I have to disclose this now, I have never been a runner.
Like… in no way, shape or form.
I never made it anywhere near the athletics, cross country or in fact any sports team at school, with the main reason for this being that I am just a little bit slow and uncoordinated.
My lack of sporting prowess combined with a lack of education on the ROIs of exercise, meant that I’ve struggled to maintain any sort of routine with exercise until my late teens, and actively avoided team sports and PE classes like the plague.
In my head, exercise has always been an evil necessary to achieve aesthetic gains – weight loss, ‘toning up’ or a bigger bum. Even up until this year, I’ve flit between ‘fit-spo’ influencer gym plans, carrying out half-arsed workouts and never enjoying any of them long enough to see any real difference.
However, thanks to one rather understated, but hugely popular book, I’m slowly learning the overall benefits of moving.
Jog On by Bella Mackie is 100% one of my favourite reads of 2019 as it has genuinely changed my life a little bit (and I can’t say that very often about a book).
Struggling with a multitude of mental health problems, Bella describes how she can ‘barely find the strength to get off the sofa, let alone piece her life back together’. Until one day, she decides to lace up her trainers and go on a run. Though it lasts only a few minutes, she begins to force herself to run every day, setting herself small goals along the way. As time goes on, she runs longer distances than she could ever have imagined, and her mental resilience builds with every jog.
On finishing the book, I felt inspired. So inspired, in fact, that I delved into the back of my wardrobe, grabbed my trainers and went on a jog. Bella’s frank and no-shit account of how unbothered she was about pace, finish times and aesthetic gains (she absolutely refuses to give up two of her favourite things – wine and ice cream), inspired to me to do exactly the same. Without worrying about how fast I was going, or how many breaks I’d need to take, I soon found I was going for a “6k jog” after work, and before I knew it, I was running 10kms on a Sunday afternoon – something I’d never imagined I’d do in my wildest dreams.
Since reading Jog On, I can now casually announce that I’m “going on a run to clear my head” which makes me sound sophisticated, and like I’ve got my shit together. What that actually means is: I’m in a mood and I’m off to slowly shuffle my way round Willen Lake and try really hard not to cry on the last kilometre of my 6km.
This book has completely altered the way I think about exercise. Not feeling under pressure to perform my best, or contribute to some huge aesthetic or weight-related change, I can go on a slow jog and enjoy how good actually moving in the fresh air feels. My mental resilience has built up significantly, by challenging myself to run even a couple of seconds more than the jog before, and I feel notably less anxious when I’ve managed to squeeze in a few runs in the week.
In short, I cannot express how much this book has changed my view on my relationship with exercise, nor how funny, moving and inspiring Bella’s story is.
Who has read Jog On? Do any of you love running for your mental health?
Some further ~content~ on running for your mental health:
- An article by Bella Mackie for The Guardian on how exercise can transform your mental health
- The 10k training plan I used to help me build up distance on my runs
- Byrony Gordon on exercising for mental gains