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Real-life stories: Richard

Back in March I wrote a blog post about choosing the right exercise for you. Whilst writing the post, I thought of a former colleague of mine, Richard, who had taken up running and really fell in love with it. Before he started running, he had overhauled his diet and lost a lot of weight. Once he started running, I noticed that Richard was not only healthier, but happier too.

I invited Richard to share his story with me for 15 minute wellbeing, because I think his journey is really inspirational. Richard has a real passion for running and has run distances that I couldn’t even imagine running, but like all of us, he had to start somewhere by putting one foot in front of the other. Read on to find out about his running journey and the great mantras he uses – these can benefit us in all aspects of our lives, not just exercise. I hope it inspires you to start or persevere with the exercise that is right for you.

Can you tell me about what your life was like before you started running?

“I’d gone through my weight loss and eating healthily and the next step for my wellbeing was some exercise. I started walking. I walked to Hounslow station which was 40 minutes away.

What really got me started with running was the running group at work. Jason said he’d come with me, just running one lamppost to the next. But I didn’t want to inconvenience him.

It took me 3 months of building it up until I could run 5km without stopping. I’ve kept the date when I went for my first run and refer back to it so I know how far I’ve come. It’s easy to forget what it was like before.”

Richard then went through the key dates in his running journey. I put these into a graph to show how Richard built up his endurance over time and the milestones he has achieved so far.

“My first run was on 7thMarch 2015 and first 5km on 31st May 2015, the bank holiday weekend which continues to be significant through my running journey. My first kilometre of running took just over 7 minutes.”

As you can see from the graph, Richard completed his first marathon on this bank holiday weekend in 2017 and his first ultra-marathon running from London to Brighton on the very same weekend last year.

This was soon after completing my first 100 km ultra-marathon

“This year on the May bank holiday weekend I want to run the 78 mile capital ring – 3 marathons in 3 days! Just get up in the morning and get on public transport to the starting point. I’m hoping to get some of my friends to join me.”

I found it incredible that it took Richard 3 months to run 5km without stopping and that he never gave up. Many people would, but he persevered. So what was his first run like?

“I remember the straight tarmac path was 150 metres and I ran that and my legs were like ‘what the hell are you doing?’ After 700 metres my legs were hurting and I had to stop and did lots of stretches. I eventually managed 3km on that first run.

I didn’t feel too bad, otherwise I wouldn’t have gone back. So each run thereafter I tried to get round the same distance a little bit faster. I didn’t make it too painful and unpleasant. I remember when I would really push it, my eyes would lose focus. Probably fight or flight kicking in. At the time I thought this couldn’t be normal.”

What motivated you to keep running?

“My approach has always been to keep improving, whether it’s running further or faster. There’s no point comparing myself to others – I want to be the best I can whilst fitting it into the rest of my life.

I very rarely run more than 4 or 5 times a week. My body gets to the point where it says ‘give me a rest’. It’s important to listen to any niggles and rest so they don’t get worse. That’s where not comparing yourself to others really comes into play.”

Richard then went on to tell me about the social aspects of running and how the variety of running events on offer keeps him motivated:

“I have completed three marathons and am training for my fourth in Boston, Lincolnshire. It’s an opportunity to go and stay with my sister. Every time I’ve done a marathon, I’ve done the parkrun the day before. You then get to meet other people you’re running in the marathon with. Then, when you’re running it, you spot someone from the parkrun!

“Last weekend I ran just short of 50km in total. What keeps it interesting is the variety. I’m doing a bit more trail running: meet at a tube station, someone plans a route and run on trails, it makes a nice change to pounding the streets of London. It usually finishes at a nice pub!


This photo is with some friends made through running. This was taken after running the circle line before heading to the pub for lunch.

I’ve signed up to tower running for more variety. Broadgate Tower is 35 floors. There’s a group that run up and down it 12 times – a vertical mile! I’ve been training and I’ve managed it four times, I’ve got a bit of work to do to get to 12 times. You walk it but take two steps at a time but use your arms to pull yourself up. I’m doing the tower run in July.

