In my teen years, I spent a fair amount of time playing football after school, but it was mainly just a kick around with a few friends and required little running. From the age of 16, I had a very sedentary lifestyle; I took the bus to work and then spent all working day sitting at a desk in an office. When I attended university, the same applied; I took the bus to university and then was sat in a lecture hall, or sat at a desk in the library or at home.
Eventually I decided to join a gym, but even then, running was definitely not high on my to-do list. I would go to the gym once or twice a week, spend 45-60 minutes there having a brief go on the arm bike, treadmill, recumbent bike and arm weight machines, before returning home. I went to the gym with no real plan or goal, but just went for the sake of going and to feel like I was doing something.
After a few months I grew bored and a change in job saw me cancel my gym membership. A further few months down the line and I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression; I didn’t want to go out or talk, yet these are the two steps that my doctor really wanted me to take. He put forward a case that exercise was good for my mental well-being and I should try to at least get out to take a walk when I could. It took a while to gain confidence and be able to walk outside, but soon after I was diagnosed with gallstones, and was kept in hospital for 4 days. I was then discharged and left awaiting surgery… I was in a lot of discomfort and exercise was out of the question due to being in pain. 6 months later, I finally had the surgery to remove my gallbladder.
I started a new job and things were looking positive, until I started to put on weight which made me self-conscious; due to having my gallbladder removed, my body has a harder time breaking down fat. I decided to re-join the gym, but this time focus on my weight loss and start logging what I ate to try and help me stay motivated. I decided that my main cardio activity would be walking / running on the treadmill; so off I started… until I realised just how unfit I actually was! I was struggling to run for 20 seconds before I got stitch and couldn’t breathe… I was in shock. I knew I wasn’t the fittest, but I could walk for miles without issues, so I expected more of my running ability.
Later that night, I went home and was looking for tips on how to improve my running; I stumbled upon Couch 2 5k and decided to try and follow that. Week 1 was a struggle, but I stuck with it. Usually when I struggle with things, or am just bad at them in general, I tend to give up (hence why I have never learnt to play the guitar, I hate the “being bad at it” part and have no patience to get past that stage!). Now I have made progress and I can see my improvements, but what keeps me running?
- To Feel Good – so it turns out that my doctor was right (go figure!)… I do feel better after I’ve been for a run or done some hard cardio. My mood improves, it clears my mind and I just feel more awake. Even on tough days when I really don’t feel like I want to get up and run, as soon as I’m out there running, I feel so much better within myself. It also aids my weight loss goal which makes me feel better about myself physically. I’m a more confident person all round since I started running, and have definitely noticed that it has reduced my anxiety – I now volunteer as a Youth Worker and take part in activities which I would have passed up on before.
- To Challenge Myself – this is a big motivator for me; running gives me a way to challenge and push myself to do things that I didn’t think I could do. Running is a mental and physical battle, but nothing feels as good as completing a goal that I have set myself. My 40 minute non-stop run had me smiling for days because I looked back to where I began and saw my hard work paying off. It’s an indescribable feeling when your head and body both want to quit, but you manage to push on through and achieve your goal.
- To Meet People – I love the running communities and groups that are available. I enjoy hearing other people’s stories and providing motivation. It’s great to feel like you are a part of something and be able to share the success and pain of runners just like yourself. I enjoy talking to other runners about their motivation and goals.
- To Earn Medals – as someone who has never stuck with anything long enough to see real progress, I love earning medals! Whether they’re from virtual challenges or race events, I get a real sense of satisfaction from earning a medal. Having my efforts rewarded helps to keep me motivated and I even purchased a medal hanger recently, so all my bling is now proudly displayed on the wall.
- To Eat More – I love my food, so anything that allows me to eat more is definitely a winner. Running is a great calorie burner and allows me to create a calorie deficit to lose weight without having to drastically cut my portions, or completely restrict chocolate or other goodies.
I used to look at runners outside and think “they must be mad, running in the rain” or “you wouldn’t catch me doing that, I’d rather be watching the TV in the warm”, but now I can’t imagine not being able to run. When I’m ill or injured I get grumpy because I just want to go for a run. I’m more conscious of looking after my body in order to try and get the best running performance and also for protection – I’m careful when I step off curbs or down steps as I don’t want to injure myself. I’ve definitely got the running bug, and I never imaged that I could be so passionate about running!