A lot of people I speak to find it difficult to fit regular exercise into their routine and with rising costs in public and private modes of transport, active commuting is an avenue worth exploring if you’re able to. Even if it’s getting off the train a stop or two earlier and walking or running the rest of the way, there are plenty of ways to fit some weekly active minutes into your life.
Starting anything is the hardest part. Getting into a routine of something new, finding your way around the hows and the whys and the whens. This can apply to anything in your life, but right now I’m talking about a new form of exercise. A new way of moving your body, probably in a way which feels incredibly uncomfortable to start with but you hope that, one day, it won’t feel like someone is grabbing you by the windpipe and making you move through maple syrup. Eventually, you want to have a happy journey.
Like a lot of children, I learnt to ride a bike when I was really small but I was never really into PE; I don’t have great memories of it. However, in my most recent life upheaval and the subsequent unpacking, I found a “cross country runner-up” certificate from school which I honestly do not remember getting. I don’t ever remember running cross country! Maybe exercise being a big part of my life was all inevitable. Or maybe it wasn’t, because I had never really found something that I took to immediately or I had a natural talent for no matter how many certificates I can find from school.
There was a huge gap between learning to ride a bike and starting to commute by bicycle in my twenties but it did happen and I learnt that exercise isn’t just good for your body, it’s good for your mind. In a long, twisty story I ended up cycling around the world in 2017-2018 and have just returned to ‘normal life’ to find that cycling feels like the only thing I’m good at. But it’s been about 8 weeks since crossing the arbitrary finish line and I haven’t got back on a bike since. This isn’t because I haven’t had the desire or the drive, but because I can’t find the mental energy to battle the traffic. Bike lanes or hard shoulders are fairly non-existent where I live and whilst I know this feeling will pass very shortly and I’ll be back out in the country lanes soon, for now, I’m looking for something new to try.
So what new sport did I choose to start with?
When I was in Salt Lake City this year, my husband and I were taken indoor wall climbing by our warmshowers hosts.
We completely loved it but it does require a big startup cost unless you’re able to go with someone who can lend you kit, as we did. So climbing is one for another day.
So I needed something with a low startup cost, easy to fit into my life but something new and challenging.
Running. I found that school cross country certificate after I’d already decided to start running home from work so it was a nice “huh” moment. The last time I did any kind of jogging it felt like I wasn’t supposed to move in that way; like I was trying to move down the street cartwheeling rather than putting one foot in front of the other. This is definitely enough to put anybody off continuing with running, but as I said above: starting is the hardest part. I’ve been at this starter stage with cycling and that led to a 30,000km pootle around the planet. Those starter steps can take you anywhere you want to. It doesn’t have to be grandiose, or epic. So long as it’s your journey and it suits you then it’s perfect for you.
So let’s sort out those pesky questions:
How and when?
My workplace doesn’t have a shower facility so I’ll run home from work rather than run to work. This takes pressure off me feeling like I need to throw myself into it too hard and too fast. I’m allowing myself to take a bus to work and home from work if everything hurts. Nobody expects you to make your new commute method applicable to every single day of the week in both directions, especially if it’s something physical. That’s a recipe for giving up after a week or two.
I’ll need to prepare my backpack the night before, make sure my sports bra and running shorts are washed and packed so I just pick up the backpack first thing in the morning and have my options available for the evening. The biggest thing to remember is that I need to fuel my body enough during the day to be able to run home. There’s no way running home on an empty stomach will fill me with a desire to do it again.
I’m lucky that I wear FINDRA at work. I get ready for the work day at home, get the bus to work and only change my sports bra and shorts to run home. My FINDRA top just needs hanging up to air overnight and it’s ready to go again. Merino wool wins the day and FINDRA’s range is multi-functional.
I’ve seen for myself the benefits of active commuting. I really want to continue that part of my life and if I cycle to work I’ll need somewhere to store the bike, a shower to be fresh for the work day and a bit more forethought with how to look presentable at work once I’ve arrived. Running seems like the logical step forward for me. Cycling will come back into my life very soon but I really want to have more than one string to my bow. I’ll give running a go, and keep you all updated…
Helen is the social media/marketing co-ordinator part of TeamFINDRA and can be found in the Edinburgh shop during the week.