There is always an event going, such as the green belt relay where you run 200 miles around London in a team of 10. There’s also so many inspirational people you come across – there’s an 85 year old man at parkrun every week. I’d love to still be running at 85.”

For some, running just doesn’t appeal at all. So why running over another form of exercise?

“The gym has never really appealed to me. I used to swim 5 evenings a week and was a good swimmer, but lost interest in my teens. I re-started [swimming] in my 20s but lost interest. When I was younger, running didn’t really appeal to me, I only did it at school.

All you need is a pair of trainers and a shirt and off you go. The social aspect of running at work, could have a chat. I don’t really go to my running club as people are focused on their time. The social aspect has kept me going, making friends…

I did do some swimming as part of my getting fit. I signed up for a 5km swim and then had a few goes training. Once I did it, I stopped. I still want to challenge myself with a swim. Triathlons interest me but they’re expensive buying all the equipment.”

15 minute wellbeing is all about mental health and improving our overall wellbeing through different activities. What impact (if any) has running had on your mental health?

“I’ve become much more relaxed, I don’t worry about things as much. I used to be a bit of a perfectionist and running a marathon has taught me that I can’t run the whole thing perfectly. I’ve applied it to the rest of my life – you can’t perform at your best every day, some days when you go into work you just have to do the best you can.

Running has probably made me a more positive person, building relationships with others, giving each other positive feedback on their runs and times which makes me more positive overall. In my last marathon I didn’t get the time I wanted, but when I look back I can get delayed gratification from knowing I did a good performance.”

Richard then told me that he felt running involved many of the 15 minute wellbeing themes. In addition to the benefits to his physical health and aforementioned connecting with others and giving feedback, Richard told me how running links with the other themes:

  • Mindfulness – “Running is my form of mindfulness. Sometimes I’ve been running for 3 hours and I haven’t thought about much apart from running and how my body is responding.”
  • Learning – “Running is a really good learning tool, you only improve if you put the hard work in. There’s no quick wins with running.”
  • “Reflection is an important part of my running – reflecting on what went well, was the training right, did I rest well?

What advice would you give to anyone is a similar position as you were?

“Never outrun the joy of running.”

“Start off being realistic. Start off slowly and build up. Enjoy it. Never outrun the joy of running, that’s my current mantra. My previous mantras were ‘Get comfortable with discomfort’ and ‘If I believe I can achieve’.

“If I believe I can achieve.”

Find people to run with. If you’re in London there’s so many social running groups. Running shops often have running groups. Midnight runners in central London with music playing.


This photo shows the great running community at my local sports shop. The community is very supportive and provides a couch to 5 km group on a Monday evening.

Parkrun is great as you get to know regular runners with the same time as you. Parkrun is ideal for people starting out. They [the parkrun organisers] want the average time of a 5 km run to get slower as they want to attract more people who want to walk 5 km. Parkrun operates all over the country.

Find out what works for you. Some people are content going for a leisurely run and talking with the same group of friends. Others need a target to work towards.”

Huge thanks to Richard for sharing his story – he really is inspirational and his passion for running is contagious. Since meeting with Richard I have started running again, taking it slowly and building my way up to 5 km non-stop. Richard has reminded me that it doesn’t matter how long it takes to do it, as long as I’m enjoying it.

I hope you have taken something from Richard and he has inspired you. If you would like to share your wellbeing-related story on 15 minute wellbeing, please do get in touch.

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If we feel so good after exercising, why do we lose motivation?

It’s been widely reported that exercise is not only good for our physical health, it can benefit our mental health too. Yet many of us find it hard to maintain our motivation to exercise. Even when we have good intentions to exercise, they don’t always last.

