Tag Archives: healthy-living

Eeek! It’s a bug

Running shoes

Running shoes

I have spent much of the last couple of weeks thinking about running, but this is still strange territory for me. It’s about 18 months since I was encouraged to go outside by Ruth Field’s book ‘Run Fat B!tch Run’ and although there have been frustrating interludes of not running due to the icy roads or muscle strain, it does now seem to be something I do.

To revive my motivation after a break I started the ‘Couch to 5k‘ programme which is thoroughly but steadily building up my fitness and stamina again. I come back in from my run feeling properly exercised but not exhausted. Also recently I’ve come across the website The Running Bug, which actually does relate all abilities. The cheery community on the forums are full of mutual encouragement and I was given a warm welcome when I signed in. The website name has made me realise that running is like a bug. It just gets into your system and whether you’re doing it or not, the run is always there at the back of your mind.

I can see now that although it’s hardly Bradley Wiggins and Team Sky, even my small achievements have a support group. There’s the lovely Alison Hannigan, a McTimoney chiropractor who every so often re-aligns my bones and helps to repair the recalcitrant muscles. And even my hairdresser – no really, he’s an Iron Man competitor and actually did the Decaman in 2012 – is a terrific source of good information about best practice in stretches and so on. The family consistently ask after my progress and that’s another factor which keeps me going – I don’t want to have to admit to lapsing back into lethargy.

So now as I make my way round my chosen 5k circuit I mentally report in and hold conversations with imaginary running buddies. I couldn’t contemplate actually running with someone else because my pace is too snail-like and the real conversation would be distinctly monosyllabic. But this week I have astonished myself by signing up for a ‘Bug Running Day’ on 8 September. At 9:30am bugs all over the country and beyond will be lacing up their trainers and heading out for 20 minutes for a real outing with virtual running mates. I know I’ll be in good company – and I still won’t have to talk to anyone.

A running commentary

Things I have learned since starting to run:

  • if I can do it, then, really, anyone can
  • walking a route first for weeks/months is fine and I got to run in the end, improving at a rate of progress that suited me
  • the weather outside is often not as bad as it looks from the inside
  • there are a few essentials, but you don’t need a lot of kit – it’s definitely cheaper than gym membership and easier to stick to.  I spent money on shoes and orthotics but then picked up clothes and reflective stuff from Lidl’s and eBay.
  • once you light on the right time of day for your energy and commitments it’s easy to set up a routine
  • even walking regularly has a rapid impact in term of flattening your tum and contouring your legs
  • patience is important as well as motivation, building up slowly in the first place and if there are any set backs like tweaked muscles, it’s not the end of the world, just time to ease off.  I’m learning to remind myself that if I’ve achieved a certain level, I can do it again.  Top athletes have lots of support to recover from injuries, the rest of us only have patience.
  • I don’t want to run competitively and I think joining a group would discourage me rather than inspire
  • the immediate vicinity is a different world when you set out to run in it, compared to popping out to the newsagent’s later in the day
  • my best time is before breakfast, and breakfast is extra delicious when I get back
  • starting in the winter is good because then the dark mornings aren’t so daunting when they come round again
  • it gives you an inner glow for the whole day and it’s great for your skin, and you can eat a slice of homemade cake without feeling bad
  • even a short route yields the benefits – I don’t have to run for ten miles or sign up for a marathon – but if I wanted to, I could

Running shoes

Changing paces – a lesson in new behaviour

A hero for me of the year so far is Ruth Field, aka The Grit Doctor.  Her achievement has been to help me to realise after 40-odd years of inactivity that it’s good to move.  In fact to go beyond the realisation, because after all everyone knows exercise is good for you, and actually to do it and then keep doing it.

PE at my school was a pretty dispiriting experience if you weren’t inclined or able to shine.  It was netball or hockey in the autumn and winter, tennis or athletics in the summer term.  An occasional alternative if the weather was really bad: climbing bars and ropes in the school hall.  I was one of those always the last to be picked for teams, always uncoordinated and hopeless at everything.  What a relief to get into Sixth Form and leave it all behind forever.

Of course it was not just a matter of saying good-bye to Mrs Chester and Miss Bell, but also to any healthy exercise.  I continued through adult life with a self-image of being useless at any sport/game and, whilst maintaining an acceptable BMI or whatever, probably not what anyone would classify as physically fit.

Enter, in a post-Christmas feature in The Times, Ms Field and her book
‘Run Fat B!tch Run’.  As a result I am more toned, healthier, in touch with the benefits and serotonin arising from regular exercise, and out in the fresh air for a 3.5 mile circuit at 7am at least three times a week, more or less in all weathers.  I miss it and feel ill-at-ease if I don’t go.  It’s a major new behaviour established over a few months and on reflection it’s been an object lesson in bringing about lasting change.

The first step is to tap in to the knowledge or suspicion that the status quo won’t do.  All individuals and organisations know that life isn’t as good as it could be.   Even if it’s buried deep, somewhere there’s a nagging voice that says there’s a different way, and it’s probably a better one.  Then what?

  • approach whoever you are dealing with as one human being to another
  • make it simple and practical
  • make it fit with established preferences or what they are already doing (I have always been a morning person so getting up a 7am isn’t a problem)
  • make it sound achievable, possibly even enjoyable (though the Grit Doctor would never admit this)
  • make the change incrementally
  • get them to try it just enough to begin to see some benefits
  • emphasise that keeping it up is critical (‘if you don’t like re-starting, stop giving up’)
  • be empathetic but not patronising, disclose what you find hard about it too
  • get them to keep on keeping it up by motivating them with the benefits – or with the disbenefits of not doing it
  • be available to answer questions and offer support
  • offer role models, but not those who are so good that they are impossible to emulate
  • have other sources of expertise available so that you don’t have to have all the answers
  • encourage mutual support among those trying it out – social media platforms make this easy
  • set goals
  • let the new behaviour be its own reward, but also celebrate when goals are reached

So far, so straightforward.  But there is another ingredient which can be harder to manage – personal style.  Somehow Ruth’s approach just did it for me, but there are others whom she no doubt rubs up entirely the wrong way.  When you write a book, you just have to write it, send it out into the world and hope for the best.  Some will love it, others really won’t.  But when you’re working in person to make change happen you need to adapt your style to suit the situation, which means: a) getting to know what your personal style is, and b) learning how to be heard by those whose preference is very different.

And that’s another story altogether.