What I discovered about running over 2020-2021

Helen Lane

I’ve run almost my whole life and always found it difficult to make that first step out the door and run. However over the last 2 years I’ve changed and found ways that help me step out the door and run by using routines, making challenges and rewarding myself.

Until the last couple of years I had no running routine at all, except running at parkruns on Saturday’s. Looking back most of the time I rarely initiated a run, I wasn’t particularly self motivated and became accustom to running when my husband ran. It took the decision away from me needing to decide to do a run which I liked. In fact, most of my training runs were done on the treadmill when we went to the gym and if I ran outside, then it was mostly with my husband and he designed a session that fitted in with both our levels. I liked doing that way.

Routine and Goal Setting

Of course I did enter races and I can remember doing a few long run by myself when I was training for a marathon. I didn’t run if it was a little cold, hot, rain or windy I (except of course if it was a parkrun or race). I wouldn’t and still don’t run in the dark, so I certainly didn’t have a routine. But of course you can’t always rely on someone else to motive you. Eventually, my husband got injured and I needed to motivate myself. I seem now to love running more than ever before.

I stared to understand the importance of having a routine and challenging yourself early in Lockdown. I was reading an article by Tim Peake the astronaut about how important routine and goals were to help cope with isolation in space. I thought to myself, “I have no routine at all, no set time to wake up, no set time to eat, to vacuum, to make the bed, to do dishes, to exercise, not one thing!” In fact I hate cleaning and used to just wait until I couldn’t stand the mess any more and have to tidy up.

I also noticed in Lockdown many people were doing Challenges that inspired me e.g. Joe Wicks workouts, Captain Toms walking. I decided to start some of my own tiny challenges that were super achievable and based around routine, some have now formed into habits that I do on most days.

For my running challenge I decided I’d run everyday for a month before breakfast. My rule was “The run didn’t have to be far or fast and but I have to get out that door and run.” The run made me feel good and succeeding at achieving my goal made me feel even better. The running challenge was hard for me for the first 3 weeks. I struggled to get out the door but after about 5 weeks it was better. It definitely was difficult for longer than I expected. I ended up meeting a runner in my local Park who had been doing a Run Streak for almost a year. I thought that’s amazing, I wonder how long I could do it. I started my own running streak. I even brought a Cake to celebrate every 100 days. The Run Streak lasted 261 days which ended when I got injured 5 weeks before I ran the BostonUK Marathon, but everything worked out well. I rested for the 5 weeks from running and completed the marathon with a Personal Best, I learnt so many things from the Run Streak especially the last one…… “DON’T OVERTRAIN BECAUSE YOU MAY GET INJURED!”

As the Run Streak continued, I could feel myself becoming more empowered and confident and I loved the new identity I had. I was a ‘RUN STREAKER’. I was amazed at how happy I became just from something so small. It was something in my life that was good and made me happy whenever I thought about it. At that time it seems everyone and everything was so negative and running, exercising and challenges and succeeding at these things was a my coat of armor which protected me from negative things and it gave me control and a sense of accomplishment. I became fitter and even did the Virtual New York City Marathon and the Virtual Virgin London Marathon. I also enjoyed running outdoors and I felt I and no one else owned and controlled my running. I didn’t feel pressured to run fast, I remember when I was younger that I had to run as fast as I could because I wanted my parents to be proud of me. The feeling that I HAVE TO RUN FAST, seemed to have stayed with me as a adult.

I stopped worrying about the way I looked. I did exactly what I liked. I would listen to different podcast to make it more fun.

One of my favorite Podcast
….and another one of my favorite Podcast
….and another one of my favorite Podcasts

I’d vary sessions, sometimes I would do sprints at my favorite bit of my park, I created segments on Strava. I found more and more ways to make my run special. I saved the really good podcast for my long runs. I started to run in all weathers. In the past I never ran if the weather wasn’t good but I learned that the reason why I got too cold, too hot or too wet was that I didn’t dress appropriately for the weather. I learnt I didn’t have to feel too hot, too cold or even too wet. If I thought I might be cold I put on an extra layer and if I got too hot I slowed down. I invested in a new rain jacket so I didn’t get wet. I decided to when to run, the weather didn’t decide for me which was how it was previously. It felt like I had never been in control of my running until now.

More Rewards

I also start rewarding myself after every run. Most days I used to finish the run at either a bakery or supermarket buy a treat like a cake or just a cappuccino and walked home. Sometime when I really didn’t want to go running I just thought I’d run just to the Supermarket and that’s all, but after 10 minute of running I always felt good and continued running. I made it a habit to give lots of positive self-talk, saying things to myself “the first 10 minutes are the hardest, so you are doing well, you’re tough, you deserve a cake, you are looking good” I treated myself like I was the most important person on earth. On some days the thought of getting an ice cream was they only thing that could get me out. I also Posted my run on Twitter, this was not done to show off but for me, it was confirmation that I had done a run and it was nice that some people said well done. I didn’t mind if people saw it as silly as I was doing the run for myself not anyone else and I found it really did motivate me.

I started making other challenges, one was to do 10 press ups every hour between 9am and 5pm, ok sometimes I had to stop for a minute while out walking and do 10 press ups when everyone wasn’t looking, but I ticked off every hour that I did it and each time I felt good as I was ticking it off, I felt I’d achieved something and felt good, so that was 8 times a day that made me feel good. At the start I could only do about 3 full press up’s before the challenge and now I can do about 25 good full press ups each time.

