As I have mentioned many times in this column, my fitness levels have often left a lot to be desired.
In recent years I’ve tried throwing myself around my lounge to a workout DVD and I spent a year or so frequenting Gurnell Leisure Centre where I meandered reasonably successful up and down the pool. However, a busy work life and a very annoying affliction called capsulitis (the posh name for a frozen shoulder) have meant that the swimming had to stop some time back, although happily along with it, the threat of another unwelcome verruca.
So as I am hurtling towards my 50th year rather too quickly for my liking, I decided that I needed to do something to get fit before that landmark birthday arrives in 2015. I wanted something that would fit in with my busy and non-routine working life, something that didn’t take up too much of my time and, frankly, something that was cheap. And then one day I looked out of my lounge window and it struck me. No, not the window, the answer.
Because a whole 20 metres or so from my flat is Ealing Common, and everyday there are people on the Common, and those people are running.
The only time I have ever run anywhere is to the bar when someone has called last orders. So it is not really a surprise that it never occurred to me before that running was an option for self improvement. It just felt like it was one of those things that other people do, like sky diving or knitting. But I thought I’d give it a go, and after spending a rather reasonable £1.99 on an App called Get Running I got up early one morning and ventured out gingerly onto the Common.
The App is brilliant. A very nice lady, with a warm, friendly and slightly Antipodean accent explains everything you have to do and gives gentle enthusiastic support throughout. Day one comprised of eight sections of running for a minute, followed by walking for a minute. Honestly, how one, yes one, minute of running could feel that long was a mystery to me and also a pretty obvious indication of how unfit I was. But I did it, and came home feeling pretty proud of myself albeit completely sceptical that in nine weeks I would be running for half an hour (as the App informed me I would).
So, three sessions in, when I realised that I was still alive and had moved up to one and half minute runs, I started to tell people that I had taken up this activity. Most people responded with outright laughter, followed by the question ‘You do have a sports bra don’t you??’ (Yes, is the answer, an aptly named Shock Absorber) But I wasn’t put off by the laughter, because I knew that if I continued to tell people then I really wouldn’t be able to give up. And I haven’t.
Three times a week I have been going out onto the Common feeling positive and enthusiastic and returning home feeling exhausted, strangely resembling a large sweaty beetroot that’s stuck its fingers in a socket. But however hard it is to run (and sometimes I verbally beg the lady of the App to tell me my time is up), afterwards I feel fantastic. My breathing has improved dramatically, as has my physical strength and various bits of me are gradually toning up a bit.
So ladies and gentlemen of Ealing, I am now at week nine and am running for a full 30 minutes, something I truly thought was impossible nine weeks ago. I’m never going to be a marathon runner, because frankly I enjoy food and drink far too much, but I will be continuing to run and have committed to completing a 10k charity run at some point next year. If I can really do that before my 50th birthday then I will have done something to be truly proud of. And I promise you if an overweight, middle aged, wine loving woman can do it, you can too.
NOTE TO SELF: Keep on running....