I often cheer on complete strangers when I see them out running… I especially cheer on the people who look like they’re having a really hard time, or trying so hard they’re grimacing, or the ones who are not running that fast but really puffing hard. But I only ever cheer them on in my head.
I want to say it out loud, but I never quite get there. I always think that they’ll think I am being patronising or mocking them, so it never comes out of my mouth.
When running’s hard, that’s when it takes the most courage to lace up and get out of the door. My desire to cheer people on is not for their physical effort so much, but more for the fact that they are ‘out there’, and they are ‘doing it’, and THAT is awesome. Once you have done it often enough that it becomes a pleasure to get out of a run, that’s when it is the easiest to get out of the door – but until then, it can be really hard.
After both of my pregnancies, but especially the second one, it took me quite a long while to start running… and I wasn’t even starting from scratch. I had always been a runner, and it should have been as easy as going back to my previous life, picking up where I left off. It should have been a piece of cake for me compared to all the people who begin to run as adults and make a huge change to doing something that they have never, ever done before. It wasn’t easy for me though.
It took a lot of courage to get my running shoes on and get out. My first excuse was that my feet were bigger (read ‘fatter’) than before so I needed new shoes. Even once I had shoes that fitted, I only had a few clothes that were big enough for me. I would plan my outfit very carefully, so as to limit the amount of bulges and wobbly bits that any unfortunate soul who crossed my path might see. I would also try to only run in the dark, so either late at night or very early – I thought I might appear slimmer in the dark or at least that people wouldn’t be able to see me as clearly! I would also plan my routes to avoid any busy areas; cafes, restaurants and bars with outside terraces were to be avoided at all costs… beautiful people, with beautiful bodies in beautiful clothes, might see me… and they might even comment.
I even considered buying a treadmill so I could hide and exercise by myself at home until I thought I was in a fit state to show myself to the outside world. I never did buy one... but I now totally understand why people hate gyms. I wouldn’t have gone near one for fear that everyone would stare at me, sniggering as I puffed and jiggled away.
My youngest son will be 2 years old in May and I am now back at the point where going for a run is enjoyable. Sometimes it’s still hard to lace up and get out if I am tired or ‘down’, but it’s not because I am worried about people seeing me anymore. I can now say fairly confidently that the beautiful people outside of their cafés would not have even noticed me huffing and wobbling past them in the dark. The fear I felt was very real though, and I will never forget the feeling of being afraid to show myself.
I genuinely admire anyone taking the first steps – whether it’s ‘back’ to fitness, or the first time in their lives. The first steps are the hardest, not just because we’re out of shape physically, but also because we think we should look like the models on the adverts or the professionally athletes we see on the television, and we don’t look like that. We shouldn’t think that we must, most of us never will look like that, but that doesn’t mean we don’t owe it to ourselves and those who love us to keep fit.
So from now on I am going to cheer people out loud. If you’re on the receiving end, please don’t think I am cheering at you out of anything other than joy! I am celebrating for you, for how much I know you will enjoy feeling that little bit fitter each time you have the courage to get out of the door and sweat in front of complete strangers, and I know how it gets a little bit easier and a bit less scary every single time. If you are ‘out there’ and ‘doing it’, you are AWESOME.