Updated: May 4
Our very own Lady Lockdown spills the beans on life during a virtual training camp as a reluctant runner.
During 2020 I really upped my commitment to sitting down. By the end of the year I had literally made a sport out of it. But throw in increasingly creaky joints and a steady outgrowth of my wardrobe and I decided something had to change. So I signed up to Onetrack’s El Sonido Challenge – a 3-month-long run camp. Some might say a bold move considering running is something I associate with being chased by bears or murderers but little else. It is a last resort for me. It is most definitely not my chosen form of exercise.
Month 1, Weeks 1 + 2
Turns out El Sonido is 7 days a week and features rather a lot of running. Who knew? Keen to be a Grade A student I start with a bang, or rather a keen walk, but I’m getting my sessions in.
Onetrack made the genius move of providing a task list to tick off every day, which is not only addictive, but also highly satisfying in the middle of a pandemic during which my biggest achievements otherwise revolve around whether I showered that day.
I am getting outside more, I am moving, I have structure, and I do feel better.
Month 1, Week 3
Apparently a big part of running is mobility, something I spent much of 2020 working to eradicate. We have been assigned the same mobility session to do every morning for 2 weeks before we switch to a different party of the body. And if this sounds like nice stretching, bear in mind our coach, Fletch, doesn’t seem to know the difference between ‘a little burn’ and ‘my bum is on fire’.
To motivate me to complete my mobility sesh each day I have paired Fletch with guilty music soundtracks. 80’s classics, 90’s RnB, The Spice Girls. Enjoyed listening to 2 Become 1 today whilst being given tips on how to not break my spine.
My friend and I are both taking part in this camp. This means we’ve developed a ‘Onetrack Language’ (‘have you done your stuff yet’) and talk about ‘routes’ a lot. However, ‘I’m off to do my mobilisations’ has turned into ‘I’m off to do Fletch’ which feels a little inappropriate.
Am suffering from Week 3 legs, which in reality means bits of me hurt and my coach has told me to take a rest for 2 days and reevaluate. It’s difficult to pause so early in, and I have tick-list withdrawal symptoms, however the Onetrack coaches are great at saying all the right things, and I am trying to be great at listening to them. My exercise for today? A slow walk to Tesco for Ibuprofen.
Day 3 of rest. Assume ‘relax and take Ibuprofen for the inflammation’ means, ‘walk to the shops for snacks and wash your tablets down with a cheeky vodka and diet coke whilst dancing to show tunes in the kitchen’. #balance.. right?
Month 1, Week 4
Deload week. Which essentially means we exercise, but less, to give our bodies a chance to recover. This is a very welcome shift for me due to what my coach kindly refers to as ‘niggles’ but what in actual fact feels like I know longer own my legs.
After 3 weeks of mega running it’s mentally difficult to slow down. I am struggling with knowing I’m doing less than everyone else and not taking it personally. The inner dialogue goes like this:
Voice in my head: You can’t run because you’re rubbish and lazy and everyone else is better than you.
Me: I am training sensibly so I can improve.
VIMH: You signed up to a challenge full of clever sporty runners and you are old and blob-like.
Me: I’m sure everyone is experiencing their own issues.
VIMH: No, you are in a group of He-Men and Wonder Women and you are the only one who can’t run like the wind.
Me: That’s an incredibly retro reference.
VIMH: Remember the Stay Puft man in the 80’s version of Ghostbusters? That’s what you are.
Me: I hate you.
And so on...
Inner critic aside, we spent the weekend hearing from dieticians and cooking together over a Zoom call, which really upped the team spirit and taught me sweet potatoes and white potatoes are nutritionally almost identical and therefore the health food industry largely talks out of its bum.
Armed with a whole host of new snack ideas and having been encouraged to eat carbs before bed I’m going to take a leap of faith, trust in the coaches and look forward to a shiny new month of training ahead.
Month 2, Week 1
I had a bit of a breakthrough this week. Well, two if we’re going to be exact.
The first being that a three-month run club is unlikely to transform me into Mo Farrah, particularly from my starting position of horizontal on the sofa. But what it can do is set me up with a good mental attitude, some handy knowledge and tools, and hopefully a bit of enthusiasm to continue this journey on my own. My coach pointed that out, and it helped shift my outlook into a more positive gear. It’s easy to get caught up in what we see as ‘measurable progress’ – stats on Strava, the needle on the scales. I suspect our exam-based education system and a success-obsessed society is to blame here, but that’s a rant for another soap box. Just because enjoyment, happiness or empowerment can’t be measured by Apple doesn’t mean they’re any less important, or cultivating them doesn’t look any less like progress. We were asked to listen to a podcast on intention recently as our homework, and a very wise man said that a successful life, to him, looked like a peaceful one. I think he’s onto something – and quite frankly if this camp helps me run a slow and steady 5k, have a bit of fun and feel content doing it? Well, I am the winner and I shall be making my own medal in true lockdown-craft style.
