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Running on Positivity


Running, Positivity, Resilience

I've recently started doing something I never thought I'd do, let alone enjoy, something that other "crazy" people do and enjoy. I mean, why would you want to? What is it? Running. Now I'm a cuddly/chubby/voluptuous/rotund/fat (choose your favourite label) 43 year old mum of one, why on earth would I suddenly want to start running? The key phrase there is "mum of one", my son is 4 and ever since he was around 18 months old I've been thinking it's time to lose weight and get fit so that I can be here for him for as long as possible.

So what spurred me on to actually start doing it when nothing else had? A good friend of mine, Angela, posted a status on Facebook to say that she'd just done her first NHS Couch to 5k run. I looked up Couch to 5k and discovered that it's a 9 week running plan, which aims to get you running 5k by the end. It's broken down into bitesize, manageable pieces with accompanying podcasts where your virtual personal trainer, Laura, talks you through it. I remember thinking to myself "right, this is it, if Ang can do this so can you and it's time!" so I downloaded the first week's podcast and the following day off I went to the gym.

Keep on running

That first run began with a brisk 5-minute warm-up walk, then you alternate 60 seconds of running, with 90 seconds of walking, for a total of 20 minutes. It virtually killed me, but I did it. I didn't give up and I didn't say "I can't do this" – OK, I did say that, but then I gave myself a kick up the bum and changed it to "you CAN do this!" Now I'm generally a quitter, it's a failing of mine and I know it, so much to everyone's surprise (including my own) I had my recommended rest day and then went back the day after to do it all again.

I'm now up to week 8, although I had a two week break for one reason or another and redid week 7 to build back up again, and I'm running for 25 minutes solid. No breaks for walks and no stopping. I've only not completed one run (I was on a fasting day and felt faint) and even then I kept up a brisk walk until I'd done 3.5k. I'm not going to lie to you, I've found it tough at times, ironically more so in the early weeks when you slow down to a brisk walk in between bursts of running, but I've stuck at it and kept going which is most unlike me and I wondered why that was?

Positivity builds resilience

I'm pretty sure that it's because whenever I found it tough or felt like giving up, when my lungs were burning and my calves wanted to seize up, I tried a bit of positive psychology. I find myself chanting "come on, you can do this, you can do this, come on!" to myself. I imagine that I'm running towards my son or alongside him keeping up, not lagging behind red-faced and out of breath. I think of the new clothes I'll be able to buy in a smaller size. I imagine I'm running along a beach with the crystal blue surf lapping at my toes, the sun on my face and the cool breeze through my fingers (tip: this one works best if you choose the treadmill next to the aircon) and best of all, I imagine myself with my grown up son, watching him become a man with a family of his own. And I keep on running.

As part of our Resilience workshops we talk about mindsets and how just because you don't reach a goal that doesn't mean you've failed. Someone with a growth mindset will look for another way to achieve their goal, whereas someone with a fixed mindset is more likely to say "OK that didn't work" and move on to the next thing. In most things I have a fixed mindset, but it is possible to switch just as I have been with my running. The best way to do this, according to Dr Carol S. Dweck's research, is to constantly try something new, so if you don't fancy running think about what you've always wished you could do but have told yourself you can't, then give it a shot.

You can do it too

The Couch to 5k podcasts do deserve a mention because Laura is great and very encouraging, I even cried the first time I ran for 10 minutes and she said "well done, I bet you never thought you'd be able to do that did you? I'm proud of you and you should be proud of yourself"! I am proud and positive I'm going to keep on going, even past the 9 week podcasts. There are lots of bootcamps and challenges out there at the moment, you've probably seen the 30 day ab challenge on Facebook recently – yes, I've signed up to do it, have you? – there's a 30 day squat challenge too, although I'm giving that one a miss this time around. Don't want to wear my legs out and interfere with my running. I've even inspired a friend to give Couch to 5k a go too, me, inspired someone to do something physical. Amazing!

If I can do it, anyone can. I've lost a stone and a half since I started running (and doing the 5:2 diet) I feel better, sleep better, I'm happier and I'm toning up. I'm doing my 11th Cancer Research Race for Life in a couple of weeks and I'm planning on running the whole 5k this year for the first time ever. Who would've thought? A big thanks to my lovely friend Angela Spencer, without whom the running – and this blog – wouldn't have been possible.

Building resilience


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