This developed in to other things, e.g., 10 1 legged squats, 20 sit ups, one minute Planks. For the first time in my life I started to do strengthening exercises. I’ve been saying for over 20 years “I must do some strengthening exercise like sit ups,” but never do. People used to say to me all the time that my running would improve if I strengthened you core. Now I really do have a six pack and of course there were other bonuses, I lost about 10kg in weight over two years and my percentage of muscle mass has increased.

Of course doing something like sit up’s or press up’s every hour is not achievable long term so I decided I’d do them when I get up before I went for a run, so it turned into a mini workout…but then I discovered the world of YouTube workouts. I obviously must have lived in a hole most of my life because the world of YouTube was a revelation to me…you can really find something on everything nowadays. I started to do a YouTube workout every morning. My favorite is Carolina Given. I brought dumbbells, yoga blocks and resistance band and loved it. I was always far too self conscious and unfit to do exercise classes at the gym but now the gyms have opened again I have been to HIIT Classes and I am as good as anyone else. I changed the challenges all the time. I managed to stretch everyday for two weeks and now I do some stretching almost everyday. For over 20 year I used to also say “I should do more stretching, “ but never did.

My favorite YouTube Workout: Caroline Given

I then started looking for more and more challenges or new routines some lasted a little while and some I have kept, other challenges I did did were ‘ten chin ups by my birthday’, ‘vacuum every day between 3-5pm every day even when it’s not dirty (I brought a lovely cordless light vacuum cleaner so I now love Vacuuming), ‘do some Indoor Rowing everyday, again, it doesn’t have to far or fast’. I have a note book with all the things I need to do and the act of ticking them of after I have completed them gives me a boost. For a few days, I thought “I need to drink more, so every time I come into the kitchen I will have a bottle of water sitting there and take 3 gulps and put 1 tick/tally on the notepad beside the bottle”. It was all a bit of fun.

Indoor Rowing & Exercise Area, you can watch Netflix, YouTube etc, while you exercise

My mindset slowly changed for me in lockdown. I know myself very well, if I don’t run or exercise I start feeling down and a bit depressed and that if I do run or do some exercise. It was a difficult time, The more difficult the times the more I knew I needed to run or exercise. Running and exercise is my coping mechanism for life and I absolutely love it. I think I should also add that my improvement in my well being may also be due also to slowly coming off medication that I’d been on for over 30 years. There is an amazing difference, the world through my eyes seem like it was now in colour and I’m no long lethargic, I don’t need to sleep as much, I wake up early and I just wanted to get up and do stuff.

For me, I use routines and challenges and now look forward to positive things. We can’t sit passively and think “life’s shit” and talk all day about how unfair life is, and wait for someone else to fix it or you can take control and improve it yourself.

Running the BostonUK Marathon 31 May 2021 – the flattest marathon in the UK.

I couldn’t believe I actually completed this marathon and got a PB of 3 hours 54 minutes, enough to get ‘Good for Age’ in the Virgin London Marathon for 2022.

This marathon was very important to me because I’m 57 years old and if I didn’t manage to complete it then, it could of been I would never get another opportunity as I always seem to pick up running injuries when I train for longer runs. I’ve run all my life but I love running more now than ever.

It would come up 0.05 short on Strava!

I had got into a good routine over lockdown and had decided to do a Run Streak for a month I got hooked and carried on my Run Streak which eventually lasted 261 days. I had a cake when I’d done 200 days. It stopped because I picked up an injury 5 weeks before this marathon. Doing a Run Streak made running easier for me as it was not a question of “shall I go for a run, or shall I leave it for today?” It was “I’m a run streaker, of course I run today,” I only need to do 2-3km slowly”. It became like having a shower, something I just did everyday.

Boston

I was finding things tough in the last couple of years and running is the one thing that improves my mood, so its my coping mechanism for when times are hard.

Before Lockdown I always struggled to go running outside, I didn’t go if it was wet, windy, too cold, too hot unless it was a race or a parkrun. Previously, I did most of my running on the treadmill at my gym.I never did strength training and for years always would say “I should start doing sit ups, press ups etc.”, but never ended up doing them. I couldn’t even do one full press up! But, under lockdown when the gyms closed I started doing YouTube workouts and Indoor Rowing everyday. I finally had a stronger core and should have done it years ago. I also lost a lot of weight so that made running easier.

Ready in a bed that could sleep about 5 people but there was only me.

Anyway, I was so excited coming to Boston, I had been very stressed at home and didn’t have very high self-esteem so I needed something to make me feel good about myself and feel accomplished. This was also one of the few times I had come to a running event on my own. Over the years I had come to rely on my husband but this time I would do the marathon by myself.

I was a little bit anxious at the start only because I hadn’t really run properly for the past 5 weeks but I was fit and I had done all my long runs. I was just hoping my injury wouldn’t stop me. In the end, my leg hurt more and more the further I when but I was able to finish it although I was running very slowly for the last 6-8 miles but really those miles signs seem to just fly by. I’m a little bit injured again because I ran it but I’m taking care to rest a bit from running.

View while running….very flat!