest ached from the impact of the unfamiliar movement, my feet thudded on the belt in such a way I thought the machine should break, and soon I was gasping for breath. I pressed the emergency stop button, reached for my inhaler, and resigned myself to a gentle incline walk. I had run just over 30 seconds.
I didn’t think about running again until January 2010. Excess weight had crept on further still, and I was becoming increasingly unhappy about my appearance. Given my sporadic failed attempts in the gym, I was interested in a cheap accessible exercise. Once again those pesky runners were in full training mode for the marathon, including all the familiar running clubs in their distinctive shorts and vests. I wanted to run too, and I wanted to do it properly. I discovered an all-female running club in my area, and decided to try it out.
Linda, the club instructor, immediately put me at ease. Whilst the other ladies (mostly in their 30s and 40s) sped off into the distance, she trotted alongside me at my own gentle pace. She encouraged me to slow down to a walk whenever I felt tired, and then to speed up when I was ready. We carried on in this run/walk fashion for the entire session. At the end I was tired but by no means shattered, and I didn’t need my inhaler once. Best of all, Linda told me that we had covered nearly 3 miles. I had never thought I would be capable of running this far. I was walking on air.
From then on I ran three times a week. This included once a week with the running club (consisting of drills, speed/hill work, or sometimes just slow steady jogs), and then two more solo runs. I was astonished to see my fitness skyrocket, and I went from trailing the pack to becoming one of the energetic front-runners. My focus shifted from weight loss, to improving my speed and/or distance week-by-week. It just so happened that weight loss was a happy coincidence. I shed 20 pounds in the space of 3 months, including 3 inches off my stomach, 1 inch off my thighs, and a decrease in cup size from a GG to a more manageable (but still ample) F.
|Look at me now!|
From merely being a cheap means to lose weight, running has become so much more. It’s a hobby, a release, and a chance to compete with my ultimate rival-myself! Running has taken me across hills, mountains, ridgeways and sand dunes. I’ve run in the rain, snow, hail and wind. I’ve met some great friends and have had some amazing experiences. I hope to one day complete a marathon myself, and perhaps inspire someone just like me to make the same journey.
|At the end of a (soggy) half marathon in the Dare valley|
|I'm the one in the white t-shirt on the front left!|
Interested in taking up running? Here are some websites that may be useful:
CoolRunning: Home of the famous “Couch to 5K” running plan
Women’srunning UK: Excellent forum/articles, particularly for beginners
UKAthletics: Includes a list of running clubs across the UK
Up and running: Excellent online running store, including an advice section on shoes and nutrition
Runner's world: One of the biggest running forums around, training plans and a search engine to find races in your area