Just run

Just run

For years, I've felt unfit.

When I was at high school, I did two karate sessions every week, which always included an element of fitness training. I was skinny, and reasonably strong.

I also used to walk 2 miles to school and back, every single day, on Sheffield's famous hills.

But when I got my black-belt aged 17, I stopped karate lessons. "Mission accomplished." And when I went to university aged 18, my commute shrank to a mere 30-second walk.

Since then, my fitness has basically disintegrated. Don't get me wrong: I'm not overweight. But I'm not active or energetic. And I can feel it.

The frustrating thing is that I've known about this problem for a very long time. I just always had some excuse for not prioritising my fitness.

  • "I can't afford a gym membership."
  • "I can't run for more than 2 minutes at a time."
  • "I don't know how to do it properly."
  • "I don't have time."
  • "I don't need to be fit."

All of these are lies, or distracting excuses. Here's what I realised:

  • You don't need a gym membership to keep fit.
  • You don't need to be able to run far or fast.
  • Just take 10 seconds to search for a beginners' plan. Or wing it. It doesn't matter.
  • There is always time; you just spend it doing other, less important things.
  • Health and fitness should be your priority, because they make everything else in your life better.

My new fitness plan

I decided to get into running. It's accessible, you can do it anywhere in the world, and it's easy to tailor according to your needs and abilities.

My first instinct was to open the App Store and search for running apps. I found a bunch, but I didn't like a single one of them. They all had features I didn't need, and subscriptions I didn't want to pay for. So I nearly gave up.

But then I realised that I didn't need a goddamn app to start running. So I went online and looked up beginners' running plans, and found a 6-week "Couch to 5k" plan. 3 runs per week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

I know that I respond well to sunk cost bias: if I've invested money into something, it's worth my time. So I went out and bought some new clothes and shoes to go running in. This was a great move: apart from the sunk cost bias, I also feel more confident going out and running if I actually look the part. Fake it until you make it.

I have an Apple Watch, which allows you to program custom workouts. But you don't need this. If you don't have a fitness tracker, just order a stopwatch and use it to time your intervals. It will cost £5, and you can carry it with you on your runs.

So far I've been on 3 runs, including one when I was away from home. The out-of-town one was actually a magical experience: I ran through one of England's most beautiful parks at 7am, with deer roaming the grasslands around me and the sun coming up over a lake.

green grass field under cloudy sky during daytime
This is where I got to run. Photo by Samuel Smith / Unsplash

Setting goals

It's important to know what your goal is when you start a fitness plan.

I know what my goal is not. I'm not intending to run competitively (yet). I'm not chasing a distance or speed goal. I'm not aiming for a particular weight, or any number really.

I just want to feel happier, more energetic, and more focussed. In my mind, exercise is a necessary precursor to all my other objectives and goals.

In the future, I'm excited to run in lots of interesting and cool places. I'm going on a trip to Cleveland, Ohio later this year, and I fully intend to bring my running gear and explore the city.

I wanted to write this post because my past self would have really benefitted from it. I spent the last 10 years making excuses about why fitness wasn't a priority. I just needed someone to tell me to run.