My journey to health and fitness started when I discovered an outdoor lifestyle as a student, at the same time I was learning a lot about health through my studies to be a dietitian.
At school, sport had never been a big focus for me. I was neither athletic nor sporty and sadly spent more time watching television than being active, apart from some jogging and underwater hockey. After school, my jogging increased but still it was nothing too serious, inspired mostly by friends or my dog who would fetch my running socks out of the laundry basket, asking for a run!
In my late thirties I started jogging more, completing a few 10km fun runs and my first half marathon at the age of 40. At about the same time I discovered trail running, a natural progression from hiking, something I absolutely love as it provides the opportunity to walk, hike or run in some of the most beautiful areas of the Western Cape and South Africa.
Although I had never intended to take on distance running, believing that the 10km distance was challenging enough, without completely exhausting myself, at the age of 42 I was challenged by Elana van Zyl Meyer to run my first marathon, the Cape Town Marathon. Having initially declined, believing I was far too old and that my body would probably break, I eventually agreed to take it on, with the proviso that I do it ‘injury free’, supported by professional advice from a running coach and regular visits to a biokineticist.
When I started running, I had no doubt that it would require many sacrifices: hard work, injuries and fatigue. However, what I have experienced is very different: endless energy, mental alertness, a source of stress release, health, community, laughter, friendships and incredible amounts of joy. Not to mention the ability to enjoy food … lots of it! Yes, many hours go into training, but what I experience is very different from what I expected.
I always perceived running to be a sport for athletes – which I could not relate to. My experiences have shown me that running is an activity that can be enjoyed by any healthy person as part of a healthy lifestyle, within a warm and friendly community.
Running makes me happy and it has changed my life. In fact, I cannot think of anything that has had such a positive and profound impact on my life. My aim therefore is to take care of my body and to hopefully continue running until I am at least 80 years old.
Things I’ve learned along the way:
I learned the value of stretching after running, good post-running recovery nutrition and core and upper body training to support running training. Distance running strains your entire body and it is interesting to notice how tired one’s shoulders, arms, back and core can get after four hours on the road. Strength and core training are very important if you want to enjoy distance running. For trail running though, balance is as important as strength and fitness.
Running, hiking and walking are all such great sports, as you can start at your own pace and enjoy according to your own ability. Park Runs allow families, that don’t have time during the week, to exercise together on a Saturday morning – 5 km is a good, proper workout.
I’ve also been amazed at how easy it is to include ‘movement and activity’ throughout any ‘’normal’ day:
- Sitting behind a desk all day? Get up and ‘move’ every hour or two with either a one-minute stretch exercise or even a plank! It helps to keeps one focused, motivated and productive all day long whilst also being a great way to sneak in some extra core training.
- Standing in the kitchen waiting for the kettle to boil? Why not use the time to do some easy push ups against the kitchen counter.
- Brushing your teeth? Practice some balance exercises at the same time, standing on one foot at a time, working your ankle muscles and core stabilisers.
Running, both trail and distance, has been one of the biggest joys of my life. I would never have imagined, that at the age of 46, I am stronger and fitter than I have ever been.
What a privilege to have participated in the Two Oceans 50th anniversary! To be surrounded by thousands of runners from all age groups, all walks of life and all corners of South Africa, including abroad, was both humbling and thrilling. It was a tough event, but what a privilege to enjoy the beauty and splendour of Cape Town surrounded by people who embrace an active lifestyle.
Keep Going Andrea!