Friday 29 May 2015

Learning to Run

Three years ago today I reached my goal weight and for the first time in living memory was within my healthy BMI.  Having been overweight my whole life, this is a day that I love to celebrate.  Back when I tipped the scales at an unhealthy 19.7 stone I would literally dream of waking up slim and now that my dream has become a reality, I never ever take my achievement for granted and work hard to keep at a healthy weight.

If you're not familiar with my weight loss story then you can read my post from last year here where I shared my experience of being overweight and how I lost 9 stone.

This year to mark the occasion I'm going to chat to you about how I taught myself to run and how it's helped me to lose weight.

To this day people ask me whether I had to exercise to lose the amount of weight that I did, they always look a little disappointed when I confirm that I did. Unfortunately it is impossible to lose weight in a healthy way without committing to a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise. This doesn't have to be a hardship though so today I want to share my experience of learning to run.

Being a heavy child I was not a fan of being active.  I loathed Sports Day, was always picked last for teams in PE and would quite often attempt to convince Mum to write me a note excusing me from gym class.  To this day I wish so much that PE was taught better in schools.  It is an essential part of the school curriculum but it baffles me why academic subjects are taught according to ability yet sport isn't.   Being a kid who can't run, catch or throw is torture when you're competing against children who are so much better than you.  I know for a fact if  I'd been in a PE class with other kids who couldn't do sport I would have tried much harder and maybe grown up without a loathing for physical activity.

 The day I left school I swore I'd never be made to do sport again.  I didn't run for anyone or anything - I would rather miss the bus then break into a sweat trying to run for it and the thought of ever participating in a group sport event again made me feel sick!

When I decided to lose weight I knew that I was going to have to exercise and to start with I struggled to see how I'd manage when I could barely do a 5 minute walk down the road without sore feet and feeling out of puff.

To save the embarrassment of joining a gym I began my journey by going on a lunchtime walk three times a week.  I took trainers into work and without fail would stick them on and go power walking three times a week as well as doing as much walking as I could at weekends.  Without realising it I started to enjoy it - clearing my head in the fresh air and escaping for a while was lovely.

When I finally joined the gym I was too nervous to try running, convinced that I'd fall off the back of the treadmill.  So for the first 6 months of my membership I put the treadmill on a 6% incline and power walked hills. 

One day I realised I was getting a little bored of walking on the treadmill and, noticing the gym was quiet that evening, decided to speed things up a little and try a bit of a run.  Imagine my surprise when I managed a good 10 minute run without stopping!

For anyone wanting to run, I'd definitely say don't get frustrated if you can't do it immediately.  If you go from doing no exercise to running you'll probably last less than a minute which will be so frustrating and probably put you off trying again.

I took the slow approach by building up the strength in my legs by power walking but if you want to get into running faster then I'd recommend doing "Couch to 5K" which you can download on to your phone.  Using a programme of timed walks integrated with short runs, you can expect to be able to run 5k in 9 weeks based on doing the programme 3 times a week.

When I first started running I'd do 30 minutes on the treadmill made up of 10 minute runs and short bursts of powerwalking.  I was pretty convinced I'd never be able to run any great distance and was never bothered about pushing myself to do more until I started exercising with Simon.

If you can find yourself a running buddy it makes things much easier.  I found that running next to Simon on the treadmill motivated me to do more, I'd suddenly found a competitive streak I never knew I had.

I finally completed my first 5k on the treadmill at the end of last year, I did it with Simon by my side and I was so glad he was there to share my moment.  I never would have done it if hadn't been for his encouragement - he believed in my running ability long before I did!

I'm not going to claim that being able to run suddenly means that you are always eager to go out for a run.  As much as I love the post-exercise feeling, sometimes lugging off to the gym after a tiring day is the last thing I want to do.   I found that buying myself some bright and colourful gym gear helps a little to get me in the right frame of mind.  I love my crazy patterned sports leggings from Tesco.

Running really helps to keep my body trim.   My tummy is noticeably smaller and my arms less wobbly if I keep up a good routine of running 3 times a week.

Once I'd smashed one target I decided to move onto another to keep myself interested.  After completing a few 5ks on the treadmill, I wanted to try to complete one in the great outdoors.  I always felt that I wouldn't feel like a real runner until I was doing it outside.

My aim was to join in a Park Run, organised across the country, they are timed 5k runs that take place on a Saturday morning.  They are free to join and open to anyone.  I will admit I put it off throughout the Winter as I didn't much fancy running in ice but my goal was to complete a Park Run before my 3rd Anniversary of being at goal.

The day finally arrived two weeks ago and I was more than a little nervous about partaking in an organised event with other people.  What if I couldn't do it or what if I came last?

Running outside was different to the treadmill but I had the most amazing time.  Running in the fresh air with people cheering me on and so much to look at made the time fly, and every time  I did struggle I just thought about 15 year old Chloe who couldn't complete a 1500 metre run at school and it pushed me on!    Teenage Chloe would have been amazed to see me speeding round the lake.

As I crossed the finish line and ran into Simon's arms I had tears in my eyes, it was quite an emotional moment and another huge achievement in my lifelong commitment to stay fit and healthy. 

Later that day I got a text with my results, I completed 5k in 30:48, my fastest ever run.

There's nothing in life quite as special as achieving something you never thought you could and with the right attitude and a healthy dollop of determination I believe that anyone can achieve anything.
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