Friday, October 16, 2009

I'm Not a Runner!

By Anna Sugden

Really! I’m not very sporty, if truth be told. I love watching sport (hockey and football/soccer, etc.) and have played sport (I was good, but not great), but I’m not a devoted athlete. I have always enjoyed keeping fit, but I’ve always found it easier to keep up a regular routine if I do it with a friend. Whether it’s going to aerobics classes or swimming or going to the gym, I’m one of those people who starts off with great gusto and then needs the push of another person to stop me from crying off because I’m too tired/busy/cold *g*. The one thing I was committed to was Fitness Boxing, which I took up in the U.S. with an awesome trainer - until we moved home to England.

As for running, it has never been my thing. Even at school, I struggled with the 400-yard run every year. It kept me from getting my Presidential Physical Fitness award, the few years I was at school in the U.S. I just don’t think my legs were made for running.

My lovely hubby, on the other hand, is a major runner. He’s completed the London Marathon and several half-marathons. He still runs them; he completed the Royal Parks Half-Marathon only last weekend. He regularly runs 6 miles or more several times a week.

What is the point of all this back-story, you ask? LOL.

Well, it’s to put my latest achievement into context. In July, I ran in and completed a 5k race called The Race For Life. It’s a run, solely for women, in aid of breast cancer, that is held in many cities around the UK. Yes, I ran 5k (3.1 miles). Note from Trish: If you look closely, you'll see Anna in the middle of the photo with her arms in the air and wearing sunglasses, behind the girl in the light blue.

How did this come about?

Let me start by saying that moving country is not good for the body or mind. When we moved out to the States, I put on 1 stone (14 lbs). When I moved home to the UK, I put on another stone! Worse, moving home was so disruptive to my writing schedule that after six months, I was still struggling to put it back in order.

Now, I’m not one to mind too much what the scales say - but I do mind when I can’t fit into my clothes! So, earlier this year, I knew I had to act when even my ‘fat girl’ clothes wouldn’t fit. But what to do? There wasn’t a decent boxing trainer around and I wasn’t up for starting classes. We had some gym equipment at home, but getting motivated to keep fit regularly was hard - especially with so much going on.

Then, one weekend, my lovely hubby’s daughters were down for a visit and the older one started talking about wanting to take up running. The younger one was keen too and before I knew it, the three of us had agreed to start running and training and to enter The Race For Life!
The problem was, we didn’t all live in the same area, so we had to train by ourselves and keep ourselves motivated.

The two girls trained using a book called Running Made Easy, which they swear by (and obviously works!). I went for a different method (recommended by lovely hubby) of running in stages, three times a week; increasing the distance a little every week, working up to the full distance. I used a cool Web site called ‘walk, jog, run’ ( which uses Google Earth, to plot out a 3-mile route, with different interim stages. E.g. I knew if I ran to the local garden centre (nursery) and back, that was just over half a mile, while the BMW garage was 1 mile and so on.

The first week was hell! I could barely make half a mile without being completely exhausted and gasping for breath. I felt awful. I knew I was reasonably fit, but I’m not a runner and that was giving me problems! I was miserable. What had I signed myself up for?

But, I had to keep going. I couldn’t/wouldn’t give up. I couldn’t let the others down! By this stage I’d also told a bunch of my Romance Bandit pals what I was planning and they were cheering me on. Having to report my progress to them was key to me continuing!

Then, my lovely hubby advised me to give myself permission to walk if I had to, but keep doing the distance. He promised it would get easier. Wise man!

The second week was indeed easier. By the end of the third week, I was pushing for half a mile. Soon, half a mile became three-quarters and a whole mile!

Unfortunately, trouble set in with my left ankle. It didn’t like me running on anything but flat surfaces and seized up. In the old days, that would have been the cue for me to give up. But, I’d made the commitment, so I couldn’t. And I couldn’t tell those Banditas I’d given up either!

Also, I’d noticed that on days when I ran, my brain was clearer and I was writing better. I’d found this when I was boxing and was really surprised to see that it was true with the running too. That spurred me to really be strict with myself and those around me about my writing routine, and my running routine.

All that pain was clearly worth it!

So, I went to a running shop and got a pair of proper running shoes, which were suited for the way I run (They videoed me running on a treadmill and discovered my feet roll out. My Nikes weren’t helping!). I also changed my running route slightly to run on flatter pavements.

By the end of the second month, I was up to 2.5 miles! And come race time - I was running 5k three times a week.

Then, on July 5, 2009, I ran the race. I not only survived it, but completed it in decent time. Crossing that finish line was amazing!

I haven’t lost much weight, but I have lost inches because my clothes definitely fit better. And that was really what counted.

And just this week, I finished a new writing project that I’m really proud of (hopefully an editor will love it too!)

So, what did I learn from all this?

1. I’m better at keeping to a fitness challenge if I’m in it with others.

2. I’m more likely to keep up a fitness challenge if I have a clear objective and a deadline. (i.e. I will run a 5k race on July 5!)

3. Don’t try to do it all at once; bite-size chunks. Essentially, these are interim goals. Both the book and my own training routine focused on taking us to our goals one stage at a time.

4. Allow yourself to ‘fail’. If I hadn’t allowed myself the short walking periods, I’m sure I would have given up, because I couldn’t do it. It was more important to finish the distance, even if I did have to walk a little bit of it, than not to do it at all. And then, work on doing the whole distance.

5. Have the proper equipment and listen to the advice of experts! Sounds obvious, but how many of us don’t think we’re ‘serious’ enough for it to be worth spending the time and money?!

6. The fitter my body got, the fitter my mind got.

7. All of the above could be applied to my writing, as well as my running!

8. You can do it, if you put your mind to it!

What about you? Are you someone who finds it easy to stick to goals and plans, with your writing or with fitness and healthy eating, or are you like me? Do you have any tips that will help others achieve their goals? Are there any specific problems you have with achieving your goals and would like some advice?

Today's progress (Trish):

Calorie intake: 1,583

Exercise: 45 minutes dance aerobics

Steps: 10,051


Anna Sugden on October 16, 2009 at 5:04 AM said...

Just got back in from today's run! Back up to 2.75 miles after my procedure and it actually wasn't a struggle!

Also just signed up for a Moon Walk half-marathon (where you walk, in your bras, starting at midnight, for breast cancer)

Michelle Butler on October 16, 2009 at 10:28 AM said...

Wow, Anna. This was so inspiring and helpful. I'm sure I'm going to read it many more times in the next several months.

The Moon Walk half-marathon sounds wild and fun.

Anna Sugden on October 16, 2009 at 11:54 AM said...

Thanks, Michelle. Glad it struck a chord with you!

The cool thing about the Moon Walk is they give you a free bra! LOL

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) on October 16, 2009 at 11:08 PM said...

Wow, I'm late getting over here today, but it's because I've been being good and getting work done on a book. :)

Anna, I'm impressed with your running story, and that Moon Walk half-marathon does sound wild -- and cold!

Anna Sugden on October 17, 2009 at 3:15 AM said...

Well done on being good and working on that book, Trish. Your readers await impatiently!

Thanks, I'm most pleased about being able to keep the running up after the race was done. It's so easy to slip once your goal is reached, but I've tried to keep going!

Anna Sugden on October 17, 2009 at 3:15 AM said...

PS I think you walk with the bra over your t-shirt!

Theresa Ragan on October 20, 2009 at 8:25 AM said...

Good job, Anna, love your post! Makes me want to start running!

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