As if to underscore how otherworldly my sister’s life in Dubai is, on my first night there she took me on a tour of her impossibly grand apartment building. Think gold-plated frontage and decorative urns, the lobby of a hotel and – on the building’s highest floors – a fitness suite and an outdoor swimming pool.
It’s such a lovely view that – for the first time in a long, long time – I got the urge for a go on the treadmill, although it wasn’t one I could follow through on as I’d neglected to bring any sensible footwear with me on holiday. And I found myself wondering: if I too had my own personal gym on the roof (I only ever saw one person in there whenever I popped my head around the door) would I finally be motivated to get some proper exercise? Would that finally kill off all of my excuses?
I think I mentioned before that all my ambitious plans to become a runner trickled off to nothing before the end of last year as my mental health and energy levels plummeted. Part of it was a question of, well, running before I could walk too: my personal fitness was so negligible that the couch to 5k 30 seconds walking, 30 second running approach was a bust from the start. This year, as part of my conscious effort to live more mindfully, I’ve pitched my daily exercise goals even lower so that I have no excuses for not sticking with them and, ultimately, building on them. With a good pair of trainers* and my Fitbit Flex* to hold me accountable, I’ve managed either 10,000 steps or 30 active minutes every day but one since the start of the year.
Truthfully, I don’t think I’m that cut out for the gym life. Treadmills are an efficient but sterile approximation of getting outside and getting moving, and I’ve noticed a big difference in my mental health since I started forcing myself to take extended walks after work because the relevant part of my Fitbit app hadn’t turned green yet. When I was a regular gym-goer I used to while away that half-hour slog on the treadmill with an episode of something or other on my iPhone screen little thinking that I was associating exercise with something to be endured, to be distracted from. I’ll still have a podcast or some music on when I’m walking, of course, but the wind on my face and even the rain steaming up my glasses make it an altogether different experience and one that feels more, well, real, if that makes sense.
And it turns out I’m not just making it up. Online sportswear retailer SportsShoes reports that 88% of “trail runners” find that outdoor activity helps them get rid of negative emotions. Trail running is, basically, running in natural environments, away from the overcrowding, traffic and noise that can interfere with the endorphin boost you get from exercise if you’re doing it on a treadmill or – as I tend to – in the middle of a city.
As well as stocking all the kit you need to get started (a selection of which they were good enough to send me to get me started on my trail walking/running journey), SportsShoes also hosts a trail running hub with tips to help you make the most of the outdoor environment – including what to take, how to improve and, perhaps most importantly of all, how to deal with the weather…
Given that the whole reason that my house was even built was to do with sport, I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by the perfect facilities for a healthy lifestyle. Glasgow’s newest and biggest council-run leisure centre is at the top of the road, while a self-contained woodland park – the perfect location in which to get off-road while still being close enough to home to be back in time for tea – is due to open in the spring. And by that time, if I stick to my small but consistent daily activity goal, I should be fit enough to properly take advantage of it.
If you fancy joining me, SportShoes are running a competition this month where you could win one of five sets of trail running kit. To enter, share a photo of your muddy trainers with them on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #MuddyTrainersCleanMind.
Are you a runner? Do you prefer to run indoors or outdoors – and do you have any tips for staying motivated when it’s cold, wet and/or dark outside?
DISCLAIMER: This post is a collaboration with SportsShoes, but all views are my own and unbiased. See my full disclosure policy.