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A Little Help From My (New) Friends

There are few things more painful and less appetising than starting back at exercise classes after what’s been a very long break. Just to qualify here – I’m not the world’s fittest person. I’m not a gym junkie and I don’t run marathons. But I know I feel better when I’m fit, so I exercise as best I can. But that all fell apart towards the end of 2009 when I contracted an illness that kept me from exercising for the best part of 8 months. I recovered okay, but the result was that I’d lost all the fitness I’d had, I’d put on more weight and could barely climb a flight of stairs without huffing and puffing. Something had to be done. Soon. Next week. Or the week after. Or…

It took me about six weeks to get around to actually doing some exercise. Gathering up the mental determination to finally shift myself off the couch that I’d been stapled to for 8 months was pretty hard, but I did manage it. I joined a group outdoor fitness training company who hold classes near to where I live. It was truly excruciating getting up for the 6.00am classes, but I pushed on, knowing that one day – soon (please, soon!) – I would start to feel the benefit.

After I’d only been doing this a couple of weeks, the trainer declared that our cardio training for the day would consist of doing a 2 km run around the suburban streets. And just like that, off we went.

It took me no time at all, literally, to end up at the back of the pack. I wasn’t up to running more than about 50 meters at a time, and I walked in between. About 10 minutes into the ‘run’, after I’d already lost sight of everybody else, it started to rain. About a minute after that, my left calf muscle started to hurt. A lot. I lost count of the number of times I wondered what the hell I was doing out there at the crack of dawn, deliberately torturing myself. But I kept going.

Yes, I know that sounds heroic – but the truth was, I was at the point where it was going to take me as long to go back as to finish. Anyway, I kept on, the rain stopped and started but actually wasn’t that bad. Then I turned the final corner, with still about 800m to go. What I saw really surprised me.

All my fellow classmates had already finished their run and come back for me. When they reached me, they slowed down and jogged alongside me, chatting, encouraging me, keeping me motivated, taking my mind off my sore calf and the icy spattering rain. We all moaned about it together – and you know what? That last 800m just flew by.

It made all the difference to me. I barely knew these people, and sure, the trainer had sent them back so they weren’t all sitting around while I finished – but the trainer hadn’t told them to stay with me, to help me and motivate me. I ended up running the whole way back, without stopping to walk. I finished that class in an entirely different frame of mind.

I started to enjoy it.

Have you had a similar experience? What makes you motivated to keep going?

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