The pelvic pain that these blogs have been documenting has forced me to give up several things that I took for granted in the past. One of them, some of you will know, is running.
Four years ago now (where the hell did they go?!) I got drunk, fell down some stairs and signed up for the London Marathon 2015. It was the start of a pretty unconventional “fitness journey.” I somehow taught myself to run, trained for a marathon and completed my first marathon a year to the day after my first run. I wasn’t fast, but I had become something I had always feared: a runner.
As much as I said “never again” after London, when the charity Worldwide Cancer Research asked if I wanted to run another marathon, this time in Paris, I couldn’t resist saying yes.
“It was a mistake for many reasons,” I usually say at this point in the story. Not because I got seriously injured or anything, but because the Paris Marathon was hot, gruelling work – this time I really meant it when I said, “never again”.
So after the Paris Marathon in 2016, I found myself with a new luxury at my disposal: running for fun. The entire time I’d been running it had been part of some grand marathon training plan, but as I moved backed to Swansea for my final year of university I had the freedom to run for however long or far I wanted to.
Much to my surprise, I did continue to run. But never very far. I was just popping out for a mile run, it wasn’t exactly hard work but it was really nice. After a few months, I started to try and push it up a bit more, branching out to two miles or, god forbid, three. That’s when I started noticing a new pain, one that I associated with my period and, by this point, sex. No matter how much I stretched or how much water I drank this pain would show up around the half-mile mark and become unbearable over a mile. So I stopped running.
Problem is, I didn’t start doing anything else with my body and consequently managed to age about 37 years in the process. Until…
It was actually my counsellor who sent me in the direction of Fitness in Mind, which makes a lot of sense. I’ve lost complete control of my body and exercise is a big part of that. Fitness in Mind is a unique space where physical activity and peer support are combined to help people get into or back into exercise, particularly if they’ve been struggling with problems elsewhere in their life. It’s run by several sports clubs across the country, and lucky for me, the Brentwood Centre happens to be one of them. Even more amazing than that, the 12-week course of daily exercise classes is free.
It was exactly what I needed, right when I needed it. I joined in week two and have been doing yoga and Mixed Martial Arts for the last eleven weeks. I struggled a lot with the Machu Picchu trek last year, but a successful ski trip in March left me with fresh hope that maybe exercise was less likely to hurt now. If I’m totally honest, I was expecting to discover that exercise didn’t actually cause any pain, that I’d just imagined it as an excuse to mooch about. When the gentlest of yoga stirred up the pain in my side, I was pretty gutted – I hadn’t imagined it after all. But I carried on, crucially I didn’t “push through the pain” because in my situation that could potentially involve a ruptured cyst, but instead I did what every instructor and activator on the programme told us to do, “listen to your body and do what you can.” So I pushed myself in yoga but never to the edge and I did everything in MMA except the kicking (which my body immediately said “no” to). It’s so obvious and so simple, but there was something really nice about having someone else tell me that.
Surprise to no one, given the new sensitive version of Hilary I’ve become on the pill, I found the first few weeks quite challenging and not just physically. First at the discovery that exercise still hurt and then at the realisation that it wasn’t the end of the world. I wasn’t blubbing in the middle of yoga, but it was nice to know that I could have if I needed to – there was always peer support on hand. I’m still not “over it” but I think part of the last few weeks has been me realising that for whatever reason, fair or not, I’m no longer a runner. I hope that’s not a permanent fact, but it is what it is for now.
The yoga has been so rewarding. After surgery on my abdomen last summer, I got out of the habit of using my core and have completely ignored it since. It hurt reawakening those muscles but I feel better and stronger for it. The MMA has been a laugh. I am no good at it, that’s for sure, but it’s been incredibly cathartic to hit a bunch of things for an hour a week.
What makes this course what it is is undoubtedly the people. Participants and leaders alike – everyone just made it the safest space with zero judgment and zero stress. It was just a calm environment that allowed me to forge a much-needed new relationship with my body. Sure, I got a concession card at the end of the programme that gives me access to cheaper classes, but that is just a tiny perk in comparison to rest of this course’s benefits. It’s no secret that Brentwood has a fairly ageing population and admittedly I was one of the younger participants on the course but that only made the experience better. I met some incredibly interesting and patient people, none of whom made the assumption that because I was younger I could do more. There was no competition.
However, I can’t believe how few people my age are using this amazing resource. Millenials of Brentwood, do you know that Fitness in Mind exists? Well, now you do. The next programme starts on July 2, sign up here or find out more on their Facebook page.
I haven’t lost a million pounds or transformed my body but I have had several overdue epiphanies, regained some strength and made some amazing friends. After a year of doing nothing more than walk the dog, that’s a huge achievement.
Thank you Fitness in Mind for all your help! 💙