“I can’t do it, I can’t do it, I can’t-”
It was week four into the running challenge my mum had convinced me to follow with her, although I’m sure this particular dialogue could’ve been plucked out of any week so far, and I felt like I was going to choke on carbon dioxide. Or like I was going to collapse. Or die. Or possibly all three at once.
A revelation I’ve had since starting this running thing, aside from the fact that I seem to be a dramatic runner who catastrophises everything, is that I should’ve done this sooner. I haven’t left it ridiculously late in life to start, and I know many people take up running when they’ve had a lot more birthdays than me, but the thought does tend to linger in my head as I sweat it out on the seafront.
I know there are many people out there who want to start running but they’re not really sure how or even if it’s for them. That’s why I thought it could be helpful to share my experiences as I get into running to help other people make a decision that’s right for them. This post is going to cover a little bit of background: my relationship with running over the years and where that’s led me to now. If people are interested to know more, I’d love to talk about how getting into running has been for me and share my tips for other new joggers! For now, let’s just get straight into it.
My relationship with sport at school
As a young kid, I saw my mum go out every Sunday morning for a run, at what I thought was a ridiculous hour to be out doing anything. I was impressed by her commitment and ability, but never felt motivated to start myself. It was always an activity that looked hard work and daunting. One year, my mum did rope me into doing a 5K Race For Life run with her, but if my memory is correct I think I walked the majority of it.
Athletics, and sports in general, were my weak spot at school: for a short time I was heralded as a great sprinter but I think that’s just because my growth spurt upwards happened before everyone else’s. Long legs were a huge advantage in the primary school playground.
Once everyone caught up with me in secondary school, I sank to the back. I’m not sure how much of this was to do with not actually being able to do it though. It might have really been the fact that I didn’t have the confidence to give it a go and risk not being able to do it. Either way, I stood back and let other students fill up the race track.
The gym phase
Does everyone have one of these? I feel like they do. By the time college rolled around, the gym became somewhere I loved to go to with my mum. We had a little routine there for about eight months: the rowing machine, the exercise bike, a selection of the weight machines and then, if we were feeling brave, the treadmill. It was here, watching the distance slowly tick up and heaving my legs up and down, that I discovered the satisfaction of running.
The joy of jogging for just a few seconds longer, or just a little further, than last time. The looseness of limbs afterwards. The total exhaustion in every muscle. The feeling of having actually pushed my body and gotten somewhere with it.
The ‘too busy’ phase
I feel like a lot of people have one, or more, of these too. Also known as the excuses phase. After my college exams were done, I went travelling and conveniently forgot about running. I kept myself at an alright level of fitness though, climbing various mountains, craters and glacier trails around the world.
But then I came home and began working in an ice cream shop; yep, you can see where this is going… I had access to free ice cream five days of the week, over the whole summer. Yes, I was on my feet all day, and physically felt very exhausted, but this was mainly due to standing up in the heat for hours on end, not because I was doing any cardio. Moving into a healthcare job in a hospital has given me a fair amount of walking around and physical lifting duties, yet still, this is not cardio.
The ‘oh no, I need to do something’ phase
This is the call to action moment. The time when you’re ready to get moving, you just need a little push from somewhere to get started. My little push came from my mum. She suggested we take up running together as, by this time, she had lost her running routine and felt ready to get back into it slowly. This is how we have ended up using Couch to 5K, a programme set out by the NHS to get nearly anyone running 5K within nine weeks.
It sounds a little ambitious but I couldn’t recommend this programme more highly: it starts off really easy with sets of one minute runs, but progresses at a pace that’s challenging yet not ridiculously difficult. It schedules you in for three runs a week which helps keep it consistent but not overwhelming. So far I’ve had a great experience with it, and the aches and pains from the first few weeks have slowly receded.
One of the biggest things I’ve learnt from this experience so far is that the mental barriers of running are harder to overcome than the physical barriers. Every time I put my trainers on, I feel a little hesitant. But every run I complete chips a little piece off the block of uncertainty and motivates me to keep going.
No more ‘I can’t’s; I’m moving onto ‘I can and I will’.
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