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‘Running helps when I’m feeling blue’ - Mum’s garden runs ease strain of lockdown

PUBLISHED: 19:00 28 April 2020

Alex Oliver is taking part in Couch to 5K as part of Keep Moving Suffolk Picture: ALEX OLIVER

Alex Oliver is taking part in Couch to 5K as part of Keep Moving Suffolk Picture: ALEX OLIVER

Alex Oliver

Ipswich mum Alex Oliver has told how running near home can help both physical and mental health during lockdown.

Alex Oliver, who is taking part in Couch to 5K, with husband Justin and sons James, five, and Jacob, nine Picture: ALEX OLIVERAlex Oliver, who is taking part in Couch to 5K, with husband Justin and sons James, five, and Jacob, nine Picture: ALEX OLIVER

Alex, who lives near Ipswich Hospital, battled an eating disorder as a teenager, and is a strong believer in the power of exercise.

She is supporting the #KeepMovingSuffolk initiative to promote exercise during the coronavirus pandemic.

Together with husband Justin, she is taking part in the NHS Couch to 5K programme, which is designed to help beginners gradually work up towards running 5K in just nine weeks.

The 31-year-old is a previous half marathon runner, but admits she “fell out of love” with running and took little exercise for a year.

“Helping my husband with his Couch to 5K journey has started to ignite the spark again,” she said.

“I forgot how well running helps when I’m feeling blue, to give me a boost of happiness.

Children can join in with garden runs

“We run up and down the garden. The aim is to do it three times a week, and we run about 1.1 miles at a time, so it’s a nice little workout.”

Running in the garden for Couch to 5K, as part of Keep Moving Suffolk Picture: ALEX OLIVERRunning in the garden for Couch to 5K, as part of Keep Moving Suffolk Picture: ALEX OLIVER

Their two young sons, Jacob, nine, and James, five, are also joining in many of the garden runs.

Jacob was not very keen at first, but Alex said: “He actually wanted to come out and run with us this morning. He says he is going to join us from now on for his PE lesson, as he wants to change from doing Joe Wicks for a bit!”

Alex works in shipping, doing import entries, and, like many people, is currently based at home during the coronavirus lockdown.

That has given her the opportunity to do regular garden runs with Justin, who is currently a “house husband”, and is also home schooling their two boys during lockdown.

“Justin had tried Couch to 5K before, but found it hard to get past week two,” she said. “When this whole coronavirus situation started, he said he wanted to do it again, to improve his fitness, and I said, let’s do it together.

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“I wanted him to feel he could do it. I had the experience, but I knew my fitness level had really dropped after not doing much exercise.”

Alex battled an eating disorder when she was at high school in Felixstowe, which she said was brought on by bullying. “I was never diagnosed, but I had a sort of bulimia and struggled with that during high school,” she said.

READ MORE - Mum who battled depression uses exercise in lockdown

She recovered after getting away from the bullying environment and said: “I am lucky that I’ve never relapsed.”

However, she is aware that people may experience a whole range of mental health issues during lockdown.

“I think that people who have previously had struggles with mental health will find it even harder, but other people will also have these thoughts and not know how to process them,” Alex said.

Alex is an ambassador for the Suffolk branch of This Girl Can, which aims to break down barriers that stop women and girls being active.

She completed the Great East Run in Ipswich in 2018, running for Mind, the mental health charity, and took part in the Ipswich Twilight 5K and Mind’s January RED fitness challenge the same year.

“But in 2019 I fell out of love with running,” she said. “I think what happened was, after finishing the half marathon, I thought it was a really big achievement and I deserved a break.

“Then it was Christmas, and I did go out for a run in the new year, but didn’t get going - probably it was a combination of not doing it for a long time, and also I had always run with other people, and they had stopped running.”

Alex tried to find another type of exercise she enjoyed, but found that yoga and boxing fitness were not really for her. She is now very glad to be running again, and wants to encourage others to give it a try, through ideas such as Couch to 5K. “Running makes me feel so happy and gives me a real boost,” she said.

Support the #KeepMovingSuffolk campaign

Many families across Suffolk are using exercise to help themselves keep fit and healthy during the coronavirus lockdown.

Suffolk County Council has launched the Keep Moving Suffolk campaign to help people keep active and ensure they continue to exercise.

Its aim is to inspire and encourage people to stay active, move or move more, by sharing ideas, tips, useful links and positive stories during these unprecedented times.

You can follow the council’s campaign on Twitter @Most_Active, on Instagram @keepmovingsuffolk and Facebook and use the #KeepMovingSuffolk hashtag to share how you are keeping fit.


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