Ruth Field, author of the popular ‘Run Fat Bitch Run’, and her alter ego The Grit Doctor, dish out tough love fortnightly in The Irish Times’s Health Plus. Here’s her first column. The second will appear this Tuesday.
Dear Grit Doctor,
I started running at the beginning of this year and was (and still am) very overweight. It has been a massive effort on my part to reach the point where I could run for 20 minutes and then walk for a bit and then run for another 15 minutes or so very very slowly. Last week a friend persuaded me to join her on a 10km charity run. It was a disaster. I managed the first half very slowly but my legs felt like lead and I hated it. I ended up walking most of the second half and was the last person to finish, seemingly hours behind everyone else. I am now totally demoralised and feel as though running is obviously not for me. I don’t look like a runner and am clearly not up to it. I felt so self-conscious and hated the race from start to finish.
Firstly, I commend you on your efforts. To jog, even at a very slow pace when you are morbidly obese is a huge challenge for your heart and lungs, not to mention the courage it takes to put yourself out there.
What went wrong here is patently obvious – you were not ready for any race, let alone a 10km. Your training had taken you nowhere near the 10km mark (barely the 5km mark to be brutally frank).
If you were jogging incredibly slowly for 20 minutes, you may have only been covering 3km, at best 4km, with the extra 15 minutes taking your total to 5km or, very generously, 6km.
How or why you thought that now was a good time to enter a 10km race is beyond me. In doing so you were trying to run before you could walk and you fell over in a big way as a result. Racing is bloody scary. And racing without having trained to the requisite distance – foolish.
Now, don’t start feeling sorry for yourself and plough your way through a packet of biscuits to soften the blow. You made a mistake and you have already paid the price in feeling humiliated and demoralised. But the race is finished. Over. Never – perhaps – to be repeated. You still have your life to return to and your goals, one of which was to lose weight through jogging. So don’t give that race another second of air time in your head.
It is all time wasted, time that would be better spent burning off fat in another slow jog, this time stretching yourself for a further minute.
The Grit Doctor says:
There is nothing like a good old- fashioned dressing down on race day to put us right back in our place. It is character building, and starting to see it as such will have you back outside pounding the pavements in no time.
You are doing just brilliantly in trying to get fit and shift some pounds. It takes a long time for some people to reach the 10km mark and this is nothing to be ashamed of. Also, racing is not for everyone. There is nothing wrong with running by yourself three times a week for 40 minutes or so (you will get to this stage, I promise), covering the very same ground every time. And the weight is going to start falling off when you do. The key is, enter races if it motivates you, if it keeps you away from the cake tin, and encourages you to lace up and get outside. If you don’t need to enter a race to achieve this, or worse still, the experience of racing has the opposite effect and puts you off running completely, for God’s sake don’t race.
The Grit Doctor also says:
If you bite off more than you can chew, expect to be sick.