Thursday, 22 September 2011

Getting started

By Kate Webb

19 September

In spite of what the song, says, I’ve always had more trouble with Tuesdays than Mondays. Mondays seem to come with some in-built momentum and energy, whereas Tuesdays simply remind you that there’s an awful lot to get through before the weekend comes around. 

Given this, you’d have got very long odds at the start of the summer on the chances of me standing, on a Tuesday evening in September, neck to ankle in lycra, alongside the athletics track in Verulamium Park. Long odds not just because of my natural antipathy towards Tuesdays, but also because of my chequered history with trying to keep fit. I have, over the years, developed a finely tuned ability to talk myself out of any sustained attempt to exercise. While I’ve been able to see exactly how successful and rewarding gyms or spin classes, running or triathlons could be for friends and family, I’ve never been able to maintain any reasonable effort for myself. It’s always been too expensive, too inconvenient, or offered the unwelcome prospect of embarrassment or discomfort. 

So what changed? 
With the benefit of hindsight, it was a combination of things that led me to dust off the running leggings and check the elastic hadn’t perished. There was a latent sense that I should really do something to combat the commuting and office-based work life that occupies most of my week. 

There was the triple pincer movement of the announcement of the Get Started course – via twitter, email and facebook – so I couldn’t reasonably say I hadn’t seen it. Then there’s the cost - £12.50 for 12 sessions over six weeks and ongoing annual membership of the club which seemed to appeal to my Yorkshirewoman’s need for value for money. What’s more the Striders promised support from friendly coaches, no matter what level, which sounded right up my street and certainly worth a try. 

And then there were the welcoming and supportive emails from the Get Started team at the club who made it all seem very straightforward and easy. 

So there I was, nervously shifting from one foot to the other, as the sun set on one of the better days we’ve had recently alongside 40 other new recruits. 

First step – the warm-up. I have a sneaking suspicion that alongside a plan to get people running confidently there’s also a plan to enter a team in a synchronised formation warm up event (perhaps a spin-off of the 2012 Olympics). If so, there’s still work to be done here, but under Helen’s helpful guidance, and with some willing demonstrators, we soon had our pulse rate up and were feeling nicely warm. 

Then we split into our teams, organised by ability and led by Becky and marshalled by fully fledged Striders. I’d been assigned to the green team (green as in beginners, rather than suggestive of any speed). Fine by me – that’s exactly where I needed to be. And off we went, setting our own pace, with coaching tips as we went – 5 mins running, 2 mins walking – while the sun set and the wildlife on the lake watched on. 

And, much to my surprise, it wasn’t so bad. At times it was verging on enjoyable! So much so that I came back for more two days later, having found myself in a strange place (for me) of looking forward to it while at work during the day. The same pattern of warm-up, running, and warm down, accompanied by talk of day-glo tabards and building up towards doing a 5K (one day). 

Okay, so it’s only the end of week one, and there may be a bit of beginner’s euphoria as I type, but I’ve got a sense that something might have clicked and that in launching Get Started the Striders may have struck on a winning combination of friendly, supportive and practical exercise – at least a combination that can work for me. 

In spite of discovering muscles I never knew I owned, I managed another short run over the weekend (note to self – try without the slight hangover next time), and now I am really looking forward to what might come next. You’d have got even longer odds against that back in July. 

Of course, the danger through all of this is that I start to like Tuesdays and take against Mondays instead, but I’m too focused on getting myself some reflective kit to worry too much about that right now. 

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