Run, slightly squidgy girl, run!

I love my sister. She’s kind of like me, but better. She gets it, and she doesn’t judge, but she does tell me when I’m being a tool. About three months ago she made me go for a run. Insert exclamation marks ad infinitum here. She’s a runner, I am not. She diets by exercising; I diet by drinking my dinner. She said ‘ten minutes’, I pulled my ‘no’ face. I ran for ten minutes and felt sick, and also rather amazing. No big stretchy ceremonious warm up, no perfect apparel; just put your shoes on and go. We lapped my local park and that was that. This time last year, I was ok with my figure. Then I started a full time Masters, moved house, went through a break-up and, well, ate. My day to day was completely unrecognisable from what it was and I was quietly floundering, and getting bigger. I was also not very happy. Small tasks were taking ages, and I found I was staring at the corner of the screen, rather than watching my TV during my downtime. If you’ve read my previous blog about the importance of such simple relaxing pleasures, you’ll know how awful that made me feel.

The day after the first run, my legs were weird. My legs are amazing: there are two of them and they’re the same length and they carry me where I need to go. They’re also stocky and have an infuriating hobby of cultivating hair as quickly as they can – but they’re still amazing because they exist and they work. I’m ever grateful to them. The day after the run, they decided to go on holiday, which was hugely inconvenient as I had a showing at Central that day which involved climbing in and out of sacks. Ouch.

I vowed never again. Then I was coerced into an again, and I went. Then I found that my day felt weird if I didn’t go for a run. ‘Ten minutes’, Kay said, ‘just ten minutes. Play some music.’ So I did. Now I run every day and ten minutes has become 25 minutes. I’m writing about this not because I want to brag about suddenly being into exercise – I’m not. The gym can suck my d**k, but there’s something about running that inspired me to write about it.

Running (disclaimer: I’m not sprinting like an elegant gazelle, I’m doing a nan dance at a wedding) is the one time of the day when it’s just me, some decent pop tunes and the road. I think, I look around, I’m alone, and I’m not beholden to anyone. Also, it’s incredibly easy (not the running, the organising), there’s no monthly membership, no special equipment, and no opening times. I just put my shoes on and go. The most amazing thing about running is how it feels when I come home. Weirdly, I’m incredibly energised. Before, I would spend half an hour scrolling through Facebook and then hurl my ass up to go back to work. Now, when I come home after spending half an hour outside thinking about what I need to do, I find I have the energy to actually do it. Most importantly of all, it’s made me happier. We all know the science of endorphins released by physical excursion so I’m not under any illusion but my goodness it really does work. My mood is lighter, I feel calmer, I feel more positive (and I was already a pretty glass half full kind of gal).

After gaining weight, I became a scales junkie. The scales say I’ve lost only a few pounds, and I’m hungry, really hungry all the time, so I’m allowing myself to eat. It’s funny, I no longer care what the scales say. My muffin top has become more of a cupcake, and my clothes fit a little better but that’s not the point I’m trying to make. I’m a hugely paranoid person. I worry as a hobby, it seems. Regular exercise has calmed me. I have changed no other habits. I still drink lots of wine- always have done- I smoke a cheeky cigarette when the mood takes me. I’ve given none of this up. The only change is my daily run.

It’s been an incredibly busy summer. I have been finishing up my Master’s degree with our public performance and working and writing a new show for the London Horror Festival. I’m in a brand new relationship which is wonderful but can take its toll on a paranoid brain like mine (should I send this message? Was I annoying last night? Is it too soon to do, well, anything?), and I’m worried about how on earth I’m going to survive after a year out of employment.

As a woman in the arts, writing for other women in the arts, I just want to encourage you to go out and sweat a little. Creative people work very hard inside their heads, and much of it is lonely work. Nervous energy is something that all artists must deal with. Running has helped me dispel some of that so that when I get home I feel ready to sit down and create. It’s not about losing weight or getting fit, I just want to pass on the message that a little exercise each day has made me much, much happier. I got drunk at my boyfriend’s birthday party last night. Usually I would wake up with huge paranoia about what I said and to whom. This morning I woke up hungover to hell and smiling. I’m not saying that running is to thank for that – I’m in a different place with a brand new take on things, but running is certainly a big part of that. I guess what I am saying is chucking yourself around for a while does enormous things for your mood and your energy: it’s more for your brain than your body.

I run slowly like a someone doing a drunk running impression or an (afore mentioned) nan at a wedding. My running clothes are fished from my dirty laundry, and my playlist is Katy Perry. No huge warm up, no stylish ipod holder on my arm (I hold my phone in my hand), just realise that fifteen minutes of running is the time you might usually spend staring at your kitchen thinking ‘I must clean you’. When you get back from your run, cleaning the kitchen will feel like a doddle. It doesn’t have to be running, either. I have some friends for whom running is not an exercise option. My point is to find something that takes you out of your life for a short while, gets you all alone with your playlist and your thoughts, and makes you sweat. Our brains are busy enough, let’s get our bodies working.

This blog is dedicated to my sister, Kay Allen, for making me realise my own potential and giving me so much more than achy legs.

(c) Jade Allen 2014