Lockdown unleashed a new community of fitness fanatics. Our 1 hour-a-day allowance encouraged people out that hadn’t ventured before. Everyone knows that being physically fit will benefit your physical health, and most people are aware of the mental health benefits, but not everyone does something about it. I’ve always been into sport. From playschool, I was keen to win the sack race and the egg and spoon, but the running race was where it became serious. P.E and drama were my favourite times of the week. This continued throughout teenage years and has followed me into my adult life.
There was a time in my 20’s where parties took over, I lost my direction, and although I did some travelling, I could even go as far as to say, I lost myself completely for a few years. Things got dark and I began to feel very low about myself. It took a move to Cork, to remove myself from the hamster wheel I was in and jump back into motivation. Travelling to India and Nepal for 6 months breathed life back into me again after being consumed by a cult-like direct sales pyramid, in cork. It let me look back from an outside view, as to what I had been up to the last few years. I made a conscious decision to get back to what my soul needed – to be creative – delving into the artistic world of Limerick, poetry joined me with writing humorous song re-writes, and I started to exercise again. I had been running during low times of unemployment, during the party days, and that was the only thing that kept me sane, but back to Limerick after travelling, I began to launch into fitness in a more intense way. I joined a gym which enabled me to run twice a week, swim 3 times a week and 2 Pilates classes a week. This was all great; my body discovered muscles I didn’t know I had, and I left the gym every weekday feeling exhilarated. The problem was, it was eating into my rent money, consuming two and a half hours of my day, and because I was swimming for one and a half hours, full on each time, my upper body had started to look very masculine, and my creative needs had not been met.
Getting a puppy and discovering improvised comedy was a good solution to the problem. I left the gym and took to walking, until our incredible boxer, Roxanne, the love of my life, was old enough to run with me. Unfortunately, I only had 7 years with her in my life, but she was the best training partner I’d ever had. Her companion, Piglet, in the form of a French Bulldog X Boston Terrier has done quite an amazing job keeping up with me, considering her breed are not used to running. Up until recently, she was running 6 miles, no bother, age 11. I’ve had to revert to taking her separately now or collecting her in the latter part of a big run, and doing ‘piggy loops’ back for her, as she’s more interested in sniffing now. Her 9-year-old son Bert is still raring to go. There’s no doubt, whatever the weather, dogs keep you motivated to go out there and do it, where you may ordinarily not have done.
When I reluctantly agreed to grow up, after a lot of “what age are we going to be?!” conversation with my boyfriend, children came onto the scene and threw a spanner in the works for fitness. Having an emergency C-section with my daughter meant no running for at least two months, then breast feeding told me I couldn’t exercise to the extent I wanted to due to milk supply going down. The logistics of having a baby and trying to exercise is a science. I invested in a ‘running buggy’ and this became my new portable gym. People seeing us running as a couple, would throw my boyfriend dirty looks and we’d often hear the comment from passers-by “make him push it!!” Didn’t they know? This buggy was my saviour and no one else was going to push it!
Being pregnant again put another spin on my limits. I knew though that I would be ok to run as I had already been doing it, but I knew our time was now limited on how long I could let my daughter be pushed – 9 months of pregnancy in fact, until the new one took her place! The challenge was on. Could we train our daughter to be able to cycle a bike with no stabilizers at the age of 3? With the aid of a balance bike and research into the right pedal bike, we could, and we did. The sight of a couple, running, the pregnant woman pushing a buggy, and a boxer and a French bulldog X running behind – we were a right circus. When merlin was born, it was more of a scene, when he took his turn in the buggy and Tierney was cycling along with us on her tiny bike. Getting on a bus in Limerick, the bus driver said “aren’t you the one with the..” (he motioned pushing a buggy) “and the dogs?”
I did the Limerick Half marathon pushing Tierney, then we moved onto the notion of Marathons. At this stage, exercise was definitely an addiction. You can say it’s not healthy, but I can think of worse things! We trained and did the Dublin marathon and Florence marathon – only 1 month apart. We booked them both without having ever done one. ouch! We weren’t nearly recovered enough to do a second that soon. The second problem with Florence was that we met my boyfriends’ cousin and friends to take part. To put it nicely – a bunch of lunatics! We met them on Friday and, to their insistent demand, went on a huge bender of a drinking session. Saturday came and we met for dinner and went on to drink into that night too. Sunday morning, the day of the marathon, you can imagine our state? Not pretty! Our 3rd marathon (also inspired by the same lunatic cousin) was booked in Bordeaux the following year – a fancy dress drinking marathon! Yes! you actually drink red wine as you run. 23 wine stations in fact throughout. It was all set, our costumes were bought, then disaster struck, and I had an ectopic pregnancy whilst we were on holiday in Spain. I didn’t even know I was pregnant. I had emergency surgery where they removed one ovary and a fallopian tube, and I discovered I had lost not one, but 2 babies. After we finally got back to Ireland, our marathon was scheduled for the following week. I couldn’t even walk, and there would be no running or even walking long distances for 2 months. Niall represented our part of the team – he finished it…just!
That was last year, and my fitness has taken a battering. I took on a knee injury when I returned to exercise, as my muscles had never had as long a break. Hormones played havoc after the op’ and I piled on weight I couldn’t get rid of. It’s been a slow journey to being able to do the frequency and distance I’m doing now which is 16k at the most. My sister says “do you really need to? Do you think you’re slightly obsessed?” am I obsessed? I tell her I’m not, as its quicker than saying yes, but maybe I am. Do I need to be? Defiantly yes! Exercise plays an important part of keeping my mental health in a good place, as well as hopefully keeping my body healthy. Many a ponder or worry has been thrashed out in my mind whilst running.
Does exercise play a major role in writing bespoke poetry? Without a doubt, it’s part of my creative process. When you send me a request for a wedding present, a personalised poem for a birthday gift, a bespoke card, or any personalised poem request – I put on some decent tunes and I start running. The endorphins that are released in my mind and body, activate the creative sparks, and usually, by the time I reach home, I’m inspired and fired up and ready to write.
I’m now looking into my kids starting MMA (mixed martial arts). I suddenly realised “hang on, I want to do this!” I rang the guy in the club I’m interested in – “I’m 40, am I too old?” his answer – “not at all, 40 is the new 30” I love this man!!