Running has always been a central element of my training

I love the freedom of it and how you can flush through fresh air anywhere around the world. I use it for mountaineering training, walking the dogs and shaping up. I don’t feel honestly fit unless I can run my usual circuit comfortably.

My love of fitness

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Dancing was my first love and it was inserted into my life between my very active family of runners and mountaineers. Having a rounded athletic background wasn’t applauded at my full time ballet school (risk of developing unsightly muscles, injury and poor posture) but I’d risk it all to avoid becoming a single-minded one track dancer.

Turning the negative to the positive

Then a skiing accident put an end to the pirouettes. However it was thanks to this (and fine knee reconstruction surgery) that I ultimately moved into the world of fitness competitions and won four UK fitness titles. Being gym bound for a year rehabbing and then pushing on and on, meant I worked on muscles and gymnastic moves that didn’t twang my knee and off I trotted on the UK and world circuit. Track training was part of this. Drills and short distance blasts that left me with the taste of blood in my mouth whilst gasping the Bracknell air soon taught me to run; strides felt smooth, light and pleasant.

Heading off on new adventures

Once I’d hung up my spangly bikinis from fitness comps (I certainly didn’t miss those things!), I set off for expeditions and adventure races. For these we’d be away for days with heavy pack backs in hostile environments, Alpine, jungles or just the Highlands with zero visibility. The all round skill and fitness was vital or you’d be left behind in somewhere like the South China sea! Navigation, toleration, teamwork, along with boat and land skills meant very wide training. We got tips from the Special Services or The Brownies, as my team mate would say. The dynamics were fascinating.

Taking it easy

After such lengthy races (as long as 10 days with 2hours sleep a day!) I promised myself an easy life of dog walks and home cooking. I left that behind me and married a musician who knew as much about competitions as I did compositions. We had our son Oscar and moved to Switzerland. He was a caesarian section and I paced rehab well to be sure of a fine future for my body. I filmed fitness and ballet workout DVDs and climbed mountains for pleasure and for my dear father, who died around this time.

With fine alpine hills around our home, I got into hill sprints

This training tied in neatly with family life and I didn’t miss a breast feed or nappy change. I love the way sprints are short, explosive and effective. They don’t load the joints like flat sprints and you can’t over train with them – you walk or roll back down the hill! running for health_2 I get fitter from a few minutes of hill sprints than any lengthy endurance activity, only without repetitive strain injuries and with both spirit and pelvis intact. Heartbreak was to follow with my second baby, Edward. He died at birth, perfectly healthy.

My world fell apart

For all the adversity that I thought expeditions and injury had taught me, for all the tears I wept over my wonderful father, this was a new league of pain and desolation. On top of this I had to recover from a ruptured womb and another caesarian… and no Edward to make the surgery worthwhile. All my beliefs in health and fitness had been turned on their head, what good was all that fitness, action, activity and training – when I needed my body to do ‘its thing’ efficiently and effectively – something that really mattered – it ended in catastrophe. The only way forward was to grow and give more so I traded fragility for fortitude. I felt well supported, in my mind Edward was my angel and force. And my four year-old Oscar was an absolute rock and positive force of nature.

Nature proved to be my comfort

In the early weeks just a few stairs or walking the dog was more than enough. But being in nature propped me up for all the simple miracles it brings, it became my training ground again. Within three months I was back motivating others with outdoor classes, running in the woods; it was a very successful group, I think they felt, ‘If she can do it, I’ve got no excuse!’ I always stress the value in short sharp exercise and all my groups become hill sprint demons through our Alpine terrain. Despite the woes we have behind us, we always come out from the forest with a lifted soul. There’s something special about cutting through the air with your feet just lightly touching the ground.

Focused and motivated

Shortly after this I was back filming two more workout DVDs, one for ballet and the other focussed on back care. An audience can be unforgiving when you’re on the screen, so I always shape up to a serious degree and train with the exercises that I’m show casing in the DVDs. This means the DVD is an authentic presentation. But when it comes down to it, the simple act of lacing up the trainers and getting out for a run is such a perfectly natural and elemental thing to do. I know that running has helped restore my body and mind more than once. Whilst fitness has its trends and changes, running remains untouched by the whims of the industry. That’s its beauty. Connect with Expert Joey Bull

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