Run with wind at your heels and rain on your face to feel marathon buzz
The 15,000-plus people who completed the soggy SSE Airtricity Dublin Marathon didn’t go straight from couch to finish line: here’s a good place to start
The clocks have gone back, stealing every last bit of natural light not just from the evenings but the early mornings, too. With that also goes the natural desire for any outdoor exercise, at least not when it’s dark outside.
But Hanna Nytomt doesn’t see it that way. Born and raised in the small Swedish town of Hammerdal, close to the Arctic Circle, where the long winters bring on almost 24 hours of darkness, she always had a special appreciation of the need to keep some natural outdoor activity into her daily lifestyle.
Now living in Dublin, and the mother of three young children, Hanna runs a range of fitness classes – Shape Up Hanna – which put extra emphasis on this need for some outdoor activity, especially in the winter. Her evening classes have moved indoors, but she continues to run classes on weekend mornings at St Enda’s Park in Rathfarnham, south Dublin, no matter how cold or wet it gets.
“Rain or shine,” she says. “Even on a very wet morning, I never cancel. Even in a storm. We just move around the park and try to hide from the wind. I think it is very important to exercise outdoors, where possible, and much of this came from growing up in Sweden.
“Every break time, at school, we were thrown outdoors, to ski, to ice skate, to play soccer, whatever. It was always outdoors. Even in the winter. And I think growing up in Scandinavia, people have a greater sense of being fit and healthy, and looking after their health. I think the Irish people are getting there, are getting much more aware. I still think Sweden is a little ahead, but Irish people in general are getting much fitter.
“In Sweden, we would also always bring the young children outside, every day, no matter how cold. Wrapped up very well, of course. But with a little opening in their mouth, so they can breathe in the fresh air.
“I also think in Irish schools there is more of an effort being made. It’s easy to blame the school, but the parents must take more responsibility. I would always make sure my kids do some outdoor activity.”
Hanna’s love of sport and fitness is entirely natural. She admits her family weren’t particularly into sport, but that didn’t stop her: “When I was very young, at school in Sweden, I tried everything. The funny thing is my parents did no sport. But I wanted to do it all.
“I was playing with the boys, and we would always race each other, so athletics was my first sport. I think when you’re good at something, it’s more fun. I also had a brilliant trainer then, and I owe a lot to him.”
Later, while spending some time working in the US, her desire to develop a career out of sport increased: “When I was about 20, I decided would love to work in personal training. But I think it was always in me. I’m 30 now, but always had the desire.”
Since moving to Dublin and settling down with her husband, Stephen Dempsey – and three young children – her fitness classes have evolved: they’re all self-designed, using the gentle inclines of the parkland setting to add some natural resistance to her drills. Yet she avoids the “boot camp” style, which she feels some women find too intimidating.
She also realises the importance of maintaining some level exercise during pregnancy. “I always trained through pregnancy, and realised that was important too. It’s not about sitting on the couch. It came naturally to me, and obviously there are certain things you can’t be doing. But it helped, big time, in the delivery of the baby, and everything else. I think most doctors these days approve of it. And that’s a change too.
“At first, I worked on more boot camp-style fitness classes, but I wanted to do something different. I think the boot camp is okay, but if you’re a little heavier, trying to lose weight, it’s not the best. Some people are afraid of it: the shouting, and all that. I like to push them, hard, but in a nice way.
“And I have that confidence now, to get the balance right. My first classes, I’d be so nervous, trying to understand how to do it. It was all good experience, because now I feel very comfortable doing it.”
And especially outdoors, rain or shine.
See shapeupfitness.ie To sign up to any of The Irish Times Get Running courses – for beginners, marathon runners and everyone in between – see irishtimes.com/getrunning