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The joy of running

TMIK reporter Sarah shares how it's helped her through lockdown

With many of us confined to our homes for most of the waking day and no access to sports for the best part of two months, it’s been challenging to stay healthy, both physically and mentally. For me, running has been a lifesaver. By Sarah Bradbury.

Running is something I’ve been doing on and off most of my adult life. I did my first half marathon when I was 18 and have done a bunch since, as well as just about managed the full London Marathon in 2018 (just don’t ask me my time – it was the hottest year on record if that’s any excuse…)

I’ve always loved to move, whether swimming, dancing, spinning, yoga or rock-climbing. But there’s something particular about running that’s always hit the spot.

Perhaps it’s the simplicity of it: no planning or booking is necessary, it doesn’t cost a penny, you don’t have to travel anywhere, you can do it alone, in any weather, go as fast or slow or as far as you feel like, and you can look however you please while doing it.

You just step outside your front door and go for it, with no-one but passing strangers to bear witness to your red make-up free cheeks and slightly odd get-up of a scraggy-shirt and joggers. Even contemplating £100 Sweaty Betty leggings seems barmy.

Your only competition need be yourself, whether you set yourself a goal to run to a certain spot each day or geekily track your progress on Strava.

Funnily enough, in the months before pandemic hit, it had been months since I went running. A combination of a long commute, long hours, a harsh winter and suffering the brutal exhaustion and nausea of the first trimester of pregnancy meant any spare time I had was spent collapsed on the sofa.

Then as we then went into lockdown, and all was closed off except the few square miles we could reach on foot from our East London flat, without thinking one day, I threw on my trainers and got running again.

And honestly, it’s been a game-changer for my lockdown experience. Not only for my fitness levels and to offset that insatiable appetite that seems to stem from not doing very much, but also my mental health.

Whatever frustrations I’ve pent up from being inside all day, not seeing family, being hunched over a dining room table not really ergonomically designed for a 10-hour work day, all I have to do is get out the front door, get some 90s drum and bass going on Spotify and keep running until my mind is clear.

Whether there’s sunshine beaming on my face or a brisk wind running through my hair, it never fails to buoy my mood and blow away the cobwebs. Even a spot of rain that would be irritating on a walk feels refreshing when moving at speed.

It’s not just in my imagination either. The science says running is a great way to help improve cardiovascular health, build strength and burn calories.

Plus that so-called “runners high” is the rush of endorphins that your brain experiences when you physically exert yourself and the increase in your serotonin levels. This in turn can boost your mood, help control stress hormones such as adrenaline and help your sleep cycles.

And it seems I’m not alone. Without gyms, fancy spin and yoga studios or other fitness centres, people across the world have found their health fix in jogging – and loved it.

Though from today we might be able to participate in more sports again, as golf courses and tennis courts open (not got any skills or equipment relevant to either sadly), running will continue to be an easy way to stay healthy while socially distancing before a vaccine is available.

The pandemic has definitely rekindled my love for pavement pounding. And if you’re keen to give it a go, I cannot recommend it enough. Start small, aim to run without stopping for 5 minutes. Then next time 7. Then 10. Before you know it, you’ll be addicted too 🏃‍♀️😍.

The Guardian has a great checklist of stuff to help you get going.

Have you taken up running during lockdown?