My second revelation is perhaps a little less profound but equally dazzled me.
Out doing my intervals I had the nifty idea to look…up. And I mean, eye-level up. Not at the floor immediately in front of my feet. And like an epiphany I suddenly understand the whole ‘running fast feels like flying’ concept. I was thrust marvellously into a whole ‘I’m Flying Jack’ situation (said equally breathlessly) and I realised that for a long time I have been running really, really wrong.
Now whilst I know essentially nothing about the biomechanics side of things, I’m pretty sure that previously I was both failing to stand up straight and managing to remove all the fun out of running for myself by fixating solely on my feet. Quite literally fixating on them…with my face.
So, needless to say training has been a smidge more enjoyable this week.
Month 2, Week 2
Have you ever tried to run in the snow? No? Imagine a demented horse competing in Arctic Dressage and you’ll have a good idea what a Fartlek session dodging ice puddles looks like.
Coach Heidi likes to say that during an easy run you should be able to have a chat with your running mate without getting out of breath. She encourages us to test the theory whilst we’re out during her sessions. ‘Why the f**k am I doing this’ at an enthusiastic volume served the dual purpose of measuring my speed and ensuring social distancing this week.
The bonus of it being minus, oh, a million degrees, is that our Coaches are terribly congratulatory every time we manage to make it outside at all, which I really like. Keep the constant praise coming guys.
Month 2, week 3
This week I have been thinking about prejudices. Not the mega (and of course very serious and legitimate) social issue kind, more the ‘You’re wearing deck shoes in Waitrose so you’re probably a bit of a tosser’ sort of level.
We were given homework that involved listening to short meditation audio sessions, and it became apparent that even the word ‘meditation’ gave rise to some pretty strong opinions. For me – a ‘yin yoga loving/candle buying/sporadically downloading Calm/spiritual convert’ – I was all for it, but others were sceptical. And I mean, strongly sceptical. Some ‘WTF’ levels of sceptical.
I find this puzzling. Meditation may be a new concept to many of us in the West, but it is widely accepted as a positive practise by lay-people and medical professionals alike, even if only because giving yourself quiet time to be calm, still and breathe deeply in this stress-ridden society is better for you than say, not doing that. Rejecting it off-hand is like going to your GP for advice on living a healthy lifestyle and storming out in a huff when they suggest eating some vegetables might be a good idea.
But which side do the people wearing deck shoes in Waitrose fall down on, I hear you ask? Go hang out in the hummus aisle and talk loudly about forest bathing and watch no one bat an eyelid.
But whatever your opinion of the benefits of meditation may be, I for one remain glad that laying down and breathing is part of my official training programme this week.
Month 2, week 4
Injury, noun: ‘an instance of being injured’
The last week of each month spells a fitness test for us El Sonidos. A set of strength and stability exercises followed by a 12- minute time trial run to check our progress and identify areas for improvement.
So naturally this week my Latissimus Dorsi muscle, otherwise known as my lats, or ‘little bastards’ as I like to call them, went into spasm.
Legitimately prescribed valium tablets? 7
Fitness tests missed? 1
Areas for improvement? Oh, thousands.
Note to self: Improving your fitness is a long and winding road.
Month 3, Week 1
If you Google ‘Running Safety for Women’, you will be told:
Ditch the headphones.
Have an assertive presence.
Carry something on you that you can use to fight back.
Take a self-defense class.
Let someone know when and where you are running.
Don't share your routes on social media.
Mix up your routes.
Use COMMON SENSE.
If you Google ‘Running Safety for Men’, you will be directed to a Runners World page on running safety for women.
This week the disappearance and murder of Sarah Everard have highlighted the disparity between the safety of men and women, and our vastly different experiences when we venture outside of our homes.
The lack of ready information served up by Google on safety tips for male runners isn’t a claim that violence against men doesn’t exist, but is indicative of the entirely different environment that women face on a daily basis.
El Sonido began in the winter months, and busy workdays meant that I was sometimes out ticking off my intervals in the dark. I would intuitively change my route, stay close to home, and stick to better-lit roads; I made a quick plan to duck into a doorway and pretend I was arriving home if followed. On one accidental foray into an unknown housing estate I thought ‘This probably isn’t a good idea, but I’ll chance it’. And that phrase, ‘chance it’, carried real weight – I felt unsafe, I knew it could end badly for me, and I took a calculated risk that I probably wouldn’t be one of the unlucky ones.
When I started this camp I believed my experience of it was going to be totally different to my teammates’ because I assumed they could run and I could not. It hadn’t occurred to me that it would be different in some really important and fundamental ways because I am a woman. Because that 6pm run session in the dark doesn’t feel like a hassle, it feels like a roulette wheel.
There’s no quick and simple fix, but what’s become incredibly clear to me is how important it is that we continue this conversation, continue sharing our experiences so that we can help and be helped.
