I have always been interested in running and in physical fitness. For me my mental health and physical health are very closely linked. If I do not make the effort to go outside I feel a dip in my mood. I have always enjoyed running outside, as it is something that I do mindfully. When I am outside running I concentrate solely on where I am, and what is around me, rather than any ongoing issues of the day. If I am gardening, although it is outside, I tend to think about issues and concerns which results in gardening not being a relaxing experience.
In 2014 I decided to join a running group. I liked the idea of being part of a group, and that I could run additional days with members from the group rather than just on my own. I completed their couch to 5k group and was running with them for roughly 8 or 9 months. The main issue with the group was that it was a half hour drive from home and as the group was women only the majority of extra runs were during school hours when I was at work. I started to run with friends and slowly my running with the group tailed off.
By the end of 2015 my running friends spoke about us entering a half marathon. We promptly signed up to the Hackney half marathon and started to train in earnest for it. Two of us were training together as well as individually. I was very motivated. During 2016 we completed two 10k races and the half marathon. I felt mentally and physically fit and assumed that we would continue to complete events throughout the following year.
We started 2017 with a muddy race, which was great fun but then we succumbed to various injuries or lack of timings working out to run together and slowly our group running stopped. I was once again running on my own. I decided to join a local club and signed up as a runner who could already run 5k. The group met two evenings a week, one of these evenings I could not attend due to work commitments. I knew from the outset that I would only attend one evening per week. I attended for a couple of weeks but as most of the runners had graduated from the couch to 5k group I felt very much out of the group. To be honest I made little effort to become part of the group, as they were very welcoming and would easily have accepted me.
They were already arranging runs themselves and once again most of these were during the day or on Saturday mornings when I worked. I failed to recognise how inclusive the group was and could easily have reached out to fellow runners who would happily have run with me on days of my choice, but I chose not to, instead blaming them for not running at a day or time that suited me. I found myself, once again leaving the group and running on my own. I ran the 2018 10k London Winter run but after this nothing for the rest 2018.
As someone who had never struggled with motivation for running I was surprised when I lost all motivation to run on my own. During 2017 and 2018 my running was sporadic and more something I felt that I needed to do rather than a pleasure. It didn’t help that I had ongoing back problems for a lot of 2018. As we all know when we are struggling with motivation, it is easy to find an excuse to opt out, and even once my back was better it was still my go to excuse for not running.
By the start of 2019 I had been running the odd 5k. Once again I saw a different running club advertising their running groups and I signed up. A lot of people have asked me why a couch to 5k when I can already run the distance. The main answer is that I want a sense of belonging to a club where I know the people. I have seen the bonds that are built when people are starting from scratch and encouraging each other. These bonds remain once they have moved onto another distance. I am enjoying the runs, talking to others as we run, being outside running in the dark, laughing as we run. It is all part of the experience.
Ironically the new club runs on the same two nights of the week as the previous one. Why didn’t I just return to the old group? It’s odd how our brains feel the need to start afresh rather than to go back to something isn’t it. The difference is in my mindset this year. I have actually marked the time out in my diary so that I can attend twice a week for the whole of the couch to 5k course. I didn’t do this before and then wondered why I didn’t feel part of the group. I could easily be part of both running groups, picking days and runs from each, now that I have the right mindset.
I don’t regret the past years running group experience as it has shown how important it is to consciously mark the time out of my diary and how easy it is to allow work to take priority over everything else. Had I not failed to mark the time from my diary I would not have realised how important it is to actually emotionally commit to the group.
This is so true on many things in life.
We sign up but then we don’t emotionally commit ourselves, the result being that we don’t show up but still expect to be accepted and achieve results.
We talk about commitment without being committed then question why it hasn’t worked out for us, basically we get out what we have put in.
We lay blame at other people’s door when it is our mindset that is at fault. It’s OK to start from scratch and to build ourselves up again. We judge ourselves as having failed in some way when sometimes we need to strip things back and start again, but this time making conscious decisions. That way we learn more about ourselves as people.
Patricia is a member of BACP, a counsellor and meditation teacher. She enjoys using meditation and mindfulness as therapeutic tools alongside her counselling. Patricia works in Kent within a private practice and also runs workshops and takes great pleasure in collaborating with other people to share skills to help others move forwards.