I have never got on well with exercise.
In school, I would do whatever I could to avoid PE, always feeling like the oddball who was left out of team picks, couldn’t hit the ball, and just generally sucked at sports.
When I moved to London for uni, I vowed that I would become a ‘new me’ and create all sorts of healthy routines and habits. That included exercise. I made several attempts to take up running. Each time I would put on some stretchy jogging pants, a vest or sports bra, and lace up my trainers. Then I’d hit the park next to campus, usually accompanied by a running app, and a playlist that I’d spent several hours creating, putting off the very act of running until it was ready.
After that run I would collapse, sweaty and out of breath, on my bed (or once, at my friends’ flat) and proclaim that running was the worst. Then I would be sore for several days, and never got for a second run.
I repeated this pattern a handful of times over the years, each time vowing that I would actually do it this time, I would start exercising properly. Each time I gave up after that first, or very occasionally second run.
This time it’s different. This time I’m working out with purpose, and I’m running for a cause. Today I did my fourth workout in the space of just over a week. It was my second run, and it felt great.
I’m running because when I was growing up, every time I felt overwhelmed, stressed out, or just desperately sad, I would feel like just taking off and running away. Sometimes I actually did just run down the street, in whatever I was wearing, just for a few minutes, to try outrunning my problems. It never worked, but it took my mind off things for those few minutes.
I’m running because my whole life, I always felt like I was waiting to ‘get’ where I was supposed to be. When things were tough, I’d think ‘some day I will be happy, and in a better place, and things will be good’. But I’ve realised that I have to make the better happen, I can’t just wait to get there without putting in the work. I’ve also learned to appreciate the good things I have now, where I am.
I’m running because I’m supporting Young Women’s Trust. Because this organisation helped me through some really tough times. Times when I felt so alone, and desperate, and like that ‘better place’ I’d imagined just didn’t exist. I came out of uni an orphan, with no home to go back to, no family to look after me while I found my feet. I was lucky enough to have friends, and family of those friends, who helped me out a lot. But it still didn’t help me figure out what path I wanted to go down, or how to take the first steps.
I applied for jobs, heard nothing or got rejections. I slept in late, stayed in my PJs most days, and sometimes couldn’t travel anywhere because I was broke. Then I heard about the Work It Out coaching service.
Work It Out is a service run by Young Women’s Trust that supports young women with coaching, job application advice, and interview support. I was matched with an amazing coach, and we had our first phone call scheduled for a hot summers’ day in 2014.
I was nervous before the call, not entirely sure what to expect, or if it would be helpful to me at all. I had a swirl of emotions and issues bubbling away in me, most of which I had been carrying around for years. How could a stranger on the end of the phone possibly help me with all that? At that point though, I was willing to try anything, so I waited by my phone for the call.
Over an hour later I hung up, feeling relieved, positive, and inspired. My coach had asked me about myself, why I wanted coaching, and what I wanted to do. Being able to talk to somebody about some of the things I’d been facing alone for so long, to open up about my fears of not finding a job, my worries about money, the emotions I’d been bottling up about my Mum and how that was affecting me, was honestly life changing. Suddenly I had hope that things could get better.
Things did get better, slowly but surely. I spent the second half of 2014 working retail, but I also got involved with things again. I became an ambassador for a social enterprise tackling youth employment issues. I spoke on a stage in front of over 700 people, which led to more opportunities. In 2015 I finally landed my first ‘proper’ job, an internship at The Children’s Society. It was thanks to the confidence I’d gained with the help of my coach, and the skills I had that we’d uncovered and discussed that I made it. Since then, I’ve been involved with YWT in a number of ways; attending meetings in and out of parliament to share my views and story, appearing in videos and photoshoots for their promo material, and receiving training and amazing opportunities with other wonderful young women.
I owe so much of who I am, and where I am now to Young Women’s Trust. They gave me a lifeline when I felt hopeless, allowed me to use my voice and my skills to make a difference, and have been some of the biggest cheerleaders as I embark on the next steps of my journey.
So, I’m running not just for me, but for every other lost young woman. The ones who feel hopeless and broken, and like the world is against them. I’m running to make sure they have access to the opportunities that I did, and the support that helped me to move forward.
Every time I do a workout, or go for a run, I’m doing it for this. I have started off strong, but I could really do with your help. Any donation, no matter how small, makes a difference. Every pound is an extra burst of motivation for me, an extra reason to keep going. I’m aiming to raise 100 reasons to keep going, and I can only do that with your support.
What are your top tips for exercise/running? Do you have any advice for a newbie on recovery/what to eat? Leave me a comment and let me know!
To donate to my fundraiser, click here.
To read more about the amazing work Young Women’s Trust do click here.
To keep up with my exercise and running journey, follow me on Instagram.