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Jo's couch to 5k story

I've changed my life!

Busy mum, Jo’s working-from-home life became more demanding during the coronavirus pandemic. Often spending 9-hours a day at her desk, she would struggle to clock up 1,000 steps on her Fitbit. The challenge of lockdown turned into an opportunity. This is her story:

“I've spent nearly four decades being ‘busy-busy’. I tend to work too hard, rarely put myself first or prioritised physical activity. With a damaged knee, bad back, and feeling generally stiffer and less flexible – the pain was getting to me.

Lockdown's been something of a transformation

I recall waking up on the first day of lockdown and hearing nature outside – something that had previously been drowned out by the noise of traffic and life. I was able to connect with my close friend and running neighbour, Rae, who encouraged me to come out for a walk with her, and this was when it all started!

I started to join her walking Coco the Jack Russel. Soon, our regular walks turned into her suggestion that we complete the End to End Challenge together which involves walking or running 874 miles from Lands’ End to John O Groats virtually, in less than a year. That’s 2.4 miles per day!? On one hand impossible… yet on reflection… achievable? So, we signed up!

I’d never done anything like this before – it’s encouraging to raise money for charity while getting active with a friend. I felt that it was important for me to share my goal publicly with friends and family – the accountability would spur me on. The trouble was… I got bored of walking! I wanted to give running a try. Rae was important in helping me to start; sharing lots of tips, ideas and local routes.

Three runs, four walks

I already had the Couch to 5k app on my phone yet I’d never quite made it stick longer than two or three weeks. I tried it again, and with the long-term goal of 874 miles and the support of my friend – it started to become a habit and I never missed a session. It’s three days running per week, I chose Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays, and on alternating days I would go for a walk.

Before I knew it, I was doing three runs and four walks per week, it became my norm, and suddenly I was at week five of the programme. This was a challenging moment as your virtual coach asks you to run for 20 minutes which sounded daunting!

I’m a plodder! Headphones on, I kept on plodding; didn’t think about it, just did it, and the more I plodded, the easier it became!

As lockdown eased, I joined the all-female group, Bournemouth Joggers who started small socially distanced running groups which was encouraging. I'd committed to making that target of 874 miles happen, and I’m half-way there now! I’m going to try parkrun when that restarts.

I've changed my life

Reflecting back, I spent my younger years outside in nature, but through work and life, I became an indoors person. That’s changing now. “Look at you, going out for a run in the pouring rain!” said Rae one morning recently! It feels good to regularly move away from my computer screen. Lockdown’s been a really important time for me to get my life back. I’ve even started reading books after a couple of decades of not reading, which led to me start a virtual book club, and we are now on book five!

I’m getting to that age when I noticed that I was in pain getting up in the mornings. I had joint pain in one of my knees and back. Now with the running, that’s changed; I’m flexible and in less pain. By taking an hour out for me every day, it feels like I’m reversing the ageing process. I’m optimistic that’s going to stand me in good stead for the future.

Rae was with me when I ran my first 5km

Big smiles, lots of congratulations from friends and family – and the biggest achievement was the confidence boost.

Achieving C25K was a major milestone for me that came with the added bonus of new friends. I AM a runner!

Just do it!

To anyone thinking about giving C25K a try, I would say just do it! If you’re like me and you haven’t run for more than five minutes in more than four decades, just listen to your coach on the app and do what you’re told! You get to choose from one of four coaches, I chose Michael Johnson – his no-nonsense, straight-talk coaching kept me moving. The barrier to overcome isn’t actually your body or lungs, it’s your mind. Believe that you can do it, because you can!”

Jo was one of the million people who used couch to 5k during lockdown. Designed for people who have done little or no running, the app provides guided commentary from a coach of your choice, a plan and a way to track your progress. Give it a try?

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Running the length of the UK End to End - Find out about Jo Dakin's one year charity run for the Trussell Trust.

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How does this work?

The tailored approach LiveWell Dorset uses to come up with solutions to the things that are stopping us achieving our goals, is based upon work done by University College London developing the COM-B model of behaviour change. In this model, all behaviour is influenced by understanding a person’s capability to change, their opportunity to change and their motivation to change. By understanding which of these is the biggest barrier to change, we can tailor support accordingly. This model of behaviour change is at the centre of the support we offer, online and in person.

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