I’ve spent so much of the past two months thinking about how long I have to run for, but this week I find myself realising how far we all still have to go.
Month 3, Week 2
Sometimes things get in the way of running. Like injuries and UTI’s and work and fear and feeling a bit full and generally lamenting lockdown. Other times you don’t do it because you didn’t do it the day before.
This week I mainly haven’t run because ‘I didn’t run yesterday’, which is a strange, self-defeating reason not to go do the thing that makes you feel quite good. (Unless it’s long intervals and then I’d quite frankly rather boil my own head.)
I reckon I had two days of apathy followed by four days of feeling like ‘So what was the point? I’d already failed the week.’ I suspect I’m not the only one cursed with this mentality, which unfortunately often leads to some rather unhelpful outcomes. Didn’t go to the gym 5 times last week? May as well not go for a year. Ate a slice of pizza? Might as well bankrupt self on Deliveroo orders.
Having genuinely considered giving up on the whole El Sonido camp entirely (because ‘I didn’t run yesterday’), I decided instead to put my trainers on and walk out my front door. My subsequent run turned out to be the furthest I have gone, without stopping, in my best time. In the face of giving up because I wasn’t doing it perfectly I actually took the pressure off myself by letting go of the notion of ‘perfect training’.
Fletch talks about the mentality of running a lot, about what a challenge it is to spend time in our own heads, and how sometimes just getting out the door (or on the treadmill) is the biggest hurdle. This week, I think Fletch might be right.
Except about the long intervals. Fletch is definitely wrong about those.*
*Disclaimer: Fletch, who is arguably more qualified than I am, would probably disagree.
Month 3, Week 3
‘It’s just a 5k’
‘A cheeky 60 mins’
‘It was only 6 miles’
Do these phrases look familiar? Sure they do. They represent our pervasive tendency to qualify our own achievements in case we praise ourselves too much and the world ends.
For the last three months I’ve heard an impressive group of people, all dedicated to their fitness and this running challenge, ‘Only run *insert distance here*’.
And I do it too. In preparation for the ‘big race’ next week we have all had calls with our coaches to work out the game plan. Not only was this the moment I realised there was going to be a game plan, but it was also the moment I claimed my goal was ‘just to finish’.
So let’s get this straight. I started this challenge as someone quite frankly scared of running, who, outside of childhood sports days and drunken antics, had tried the sport perhaps twice. And yet, I strapped my trainers on over 50 times, committed to daily mobilisation sessions, ran interval loops up and down my road in the January dark, dealt with niggly quads, a shouty calf muscle, changed my social plans to get in the required miles, entirely stopped wearing make-up because of the volume of time spent sweating it off and my goal is ‘just to finish’?
My goal is to ’Run the goddamn race like a f*cking hero’.
Perhaps take a moment to reflect on how often you undermine your own achievements by minimising them – not just socially but in your own head. We consistently push ourselves to do better, achieve more, run faster and further, whilst at the same time telling ourselves it’s not a big deal. And it has to stop.
The Onetrack coaches are good at a lot of things. But especially at reminding you how much you’ve achieved by stepping out the front door or onto the treadmill and just giving it a go. It’s a feature of every session, and every interaction with them – they are your very own personal cheerleaders reminding you to be proud of yourself.
So with one week to go until ‘The Race’ we’re going to ban the word ‘just’, ignore social pressure to play down our achievements, and take these impressive little legs out for a spin.
Month 3, Week 4 – The Big Race
Today is Saturday. I woke up without a hangover and got out of the house before 9am in ‘active wear’ that I was actually planning on being active in.
I picked a nice river route, ran for an hour, clocked up 5 miles, had a nice chat with some running pals in the park where we all congratulated each other, and then went home for a post-run snack.
Great morning, well done me.
N.B. This is the diary entry of a girl I do not recognise and have never, ever met but she seems to look rather a lot like me.
2020 wasn’t The One. Every year has its bumps, but on a scale of 1-10, 2020 was off the charts in being a total, utter bastard.
But if 2020 was that terrible ex-relationship that steamrolled over us, leaving us without a shred of confidence, social skills or will to get dressed, Onetrack is the friend that stands patiently by our side without judgment, picking us up and nudging us on, getting us out into the fresh air and making ys laugh, whilst all the time telling us how bloody awesome we are.
Onetrack is so much more than a run club. It is the heart and soul of the Coaches that bring it to life. Every session with them is an hour with a friend cheering you on, imparting their wisdom, and taking a load off your shoulders – all the while helping you avoid that pesky knee replacement at 65 and telltale grunt when getting up from the sofa.
So, if 2020 was the year I sat down, then 2021 with Onetrack will be the year I got the hell back up again.
Thanks for keeping up with the not-so-sordid saga of our reluctant runner. Stay tuned for more Onetrack challenges to come…