When I look back and reflect on my teenage years, it is like looking at another person, living another life. A life that was changed for the better by running and exercise.

In this blog I’m going to talk very openly about my battle with my weight and body image. Please remember that weight is a very personal and emotive topic and I would never want anyone to read this and feel like they are any less of a person because of a number on a scale. A very open conversation with my doctor sparked my weightloss journey, not only because of my BMI, but because of how this was impacting my mental health and most notably my confidence. If you are feeling the same, I urge you to speak to your GP.

For as long as I could remember I had been overweight, and this wasn’t me labelling myself this- concerns had been raised by my doctor during a routine visit. It wasn’t just a phase, it was my life and to be honest it made me miserable. Growing up I was teased, I quit swimming because of my insecurities around body image, I dreaded PE as it involved a communal changing room and a constant fear of coming last at everything, I tried fad diets (spoiler they don’t work) and I hated summer because I couldn’t hide away in jeans and hoodies. My negative body image crept into so many aspects of my life- especially my confidence. I thought my weight defined me as a person, and ultimately defined the way I should be treated. I assumed I would always be that way. It’s kind of sad but at the age of 18 I had written myself off.

When I went to University I realised something had to change. I had started working, I was living in a new city and I was in a new relationship that made me feel valued, and for the first time in as long as I could remember I finally felt like I had the power to change my life.

I joined a gym, I started running on the treadmill, I started eating less takeaways and spent time establishing a more positive relationship with myself. I soon realised that the gym wasn’t the intimidating place I had assumed it was and I actually quite liked going. Moving my body made me feel good and the better I felt physically, the better I felt mentally and the more my confidence grew. When my gym closed down I couldn’t afford a membership elsewhere so I started running outside. I’d run along the canal and through Lancaster town centre- I had no idea how far or how fast but I really enjoyed being outside.

Yes, the girl who once dreaded PE was suddenly choosing to go for a run. In public.

I kept motivating myself, and soon I was thoroughly enjoying running, weightlifting and Zumba. I look back at my University Graduation and feel extremely proud of the journey I had been on. At this point I had lost over a third of my bodyweight, but most importantly I felt good inside. I felt like I had a new life, one where nothing could hold me back.

I interviewed for and was successfully offered a PhD position at Lancaster University. This would involve a large amount of fieldwork in Iceland. A few years prior I never would have had the confidence or fitness to be able do this, but at 21 years old I headed out on my first field season.

Throughout my PhD running took a back seat, I chose to focus on Zumba, eventually qualifying as a Zumba Instructor and teaching my own classes so that I could pay my rent whilst writing up my thesis. Again, I would look back at the shy girl I once was and how much I changed for the better – once I felt crippling anxiety just answering my name in morning registrations at school, but now I wasn’t phased by bouncing into a class of strangers and busting some moves whilst everyone was watching. Fitness had changed my life and I wanted to share the passion and energy it brought me.

All was going well until a sudden family bereavement in 2016 hit me really hard. I was in the final stages of my PhD write up, I had had my own health scare and alongside this we lost our much loved family horse. Whenever I was stressed I would spend time at the stables and suddenly I found myself going through a tough time with no way to escape. One morning it all got a bit too much and in a desperate way to feel more like myself once again I turned up at my local parkrun. Running had made me feel good in the past so it was time to give it another go.

Week after week I kept going to parkrun, and week after week I started feeling calmer and more resilient. I then started running during the week. Running made me feel happy again. In 2017, I joined the ASICS FrontRunner team and I have never looked back. Having the support of a running community around me gave me the confidence to enter races. I built up to running 10k races then my first half marathon in 2017, it is safe to say I was hooked. I moved to London and running gave me the ability to settle into a new city, make new friends and explore new places. It made what could have been a very daunting experience feel much easier. In 2018 I ran my first and second marathons and in 2019 I did my first triathlons, as well as two more marathons. A decision to return to running had once again changed my life.

Training for events allowed me to learn so much about myself. I learned how to navigate challenges, I grew in confidence, I got to know myself better. I finally I celebrated my body for what it could achieve, not what it looked like. Whilst it hasn’t been easy, I appreciate the lessons I’ve learned.

It all began with running.

written by

Becca B

Envrionmental Research from London/Southport

Age group: 30 - 35
Club: Greenwich Tritons, Southport Strollers

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