Anybody who has known me any length of time knows that I’m not the slimmest or fittest person in the world. There are many reasons for this, both physical and psychological. But on the back of the news that Gloucester is the laziest city in the UK, I thought I would share my current personal challenge in doing a couch to 5k beginners running challenge with Kingsway Runners (or Slipper to Trainer).
The Gloucester Citizen highlighted that Gloucester is the laziest city in the UK, which really is not something to be that proud of. But it did lead me thinking about why that could be. It’s also known that Gloucester has large amounts of deprivation and for a small city, then we have some huge challenges to face.
I can admit that my own personal fitness has always been a challenge, and especially with my lifestyle of being busy, working at my desk, meeting people, travelling, then there is always a good excuse not to do anything, and feel self-justified in it. But in reality its a problem with my lifestyle and attitude, not with what I could blame.
So, I decided to sign up to Kingsway Runners beginners group, a couch to 5k activity, over 10 weeks. The group, around 16 of us, meet with the Kingsway Runners every Monday and complete an hour of activity, then through the week, there are 2 sessions of “homework” to do. We are also on a specific Facebook group together which means we can build a mini community, share problems and encourage each other.
This group is led by our run leader, Jane, and supported by some of the clubs other run leaders such as Andy and Victor. What is really fab is that they are very supportive and encouraging, there is none of the “beasting” mentality that puts people off (well me anyway). Everyone volunteers their time which means that this group is completely free to take part in, which I think is fantastic for our community, it means there are no financial barriers to turning up. The only real barrier is actually turning up, which I have to admit, I was somewhat scared to do. But once I had signed up and committed (you are asked to sign a commitment form, which doesn’t do more than make you feel like you have promised to turn up, but is a good tool) then making an excuse for not turning up was much more difficult.
We are exactly half way through, and it is ramping up. The first week was very gentle, with interval training, 90 seconds jog and 90 seconds walk, repeated 5 times. This week was about “effort” on an incline (which seemed to get steeper every time) but the interesting thing was that we had a target of 3 repetitions, which everyone did, but then the offer to do more came up and pretty much everyone did another, I did another 2 and some did another 3, all out of our own motivation. Something I couldn’t and wouldn’t have done 5 weeks ago. In 5 weeks time I hope to graduate and looking forward to it.
Alongside this, I have also signed up to Parkrun, a national network of free 5k run events, every Saturday at 9am. There are a few in Gloucestershire, and we are lucky to have one in Kingsway (or maybe not so lucky, more a result of a lot of hard work by volunteers made it happen). The setup is quite simple, but very effective which means with a small bit of signing up, you can simply rock up and run. I was again concerned at my first one because there is no way I could run it all. But I set out to do my “homework” at it and use it to track my progress. There is no judgement or pressure, you are not racing anyone except yourself, and everyone is really friendly. I have done 2 now (I aim to do it every other week) and I can feel a difference.
I’m not going to lie, I don’t find it easy, it is both physically and mentally challenging, but I do think it is making a difference. But fundamentally, there are no material restrictions to what I am doing, only the ones I put up (and I do put them up).
So, this leads us back to why Gloucester is the laziest city. I would suggest this isn’t necessarily intentional, but the fact that being fit is seen as a privilege, something to afford (the clothes, the gym membership, the fitness trackers) and that is what we need to change. If we really touch every part of the community with access to this type of thing, but it isn’t simply about providing the facility, it’s about how we engage with people, encourage and motivate, but not demand or direct. It is something that can be influenced at every level, from planning, to local voluntary groups. But that’s another discussion.
As for me, 5 weeks to graduation, and I’ve got homework to do.