Running Has Helped Me Make Sense Of Things During Lockdown
I’m not a runner. Not in the slightest, actually. Ask any one of my friends and they’ll tell you that I am to running what Usain Bolt is to fishing.
I just can’t do it. In fact, take that statement and apply it to any exercise. Swimming, cycling, aerobics, weight training, you name it, and I guarantee I’ll be a disaster at it.
Admittedly, it’s from a complete lack of trying on my part; I was always the moody teenager refusing to put any effort into PE classes while all of my mates were busy getting called on first by our teachers or competing in tournaments.
As I entered my twenties though, I realised exercise was unfortunately a part of life, and one that I needed to start partaking in if I wanted to be at least a little bit healthy. So I started going to the gym, and found out pretty quickly that I actually quite liked it.
That enjoyment never quite extended to running though. I’d occasionally run for about 10 minutes on the treadmill before giving up, bright red and out of breath, wondering how on earth people do this every single day.
Yet somehow in recent weeks, with the gyms closed and my exercising options limited, I’ve found myself putting on my trainers, sticking my headphones on and just seeing how long I can run for. And guess what? I’m actually enjoying it.
As the weeks have gone by and I’ve been able to run that little bit further while emerging from it a little less out of breath each time, I’ve found myself escaping in it a little bit – as cheesy as that sounds.
Being able to tune out from everything that’s going on right now – blasting out a summer playlist and forgetting about the state of the world, if only for half an hour – has helped me make sense of things in a strange way.
Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t for one second believe I’ll ever be one of those people who can run a marathon. Or even a half-marathon, for that matter. In fact, most of the time when I’m running I’m thinking, ‘When will this be over?’ or ‘Why am I so out of breath?’
But setting myself new targets to beat each week – whether it be running an extra kilometre or running the same distance a little bit faster – has given me something to focus my attention on, other than the ongoing health crisis.
I’m not the only one, either.
Francesca Davies, from York, was furloughed towards the beginning of April and found herself with ‘much more free time on [her] hands’, so the 22-year-old decided it would be a good time to try and improve her fitness. ‘With gyms closed and no bike, I thought I could try running,’ she explained.
Having never liked running or ever tried it before, Francesca told UNILAD that she thought the Couch to 5K app would be the best place to start: ‘I’d heard good things about [it] from colleagues.’
‘I was a complete beginner but it gave me a structured plan to follow,’ she said. ‘It really helps that you can see the progress you’re making each week running further and for longer, so you don’t get bored or feel like you’re not getting anywhere.’
And it’s worked, with Francesca telling us:
It’s added some well-needed structure to my days. It gets me out of the house and outside, which almost always puts me in a better mood and helps me to feel less isolated from everyone else as well.
You also get the mood-lifting benefits of the exercise itself, as well as the confidence boost of seeing your progress increasing each week.
It makes me happy to start my day doing something positive for myself, and it can clear my mind while I’m running because all I’m really thinking about is what I’m doing.
Then once I’ve finished, knowing that I’ve improved and ran for a little longer than last time is a great feeling to have going into the rest of my day.
Similarly, 28-year-old Leanne Rogers had never ran before lockdown measures were imposed. ‘Any type of cardio I would avoid,’ she told UNILAD, explaining she’d much rather do weight-based workouts.
Prior to all gyms being closed, Leanne said she would visit her local Gymbox at least five times a week, adding: ‘Suddenly my routine was gone.’
After ‘some pathetic attempts at some Joe Wicks workouts in [her] poky flat’, Leanne said she decided to try running at the beginning of April after some encouragement from her boyfriend.
Although initially she was ‘scared’ to give it a try, the thought of not being able to exercise made her download the Nike Run Club app. ‘Now I’m slowly falling in love,’ she said.
Thanks to the app, which allows users to set themselves targets each month, Leanne, from east London, managed to run an impressive 50k over the course of last month – and this month plans to double that.
The 28-year-old said running has helped her cope better during the current health crisis, saying: ‘I get stressed really easily, and having this time in my own bubble running around the field just makes me switch off and focus on music and nature.’
I’m not a professional runner yet so I wouldn’t say I’ve got the ‘runners high’… I still get tired, but equally I’m pushing myself and getting better everyday, and enjoying it the faster I can go and longer I can go.
It’s something different and I actually feel like I’m doing such a good workout by the end. It’s really nice in this weather just taking in the environment.
Obviously, it’s not just beginners who have been making the most of this extra time; those who were already running before lockdown measures were imposed (how dare you!) have actually ramped up their efforts in recent weeks.
One example of that is Dom Hodgson, from Leeds, who is currently in the process of running 26 half marathons that he will livestream from the (dis)comfort of his own home on a treadmill each Friday morning.
So far, the 33-year-old has completed two half marathons – both dressed in silly costumes, of course – to raise money for Martin House, a hospice that provides family-led care and support for children and young people with life-limiting conditions.
Dom decided to set himself this particular challenge both as training for an endurance challenge he’s signed up for towards the end of the year, and as a way to make the best of lockdown and put a smile on peoples’ faces.
He told UNILAD:
Once the initial panic of a lockdown situation and how that had affected our work and holiday plans was over, my focus shifted to making the best of it and finding joy in the world – even during the sh*t times.
Every day I create a #lockdowngoodnews thread on social media, where people reply with what they’ve done or something good that has happened.
The runs are just another way for me to both have something to focus on and give people a little chuckle on a Friday morning while eating their Cheerios… and raising money of course.
Of course, that’s not to say you have to set yourselves these big targets if you’re only just getting into running. Like me, you could just put on your trainers and see where they take you.
Whether that means you’re running for five minutes at a time or an hour – or maybe for even longer if you’re a pre-lockdown jogger – the only thing that matters is you. How far do you want to go? What do you want to get out of it? Where will it take you?
I’ll be honest. When I first started running, I couldn’t manage more than a minute without stopping. My lungs felt like they were on fire and my calves would scream in protest. I’d get to the end of my street and wonder why I couldn’t do it.
I’d beat myself up about it, telling myself everyone else seems to be able to do it so why can’t I? But I carried on, putting one foot in front of the other until I could run 10 minutes without stopping, then 20, then 30…
Obviously that process took weeks and I’d still have days where I could barely run for five minutes without having to stop for breath. Honestly? I still have those days now, but to a lesser extent and with less of a sense of guilt whenever it happens.
Because that’s the great thing about running: you don’t need to work to anyone’s schedule but your own, and if you’re not feeling it one day you can just try again the next. And the next, and the next. Until suddenly you’re running 5km without even realising it.
And if you feel like taking part in Global Running Day today, whether you’re a beginner or a pro, it’s never been easier, with virtual events taking place all over the country.
All you need to do is head to the website and get involved. Good luck!
It’s okay to not panic about everything going on in the world right now. LADbible and UNILAD’s aim with our campaign, Cutting Through, is to provide our community with facts and stories from the people who are either qualified to comment or have experienced first-hand the situation we’re facing. For more information from the World Health Organization, click here.