Motivation

I’ve been recovering from tendonitis for 3 weeks now, and whilst the end is in sight, I’m not there yet.

During this period I’ve had plenty of time to mull over why coming back to running after years away is such big deal for me.

I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s about more than just running. It’s about restoring my health, the benefits of exercise, and feeling good about myself.

I know the importance of being physically fit, and the science behind how it helps our wellbeing and longevity. Most importantly I’ve led an active lifestyle before and I know how great it feels.

But all through my late 20s and 30s I let myself slip into inactivity and weight gain.

Due to long term knee injuries I struggled to find a form of physical activity I enjoyed and my diet got progressively worse as I became more and more sedentary.

By 2018 it got so bad I had developed high blood pressure, was put on medication and was only a couple of pounds away from being considered obese on the BMI scale.

Diagnosed with this self- induced lifestyle disease I was now statistically on the path to chronic disease and an early death. High blood pressure results in;

Increased risk of heart failure
Increased risk of stroke
Increased risk of kidney disease
Increased risk of vision loss
Correlation with type 2 diabetes

I was also setting a terrible example for my kids, who I want to grow up to be fit, healthy and love exercise.

The high blood pressure diagnosis was my wake-up call. The moment I decided things had to change.

I want to be able to keep up with my boys as they grow up, play sport with them, run around at the beach and go hiking in the mountains together. I want to be able to lead an active life for as long as possible, feeling good about myself and being able to do whatever I want.

Obviously you can’t control all the circumstances of life, but I’m determined to make the most of what I can influence to ensure I enjoy every moment.

This includes diet and exercise.

The good news is that I’ve taken action and reversed the high blood pressure and lost a stone and a half in weight by transitioning towards a plant-based diet over the past 12 months or so. I’m proud of that achievement and thankful that my family has supported me in it.

But it’s not enough.

I’m out of shape.

I’m still more than 3 stone overweight.

I’m still at increased risk of chronic disease.

I realise I will need to do more than just running to undo the damage I’ve caused to my body, but I think it’s a great place to start and a gateway to significant change in other areas of my life.

Based on my doctor’s advice and how I’m feeling, I’d guess I’m about a week away from lacing up my trainers again. By thinking about everything I have to gain from running I’ve kept my motivation up through this injury.

I intend to continue focusing on the positives to keep it that way!

The 3100: Run and Become

One of the ways I’m trying to stay motivated during my recovery from tendonitis is immersing myself in running culture and learning about technique.I’ve been listening to running podcasts, watching videos online, reading blogs and have a couple of books lined up too.


The most impactful thing I’ve come across so far is The 3100: Run and Become. It’s a feature film about running. Not about Olympians, influencers or rule-breakers, but running as experience, as spiritual journey.


Focusing on ultra marathon The 3100 Self-Transcendence Race, the narrative follows previous winner and race favourite Ashprihanal Aalto as he races for 3100 miles in 52 days around the same half mile block in NYC.


Footage of the 3100 is interdispersed with other tales of running from varied cultures including Native American, the Japanese Monks of Mount Hiei and the San Bushmen of the Kalahari.


What I loved about this movie is it presents a totally different take on running than I had ever considered before. The protagonists in the movie don’t run to keep fit or break records. For them, running is spiritual experience, personal and familial growth, a fight for the very survival of their culture.


The film is beautifully shot and really feels cinematic. The hot, claustrophobic NYC block of the 3100 is contrasted with the wild, open spaces of the Navajo and the Kalahari, whilst the mountains of Japan contribute another breathtaking backdrop to the film. 

Ultimately, The 3100 has made me consider more deeply what I might gain from running. It has prompted me to think about purpose and future. It has helped me see beyond simply completing a Couch to 5K to a much a wider vision of how running could change my life for the better. 


The 3100, Run and Become is available for free on Amazon Prime.


If you want a deep dive on the background to the movie after watching it, the excellent Rich Roll has done an extended interview with the director, Sanjay Rawal, on his podcast, number 389.

Injury

I can’t believe it. Two weeks in and I’ve picked up an injury. I’m pretty confident I won’t be doing run 9 of Couch to 5k in the near future. It feels like all the hard work and emotional energy I’ve put in to get to this point has been wasted.

I began to notice it during a 3 hour drive yesterday- a sharp stabbing pain in the front of my ankle brought on by movement or a sudden shift in weight baring. It’s got worse as the weekend has gone on.

Continue reading “Injury”

C25K


Having been given the green light by my knee consultant, I wanted to make sure that when I started pulling on my running shoes again I was doing it in the best possible way.