Each year, one third of people in the UK make a New Year’s resolution to get fitter, yet 63% of us break our resolutions. On average, two thirds (66%) of New Year’s resolutions last for one month or less. If your exercise and fitness goals have fallen by the wayside, you’re not alone.

If you’re struggling to find the motivation to exercise, it could be that you haven’t found the right physical activity for you. Not getting the mental high from working out that you’re after? Then maybe it’s time to change your exercise routine. This week’s blog post can help you find the best exercise for you and your wellbeing.

Theme 4: Physical health

The focus of today’s post is exercise and how choosing the right type of exercise for you can help improve your mental health. As we progress through the blog posts each week, you will discover that this theme is about more than just exercise. Other elements of our physical health – what we eat, how we sleep and self-soothing activities – can all impact our health and wellbeing.

Often, when we think about exercising we think about long runs, intensive gym sessions and ‘no pain no gain’. The good news is that physical exercise does not need to be vigorous to have a positive impact on our mental health. Even better, just 10 minutes of exercise is enough to elevate mood. Those of us who struggle to make time for exercise can still improve our wellbeing by incorporating a brief amount of physical activity into our lives. Over time, 15 minute wellbeing will introduce a range of physical activities that can be completed in 15 minutes or less and enhance our wellbeing.

Why is exercise so good for our wellbeing?

Exercising can distract us from our negative thoughts, improve our perceived ability to cope with stressful situations and increase our sense of control. Physical activity can also improve our quality of life, mood, self-perception, social interaction and life satisfaction.

Exercise can also help us cope with mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. Aerobic and anaerobic exercise (such as resistance training) are effective treatments for depression. Regular exercise may help prevent people prone to feelings of anxiety from panicking when they experience symptoms such as increased heart rate and sweating. These physical reactions occur during exercise so regular exposure to them through physical activity could reduce the frequency of panic attacks.

Making small changes to the amount of exercise we do – even if we don’t do much at all – can enhance our wellbeing.  For example, going for a walk can help us feel good. If we go for a walk with someone else, it has the added benefit of increasing our connection with others.

If we feel better after exercising, why is it so hard to keep doing it?

People who exercised and then stopped tend to feel more down and depressed than those who continue exercising, so how can we maintain our motivation to exercise?

One factor to consider is the intensity of our physical activity. Do you tend to start off too hard? When we exercise to the point where it is hard to talk, the immediate mood boost we usually experience after exercising is delayed by approximately 30 minutes. This delay in mood enhancement can put us off exercising. Starting slowly, with a moderate exercise plan can help us to maintain our physical activity goals.

Have you found the right exercise for you? It is important to find a physical activity you enjoy, not one that feels like a chore. If you start a gym class to help you lose weight but you don’t actually enjoy it, it’s unlikely you’ll stick at it.

One way to find the right exercise for you is to consider your social-psychological needs, which can change over time. These are:

  • Achievement
  • Mood and tension release
  • Playfulness
  • Search for meaning
  • Self-esteem
  • Stress management

Different needs require different exercises. If you want to cope better with stress, activities that provide a welcome distraction such as running or aerobics would be beneficial. Activities such as competitive team sports are likely to add to the stress that you’re already feeling, so you won’t get the same sense of enjoyment from them.

Therefore, it may be that you haven’t found the right exercise to meet your current needs. Today’s activity helps you do just that! The worksheet includes a quiz to help you determine your current social-psychological needs and the types of exercises that match these needs. Once you’ve discovered what type of exercise may be right for you and your wellbeing, why not give it a go?

Click the link below to download the worksheet. You can fill it in using the ‘fill and sign’ tool or alternatively print it off and fill it in by hand.

If you are doing the right type of exercise but are struggling to stay motivated, research has shown that the following can increase your chances of staying active:

If you take up a new physical activity or make a change to your exercise regime, please do get intouch and share your story.

I share wellbeing-related research, news and stories on twitter and Instagram inbetween weekly blog posts so do follow @15minwellbeing on both platforms tokeep up to date.