So. If you are someone who pays a bit of attention to what I bang on about, you will probably have heard me talking about weight and what I believe is an unhealthy emphasis on it by society. When I was doing interviews around the release of my book, most of the interviews wanted to talk about the section of it which talks about fat. My fat. Being fat. The way the world treats fat people. Again and again, I found myself pointing out that evidence shows that being fat is not the root of all evil when it comes to your health, that actually, most of the problems attributed to fat are more accurately linked to a sedentary lifestyle. (If you want more info on this, check out the Health at Every Size movement.)
At the time, I was pregnant, so I had the perfect excuse to fob off exercising, but I knew that when I had my baby I needed to introduce some exercise into my life. I didn’t want to be at risk of the aforementioned health problems, and to be honest, I wanted my baby to grow up viewing exercise as something everyone just does. His dad plays football and cycles 90km a week, so he had his part covered, and I didn’t want to let the side down. Basically, I didn’t want him to grow up as I did, feeling that exercise ‘just wasn’t for me’.
I never really considered running as something that I might do, because every time I’d tried it I wanted to die. I hated it. But then, while I was pregnant, a friend of mine did the couch to 5k. She wasn’t a thin person. She didn’t find it easy. But she didn’t find it that hard, either. And suddenly I wanted to do it too.
I wanted to prove to myself that it was possible, as well as to prove it to others. I wanted to show people that large bodies are capable of doing all kinds of things you might assume they can’t. So, I decided that after I’d had my baby, I would run 5k.
Then I had Sam. You aren’t supposed to run for the first six weeks, so I had a pass for the first little while, but then the voice in the back of my head started going on at me. ‘I thought you were going to run, Louise! I thought you were going to run 5k!’ I was successfully ignoring it when I got an e-mail from the Rock and Roll Marathon asking me if I would consider being an ambassador for the run this year. It felt like fate. Or the universe calling my bluff, or something. Anyway, I couldn’t say no, could I?
Clearly, I’m not running a marathon. Actually, the event includes a half-marathon, 10k, 5k and 3k family fun run, so that’s not even an option (TG). I have, however, committed to running the 10k. That means that between now and August 13th, I have to go from being a committed non-runner, to being someone who can run a fair distance. For me, that means doing it my way.
Previously, any time I’ve tried the couch to 5k, I’ve given up almost immediately, because it’s just too hard. The distances increase too quickly, and I immediately feel like a failure. This time, I found a plan for absolute beginners online which seemed manageable to me and is based on my own ability. Essentially, it suggests that you walk for five minutes, then for twenty minutes run until you can hear your breath, then walk until you catch your breath, then run again, alternating until the twenty minutes is up. Do this every time you run, and eventually you’ll be running the full twenty minutes, at which point you can reassess. It made sense to me, and this morning I put it into action for the first time.
Do you know what? It was grand. It wasn’t easy and my lungs certainly got a shock but it was manageable. I knew that I could stop if I needed to, and rather than stopping the second I wanted to, I found myself challenging myself to get to the next corner/lamppost/dog-walker instead. I brought Sam with me in the buggy, and he thought it was hilarious (there’s something about panting which is pure comedy to him) before he fell asleep. Also, as someone who doesn’t relish exercising in public, I found the buggy to be a great prop.
So, I have begun, and I’m not even dreading the next run, which is something of a shock to me. I have five and a half months to go from where I am now to being a proper runner, and I’m actually kind of excited about it! If you want to join me on August 13th, you can sign up here. Having a tangible goal is definitely a strong motivator, and has gotten me moving when I almost certainly would have put off starting for another few months. Also, by all accounts, the Rock and Roll Marathon is a lot of fun, with music along the way and a light atmosphere. Would be great to see some other beginners on the day!