Tuesday 24 October 2017

Fitness: 'Running became easier and more enjoyable'

Dorothy Byrne training in Killarney National Park.Don MacMonagle
Dorothy Byrne training in Killarney National Park.Don MacMonagle

Dorothy Byrne, in her early 40s, is a married mother of three kids. She is an adult education teacher in Killarney.

'During my twenties, in college and after graduating, I was just interested in going out and enjoying life. I was a smoker and I wasn't too conscious of food or diet.

"It was dreadful when I think about it now. When I was in my thirties and having children, I began to put on weight when I was pregnant. When you've small kids, it's hard to find the time to get out and exercise.

"I found myself sitting at home an awful lot, in some ways leading an idle lifestyle and not really staying healthy or fit.

"Kerry is a beautiful place to live; there are beaches and forests and so much of the great outdoors. There's no excuse not to get out and take advantage of it.

"Getting fresh air and exercise helps us greatly; we intuitively know that. After my third baby, I realised that I needed to lose the weight. I was looking for something to do to keep healthy and get in shape. As a teacher, I found myself being a lot more tired in the evenings; I couldn't sustain the inactive lifestyle. I also needed 'me time', away from the family and work.

"I started to do a bit of walking, I tried yoga and aerobics and plenty of other activities. I went to the gym on occasion.

"One day I went to a tag rugby event. I was 38 at the time and a neighbour invited me. It was awful. I really let myself down at it.

"I was embarrassed at how unfit I'd become. I would have seen myself as being able to run around a pitch but it was a shock to realise that I had very little fitness, even though I was walking and going to the gym. I was puffing and panting after five minutes.

"I asked one of the girls doing the tag rugby how she kept going and she told me about a running group for people our age. It was interesting because I didn't realise there was something like this going on. I was never an athlete as such and I wasn't aware there were groups for people who just want to get a bit fitter.

"She suggested I join the running group. I won't forget the first time I went. There were a load of people in singlets and running gear and I was totally intimidated. I sat in the car on the verge of tears and was about to drive away.

"I was on my way out when the girl from the tag rugby came along and told me to stay and give it a shot. She explained that there were other beginners too and it's a very welcoming group.

"She was right: there was huge encouragement from everybody there. After my first run I remember I could hardly breathe and thought 'I'll never be able for this'.

"But it became easier week after week and more and more enjoyable. I started doing 5k runs and then moved on to half marathons.

"Last year I did the Barcelona marathon with a group from Tralee, and I also did a triathlon. I feel so much better, work is so much easier. I feel invigorated; the exercise and running actually gives me more energy. It's also great to have challenges for yourself in life."

Irish Independent

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