Camaraderie turns couch potatoes into winners
Camaraderie, accountability, flexibility — that is part of what makes Beat the Couch so successful. But the outcome of the ten-week beginners' running programme relies on the effort of its participants.
Last season's winners of the Corporate and Friends & Family cups weighed in on their experience as founder Catherine Burns prepared for the start of Season 11 this week.
Alison Dodd, executive assistant at XL Catlin, joined in Season 9 to challenge herself to run 5km.
She said peer pressure made her sign up a second time as part of the company's corporate team.
“It's the camaraderie as well,” she said. “If you don't have that, in my opinion, you don't do as well.
“We're all in the same boat. We're all starting from the same point; we're all doing the same thing.
“You suddenly become comfortable running with other people. Even though you're not running side by side and chatting, you're running as a whole.”
Come race day she felt excited.
“Excited to run and exhilarated that I had completed the course,” she recalled.
“It was very satisfying getting from ground zero to being able to complete a 5K.”
Ms Dodd said she would recommend the programme to anyone, especially those who worry they'll come in last.
“There's a lot of people at the back. You just grin and bear it and you come through it amazingly at the end. If you persist you can succeed.”
Her team-mate Somers Kempe ran a half-marathon five years ago.
“Before that, I had never really run at all — other than away from dogs and stuff like that,” he laughed.
He, too, said peer pressure drove him to try the 13 miles. Wife Megan Kempe, an underwriter at XL Catlin, told him he could not.
Once that was completed, he found it hard to continue.
“It was a good way to get back into it and it promotes a healthy lifestyle,” he said of Season 10. “I would tell people that if they are thinking about doing it just to do it. It'll be the best decision they make all year.”
Annette and Adrian Cook took home the Friends & Family cup.
“Somers was the rabbit that the rest of us were trying to chase,” said Mrs Cook, who first signed up in Season 8.
“I did not because I hate running,” her husband said. “Now I don't hate it.”
He found the “low-impact” introduction a good way to get into running and agreed to join in Season 10 to shed some excess weight. He was pleasantly surprised.
“Running was literally the last on the list; it was number 101 on a list of 10,” he said.
“My running progressed quite quickly, per the schedule, and I started losing a bit of weight.”
He continued after December's race but has since pulled back owing to injury.
“Perhaps this is a consequence of starting something at the age of 49, but the aches and pains really started kicking in,” he said.
He is hoping starting at the beginning again will remind him to follow the stretching and mobility practices demonstrated by “super supportive” trainers Sergio White, Sam Pardoe and Megan Hare.
Ms Burns agreed that the programme provides a much needed routine.
“I've been doing a lot of research about willpower,” she said.
“There are two things that we need for people to have more self-control — habit and a supportive environment.
“Beat the Couch really gives you the habit because you are accountable to turn up three times a week and, with everybody around you, it's super- supportive.”
Ninety out of the 105 people that signed up completed the programme.
Mrs Cook said the trainers are invaluable.
“When you're doing it on your own you have a tendency to take your hour, come home, have a shower, get to work. You haven't set the time aside to stretch,” she said.
“Stretching is probably as important, if not more important than the run.”
The company, too, is a great motivator.
“The great thing is meeting people,” she added.
“Not being a string bean and running, you feel like you're the only one that's not the string bean. When you join something like Beat the Couch you realise there are a lot of other bigger runners out there and it's great.”
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