You know why you should be exercising, but here’s the thing: if you get out there and let your legs do the talking, you’ll hear a surprisingly different, very persuasive voice to help you keep going, writes Anne Schauffer.
It’s too hot, it’s too cold, I’m too busy, I’m too tired – the Maybe Tomorrow List is as deep as it is long. You do have the time. All those excuses will fall away when you fall in love with your kind of exercise. Let’s go!
EXERCISE WITH A GROUP OR A FRIEND
Dane Forman is BESET, one of three friends who years back began highly successful, fun educational walks through Durban. It was about getting out there and investigating your own city. It morphed into BESETRun. “We started that because as friends, from an exercise point of view, we were always cancelling on each other. We thought let’s use the BESET platform to springboard the run initiative, and marry accountability with reputational pressure – we have to show up because people are looking at our social media, wanting to join us. The premise was get out there, into the streets, on to the promenade, fresh ocean air, feel good, kick the week off with a bang,” says Dane. And their motto is: ‘It’s not a race, it’s a vibe’.
“Our runs vary from five to 50 or 60km, depending on weather, and every few weeks we do a 10km loop through the city. For us, running has literally changed the whole culture and fabric of how we live our lives – and the people with whom we interact. It’s a community element almost larger than it is an exercise one.”
The physiological – and psychological – benefits of exercise are well known, in particular being outdoors, connected to the environment. For Dr Kirsten Van Heerden, sports psychologist with Newton Sports Agency, it’s more even than the changes effected in your body: “Being part of a community can be important. Really encourage at least one other person to do your chosen exercise with you – the friendships/relationships you build are equally beneficial.”
THE SENSE OF MASTERY
Kirsten says, “It’s kind of obvious, but you must do what you enjoy. Find an exercise you like, whether it’s walking, running, cycling or swimming.” She talks about that ‘sense of mastery over your own body’. “Let’s say you begin by swimming four lengths, then getting to five or six, you can see your progress, and it gives you confidence and a sense of mastery. You start to think, ‘Hey, I can do this’. You have more control over your body. It’s motivating.”
HOW TO GET OVER THE HUMP
“When you get going, it’s often not fun,” says Justin Hand. He’s been in the sports industry for most of his career, is a running specialist, and trains athletes. “Those first three to four weeks are hard – you’re not in good shape, unfit, and you start doubting yourself.” He stresses, “Don’t obsess – Monday to Sunday is too much. Small bits consistently. The biggest hurdle is getting over that first one.”
Kirsten believes in goal setting: “Initially, you may not be motivated. But you need it to become something you do often, like shopping or going to work. It’s not an add on – so schedule it in. Choose small process goals, like a walk round the block. Have a sense of what you want to achieve this session or this week. When you look back, it’ll be better than last week.”
LIFE (OR LIFESTYLE) CHANGING
“Make your exercise a lifestyle,” says Justin. It’s the cheapest, easiest alternative to any meds. From anxiety to obesity – all those health issues that are part of life – start exercising regularly, and you start feeling better about yourself.” Justin is not talking theory: “That enjoyment around running began to affect my entire lifestyle. I became more conscious about what I was eating, how much I was drinking – I didn’t want it to spoil tomorrow’s run with mates. So much so, I have no problem drinking less at rugby, and going home earlier …”
A big plus about running is its portability. Whether you go on holiday, overseas, or stay at home, you can run. No excuses. Running isn’t for everyone, but talk to those who are in love with it, it’s an integral part of who they are – it’s linked to their mental health.
GET THE MOST FROM IT
Trail running is very different to road running, and as Kirsten said, “Find your exercise.” You may prefer the predictability of road running, and being in the urban environment. Others prefer a more natural environment, where trails present constant physical challenges and heaps of surprises. Perhaps you’ll progress to that, or opt for it when you have more time on the weekends. It’s irrelevant, it’s whatever makes you feel good physically, and feel great about yourself. Speed, too, is not the issue – just get out there and go.
Comfortable, supportive shoes are critical – either for road or trail running. A professional running store will have experts to analyse your foot and even your gait when you run. It’s worth every cent.
You’ll also need a lightweight jacket or/and a technical layer, light enough to tie round your waist. And if you’re running in the dark, make sure your kit has reflective panels or strips, or that you make these part of your essential kit.
Three Local Training Groups and Clubs:
Durban Ramblers Hiking Club:
Started in 1932, this club offers guided hikes and walking trips – for everyone from beginners to seasoned hikers – in some of the most beautiful areas of our province. Durbanramblers.co.za
Beloved Long Runs:
An informal running group that partners with athletic clubs across KwaZulu-Natal to host events and build the running community. Belovedlongruns.co.za
East Coast Cycling Club:
Whether you’re a road cyclist or mountain biker, a racing snake or a weekend warrior, this social cycling club has a riding group for you. Eccc.co.za