Saturday 20 December 2014

Doctor's orders: Stepping up to running challenge

As a GP, she espouses the benefits of regular exercise daily, but Dr Ciara Kelly admits she did not take her own advice. Now, though, she has begun jogging and is in her best shape for years

A greater effort is needed to promote exercise.
A greater effort is needed to promote exercise.

If you knew me, you'd realise how much I've changed. But as you don't, you'll just have to take my word for it. I voluntarily set my alarm for 6.30 this morning – and it was nothing to do with a Ryanair flight.

The nub of it is I'm doing a Couch to 5k and there was really no other point in the day where I could fit in a run. (Well, walk and run – I'm not quite at run and run stage.) That is amazing on two counts. One – I opted to get out of bed earlier than I absolutely had to. And two – I was going for a run!

Exercise and I are not close. I expound its virtues all day at work, but I have never been a natural ally. I haven't exercised since my school days and until recently I could hardly run a bath.

Deep down, despite my external support of the notion, I've never been able to relate to the idea of 'wanting' to exercise. And it wouldn't be an overstatement to say not only did I see those who enjoyed exercise as different to me, I saw them as a different species.

But – and it is a big but – I've changed my view. I began my Couch to 5k early last month (having downloaded the app in January 2013, but I was playing the long game and didn't open it for a year) and despite the fact that I thought that I might have a heart attack after running for 60 seconds initially, I can now run (read slow jog) for 20 minutes – or 3km, after a mere three weeks.

This is huge mentally for me, because I honestly had the idea that I wasn't capable of this, and genuinely believed I couldn't run. Perhaps it was a handy way to view it, but it was my actual mind-set.

And how do I feel? Well, apart from a slight pain in my Achilles ... I feel great. I feel better in my body. I feel more energised, in fact I feel younger – partly because I'm physically in better shape than I've been in years, but partly it's psychological; in that I realise I'm not all washed up as I drift slowly into middle age. My body can still throw itself around a bit and act not unlike a kid.

I was slightly alarmed to see a couple of pounds creep up on the scales when I first started, as my lighter fat converted to heavier muscle, but I've reverted to my starting weight now and I've definitely lost inches.

I like the simplicity of it – put on runners, out the door and go. It's lo-fi and it's free. I've found having a structured plan really helpful in that I don't have to think or self-motivate. I just have to do what the nice lady's voice in my ear tells me. And I like the bite-sized chunks it comes in. Each day's exercise is only about a half hour (or how we measure time in our house – one episode of the Simpsons) so I can't really wriggle out of it on the excuse of being too busy.

There's a great video worth checking out by Dr Mike Evans that says we should limit our time spent sitting, to 23 and a half hours a day, which means that we should move our asses for that other 30 minutes. And if an old couch like me can do it, not only does it mean that anyone can do it, it means anything is possible.

Dr Ciara Kelly is a GP in Greystones, Co Wicklow

Irish Independent

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