When I am not mucking out, social networking or wiping up child spillages, I can usually be found running round the local villages, cycling round rural Nottinghamshire or at the swimming pool.
I know some people think it’s mad but this is what I choose to do for my “me time” rather than, for instance, watching TV (unless either the Grand National or triathlon highlights are on, in which case you’ll find me under a duvet in front of the fire snacking on Quality Street).
I often read people saying on Facebook or Twitter that they would like to get fit, lose weight or get back into a hobby and, in so far as any of my blogs have a purpose beyond the fact that I just feel like writing them, the point of this one is to say: “if I can do it, anyone can”.
(All right, it is also because it is extremely cold outside and I need a good excuse to avoid having to clean the bathroom in which the sink, in particular, would not look out of place in a Glastonbury portable toilet cubicle).
The thing is that, while you might often hear me banging on about how much I love running, cycling, swimming, skiing and, of course, horse riding, I am far from a “natural athlete”.
Except for netball (which I seemed to be quite good at), I was more often than not picked in the last handful of people in school PE lessons. Admittedly, this might have been down to my bad haircut, very untrendy Puffa horse riding school coat and resolute refusal to wear makeup but it must also have said something about my sporting talent…
Apart from riding, I am relatively new to most of my sports and not necessarily very good at them yet.
Take skiing. I have spent a couple of my happiest weeks on the slopes but I am no expert. In fact, I have been told by various experienced skiers that my gung-ho, jumpy style would be far more suited to being on a snowboard. My husband, however, would never let me on a snowboard as snowboards are apparently not for respectable 36-year-old mothers of five. Besides, he says, I look grungy enough in my mucking out gear all year round without having to dress that way on our family ski holiday.
Despite my lack of grace on a pair of skis, I can already kick my husband’s ass down a long bumpy black run because I’m fitter and his thigh muscles get tired. (strangely, Jon strongly disagrees with what he describes as this “outrageous” statement and claims that I don’t realize how much he “slows down” for my benefit. I feel a down-hill slalom race coming on …)
My favourite hobby – or, as Jon would say, obsession – at the moment is probably running but I am not a natural runner.
Just as with skiing, I have a rather unique and unnecessarily “twisty” running action – which cannot be very efficient and must certainly waste vital energy that I could be using to make me go faster.
I have been doing various exercises to try to improve my running technique and I think might have succeeded in toning down some of the oddities. Even so, I still look like I’m struggling through mile 25 of an off-road marathon even when I’m just jogging a mile down the road and feeling as fresh as a daisy.
While I have always enjoyed running, I have to admit that it is far more enjoyable once:
a) You are fit;
b) You are doing the correct type of training;
c) You start to do quite well in races
d) You can see an improvement in your results in line with all the effort.
If you have bothered to get this far down the page and have had even the teeniest “I wish I did some form of sport” thought, then read on and let me persuade you to log onto eBay and order yourself a pair of new trainers…
1) Firstly, when I am at the end of a run or have finished one, although I am physically tired – I feel full of energy and I know it’s a cliché but I feel “alive”.
2) Exercise has made me fitter, faster and stronger and I have been able to take part in some fabulous fun things, which I’d have never been able to do if I were a couch potato. Examples being “Survival of the fittest” obstacle race, Dambuster Olympic distance triathlon and the most recent addition to my weekend schedule – running for the Readyfield hunt and being chased over the countryside by a pack of bloodhounds…
3) I have lost weight, whilst still eating pretty much what I want.
4) I have toned up all over and only have a minimal patch of lumpy fat at the top of my thighs now, as opposed to loads of it before I started my fitness regime!
5) Running and triathlon races not only give me a “goal” to work towards but I usually sign up to them with a friend and we have loads of fun both on the day and in training for them.
6) I have completely replaced my horse-buying tendencies with a much cheaper lycra running outfit addiction.
7) I have a valid excuse for falling asleep on the sofa every night and leaving Jon to deal with the 5-child chaos, bedtime excuses and washing up.
8)Schadenfreude – As in when I bump into certain old classmates who were “too cool” to speak to me at school and discover that their thighs are bigger than my waist. I know it’s wrong but no one is perfect.