We’ve all done it.
We’ve all vowed to get fitter as the mince pies become a distant memory, only to find ourselves full of excuses when they’re back on the shelves. There’s always next year, right?
Not this time. For everyone staring nervously at their trainers hoping they might take themselves for a run, now is the time to take that all-important first step.
This year, I’m determined to make sure you’re still lapping everyone on the sofa come December.
Why would a random stranger want to inflict more lycra on the world, you ask?
Because I know that exercise has the power to change the course of your day and, in so doing, your life. Right now.
You won’t always have next year.
No one watching me limp half-heartedly round the cross country course at school would have predicted that I might one day own a running vest (or six).
No one watching me stand in my parents’ kitchen in 2007, unable to take a step forward after having my pelvis rebuilt (due to hip dyplasia), would have predicted that I might one day run not just one marathon, but two.
But then, no one would have predicted that I would be diagnosed with breast cancer just three weeks after getting engaged. I was only 32.
Faced with a constantly malfunctioning body, it would have been easy to get angry. Instead, I got fit.
My exercise journey didn’t start in January. I didn’t have time for resolutions. It started on a cold April day in 2014, just 24 hours after my hair fell out from chemo. It started in tatty trainers that had seen better days. It started slow, with my dad waiting to catch me if I fell. But, it started - and that’s all that matters.
Exercise helped me move forward. Exercise gave me a reason to get out into the fresh air and feel the sun on my face. Exercise showed me that I was stronger than the body parts trying to stand in my way. Exercise gave me a reason to live, when cancer had other ideas.
While I wouldn’t recommend running your first 10k race loaded up on chemo drugs, I don’t regret a single step that year - and every day since. I remember not being able to run more than 50 metres across the park near my house. I remember not having enough air (thank you asthma) to make it up my first hill. What I don’t remember is the day when walking turned to jogging and jogging turned to running. All I know is that small steps turned into miles and miles make every day better.
My running style is, at best, strange (children often point and laugh). My pixie hair stands on end with the slightest breeze. Lycra was not designed for my limbs. But, when I’m outside with just my thoughts for company, I feel like I can take on the world.
Roll the clock forward four years and these are the words of a woman who has run a 10k in under 60 minutes, completed multiple half marathons, hit a few walls (and carried on), run two whole marathons without stopping and swum three miles of open water for good measure.
And, in 2017, my husband and I became the first couple in the world to get married on the Cutty Sark before running the London Marathon. We then trekked the Great Wall of China for our honeymoon.
When I look back, I’m humbled to think how far this dodgy-legged fluffy-haired lop-sized woman has come. And, by moving forward, you too, will be able to look back and smile.
It’s not always easy. There were times when I promised myself tomorrow would be better. There were times when I cried myself to sleep with the pain. But, as someone who knows what it’s like to not be able to walk, I know that giving myself the option to not exercise is worse than even the hardest, slowest run.
Even with my comfy new trainers (I use running ones now), however, I still need New Year’s resolutions. This year, my plan is to complete 2018 activity-based miles (cycling, running and swimming) as part of a year-long movement campaign called #Milesbetter2018. For me, it’s about building an exercise habit, not conquering a one-off goal (and then retreating to the sofa).
In so doing, I want to encourage 2018 people to move forward in their lives and take that step to a healthier life. That doesn’t mean doing 2018 miles (unless you want to join me). Nor does it mean running marathons. It could be a 5k walk or a length in the pool. I’m writing this blog series - and will continue to post tips and advice – because I want you to feel the wonderful effects of exercise on your body this year.
When I limped injured to the start line of my wedding day marathon, I didn’t think I’d make a mile. But I did, because of the support of those around me. And, the messages I remember most from that day are from those motivated to get out there because, in crossing that finish line, I made them realise anything was possible.
We’re stronger together and we really can go a long way with the right people by our side. Welcome to the team! It’s going to be the most energetic year yet.
Call to action: Jackie will be sharing her tips and advice all year as she tries to develop the ultimate exercise habit. If you’d like to join the #Milesbetter2018 campaign, simply pick a challenge, publicly commit to it (by posting here or using a social media channel with the hashtag #Milesbetter2018).