I think it all started when I was watching a TV show about celebrities trying various diets from around the world and realised that I was the same weight as Cheryl Baker from Bucks Fizz and that she was classed as overweight. So, something finally kicked into gear and I decided to do something about it, rather than just sitting there, motionless and overeating, complaining about being fat.
I began doing workout DVDs in my living room (Jillian Michaels, who I totally recommend!) but wanted to do something more and to try something that I’d never succeeded at before as I was always DREADFUL at it… running! I was always last in the races during sports day at school and, whenever I tried running as an adult, I made it about 10 strides before feeling like I was out of breath and just gave up. So, it was with this in mind that I downloaded a Couch to 5K app. I used one that cost £2.99 but there are free ones available, including the NHS podcasts, which I believe started it all. They all follow a similar format of a voice basically telling you when to start running and when to start walking; the first week starts you off with only 1 minute of running followed by 2 minutes of walking. The version that I did got me to 5k in 8 weeks and, ideally, you should be doing a session 3 times per week.
As I said, I had been doing some fitness DVDs for a couple of months so I wasn’t starting from absolutely nothing but all this meant was that I found the first week or two fairly easy so anyone coming in with a low or nonexistent fitness level shouldn’t be put off at all. In fact, these programs are designed with the unfit in mind. The program builds you up very slowly at first; so slowly that you barely even notice the progress you’re making. If, like me, you scroll through the app at the weeks coming up, you will be thinking “there’s NO WAY that I’ll manage to run for 35 minutes without stopping!” Try not to do this as you might psych yourself out! As the app says, there’s no shame in having to repeat certain weeks, if you feel like you’re not ready to move onto the next one. I didn’t let myself do this and I recommend that you push yourself into moving on and you WILL surprise yourself!
So, you trundle through the weeks; increasing the length of time that you run and decreasing the length of time that you walk and, before you know it, you’ve made it to the final week and you actually can run for 35 minutes without stopping and I guarantee that you will feel on top of the world… you might even find that you get further than 5k in the allotted time! Bonus!
After you’ve completed the program… well, it’s up to you! The world’s your oyster! Repeat the whole thing again! Just do the final week! Push yourself to run longer distances! Do a 5k parkrun! Join a running group! Or just do what I do and carry on running to suit yourself! I don’t care about breaking speed records… I don’t care about covering great distances… I don’t care about doing better than my friends who run! All I care is that, no matter fast I’m going or how far I’m running, I’m still doing more than those people who are still just on the couch!
It sounds obvious but, if you find that you’re going to stick with it, get yourself a pair of proper running trainers. The first couple of times I ran, I wore a pair of Nike Shox that I had hanging around the house and they were just far too heavy and not suitable at all for running. If you can, I recommend going to a specialist running shop. I went to Start Fitness in Newcastle and they were great; they knew their stuff and they didn’t push me to spend more than I wanted to. Everyone has a different gait and there are trainers to suit all types and these shops can guide you in the right direction so that you won’t end up doing yourself an injury by wearing an unsuitable type of shoe. I ended up with a lovely pair of Asics which I’ve had for over a year now and are still doing great.
Don’t get too bogged down in what other gear you need. You’ll figure it out as you go along! Don’t assume that you need to run in the fanciest, most expensive running clothing! I run in running tights from Sports Direct that cost £10.99 and are no different to ones I’ve seen that cost three times that. I wear men’s t-shirts from Primark… for the “coverage” at the back (you know what I’m talking about, ladies!) but, at the end of the day, it’s all about what you’re comfortable in as that’s all that matters! One thing that I was nagged about was making sure that you are wearing something reflective if you go running at night. There are loads of inexpensive options available; I’ve gone for a bright pink gilet, again from the running section of Sports Direct.
If you listen to music, listen to whatever the hell you want! Don’t think that you need these compilations albums of banging dance tunes that are supposed to motivate you… if you don’t like that kind of music then it’s not going to keep you going, it’s just going to annoy you! The music that I listen to (Sadie and the Hotheads, Gabby Young and Other Animals, Caro Emerald, Paloma Faith and an embarrassing number of songs from musicals… all recommended!) motivates me in different ways… once a Liza Minnelli song came on (don’t judge me!) as I was walking and I got going again by saying to myself “come on, Sarah, Liza wouldn’t give up!” I realise that not everyone is that weird but you get my point about just suiting yourself as far as music in concerned!
Most of all… enjoy yourself and give it some welly!