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Couch potato to Jog Leader: how sport has changed my life

June 16th, 2015

by Paul Traynor

Sport – and particularly running – is an integral part of my identity and who I want to be. I spend a lot of time thinking about sport, planning for it and when I am not able to take part, I miss it. I am a Glasgow FrontRunner Jog Leader, cyclist, hill walker, swimmer and all-around fitness enthusiast. People may presume that I have had a lifelong passion for fitness, but actually my relationship with sport is one that has only really developed over the last few years.

I had many fitness influences growing up: my Dad ran numerous marathons; my Mum was a gym enthusiast and hill walker; and my sister had a natural flair for karate. But for me, as a person who has never been very confident in group situations, I couldn’t think of much worse than being involved in sporting activities. I was an avid horse rider and member of my local horse-riding school for a number of years but adolescent bullying resulted in me giving this up and to date I have never truly embarked again in this once-loved hobby. The easily accessible sporting activities deemed socially acceptable by my peers were grounded in hyper-masculinity which filled me with dread. I also showed little talent for these types of sporting activities. I thus successfully managed to have a non-existent relationship with sport for many years.

A few years ago I had my pivotal Bridget Jones moment. I remember one morning standing on weighing scales, fussy head from the night before, my stomach still churning from takeaway food, taste of cigarettes lingering in my mouth and realising that I was a little overweight. Looking in the mirror, I realised that I had to make changes in my life.

I would really like to say that after my epiphany I found Glasgow FrontRunners and that’s the end of my story. But the truth is that I knew about Glasgow FrontRunners for a while before I joined. My own fear of thinking that it was a club for elitist runners and I would go and not be able to run for more than 30 seconds, which would ultimately have a horrific and embarrassing ending, was enough to put me off. But shortly after my Bridget moment, I was chatting about setting fitness and diet goals to some friends. Then one friend asked me to join them to try out Glasgow Frontrunners which I reluctantly agreed to. I would also like to say that I felt an immediate connection to running – but for me this relationship took time to mature.

I eventually got to the stage where I could comfortably jog 5K, then I plateaued here for some time, mainly because I thought better the devil you know and I still wasn’t quite devoted to running yet. But then I started to set myself personal challenges, signing up for races and charity obstacle courses, and these focused me into taking my fitness and diet much more seriously and it was through this that my appreciation and love for sport started to truly blossom.

I then set myself new personal goals and challenges. One of these was to become a Glasgow FrontRunner Jog Leader and to help those, who like me, started with little confidence in their running ability. Glasgow FrontRunners is club for everyone and for all abilities. I want to help others reach their personal goals. As a Jog Leader I like to take an active role in the developmental programmes such as Couch to 5K and 10K to Half Marathon. I find it extremely rewarding to help others progress and meet their own personal goals; knowing that I played even the smallest part on their journey is so gratifying.

I have never experienced any regret after completing a run (sometimes during, but never after). I still have my own weaknesses; my diet isn’t perfect. Going back to Bridget, like her I also have a love of ice cream, but all those runs and exercise sessions allow me to feel ok about this indulgence. As a result of sport, I am a more confident person overall and it has benefitted me personally in so many ways. In the last few years during my journey of sport my life has completely changed. I have lost weight, I’m a much healthier person and I reached personal targets, as well as smashing some aspirational ones too. I have met new friends at Glasgow FrontRunners and found my love of (and slight addiction to) running and sport.

Paul Traynor