It’s 8:45am on a Saturday morning and myself, along with roughly four hundred other participants, are lacing up their trainers, stretching on any available surface and bracing themselves for a 5K park run to start their day in Moors Valley Country Park. We are cheerfully greeted by the running director and volunteers, who wait to lead and encourage us on our way around the park towards the finish line. This is all before cheering on the regulars who have hit their 50th and 100th runs and have the pleasure of donning a ridiculous (and somewhat impractical looking) hat for the duration of their travels around the parks already familiar route.
It wasn’t too long ago that I would struggle to run 1K down the road, let alone manage to persuade myself to lift up my feet for another 4. I definitely have my best friend Paige to thank for suggesting I tag along and give it a go, as I now have my 6th run to look forward to this weekend. Whilst I have quite a while off until I get to wear that silly hat for my efforts, I can genuinely say I’m proud of myself for pushing past the doubts I had about my abilities. Sure, I still find myself taking a break and walking more often than I’d like, but it’s a start!
Add to this the occasional Pilates class when I’m feelin’ fancy (or, in other words, can slightly justify the £7 for a class), daily ab and arm workouts and the occasional yoga video to wind down when I feel like I need it and I guess you have what some might (loosely) consider a routine. Whilst this may not sound particularly taxing, this is a huge step for someone who has struggled with their approach to fitness for many years.
After recovering from Anorexia Nervosa five years ago, I did wonder if I would ever be able to view exercise and fitness in anything other than a negative light. This is after seeing it solely as a means of punishment and a way to lose weight after feeling like I’d eaten too much for so long. It’s only recently that I’ve been able to adopt a different mindset and appreciate, if not enjoy, the benefits that being active has to offer.
Take, for example, my approach to one of my best friends Alice’s suggestion of cycling from Bournemouth gardens to Studland and back (for those not familiar with Dorset, it’s approximately 15 miles overall). During the grip of my eating disorder, my primary thought would have immediately been how many calories I would get to burn off. This time, however, I accepted straight away; purely for how fun it sounded and how much I wanted to visit Studland again.
Naturally I did have my doubts, seeing as I hadn’t ridden a bike for two years, but I saw it as a challenge that I could take on whilst catching up with my friends. As expected, it was fun and the end result of sitting in the glorious sunshine on the beach with a picnic and cider was more than worth it… even if we did have numb bums for the rest of the week!
I think my career and freelance lifestyle also has a huge part to play in wanting to be more active, as sitting at a desk for the majority of the day has its set backs. If I’m sat for too long I find myself throwing on a workout video that evening, just to get myself moving again and to avoid any tension, which has a habit of sitting in my neck and upper back otherwise.
Moreover, it’s been about realising that I do have the ability to take care of myself without overstepping that boundary of overdoing it like I’ve feared for so long. Not only that but the headspace that running gives me, as well as the stress relief I get from yoga and Pilates, is the best outlet for someone who has a habit of bottling up their anxieties. It’s another act of self love that’s come with the aftermath of recovery which, after all this time, still gladly surprises me.