Running: gaining back confidence.

Following an arduous period of exams, dissertation and all the rigmarole that comes with actually leaving the University town I have called home for the last 4 years, it’s safe to say that I haven’t been feeling like the most active version of myself recently. As a consequence of this, I feel that I had lost confidence in both what my body can do and how it looks. It’s been a slow haul to even get myself back to a frame of mind where I can actually enjoy doing my sport. It’s possible to google running and being active and be faced with pages of options all touting to offer the best advice to get started and get active. In my second year of university I would spend hours pouring over Women’s Health magazines nodding my head at the articles on which berries offer the best detox, and mmming in agreement with articles offering top abs in just five movements, all whilst remaining firmly sat on the sofa indulging my indolent self, but not really getting up and making any changes.

So now, removed from my tennis practices that ensured that I always did a few hours of sport a week, I find myself forced to get out there of my own volition and find ways to move my body by myself. GASP!

The most obvious choice for me is running and I have found that I can enjoy a ten minute jog if armed with a podcast or great album, the Manrepeller podcasts are my current favourites, but I would also recommend the BBC’s project of having two friends interview one another.

As I’m emerging from the stress of the last few weeks, naturally my stamina is not what it could be, but this isn’t something to moan over, it’s something to challenge myself with. Further, my frustration with my own body and physical condition has been exasperated by an injury I incurred at Christmas to my foot that put me out of any sport for a couple of months and has set my endurance back a few paces. When running the other day I found myself frequently slowing to a fast walk to catch my breath. The image of my heaving self, dawdling along the path, made me think back to a favourite past time of my friends and I when we were around the brattish age of 10. As we drove round, ferried by an unlucky mother, we would look out for walking joggers and gleefully shout out asking why they weren’t running. It was such fun at the time. But now I realise that I have become the very thing that ten year old Em found the funniest thing on earth: a walking jogger. This is quite naturally deflating. I have found that the best way to stretch your body past it’s aching and whinging is to set goals and, having surpassed one goal, to push on to the next. Such as my running area, the Downs, has wooden posts on the side of the road that I use as aims. Where before I would give in to the soreness at the back of my throat as my shortness of breath catches, I suddenly find that I can surpass what I thought I could achieve, all through pushing myself that little bit further. (Disclaimer, I’m not an expert and would not ever try to advise someone to go further than they can, I feel that if you listen to your body then you will always know how far you can go).

“naturally my stamina is not what it could be, but this isn’t something to moan over, it’s something to challenge myself with”

Getting outside for a run is not only good for the physical wellbeing, as goes without saying, but it is also a release for the mind, a release from stress and a time to embrace the nothingness of being outdoors. As I was running the other day it began to ran rather heavily, and instead of turning back I pushed on and found that sometimes the world can look beautiful when coated in grey.

In my summer of exploration and rediscovering a neglected relationship with my body I’m always on the hunt for new ways to be active and enjoy being active. That started with a recent climbing adventure with friends and continues with my summer travels which are taking me to Vietnam where I will be exploring and adventuring and getting the heart going all at the same time – and the sun will definitely be shining (that helps!).

Emily Atkins

Born and bred in Bristol Emily is a girl with a love of the West country, but a niggling feeling that she needs to get out and see more of the world, starting with Scotland for university. When she's not writing, she's studying for her Classics degree, googling Mary Berry's latest recipes that inevitably she ruins on first attempt, and browsing the Lonely Planet dreaming of far away places to visit. Interested in everything from exercise and food, to literature and travel, she's always looking for new things to explore and learn.

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