We Run client Annabelle shares her life-changing experience of running coaching (her words, not ours!)
Tell Us A Bit About Your Running Background
My natural inclination is to be a bit lazy when it comes to exercise, and to avoid it because I’ve never really enjoyed it. I’ve never been particularly athletic and I’m quite small so I’ve never had a weight problem. In some ways I think that made me even lazier. Because I didn’t have a weight problem, I thought I don’t really need to exercise. But I turned 48 this year and noticed some changes and I just thought, I’ve got to start taking it seriously.
I knew that the gym wasn’t going to work for me just because of my work and the time involved. To be honest, when I last tried a gym, by the time I actually got there, unpacked, got into the gym and got set up, I’d had enough before I’d even started trying to think about any exercise! So for me, the initial attraction to running was that I could do it just outside my front door and avoid the hassle of loading up the car, getting changed, putting on your gym kit, paying for a locker, all of that nonsense. So that was an attraction, but I had zero confidence. That was when I knew I needed a Coach, because if I’d tried to just do it myself, I’d have failed.
What Did You Feel A Running Coach Would Provide?
I think I needed somebody to show me that I could do it. Somebody to let me know that actually I was doing it the right way, and to keep me on the straight and narrow. My inclination would be; OK, I’ve just tried to run a minute. I couldn’t do it. It hurts. I was breathless. I don’t fancy doing that again!
Whereas having Coach Will there to reassure me that it’s completely normal, and that he wouldn’t expect anything else, was really helpful. In our first session together, we ran for a minute, then walked for three, then ran for another minute. I think over the course of that hour, I ran for seven minutes in total. But him talking to me and explaining that, yes, it was just a minute at a time, but I had run for seven minutes overall, and that’s really good. It made me think, “Oh, maybe I’m not as bad as I think.” He was just really positive and encouraging.
“I think I needed somebody to show me that I could do it. Somebody to let me know that actually I was doing it the right way, and to keep me on the straight and narrow.”
What Was Your Goal To Begin With?
I don’t even think I had a goal. I just knew that because I was noticing changes in my body and I’d hit a certain age, and I’d had a lifetime of sadly being exercise avoidant, I knew that my chickens were coming home to roost! I was feeling achy, feeling lethargic and going through some female changes. And I thought, “I’ve got to do something different.” And actually this has been a total life changer for me, a total life changer.
It’s really given me confidence in my ability to enjoy a form of exercise. It’s given me confidence to actually keep going and persevering. I’ve learned that actually my body isn’t as bad as I thought it was, it will respond. Perhaps grudgingly sometimes, but it will respond! It’s proven to me that I can do it and it’s the one aspect of my life that I’ve never really embraced before. It’s been a game changer.
Talk Us Through The Process Of Finding A Running Coach
I knew that if I was going to manage to do any exercise at all, it would have to be something that was right out my front door. Just in terms of my lifestyle, work and everything else.
I live somewhere quite remote, so I did a search online and We Run came up. I hadn’t heard of you before, so I got in touch with my enquiry.
Coach Will got back to me, and my initial emails to Will before I met him were basically warning him how bad I was! I was saying, “Look, I might not be able to do this, I’m really bad. I’m really unfit and I’m probably going to be the most unfit person you’ve ever dealt with.”
I was very, very nervous about it. But Will was great. He was very reassuring from the start, and he said we would go at the right pace for me, and it would be fine.
It was really funny because the first day that I met him, I got out of the car and he said, “You’re going to smash this.” So straight away I thought “I love your confidence, but I think I just need to reiterate what I said; this is going to be hard!”
And it was hard! It was truly tough, and I was gasping for breath, but he was brilliant. He just kept on with the gentle encouragement and set very realistic goals for me.
“I was very, very nervous about it. But Coach Will was great. He was very reassuring from the start, and he said we would go at the right pace for me, and it would be fine.”
How Did You Find The Sessions?
The sessions were really well planned. Coach Will sent me a program with all the specific goals that he wanted me to reach each week, and with homework runs for me to do, which was really useful.
I did develop some hip pain early on, so we went through some stretches and exercises and I had some sports massage as well, just to combat that. He tailored the sessions to work with my achy hip at that point. It was really good because all of this was helping to build my confidence.
