This year, I am entering my first half marathon. It has taken me a long time to get here, with ups and downs in my fitness journey that have led me to where I am today.
Now, I am really excited to run 21kms. I have come to enjoy finding new ways my body can push itself. I have hit a level where I enjoy setting and achieving my goals, and it all started with a teenage revelation.
2005: A Realisation
I was in year 11 and I had gone clothes shopping with my dad. I tried on a denim skirt (give me a break it was the 2000s), in a size 16, I was huffing and puffing trying to squeeze into it. That’s when the realisation hit me like a ton of bricks. I needed to lose weight. I was 18 and 75 kilos (165lbs), and at 160cm (5’3″) and this excess weight was starting to affect me in ways I didn’t like.
I was never devoid of self esteem or confidence, I never thought I was ‘fat’. I just realised it was time for me to put down the Gloria Jeans Tim Tam crushers (how good were they though?) and start exercising. I joined my local gym and worked with a few personal trainers on what I would like to achieve. I hadn’t really exercised since I was a child, but I had a kind of bubbling determination. I got good at running in a short period of time. However I never resolved deep-seated binge eating problems and would stay at the same fitness level, never moving forward, over a long period of time due to my training and my food, not being in sync with each other.
Even so, over a year period, I lost 15 kilos through mainly running, classes and weights. The difference between my year 11 and my year 12 photos was incredible. I gained even more confidence. However this was to be fairly short lived.
2009: Moving to the UK
When I initially moved to the UK I weighed around the 64 kilo mark, while I was there my weight crept up to its highest ever, 76 kilos. This was due to a multiple of reasons. Mainly I had no money. I was living on 50p packs of oreos from the corner shop, and I was exhausted from having a chronic, ongoing illness coupled with severe vitamin D deficiency (hey UK where’s the sun???).
Once I had made the decision to move back to Australia to kick-start my studies, I realised I did not want my friends or family seeing me like this. So I managed to get my weight back down to 70kgs before returning.
2012 – 2016: Working Out Goalless
After re-joining a gym in 2012, I still could not maintain my weight. I went up and down, (never going above about 66 kilos) and still had a niggling propensity to binge eat. I never properly addressed this problem in my mind and as a result my weight and my fitness levels were always unpredictable.
I still wasn’t consistent. I’d work out for a few weeks then fall off the wagon, then get back on, then fall off again. This kind of inconsistency confused my body and left me feeling tired and irritable. There was no routine in my life. I was working weird hours and studying for my degree. Now, I understand where the saying the ‘freshman 15‘ came from.
This article from Men’s Heath Australia helped me more than I could ever know. I used key tips featured in the article, and it put me on the path to consistency. I also mainly used the advice of interval runs to gradually increase stamina and endurance. Starting out, I would run 6 minute intervals with a 1 minute walk break. This I know I could do every time. Setting achievable goals is the key to starting out in fitness.
2017: Making the Decision
As I turned 30, I wanted 2017 to be my fittest year ever, and so far, it has been. I have increased my running endurance and can now run up to 11 kilometres nonstop. My stamina is at its best ever and I can push myself beyond my comfort zone on a regular basis. Small obstacles to my fitness goals such as illness or holidays do not hinder my overall progress, as I am always determined not to have to start all over again. I also made the promise to myself that I would end 2017 fitter than I started, and so far I am on the way to achieving that goal.
Starting out with the interval runs, I gradually worked up my time. I went from 6 minute intervals, to 7, to 8, to 10, eventually running the entire 30, 45 or 60 minutes. I also had proper, clear goals. My initial goal was to run 5km in half an hour, and in turn 10km in an hour. I can do that now, and have also hit 5.5km in half an hour and 11km in an hour.
My current goals are to gradually increase my weekly mileage in lead up to the half marathon, and actually do at least 2 practices of 21km before the day comes (likely to be done around a local footy oval).
How Running Fits In
I always knew, even as a young person, running was the exercise I would enjoy. As a child, I was a sprinter in my school’s team, and simply lost motivation as I reached my teenage years (as a lot of us do). In my early days I was running 30 minutes to an hour each time, but I didn’t have any truly clear goals.
However, every single time I needed to lose weight, tone up or feel great about myself, running was there. It always did what it needed to do, and, along with a healthy diet and some variety in my other training (such as weights, cycle classes etc), I know how to reset myself and get back to being fit if I have been in a bit of a slump.
It’s also a lifelong lifestyle change. You have to love it. If you don’t love it you won’t do it. Learn to enjoy your exercise. You cannot have the mentality ‘oh I’ll just exercise for a few months then when I hit my goal I will stop’ – when you hit your goal, it’s time to set new ones!
Running also has managed to give me better digestion (along with my mainly vegan diet). After suffering with chronic insomnia for a few years I now also sleep better than ever. I don’t struggle with my weight being so up and down anymore because of one thing: consistency. Whatever type of running you do, whether it’s high or low mileage, or you’re just a beginner, being consistent is better than being perfect. Make that commitment and show up every damn time, and you will find how amazing running can be for you too.