This article is in paid partnership with Public Health England’s Better Health campaign.
I have always exercised. Going to the gym with one of my best friends over the last couple of years has kind of been like therapy. I got to escape from work, talk out life with one of my besties and I always used the time to centre myself. I would let go of the big things as I sprinted on the treadmill and worked out on the mats. Between the cardio, convo and resistance training, I would return back home with a renewed sense of hope, peace and purpose.
So, a year ago when the national Lockdown came upon us like a ton of bricks, not going to the gym affected me in so many different ways. I missed the companionship of exercising with a friend, having a reason to get out of the house and having a goal even if it was related to my physical health.
After giving birth in the height of the Pandemic (or Panasonic, whatever we are calling it today), I genuinely felt like I needed something for myself. When you become a mum, there is an unfair expectation that everything you do must fulfil your motherhood duties, but being on maternity leave and being “locked up” like everyone else, it became more apparent that I needed something to focus on, something that was selfishly mine. So I decided to start running.
After a few weeks of running to the sounds of Beyonce’s Homecoming, I started using Couch to 5K and running to the smooth sounds of my Couch to 5k personal trainer. Having someone in my ear as I ran longer distances and times, was not just comforting but motivating. In my ears, I would have my personal trainer encouraging me to cross an imaginary finish line and I realised crossing this imaginary finish line three times a week was giving me the goals and feeling of accomplishment I hadn’t felt while going through maternity during a lockdown.
When maternity ended, I was still running and still using Couch to 5K because that sense of routine was invaluable. Starting my day by running, by knowing that I have already achieved something for myself before the working day has started, before I have to get into mum duties has given me a little bit of my identity back.
I’ll be honest, I started running to help lose the baby weight, but as time went on and the more I used the Couch to 5k app specifically, running became about testing myself. How far could I push my body in time and distance? How far could I push my mind as my Couch 2 5K trainer would say: “you are almost there. Don’t give up.” Running became about more than losing weight, it became about mental resilience. It became about having that quiet in the morning when there is hardly anyone walking around to get in my way and feeling like the entire road belongs to me. Running has become about starting the day with joy because it feels so damn good once you reach that finish line and take that huge breath of relief.
I never thought I would be the type of person that could run on the road, that would, when needed, dodge other members of the public to achieve my time and distance. But being in lockdown and having a purpose to step out of the door beyond shopping has been priceless. Even after lockdown ends, my running journey won’t stop, because I'm just getting started in seeing what I can accomplish physically and mentally when it comes to running.
For more information on the Couch To 5K app search ‘Better Health’ or visit nhs.uk/betterhealth