Why Women Run (and why they often don't)
Think about what you can add to your life, not subtract from it
For a lot of women who start an exercise programme, the main motivation is to lose weight. Not to get fitter, or feel better, but to be able to look in the mirror and feel better about what they see.
The thing is though, it’s not how our bodies actually, objectively look that’s the issue, most of the time. It’s how we feel about our bodies. Body image permeates every aspect of many women’s lives – from our relationships with others (paralysed by self-consciousness or a sense of inferiority) to the goals we set ourselves (‘I’m too fat to go to the gym/speak in public’) and the simplest pleasures life can offer (‘Paddle in the sea with my kids? I’m not letting anyone see these thighs…’).
Dieting is certainly one way to address body self-image, and if you have a significant amount of weight to lose it’s probably part of the solution for you. But dieting alone is not the answer. By itself, it's essentially a negative activity. It involves denial, doing without, less of what we like, a sense of missing out, of watching others enjoy food with a mixture of envy and a peculiarly empty sense of owning the moral high ground. And diets are almost always finite: the end brings release but also, all too often, a sense of failure and a return to bad habits.
To succeed, you shouldn't focus on denial and self-loathing. You’re amazing, and you should think about what you can add to your life, not subtract from it. Almost anyone can run, with the right advice and support, and running can not only help you lose weight, feel better about your body and give you more energy, it can quite simply make you happy.
We’re not talking about a ‘just won the lottery’ kind of happiness here. We adjust all too quickly to this kind of good fortune: the old happy becomes the new normal. We’re talking instead about intrinsic happiness, which you build for yourself over months, patiently, almost imperceptibly, from the simple routine of pulling on your trainers and heading out the door several times a week. It’s a magical process involving pride at overcoming the temptation to stay in bed a bit longer, the realization that you’ve just passed the corner that you struggled to reach without stopping just last week, the action of oxygen in your lungs and on your face, the thrill of noticing the first daffodils, or seeing a deer bound across a misty morning field in front of you, a clean clear space for thinking in a life filled with busy-ness, the rhythm of your feet, your heart, your breath. Over weeks and months it all combines to produce a deep change within you: it’s about confidence and a sense of where you fit in the world. It’s well-being and finding yourself with more energy and a more positive outlook on life. You may find your sense of humour improves, or your patience stretches further than it used to. And you’ll almost certainly find yourself feeling sexier.
It sounds easy, and in a way it is. As the slogan has it, you just, do it. But for lots of people somehow it isn’t that easy: life gets in the way. That’s why we need sites such as Fetch where you can analyse your training til your eyes bleed, read inspiring blogs of ordinary people doing extraordinary things, and snort tea over your keyboard while browsing the forums. Inspiration is everywhere, if you’re ready for it.
Alison Jones aka 'Iron Mum' is one of the leaders of Bramley Iron Mum, a free structured training programme for women which culminates in a friendly duathlon at the end of each summer. Many of the women who take part haven’t run since school and never dreamed they would do so again, let alone enter a race.
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