My challenge to improve my health and achieve a Half Marathon personal best, while attempting to discover a love of running along the way…

by Laura Kimberley

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I don’t really like running. I feel I should make that clear before going into any details about what I’m doing or why I’m doing them. I am a fundamentally lazy human; I like reading, trashy telly and online shopping but I also want to be healthy and like most women my age (nearly 30!!!) I worry about my body image.

My fiancé is mega fit and super active and recently he has been helping me to put things into perspective about getting the body shape that I want and maybe have a bit of fun whilst I’m at it. We got engaged late last year and almost immediately I became panicked at the thought of ‘Operation Skinny Bitch’ and having to be thin for the wedding. Don’t get me wrong I have no illusions that I’ll be in a size zero and nor would I wish to be, but over the last 8 years my weight has yoyo-ed and clothes have varied from a UK 8 up to a 14, and it would be nice to get back to the size 8 that I was when Dave and I first met.

I realised there were a lot of factors to consider when looking at a healthy lifestyle so I’ve narrowed my focus down to three main components; diet, exercise and mental wellbeing. I’m going to embark on a plan of sorts over the next six months or so and then have a look back over what I’ve done to see how I feel at that stage.

Part 1 – Diet

This is the part I feel ok about. I joined Weight Watchers about a year ago and being a member has taught me so much about understanding the importance of the different foods that I eat, what will keep me fuller for longer and how to control my portions. I also feel like I now understand my own triggers and can foresee occasions where I might be tempted to snack or eat junk and try to make better choices. My main concern is that I have always had a large appetite and armed with the knowledge that women shouldn’t eat as much as men doesn’t mean I won’t grudge giving Dave the bigger steak or more of the potatoes. I also love my carbs so understanding that this food group is more likely to make my body store fat if I eat too much and don’t burn it off is really important when planning my meals and writing my shopping list.

I’m making the effort to go to weigh-in sessions every week to keep a really close eye on my weight and this should help me uncover patterns which might arise where my weight goes up or down depending on what I’m eating or how active I’ve been that week.

Part 2 – Exercise

Now this part of the plan is where I need to man up and accept I’m going to need to get off my lazy butt. I have a gym membership that is fundamentally underused and although I do enjoy the exercise when I’m in the swing of it, I really struggle with getting there in the first place. Even as I write this I know that I could have been in the gym or out for a run and I’m not, I’m on my sofa with my laptop and a reality TV show on in the background. Not a great start.

My end game at the moment is that I’ve signed up for Purple Patch’s Maidenhead Half Marathon on 4th September and although I’ve done four half marathons in the past, I’ve been really inactive due to a car accident I was involved in last July. Thankfully I didn’t have any long lasting injuries but my back has been giving me quite a bit of bother and after 10 sessions of physio it’s still not better. On the recommendations from my physio I’d been steering clear of the gym and stopped going to Pole Fitness classes – the one class I’ve ever loved enough to stick at for over a year!

Since Christmas I’ve started easing myself back into exercise via. a couple of slow Parkruns, tried a few new classes at the gym and took part in a 10k charity run where Dave stayed with me and coached me through. Despite managing a PB for the 10k by over 8 minutes, I realised just how much my fitness levels had dropped just from a few months of taking it a bit easy – I totally put the PB time down to Dave and his understanding of pacing, rather than me actually being quick!

Over the next few months I have three more 10k races lined up to ensure that I don’t slack off. The Purple Patch events were something that I was really keen to sign myself up to as they all seem to be in really cool locations. The first one is at Heyford Park Airbase on 20th March. Their website says ‘Get an insight into what went on ‘Behind the Wire’ at Oxfordshire’s most formidable Cold War Airbase… routes all utilise the base’s Runway, RAF Taxiway & NATO Taxiway and are therefore pancake flat, traffic-free and pretty much PB guaranteed!’ I am really looking forward to this as it sounds like a unique and interesting place to run, and I’ll be interested to see if I can keep myself paced properly without Dave by my side.

I’ll also be taking part in Purple Patch’s Stockley Park 10k on 15th May, the Decathalon O2O Reading 10K on 2nd October as well as the Maidenhead half marathon on 4th September. I know one of the 10k runs happens after the half marathon so it’s not a natural progression of distances getting longer but I’m looking at Reading as a sort of recovery run as it’ll be 4 weeks after the half so I should be rid of the jelly legs by then.

In preparation for all this I’ll be aiming to complete more Parkruns, hit the gym at least twice a week to either try a class or have a swim, and take part as often as possible in a Zumba class held at my workplace on a Thursday evening. I’m not going to create any cast iron contracts with myself that I know I won’t stick to because this needs to be a change in my lifestyle that I can actually maintain if I’m going to see the results I want. I am choosing to do this for myself so I know that in the long run if I don’t go through with it I’ll only be letting myself down and that needs to be the motivation to keep me honest.

Part 3 – Mental Wellbeing

This is the bit that I only really starting contemplating when I sat down to write this article. It dawned on me that as well as getting fitter and more comfortable with my body I’d actually like to be happy.

I work as a primary school teacher and I’m busy all the time with lessons, planning, marking, trips, staff meetings and everything else that teachers are expected to cram into our working day so you could say that I’m a bit highly strung and easily stressed. I’ve decided I’m going to try having a more positive outlook on life in general and to remind myself of the things I should be grateful for even when I might be having a crummy day. Not every day is going to be a good one but there should be some good to find in every day so before I go to bed each night I will try to think about what my good moment of the day was even if it’s just something small like ‘my class worked really well in that lesson’ or ‘the soup I made turned out really well’.

I hope that this will help me focus on the positive aspects of parts 1 and 2 of my plan without getting down in the dumps about things that might not have gone as well as I’d hoped. As well as this I see how much enjoyment Dave gets when he’s running or training for an event and I’d really like to find a form of exercise that I enjoy so much that it becomes more of a hobby than a chore.

I’ve managed to convince my brother’s girlfriend Nicola to do this with me so that we can support each other and share the experience. We’re both very similar in that we’d love to be healthier but have jobs that keep us stressed and busy and we could do with being a bit more active. I’m really pleased to have a partner in crime and I hope this will work out well for us having each other to lean on for support and to give one another a kick in the backside if we show signs of slacking. Let’s hope she still loves me enough to be a bridesmaid when this is all over.

You’ll be able to see how we are getting on along the way as we’ll be publishing reviews of each of the Purple Patch races after the event.

So that’s the plan; eat well, move more and be happy. Easy right? We’ll see in a few months :) Wish us luck!

To find out more about the Purple Patch events Laura will be taking part in throughout the year, visit: www.purplepatchrunning.com/index.php/events

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