The Secret Runner
Sharon talks about being a secret runner to improve her fitness
Date: 20 July 2020 Author: Energise Me
Sophie never saw herself as someone who would write a blog about getting active. But lockdown and a lack of outdoor space prompted her to join the movement from Couch to 5k.
I’m writing this with a glass of wine having eaten a packet of Wotsits. So you see, I’m really not one of those jump-around exercise types. Recently (and completely unexpectedly) I have a new fitness hobby and no-one is more surprised than me. I have taken up running.
I have never been particularly active. Cross country running and the bleep test were the stuff of my teenage nightmares. These days I work as the Director of The Spring, the arts centre and museum in Havant. I love my job but most days are spent at my desk, drinking coffee in meetings, or walking around our building. On a good day I might walk a total of 2000 steps.
I have a three-year-old, so weekends are spent running around. But 30 minutes in the park is about our limit before we head for ice cream. Until a couple of months ago, I’d resigned myself to always being unfit and a little bit too heavy.
I love my job but most days are spent at my desk... On a good day I might walk a total of 2000 steps.
And then there was COVID-19. During the lockdown, balancing work and childcare with limited outdoor space (we live in a flat in Southampton), it became a bit too easy to open the wine or the chocolate at the end of the day. The fact that some of my clothes were getting a little snug didn’t really cause me much concern. It was annoying and I always promised myself I wouldn’t creep up that extra dress size. But just three years ago I made a whole person, so that totally accounts for any extra weight.
It seemed very little would spur me on to change the habits of a lifetime. Rather embarrassingly, the thing that pushed me over the edge was social media. An alarming number of my friends had taken up exercise. Even those who I had previously thought of as less active than me were suddenly taking selfies having competed crazy fitness challenges. They were showing off new svelte figures. As well as being slightly irritating, there was also a whisper in my head – if they can do it, maybe I can too.
There was also a whisper in my head - if they can do it, maybe I can too.
I had heard of Couch to 5k and having nowhere better to start I downloaded it (now I wish I’d known about Zombies, Run! which sounds so much fun) and began to wonder. I didn’t tell anyone what I was thinking. I just added it to my phone and spent a few days looking at it.
Then one Wednesday evening I put my trainers by the door. (This is a top tip for getting out there – get everything ready the night before). When I woke up early on Thursday there was no excuse, so I went for it. It was early and everyone was still asleep. I left a note that read, ‘You won’t believe this but I’ve gone for a run!’.
I headed out and, really without understanding why, I did the first run of the Couch to 5K programme. I won’t pretend it was easy. But when I got back I felt great – better than I had in years.
Music has been key. From show tunes to cheesy pop to classic rock I have a constantly evolving running playlist.
So I continued. I was never completely sure when I started a run if I’d finish it, but I did – every time. And the more I ran the more I wanted to achieve the next one, the next level and on to the following week. Quite often I would finish a run by 7am and by 10am be wishing I was able to go again to recapture the feeling. I kept to the advice of running every other day, but the feel-good chemicals were doing their job.
Physically it was challenging but the biggest hurdle was in my head – questioning whether I could manage it. Each week I’d be nervous about what came next. Couch to 5K is based on interval training, mixing runs with recovery walks. Starting to increase runs was scary but each week I amazed myself. By the end, I was running for 30 minutes each time – without stopping. I can still hardly believe I would be able to do that!
I came up with strategies to make the runs enjoyable. I run every other day and go first thing in the morning. We live in Southampton and I run around Ocean Village. At 6am there is no one around except a few dog walkers and security guards who I’m now on ‘hello’ terms with. There is a little early-morning community that I am now part of. I hope they notice I’m getting quicker and (slightly) less red-faced as I pass them.
There is a little early-morning community that I am now part of. I hope they notice I’m getting quicker and (slightly) less red-faced as I pass them.
Music has been key. From show tunes to cheesy pop to classic rock I’ve a constantly evolving running playlist. If I find a track isn’t helping I’ll get home and edit until I’m happy. I use the music as a marker for time. When the Couch to 5K app told me there was 15 minutes of a run left it was easy to get disheartened. Telling myself there are only four or so songs left sounds much more manageable.
Most of all though, the thing that’s kept me going and got me out of bed in the morning has been the huge sense of achievement. I feel better for running. I have more energy, feel less guilty about those Wotsits and hope to be a better example for my little boy. Perhaps most importantly though I have now become one of the people writing smug social media fitness posts. #ThisGirlCan
I am not necessarily a natural, but I am now a runner. And if I can do it, you definitely can too.
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