Why I Run – Background
This post is a significant diversion from the technology-based posts I usually write. The idea for this post came to me while I was out running. Before I begin, I want to say I hope this post doesn’t sound like I’m preaching or judging others on their lifestyle, I’m not. Here’s why I run.
Like many, as a kid, I enjoyed many sports, lots of football, tennis and cross country. Also, like many as the years pass I did less and less exercise and piled on the pounds.
This is a candid look at why I run and why I took up running again back in July 2017, and how it’s improved both my physical and mental wellbeing.
Looking back over the past few years I can now see my mental health had deteriorated. I’d been under pressure at work for about four years, I thought I could cope, I bottled things up, this made matters worse. As friends and family know, I don’t get embarrassed quickly, so why didn’t I seek help? I don’t know, maybe I saw mental health as a sign of weakness, as many do. If you’re in the same position, I will urge you to seek help.
During the early part of 2017 I noticed significant changes to my mental health, I became more irritable (some would say that’s just me), short-tempered and impatient. My home life suffered, as did my work. This came to a head in June when I finally realised I needed to do something and made a Doctor’s appointment. After talking at length with my GP, I was diagnosed with depression, albeit mild depression and given medication.
Many studies show a definite link between exercise and good mental health. That’s why I run. For further reading on the subject have a read of this guide ‘How to look after your mental health using exercise’ from the UK Mental Health Foundation.
For mild depression, physical activity can be as good as antidepressants or psychological treatments like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – Royal College of Psychiatrists
As part of my care, I returned to the doctors to obtain a repeat prescription from the nurse practitioner, who suggested blood tests to see if there was an underlying condition. This flagged up two problems, higher than average cholesterol and risk of type 2 diabetes. Something had to change and change I did, starting with a couch to 5km app.
Couch to 5km – The Beginning
I’m a person that needs a plan, requires a structure to the things I’m doing, running was no different. I’d unsuccessfully used a couch to 5km iPhone app some time ago, a time when I was limited to a treadmill. I decided to download this again and give it a go. That app is called ‘Get Running.’ It consists of a 9-week programme of 3 runs a week. The schedule steps up in intensity as the weeks go by, for example:
- 8x 1minute runs with 90 seconds walking between each run – Week 1
- 3x 5 minutes runs with 3 minute walks in-between – Week 4
- Run 30 minutes with no walking – Week 9
Within the first three weeks, my resting heart rate had dropped from 68bpm to 58bpm. While this is a significant drop some have attributed this to my line manager leaving, I couldn’t possibly comment.
My ‘programme’ finished at the start of October. However, I continue to run 5km up to three times a week as I love it.
It’s Not a Diet
My wife and a few friends always joke about me being on a diet, something I continue to refute, but I guess I am of sorts. Post-July 2017 I lived on what I term ‘The IT diet,’ it consisted of Crisps, diet Coke, and Kebabs. So, what did I do? I replaced crisps with nuts and apples, replaced diet coke with water and cut out the kebabs. I largely attribute the volume of diet coke that I’d drink to being the dominant factor in the increased risk of diabetes. On the average week, I estimate that I would drink over 10 litres of diet coke.
Results so Far
When I began running I weighed in at 110kgs (BMI 32.8), I’m now down to a stable 94kgs (BMI 28.1). I achieved this in under four months by making some simple changes in diet and exercise. I’ve been lucky to have the fantastic support of my wife and family. I have also had the opportunity to run in some great countries over the past few months, Ireland, the UK, Portugal, and France.
As a result of this change, both my cholesterol and risk of type 2 diabetes are reducing considerably. I get blood tests every three months or so to track this.
When I first spoke with my GP, the BMI chart he referred to showed that my mid-range weight on a BMI chart as 77kgs. We both agreed this was rubbish and that around 90kgs would be optimal. I’m happy at 94kgs and have no intention of going lower.
Running has changed not only my physical appearance but my mental wellbeing. I’m physically able to do more with the family without tiring quickly. My work has also benefited as I believe I’m sharper, more alert and find it easier to make decisions.
A note on BMI: BMI studies are done across large populations. Applying BMI data to an individual is misleading if a person’s general health is not taken into consideration. Incidentally, my current BMI 28.1 makes me still ‘over-weight.’ Don’t obsess over BMI.
Conclusion – Why I Run
I can appreciate running is not for everyone but how do you know if you don’t try? It’s worked wonders for my mental and physical wellbeing and could for you. That’s why I run.
If you love running or have thoughts on this subject then drop me a line on Twitter, via the comments below or via the contact form. I also record my runs on Strava so head over and connect with me there.