I didn’t want to cause myself an injury by going off too hard, or pushing myself too far. I  wanted to make sure that my iffy knee could adjust slowly to the rigours of high impact exercise. Whilst my consultant said the cyst in the bone that had been causing all the problems had reduced dramatically in size, he also emphasised that I needed to ease myself back in.


But I didn’t let that warning put me off running altogether. I figured having a structured plan with graduated goals was the best way to reacclimatise myself and reduce the risk of injury. I just needed to find the right plan for me.

This is where the Couch to 5K program came in.


I knew about the app from my friends who have used it.  Most of them enjoyed the training programme and completed the eight weeks, creating a routine they have stuck with ever since. 


Some have gone on to take part in 10Ks and half-marathons.


That’s what I wanted.


To built an habit, to enjoy myself and open the door to further running experience.


I have to say, so far, so good. C25K is providing me with a structure to build up my confidence, strength and stamina. 


I’m enjoying the incremental increases in distance, the sense of achievement that comes from completing a week and the motivation that comes from knowing that there is a greater challenge to come. 


The biggest surprise about taking part in C25K for me has been the sense of community I’ve got through it. Having grown up playing team sports, the experience of exercise being a shared experience with others is massive for me. I suspect one of things that always hindered my commitment to running was that I found it to be a largely solo endeavour. Couch to 5K has helped me get over that hang-up. You know thousands of people have completed the program, are doing it at the same time as you, and will do it in the future. Just popping #C25K into the search bar of Twitter or Instagram gives you that instant sense of tribe, of belonging, of knowing you are one many.


During these times of Corona Virus, lockdowns and social distancing that’s more powerful and more important than ever.


In essence by doing C25K you are part of something bigger- not something I could have said if I just started trotting around the block with a plan I created for myself based on internet research and gut instinct.


That’s why I am loving it and would recommend it to anyone wanting to get started or get back into running!

Introductions

Hi there!

I’m Graham, and I’d like to be a runner.

Not an Olympian, or an Iron Man or marathon runner.


Just someone who can complete a Park Run without walking and can hold a conversation whilst on the move.


In my teenage years I was very active, playing all the team sports under the sun; football, basketball, rugby, hockey. I dabbled in tennis and squash. I rode my mountain bike along gnarly trails, plunging down wooded slaloms with the fearlessness of youth.


Then I hit my 20s. Apart from a weekly kick about with mates, the team sports got swamped by the responsibilities of jobs and paying the bills. I moved far away from my tennis club.  I got the fear, my mountain bike rusted and I no longer rode the trails. 


The sensible option for the busy urbanite in their 20s was clearly the gym. I’ve always found the gym a little boring. I didn’t go, despite getting sucked in by those January deals after the Christmas excess.


During this time I dabbled in jogging. I guess I had some residual fitness and went through a couple of phases where I enjoyed pounding the streets of Mount Pleasant Swansea, merrily dodging the dog shit, broken glass and drug paraphernalia. I even managed to complete a couple of Swansea Bay 10Ks. Sadly though, the running habit never truly stuck.


In my 30s I piled on the pounds. I liked the idea of exercise more than actually doing exercise. I definitely liked eating. Then, after a visit to the doctor with a sore knee, followed by an x-ray, an MRI and a very stressful conversation with a consultant I discovered I had a cyst in the bone in my left knee. That meant no high impact exercise. At all. 


All that was left to me was swimming. I love bobbing around in the sea. I love flumes, lazy rivers and jacuzzis. I hate lane swimming. 


I did not go swimming. 


This month, after 3 years of x-rays, scans and appointments, my knee consultant declared it looked like cyst had shrunk considerably and was no longer worth monitoring regularly. I could resume exercising again. 


But what to do? I’m now 37, and definitely don’t want to play rugby or hockey. Football is a younger man’s game and I still don’t have anyone to play tennis or squash with. 


Running. 


Running is the answer. 


Over the past couple of years I’ve been inspired listening to the ultra athlete Rich Roll’s podcast, following the barefoot exploits of Tony Riddle and exploring the world of health and well-being as part of my job.


I love the idea of running regularly as my main form of exercise. No expensive gym fees. No regular training sessions or Saturday-consuming away matches. 


Just the freedom to lace up a pair of shoes and start running whenever the mood hits. 
If I could just find that enjoyment of running again, but this time make it stick, I’ll be sorted.


So I have downloaded Couch to 5K and Strava. 


I have begun to run.


This is my running diary. My place to reflect and share my experiences. Running might not be a team sport, but that doesn’t mean it has to be devoid of community. 


I want to learn from experienced athletes and amateurs, and encourage those who, like me, are joining late in the game.


Let’s go!

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