Who the hell would choose to go running?

Yesterday, I arrived home, exhausted after two flights and three hours sleep, from a ten day trip to Spain to visit family. Getting off the plane this (UK) end, I was hit by a ten-degree drop in temperature from that which had ushered me onto the first flight of the day, ten hours earlier. That wasn’t the only harsh reality to welcome me home.

A couple of years ago, I experienced that realisation that I had put on more than ‘just a couple of pounds’ and now was the time to do something about it. Since then, I have been steadily losing the excess weight, and at the beginning of the year hit that ‘about right’ weight and size. This has mostly been achieved by sensible, healthy eating (no fad diets here), and sporadic periods of exercise training programmes. Recently, I bought a FitBit activity tracker so I could track calories burned versus calories eaten. It has been reassuring to discover that the balance of these calories is in the right direction most days, but it has also motivated to increase my daily activity and over the last two months I have increased my average daily step count from around 10,000 to around 15,000. I spend many days working from home at the moment, so the movement reminder once an hour has been great to prevent me spending so many hours at a time sitting at my desk that my chair and my body merge into one. The addition of weighing scales that measure body fat percentage has been useful too. I am increasingly of the opinion that what you weigh is not as important as your body fat percentage. You can have two people of exactly the same weight and height, but with completely different bodies – one athletic and one soft and squidgy – because fat weighs less than muscle. Too much or too little fat is the enemy that needs watching to be a healthy size. My body fat percentage is around 23%, which is within the healthy percentage range for a woman of my age, but for reasons of vanity (I’m not going to lie to you about this) I want to aim for 20%, which would put me at the top end of the ‘athletic’ range.

Anyway, I digress…

Ten days in Spain, trying all of the delicious food typical of the region we were in, meant that even without overindulging I knew I had eaten more than I’d burned. I also knew that a summary of that food could look like: eggs, potato, salami, cheese. Not exactly a balanced diet. We had done a lot of walking in Spain, but at a ‘tourists having a wander’ pace rather than anything that would elevate your heart rate.

I decided that there was no point hiding from the scales – much better to get on them and find out what the damage was and then make a plan to address it. I’m becoming increasingly pragmatic as I get older.

It wasn’t as bad as I’d feared. I’d put on 1.5kgs, and increased my body fat percentage by 1%. I had gained 0.6kg of muscle (yay!) but had also gained 0.9kg of fat. Not a disaster, obviously, but it effectively undid everything I’d achieved in the previous couple of months. Please note, I think it is always important to have a good sense of perspective about this stuff in order to make sensible and healthy decisions that won’t damage your body or your mind. In practical terms, I’d gone on holiday basically healthy, and I had come back basically healthy. No drama here. Simply a reversal in a trend I’d worked to establish in order to work towards gaining a more than basically healthy body. The sensible thing to do was simply to acknowledge the small deviation from the plan and then decide on a plan to get back on track. I needed a new plan anyway – increasing my steps and burning more than I ate was cutting my body fat at an extremely slow pace and I felt I could do better. Rather than restrict food (this can only get you so far, and at a certain point becomes counterproductive), I opted to increase my activity burn. Time to step things up a level.

So this was how I found myself going out for a run this evening. I hate running. I honestly have never understood why anyone would choose to go for a run. In past years when I’ve attempted to force myself to become a runner, the end result has been feeling red-faced, puffed out, slow, stupid, and heavy. I listen to committed runners talk with envy – what is their secret to achieving that nirvana-like enjoyment of running that they all talk about? I think it is quite possible that even these running enthusiasts don’t like running itself. Maybe what they like is pushing themselves, the benefits it has on their body, and getting out the house and being on their own for an hour. If that’s true, then I can say with certainty that I like the idea of running.

I was determined to avoid feeling ‘slow and stupid’, so I adopted a combination of Ruth Field‘s approach and the first of the training sessions in Runtastic’s ‘Run 30 mins after 6 weeks training’ plan. I mapped out a 5km route, beginning and ending at my front door, before leaving the house so I wouldn’t have to worry about where to go while running. Then, I put on jogging bottoms, a sports bra, a t-shirt, and a jumper. I filled my water bottle, plugged in my earphones (listening to an audiobook to distract myself from the fact of actually running), pushed my feet into my trainers and stepped out the front door before I could change my mind. I started the Runtastic training session on my phone and began running. This first session is 20 minutes of running for a minute, walking for a minute. The Runtastic app cuts over your earphones to tell you when to run and when to walk. Ok, running for a minute, not so bad. I made sure to run really slowly – avoiding the ‘slow and stupid’. It was ok. It wasn’t fun, but I didn’t want to die. I was out running. The 20 minutes of the training session were done fairly quickly, and I was around halfway round my 5km route. I walked the rest of the way. This bit I enjoyed. I got home feeling good for the blood flowing around my body, and relaxed from breathing some fresh air, promising myself I will do that same again tomorrow.

Who knows how far I will go, how long I will stick with it. Being accountable is important to sticking to it even when I don’t want to, hence the decision to start this blog. I won’t post pictures of myself, but I will tell you how I’m getting on, how much I hate running, the hurdles I come up against (literal and metaphoric), and if I get out of it everything that I hope for.

Are you also a beginner runner? Say hi in the comment boxes – misery loves company, right? 🙂

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