Gyms suck, I can’t stand them. Something about the bright lights, pumping music, mirrors everywhere and a whole host of machines I don’t know how to fully operate properly totally puts me off. I’ve tried them, but I hate them. It’s not just the surroundings, its the sheer mind numbing boredom of running on the same spot staring at a wall which has forever secured my hatred of gyms and why I’ll never waste another 6 months worth of subscriptions by going once and then being too lazy to cancel.
When I returned from our 3 week honeymoon in America it was clear that I had endured a rather large acceleration towards becoming overweight again. I work a 9-5 office job and am a rather large fan of drinking too much alcohol at times so the odds were already stacked against me before the weeks of non-stop fast food we consumed over there. Something had to be done, however I knew I’d not be stepping foot in another gym and am infamously bad at maintaining personal exercise routines.
So, I found the solution rather ironically while consuming, again, too much alcohol in a local pub. I got chatting to a friend of a friend who mentioned that she was off to do a Parkrun the next morning. I’d heard of the events before having been unsuccessfully enticed along by a previous partner many years before however I’d never actually had the chance to talk with someone who still attended. I’d always imagined these events to be incredibly cliquey with everyone super-fit and all trying to shave the next 0.2 seconds off their personal best. Anyway, she assured me that it wasn’t like that at all (well.. maybe a bit, but not everyone was like that) and I should give it a try. I drunkenly said I would and then went back to order another pint.
7:30am the next day I was rudely awoken by the alarm I’d set after arriving home suitably drunk enough to think that partaking a 5k run the next morning would be a good idea. Heck, I was already awake so thought I might as well ride on down to the local Parkrun event and give it a shot.
It was hell.
I don’t think I could have picked a worse day to start this new found exercise routine. Even by 8:30 it was blazingly hot and I’d not thought to bring any water at all. Still, I listened in to the pre-run instructions and lined up waaaaay over towards the back of the herd to begin our 3 lap run. 5k sounds like nothing, a jog in the park, a quick warmup, not even 1/4 of a half marathon.. but damn does it seem like a long way after 4 hours sleep and towing a massive hangover. But I did it, and crossed the finish line with a “well at least you came along” time of almost 33 minutes.
A couple of hours later, I was sat at home moaning about how sore my legs were to my wife(!) when the email pinged in announcing my time and a link to the results page proudly showing everyone who had ran that day. There I was, towards the bottom of the page, but at least I had gone that one time. I took a glance over the other runners and was amazed to see how many were listed as ‘First Timer’. Had a large chunk of my fellow locals also been talked into attending this tomfoolery following a heavy night on the town previously? Looking back over other weeks there were equally large numbers of first timers. It became clear that many people attended these events and then never returned. Having endured the heat and pain of this first run I could certainly see why.. however I didn’t want to be one of those. Surely I ought to at least try a 2nd week without drinking quite so much the night before to give me a more accurate time?
9:00am Saturday morning, week 2, and there I was lined up again at the back of the herd minus a hangover and equipped with some water left to enjoy at the finish. I ran again and clocked in at just over 30 minutes. An awesome improvement! And again the email came in showing my result now slightly higher up on the results page.
I was hooked
The following week I gave up all alcohol. Not a single drop. I didn’t change anything else in my diet, didn’t do any other exercising or practice runs. I wanted to take the 3rd run without mentally cursing last night’s pint as it sweated out. I again started near the back and went along at a pace I thought very similar to the last two runs. It was only halfway the announcer read out that the time was just over 13 minutes I realised this time was going to be quicker. 27 minutes I came in at, a 20% reduction in time in just 2 weeks and I felt great. Well, not at the time of course, I was gasping for air and thought I might pass out at any minute.. but later while at home with my feet up it felt great.
I’ve been going for over 2 months now and the time has just gotten better. Last week was a new personal best at 25:42 and I’m going to keep aiming for better. Not only that, I’ve been out running every Monday and Wednesday, plus cleaned up the diet and greatly reduced drinking. I’ve lost 3kg without really thinking about it in the last month. Now every Monday I get into the office and my work colleagues ask how the 5K was this weekend. It gives me accountability having that time recorded and displayed on the website for all to see.
I’m finding that having the times automatically recorded each week gives me a very similar motivation that I get from recording my income/expenses each month. Being able to easily see and judge against past performance, being able to identify trends and make predictions based on actions. This has helped me become financially more secure in the past.. and now helping me become fitter for the future.
*If you’re interested in attending a Parkrun I highly recommend it. It’s totally free! You need to register on their website and then print off your barcode they generate. Bring this barcode with you to any Parkrun event and have it scanned at the finish to record your time.