Sometimes, the biggest barriers to improving health are mental – lots of people feel like they’re just “not the sort of person” who goes to the gym, or eats salad, and so on.
Nudjed is on a mission to prove that anybody is capable of being as healthy as they want to be.
To inspire you, we’ve been following and supporting a group of runners as they train for the Cardiff Half Marathon. Below, two of our case studies talk about their experiences during training, their motivation for taking part, and the positive changes they’ve noticed since they committed to improving their health.
Alan was diagnosed with diabetes 16 years ago. At the time he was overweight and self-conscious about his size, and his doctor told him that he needed to lose weight to avoid needing daily insulin injections.
“I didn’t feel comfortable in going out [to run], the size I was, because I was 17 and a half stone at the time,” he told us. He started off by buying some exercise equipment for his home, gradually building up from walking short distances to running 5k over the space of six weeks.
“From there it was a case of, well, the nights are getting darker… I can probably let myself go out on the street once in a while now. The first time I did it I managed to do about 200 yards and it was like, ‘I’ve got to stop, I’m way out of breath.’ Running outside was totally different to being on the treadmill.”
Alan persevered, alternating between running and walking to build up his endurance, and began to see the resulting weight loss.
“I’ve lost around 3 stone 10 now, and it’s helped no end. It’s brought my sugars under control, and at my annual checkup with the doctor in June I found out that I’m a lot healthier overall. My cholesterol levels have never been better.”
Taking control of his health gave Alan the confidence to overcome other obstacles as they appeared.
“I was having some pain in my hips while running, and it turns out that I’d developed arthritis. So then it was a case of digging into the running world to find out how to cope with that – I had to change my stride pattern completely, but it’s gradually getting better. I’ve also taken up yoga, which has been really great for me. Since I started that, about 8 weeks ago, I’ve become a lot my flexible, especially in my hips – and the yoga stretches are great when I’m warming up or cooling down from a run.
“My body has been getting stronger and more supportive – the more I do, the easier it gets. I did a 12 mile run on Sunday, and normally after that the backs of my legs and my quads are in agony, but this time I didn’t feel a thing!”
Alan has gone from strength to strength since he started running, and has now completed races including the Newport Half Marathon and the Cardiff Bay 5 Mile Run. Through his running at these events, he’s raised over £500 for cancer and diabetes charities. And the health benefits aren’t the only positive outcomes – Alan says his friends, family and customers at work have all commented on how healthy he looks.
“My legs have gone from these things that looked like tree trunks to the point where I can see actual muscles! And I notice the little things, like having more energy to play football with my kids in the garden, where before I would need to stop for a breather every 10 minutes.
“My self-confidence has improved massively as well. Like I said, when I started I was too self-conscious to go out in public – now it doesn’t matter, I’ll stretch out in the front garden, I don’t care. Sometimes I do get heckled; the other day there was a group of kids shouting things, but I just turned to them and said, ‘Join me for 13 miles and then you can take the mickey.’ At the end of the day, I’m not doing this for anyone else, I’m doing it for me, and I don’t care what anyone says.”
Most of us can probably relate to Frances – she’s always been conscious of her weight, and has struggled to avoid the temptation of overeating and drinking too much. Although she knew she should be eating more healthily, and tried hard during the week, she found herself spending weekends in front of the TV with wine and snacks. After having her third child, she decided she was fed up with the constant cycle of losing and gaining weight. Her fitness journey started with a classic New Year’s Resolution, and she signed up for the Pontypool Home Run 10k in February to motivate her to stick with it.
“I just started like you do every year, cutting out all the bad stuff, but I wasn’t really getting anywhere…I thought there was no way I was going to be able to do the 10k. I nearly didn’t do it by my husband said, ‘Come on, it doesn’t matter if you walk it or run it, let’s just do it.’ I was really nervous and anxious but I did it, and I actually did run all the way around – really slowly! There was a photographer, and seeing the pictures of myself I thought I looked huge; so the confidence boost from finishing the race, and the feeling that I wanted to look better, both motivated me to keep going.”
Frances says that although running wasn’t something she found easy, it gave her a massive sense of accomplishment.
“It was really hard, and lots of times I felt like, ‘I want to stop now.’ But I feel so proud that I’ve stuck with it. Other runners are really friendly as well, they always say hi! Everyone’s on that same journey of trying to get better.”
Alongside taking up running, Frances has been focusing on eating better and says that having a good diet has helped her both physically and mentally.
“I’m definitely on more of an even keel,” she tells us. “I’ve cut down on sugar, and it’s really helped my mood…I feel like a different person. I used to constantly be thinking, ‘What can I eat?’ Now I don’t really get cravings, just that genuine stomach rumbling when I’m really hungry, and then I know I actually need to eat. It feels good to know you’re being good to yourself – and now I can drink a glass of wine without feeling horribly guilty. I definitely think these are going to be permanent changes, because they’ve improved my life so much.”
Frances has now completed races including the Caerphilly 10k and the Bournemouth quarter marathon, and achieved her Personal Best time in the Blaenavon 10k recently.
“I did 10 miles the other day and it just feels like it’s actually doable now. When I finish a race, it feels so good. When I did the first one earlier this year, my husband was at the finish line and he ran towards me and I was actually crying – I felt like a bit of an idiot, but it was emotional.”
Frances and Alan are proof that anyone can improve their health – start by making some small changes, and figure out what works for you. The benefits you’ll gain are well worth it!