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Exercise saved my life!

Or my sanity at the very least...

It is fair to say that over the past 4-5 years, I have made an effort to get far more active. For a few years before I started using a fitness tracker (Jawbone UP) and started paying attention to the number of steps I did daily. For many years long dog walks twice a day made sure I got my fair share of steps and miles in. But as the dogs aged, and life changed, I started getting a bit lazier. 

What I didn't realise at the time was, the exercise was not only good for my body, but also, and some might say more so my mind. Having time to get out there into the fresh air, just me and my thoughts. Doing all the over thinking my mind could conjure up. Left at home with the same thoughts, you quickly start to suffer. 

Around the end of 2015, after a particularly rough time with mental health, I was encouraged to try Couch to 5K. Errm, running! No thanks! After much consideration, I decided to give it a go. I needed something in my life to help shed some weight, and get fitter again. Not only that, but the loose structure of C25K gave me a little bit of routine back, which I really thrive on. Lack of routine is the biggest thing to knock me off balance, period!

The start of Covid in early 2020 was a big knock for me. My routines went out of the window, and suddenly I was at a loss. Flailing around trying to create the new normal for myself. No commutes to work on the bike, not really getting out for walks, and becoming pretty inactive. It didn't help that we were fresh back from Svalbard where Ann had decided to throw herself off a moving snowmobile, so was bed-bound. 

By the summer I was starting to get out on the bike a bit more, but still trying to be sensible about where I went and how far from home I went. Got to respect the virus! However, by the winter, as the lack of sunshine and daylight really started to take effect, I was looking for something to do to keep myself sane. After much deliberation, I decided I would return to running again, and start afresh with C25K. This was around the same time I had decided to lose a bit of weight, and started on the Joe Wicks 90 day plan.

So around October time I got my running gear back on, popped the headphones in, and got running again. At this point I was sleeping really badly, waking up at 2am and just laying there for hours. So I decided to use that time to do something productive, and began doing my runs in the wee small hours of the morning. Much nicer, as there is no one around, but also bloomin cold!! 

As I started to find a bit of pace again (nothing compared to 2016), I gained a little confidence, and started running in different locations. The Mall at 1am is lovely for running! Getting all these runs in, in cold and foul weather really set the stage for me, and by spring time I was really starting to enjoy running again. Starting to increase the distance a bit too. No longer obsessed with sub 30 min 5k times, or hitting PB's for the sake of it. I know I am not getting any younger, so expecting to match or beat times of years gone by is a bit daft, and only results in being sore for a week after. 

As early summer came around , I was now consistent. I could choose a route or distance within reason, and have a good idea of how long it would take, and how I would feel afterwards. Up until then, the longest run I had ever done was 10 miles, but that was on Strava on my phone, and no real data (I love data!!) So one morning I decided to do a longer run, now armed with my Garmin Fenix 6X Pro. What started out planned as a 10k (6 miles) soon turned into a 10 miler. But as I ran, I realised I was feeling good, and if I went a certain way, I could extend it further. And before I knew it, I was aiming for a half marathon. 

A quick call to Ann to ask her to collect me from the heap I knew I would collapse into in the end, and off I went, adding the last 3 and a bit miles to the run. And there it was, a half marathon!! Something I said I was not interested in doing, and had no intention of ever trying to do. With the confidence in the bag, runs regularly started to increase. 10  miles is now more than achievable, and I do them when my legs are fresh enough. My longest run to date now is 14 miles, which was unplanned, and badly executed. Dehydrated and exhausted is not how I like to finish runs. 

So here we are, a year later. After rediscovering running, and adding it to my regular cycling, I have managed to not only stay sane, but also maintain my weight for a year. Increased my fitness, improved my mental health, and I hope, finally settled into a new routine, regardless of what lays ahead with Covid, or working from home. 

Running isn't for everyone, nor is cycling, however my one huge take away from all this is, keeping active, no matter what activity you choose, can make a big difference to your mental well-being. Body and mind really are one.



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