Last year I attempted to take up running. Ugh. I hate myself for becoming one of those people. But I sit at my computer all day, I cannot go swimming because of a perforated ear drum (a whole other story), and I loathe gyms (they are where enthusiasm goes to die, leaving only vestiges of its presence to haunt you and make you feel even worse). So, the only method of staving off overly tight jeans and death at 35 was running.
I bought a cheap pair of jogging bottoms and a sports bra, which, by the way was one of the most painful and terrifying experiences of my life. Trying on sports bras is a form of torture; you get trapped with your arms tied in knots over your head and your lung capacity restricted. I tried on one that was too small, and got into such a contortion trying to escape that I actually managed to cut my face. That is how dangerous sports bra shopping is. Not the point though.
Considering how much I hated the idea of running, there was really no point spending a lot of money. My attempts were quite likely to fail, and anyway I couldn't afford to. As it happens, after 8 weeks of success, I did fail, but I began my efforts again in January this year.
Then, at the beginning of March, on the way out for a run, I looked in the mirror and realised I looked rough. My eight-year-old hoodie and now not so much black as dusty dark jogging bottoms no longer looked like exercise gear, they looked like crap. And I stopped running. Again.
So, in the face of a looming commitment to run a 5K in May (the things we agree to when we are having a good day...), I made the bold decision to invest in a decent running kit from Sweaty Betty. This might not seem particularly noteworthy, but let me explain why it is.
- Fact. For a good few years I had a run of crappy to slightly-less-crappy-but-still-nothing-to-write-home-about jobs. These, as I'm sure you know, don't pay all that well.
- Fact. As a result, up until now, when I buy anything expensive, it's because the old one has broken or has holes in. (Including those leather boots). Things have to wear out before I am allowed new ones.
- Fact. Six months ago I got an internship doing something that uses my brain and gets me excited. I worked bloody hard. Then it became a real, paying job. I continued to work my arse off. Then, last month, I got a pay rise.
This is not a small thing. This was the first time that, rather than covering the minimum and paying back debts, I would have money to simply spend. It was an amazing and incredibly liberating feeling. It was also an unnerving and overwhelming feeling.
I had never had the freedom to do more than buy the essentials before. For the first time, I wouldn't have to search for the cheapest option. It wasn't about subsistence anymore, it could be about indulgence. There were still boundaries, but there were less. After so many years of fiscal care this just felt unnatural. It was actually causing me stress (completely ridiculous) so, I made a plan. I would start at the beginning: by bettering my foundations.
Which is where we come back to my very exciting, deliberatly-not-cheap and lovely Sweaty Betty extravaganza. I need to run so as not to die. I need to run so that I have a body worth buying beautiful new clothes for. I'll be honest, I need to run so I don't wheeze going up the stairs. And now I'm running again because being able to walk past a mirror and think 'you look like a runner' doesn't half help motivate you to actually run.
And, in order to properly build my foundations, I also invested in my face. Yes my face. I have ridiculously sensitive skin. I have moved to Oxford where the water is hard. And since the winter is dragging on with its biting, cold, skin-aggrivating weather, I have been left looking less than my best. So I levelled up and went to the Clinique counter.
It's all rather neat really. I got a job that betters my mind. Now, that job is the very reason I can do better at bettering my body. Looking back, that's probably the best order to do things in.