Life Mental Health

Tuesday 25 October 2016

Dr Ciara Kelly on how running changed her life

Ciara Kelly

Published 18/01/2016 | 02:30

Winning formula: Dr Ciara Kelly and Operation Transformation host Kathryn Thomas after last year's 5k run in the Phoenix Park. Photo: Gerry Mooney.
Winning formula: Dr Ciara Kelly and Operation Transformation host Kathryn Thomas after last year's 5k run in the Phoenix Park. Photo: Gerry Mooney.

January is well and truly under way and for lots of us our New Year's resolutions are just a distant memory. But good intentions are hard to put into practice especially if you were aiming to make loads of radical changes - the way people often do after the blow out of Christmas.

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A more manageable plan - where you make one small change you stick to - is probably more sustainable and effective. And if there's only one change you're going to make - you really should consider exercise.

Exercise is a game changer in terms of your health and also how you feel. It gives you energy. It makes you more productive. It lifts your mood. It makes you feel like you are in control of your life and that - if you can do this - (fill in your chosen form of exercise here) you can do other stuff too.

I'm not naturally sporty. I can't throw. I can't catch. I'm generally more at home reading a book or doodling, than I am in a gym. I'd have been great in Jane Austen times. Faffing about at a piano or doing needle point. Nowadays, when the expectations are that women will be Amazonian types who can do Hell and Backs and Iron Men - I am at a distinct disadvantage. However, I have managed to find my niche - exercise-wise.

I have found running. If you knew me of old - you would say 'Where's Ciara gone?' to hear me say that. But it's true. I actually like it! I like to run in the rain with my hat low over my eyes and my music blaring loudly in my ears. (That is the only drawback of me running - I'm likely to end up deaf). I like to run in the sunshine - particularly by the sea.

Every run starts almost the same way. My legs feel heavy. My breathing's not great. I'm not sure I can actually run this run. But I keep going. Then my legs get looser. I feel a bit better. I think I can do this run - or if not all of it then probably most of it. Then a magical thing happens usually between four and six kilometres for me. I feel amazing. I run faster than I was going earlier (It's especially good if you can have this bit going downhill) I feel euphoric. If there's no one around I sometimes whoop or laugh out loud. I very occasionally punch the air.

I think you should probably not know this about me - but I'm hoping it's helpful. I get what's known as the runner's high - something I always thought that runners were making up to justify them being so boring and going running all the time. It clears my head. It de-stresses me. It makes me fit in a way that I never thought I would be. And it's very clearly not all about how it makes you feel. Exercise is really good for your health. It lowers your resting heart rate and therefore your blood pressure - so is awesome, cardiovascularly.

It helps reduce your weight - so it lowers your risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancers. It helps your respiratory and digestive systems function better. It improves your mobility and your muscle strength and tone. If it's weight bearing it improves bone density.

It is brilliant for your mental health - it's as effective as anti-depressants, in treating up to moderately severe depression.

And for me the best bit about running is you don't need any equipment or a venue. You put on your runners, go outside your front door and you're there doing it. No gym membership fees. No investment in expensive bikes, weights or other kit. I'm not knocking other forms of exercise but I like the lo-Fi nature of running.

If running isn't for you - find out what is. You may not be Brian O'Driscoll but you don't have to be. There's a sport out there with your name on it.

Go do it. It feels great.


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