At about session four or five, that was when all of a sudden this huge change took place.
Coach Will had been saying, “Remember, at first, one minute felt a struggle, then it was three minutes felt a struggle, and I promise you, you will be able to run for 20 or 30 minutes. And you will then look back and say, “What on earth was I worried about?””
And then all of a sudden, it happened. It was like a magic wand, and I did it. Nobody has been more surprised than me, I have to say. I’m surprised because I’ve never really been athletic. And I’m quite unfit. I’m the kind of person that when an activity gets painful, I stop. But having Coach Will with me and just gently encouraging me and not setting unrealistic goals, building it gradually, it really helped me.
How Quickly Did You Notice A Difference?
It turned out that after doing it little by little for those first few weeks, I suddenly made this massive jump, after week five or six, out of nowhere. All of sudden my homework runs got easier and my confidence really started to go through the roof. And I thought, “Yeah, I can do this!” I think the key to it was having him with me, just to build that confidence.
I realised “Okay, I shouldn’t expect to do this any quicker, it’s okay that I’m struggling a bit right now.” It helped me to develop my confidence. And to carry on with my homework runs and to push myself a bit harder with those.
Coach Will was the key to it, without him there’s no way that I would be running like I am now. No way.
Was There A Key Turning Point For You?
The moment I really realised how much progress I was making, I was on a homework run and I wondered if I could keep going. I tried it, kept going, felt good, and then I kept going some more, and then a bit more again. I couldn’t believe it, I got home and realised I’d just run for 25 minutes! My daughters were in disbelief, (“My God Mum, this is you!”) I text my oldest daughter at work, and said, “You need to stop working and listen to this.” And she was like, “My God!”
That was a real championship moment for me, hugely significant. And then I couldn’t actually wait to see Coach Will to tell him. He said, “There you go, I’ve been saying it all along!” It was hugely, hugely satisfying. Really, really good.
It’s one area of my life where I’ve not have a lot of confidence, so to suddenly think, “I really am smashing this.” was great. And now, I think the most I’ve run is for about 45 or 50 minutes. So I think I’ve run about eight kilometers, so really doing well and I feel so much better.
“Coach Will was the key to my improvement, without him there’s no way that I would be running like I am now. No way.”
What Was The Key Benefit Of Working With A Running Coach?
I think it was having somebody, knowing that I was meeting Coach Will for our next session, meant that even if it was not particularly nice weather outside or something, I physically got off my backside and still went for a run.
Knowing that I was going to have this session with him and knowing that I didn’t want to struggle, that I wanted to improve, made me actually get out and run in the week. To do my homework runs and take it seriously.
If I hadn’t had that support, I think my inclination would have been, “It’s raining, let’s not run” or “I’m aching, let’s not run” or “It’s going to make me breathless, let’s not run.” It was knowing that I had that support. Knowing that I had that time for me in the diary. I needed that motivation. I needed guidance. That really was the driver propelling me forward with it.
Did You Have Any Reservations About Working With A Coach?
I suppose my biggest fear was that I was going to embarrass myself. I was really aware of my lack of stamina and my lack of fitness, and I think I was nervous about not being able to run. But they were totally needless worries. Absolutely needless.
What Would You Say To Someone Thinking About Working With A Running Coach?
I would say I absolutely do it. It is the greatest motivation, it’s the greatest confidence builder. If you’re like me, nervous about a new activity, then having that support is just invaluable. I couldn’t recommend it more, I really couldn’t. Actually based on my experience and how much I enjoyed it, I’ve now got together with a few women locally in my village, and we’re running together. It’s really spurred me on.
Fantastic! So What’s Next?
I don’t have lofty ambitions to run half marathons or anything like that. My ambition really is just to maintain what I’ve achieved. I just don’t want to lose the satisfaction and enjoyment I get out of it.
I haven’t got the time to be training for half marathons or anything like that. For right now, at this time in my life, with work commitments and everything, it fits in really well. If a year from now I’m still doing it, I will regard that as a significant achievement because I’ve never been able to maintain or get interested in any physical activity to that level before. It’s been fantastic.
“Working with a Running Coach is the greatest motivation, it’s the greatest confidence builder. If you’re like me, nervous about a new activity, then having that support is just invaluable. I couldn’t recommend it more, I really couldn’t.”