If you have ever been inactive in your life for any period of time, perhaps through illness, being snowed under with work, pregnancy or even just out of sheer laziness then you will know how difficult it is to get back into exercise.
Now I can only speak as a women, but perhaps the issues are similar for men, but once you realise just how unfit you are the reality of having to face that fact while trying to improve your fitness is a real issue. It comes as a shock first and foremost and then you start playing the blame game.
You want to be healthier, fitter and live a more active lifestyle, but you know its going to be a real battle to get there, and it's not that you are scared of hard work (well you are a little bit I guess) but much of the advice and guidance out there seems to skim over the reality that many of us face when we are just embarking on a new fitness drive... the reality that is after just 30 seconds of intense exercise we feel like we really might actually die.
So you find yourself in a strange catch 22 position, whereby many people just do nothing through fear of the challenge ahead.
If you have never been overweight or inactive in your life (which many health and sports professionals have not) it is really difficult for you to understand how that actually feels, not just physically but mentally too. Nobody wants to appear weak or stupid do they? And none of us want to admit that much of this is our own doing and that we should have started this health kick years ago.
It is a lot to face up to.
It's all well and good telling people to do couch to 5K, pop along to their nearest parkrun, or if they are really brave join their local running club...but none of those will teach you how to actually run, or make that pain in your legs, chest and head go away...neither will anyone care much about how you are feeling psychologically about being so rubbish at something we were all born to do.
This is why so many people don't bother.
Much of this is about mindset and understanding how the body behaves when it is not at its peak. If you know its going to hurt and be tough, and take ages before you see any improvement you can kind of prepare yourself for it. But all these images of attractive (already slim) looking ladies with huge smiles on their faces and not a drop of sweat, well they just build you up to fail, leaving you thinking "Why is it so easy for them, but not for me?"...well we know why, they are already fit.
If we want to get this nation healthier we need to start designing programmes that help individuals get into physical activity at a pace that is right for them, and provide opportunities for people to train together with others in a similar fitness boat. Who wants to be lapped 3 times in a 5k race by a 55 year old man in hot pants? Or stand next to Miss Zumba Queen UK 2014 in front of a full length mirror?
This time last year I published my ebook "Getting past the first 30 seconds" as an attempt to get people thinking about where most beginners are starting from. Focussing on why running is so touch when you are inactive, with some simple ideas to make it easier (notice I didn't say easy?).
The fact that it has sold thousands of copies all over the world in just 12 months shows there is a demand for this basic level of advice, and at one point it even ranked higher on Amazon than Jessica Ennis's autobiography...see I really don't need abs like that to be a role model?
In all seriousness though, the extent of our nations rampant inactivity and attitude towards exercise is worrying but that is not to say we have to take drastic measures to whip people into shape like our lives depended on it (although they kind of do), we just need to be realistic about what impact we can actually make and at what pace. Generally, for those new to sport you can't just chuck them in at the deep end and think they will be won over by the endorphines, they won't and then you'll never see them again. They need understanding (not in a patronising way) and a gently gently, softly softly approach no matter how annoying that might sound to you Mr I cycle to work every day, play football twice a week, and run back to back marathons every weekend.
They are not you.
If I got a penny for every time someone said "ME? RUN? You must be kidding, I can't even run for a bus" I'd be rich, and most of the time, they are not even joking about their inability to run when they most need to. I often respond with "Could you run to get help if one of your kids were poorly?" and you can guess what the response would be.
So next time you go out for a run count to just 30 as you warm up and stop for a moment. I bet your heart isn't even beating any faster than before you started, you are probably still fiddling with your Garmin or your iPod...chances are you haven't even reached the top of your road. Well, that is the point that most beginners have to stop and take a breather, not because we are not trying or we don't really want this but because this is simply where we are at this point in time...shaming us, blaming us...or bad mouthing us isn't going to improve anything, that just serves as another reason not to go out for a run in the first place.
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