Best Foot Forward!
In my teenage years running and I got off on the wrong foot. I dreaded the grey mornings when our P.E teacher would make us run for what seemed like endless laps around the park next to my school. Our class was an interesting spectacle for the passers-by, a cluster of 15 year olds in red knee high football socks leading the way and then lagging behind, slowing down to a lethargic shuffle when the teacher wasn’t looking was me and a couple of the other girls.
Running had never been popular with many of the girls, some were terrified of being chased by a dog who had wandered free of his leash, others didn’t want to look silly in front of the boys, but for me it was the voice in my head saying running hurts, you should stop, you don’t really want to do this. For ages I couldn’t get used to the dry mouth, the sharp stitch in my side or the blood pounding in my temples. Although my legs, lungs and feet were aching, it was my mind that posed the biggest challenge, and so I left running for a while.
My mum was keen that I keep up some sort of physical activity and suggested netball, hockey or rounders. But after discovering I haven’t got the patience or hand-eye coordination for team sports I returned to more solitary pursuits, namely swimming and jogging. I found that swimming helped me control my breathing when running. I started slowly; jogging the long stretches and walking the short, slowly letting the pounding of my feet drown out the nagging voice in my head. Gradually after a few periods of stopping and starting I began to see how much better I felt afterwards.
Although I enjoyed getting some fresh air and could now bring myself to do two laps without surrendering half way through, I was beginning to find it tedious. I have never been a fan of treadmills, and the artificial rhythm you have to run to so I went out in search of new places to run. Luckily where I’m from on the outskirts of London there are some country parks which make for a more scenic route. I don’t usually listen to music when running as the headphones bug me, so I try to concentrate on my surroundings instead. For a more spontaneous burst of exercise my mum and I did a three mile loop of our neighbourhood starting from the front door, gently jogging or walking the flat bits and running up the slope of the golf course. I wouldn’t be signing up to any marathons soon but I’d found an easy way to keep healthy and get some mental space.
Since moving to Leeds a year and a half ago I’ve been using exercise to help de-stress during exam periods and give myself a boost during a sluggish day. I still get bored easily, especially with repetitive exercise so I have been trying all sorts of things from wall-climbing to Dancefit. But as student-friendly sports go, running still remains the top as its free and you can begin as soon as you step foot out of the door.