From COVID to 10km

In March, I couldn’t breathe. A short walk across the park to the shop had me wheezing. It was worrying. I was reasonably fit at this point but had just been travelling for five months. Tasting all the wonders of the various places had led to me putting a stone on in weight. I’d tried to exercise as I travelled but it became less and less frequent. So on my return, I was “reasonably fit,” I could probably run a mile but I wouldn’t be breaking any records. I weighed 13st 6lbs. I’m 5′ 10″. Overweight according to the NHS BMI calculator.

The shortness of breath in March was accompanied by a constant cough. It felt like someone had me in a bearhug trying to squeeze the breath out of me. I was happy when the symptoms calmed after a couple of days. I was feeling better within the week. It started on a Saturday and 8 days later I decided to go for a run. It was a terrible idea. About a third of a mile in I began wheezing. Like a full-blown asthma attack. I had to stop. I was shocked. I walked a little, got my breathing under control and tried again. Another third of a mile and the same happened. So I did the same thing. I eventually made it to a mile. I was knackered though.

I gave it a couple of days and tried again. The same thing happened. It reminded me of when I first started running the year before. I’d just quit smoking after 23 years. My lungs were knackered. I would be huffing and puffing after a short distance. In my head, I would be berating myself for causing the pain to my lungs. I owed them. It was my responsibility to keep them clean. I used this to push me on.

I used the same approach this time. Telling myself I had to keep going. I rested when I needed to but I just kept going. If I did good I rewarded myself with something. A milkshake or a bacon sandwich. Something I could focus on to take my mind off my burning lungs and aching legs. It took me probably three weeks of trying before I made it to a mile. I was happy to have made it without stopping but wanted to go further. I then started walking another mile. Then I ran into the second mile until I couldn’t run anymore. Then I walked. I just kept doing this three/four times a week. Each time getting a little further.

I started getting aches in my shins and bought some new trainers. So important to have good footwear. My previous shoes were well worn and needed replacing. The aches lessened and I just kept running.

I didn’t have a particular diet. I ate protein bars as a substitute for chocolate. I have a sweet tooth and don’t like to deny myself things. I have learned that balance is important as it minimises craving. I used to deny myself things until a “cheat” day and then would overindulge. In turn, feeling bad. A little bit here and there seems to work better for me. Plus it motivates me to exercise.

My usual diet contains fruit and veg. I don’t eat fast food very often. It tastes artificial. I’ll have the odd Chinese if I fancy it but that’s very rare. I try to stay well and find that eating bad food is detrimental to that. When I was obese I was ill often. Or at least I felt ill often. So experience taught me to stay well as can be. The short term dopamine hit from sugar, fat and salt is massively offset by the downsides to being out of shape. Nothing tastes as good as feeling fit and well feels.

The days in-between running I would do press-ups and planking. No set amount just to fail. It was to rest my legs but still do something. Even if it was just five minutes worth. It was better than nothing.

My weight didn’t come down much from all the running but I started feeling more energetic. I also felt stronger and more confident. I was getting closer and closer to 5km. Until about six weeks after struggling to breathe I managed to get to 5km in a reasonable time.

I just kept persevering. I never listened to music when I ran. Just my thoughts and the wildlife in the parks. I found it calming. Therapy for the cost of a pair of trainers. Any grievances from that day I would run them off. Use the grumbling to motivate me further. Use the frustration to push me on. I enjoyed it. I began to look forward to running. In the beginning, it seemed like tying up my shoes and walking out the door took more energy than the run. But as the months went on I began to become addicted to it. Eventually, I was feeling fitter than I ever had. At 38 years old I felt the best I had felt in years.

It was a good escape during the lockdown to put on a pair of trainers and just run. To just go for half an hour or so and not worry. Just get away from technology and be present. In the moment. With the sound of my feet hitting the ground as company.

I just kept nudging myself further. I rested when I ached. Sometimes I didn’t make the distances I wanted but that’s life. I would try again next time. I kept at it until I comfortably made 10km. It was four months after I had been struggling to breathe in March. It felt good. Although I was dying by the end of the 6miles. I was happy to have made it.

There are obvious limitations that restrict people from doing what I have talked about here. The majority of people are restricted by their own beliefs or lack of motivation. That is why the quick fix health industry is a multi-billion pound industry. We want to look and feel good without the effort. Which is subjective. But I have been obese. I have hated myself. I am now comfortable in my own skin. I can say that wellness and exercise is the foundation of that feeling. I am not an athlete nor aspire to be. I am just a general guy using his own experience to promote wellness. As a result of the running during the lockdown, I went back to work in the best shape I have been in since I was a teenager. People noticed a change. Not only in my appearance but my general demeanour. I felt calm and confident. I felt comfortable. Just a little bit of exercise a few times a week had a massive impact on my general well being. I highly recommend it.

Start small. Don’t expect the world. Just take it a step at a time. And stop making excuses. I hear people all the time “Oh yeah the lockdown made me fat!” No, it didn’t being inactive and eating too much made you fat. The lockdown made some of us fit.


P.S. I lost 6lbs in weight. Which is still overweight according to BMI calculator. But I feel great 😀

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