I have been conscious for a little while that I have become unfit. I am now aware of how unfit. I recently took part in a local 5k park run. If asked before the event, I may have said my fitness level on a 1-10 scale would have been about 3 or 4. I know now that it is more like 1-2. My two younger brothers are both distance runners, with one of them also being a qualified athletics coach. They both came to support me. My main sporting background has been football and I played competitively in open age leagues until I was 48. I only finished playing then because I moved to Birmingham. While there I decided to enter the Birmingham Half Marathon at the age of 52. I set my self a target time of 2 hours and achieved it, literally with seconds to spare. I used to have an innate natural level of cardio fitness that provided me a reasonable level of endurance.
I only mention this as it puts into perspective my very rapidly changing initial thoughts when finishing the 5k in 41 minutes. What went through my head was initially failure, then shame, followed by a degree of perspective and then inspiration. My thoughts landed as follows;
My failure was not a failure as I had actually made an effort to do something.
My failure was based on the knowledge that in Birmingham I ran more than 4 times the distance at a higher average pace than achieved today.
My shame was when I looked around at others who had made a similar commitment and the genuine joy that most were feeling.
My perspective then kicked in telling me that we all start somewhere and in this situation, I was very much back at the beginning.
The inspiration came from looking at a cross-section of active people who had taken part, various ages, sizes and fitness levels. I realised that I now had something to build from.
Discussing with my brothers afterwards, it was mad to believe that I would be anywhere near previous achievements, with a 13-year absence of any committed physical activity.
I said to my brothers that it is clear that now I know how unfit I am, I have a choice of three things moving forward.
- Do nothing about it.
- Attack my unfitness with a degree of ferocity that will rapidly lead to a return of inactivity.
- Schedule an achievable series of goals that leads to sustainable improvement.
Failure if embraced with realistic commitment can be a steppingstone towards success.