By Sophie Vassiliou, OPEN Media UK.

National Fitness Day is a chance to highlight the role physical activity plays in our lives. To raise awareness of its importance and benefits which help us to lead a healthier lifestyle.

When I reflect on my childhood, I was always selected for the district sports athletic events, I was part of my school and local netball teams and also joined the local athletics track. I enjoyed playing sports, I loved the competitiveness and being part of a team but as I entered my late teens my passion deteriorated. I started to swap weekend Netball tournaments for socialising with friends and had to dedicate time to studying for my GCSE’s. My Dad was slightly heartbroken as he loved watching me compete against the best Netball teams in the UK or watching me beat my PB. His passion was certainly being relived through his daughter.

As my interest in sport grinded to a holt and other priorities entered my life, my Dad’s passion for Athletics remained. As I entered my twenties, I graduated from university and started working in the Out of Home industry. Work was intense and I used to come home stressed and exhausted. I would often get home, slump on the sofa and dig into unhealthy snacks. My Dad would also be home after his working day, yet he found the energy to go to the athletics’ track and complete a 2-hour training session. I felt inspired by my Dad and asked him how he would find the energy to train after such a long and tiring day at work. He would explain that it made him feel relaxed and destressed.

This sounded great and just what I needed in my life. This is where my love for running began! I started to go for jogs after work, building up the miles eventually and I even started to pick up the pace. I joined the local park run events and even began to get my competitive streak back. My lifestyle had transformed, and my days felt easier. Until now I run at least 4 times a week, completing my exercise in the morning makes me feel energized and ready to take on the day.

In 2019 I built up the courage to put myself forward for the London Marathon. This was probably the biggest challenge I had ever faced in my life. My Dad was so supportive of me, he created a weekly training plan to get me prepped for the big day. The training was intense, one of the hardest things my mind & body have ever endured. I can proudly say that I finished the London Marathon in 4hr 7 mins (let’s not forget those excruciating 7 minutes). Since that day I tell myself if I can complete a Marathon, I can put my mind to anything!

On National Fitness Day I am grateful for the benefits that exercise has added to my lifestyle. If today is the day that you take the plunge to do that run, complete that HIIT Class or walk to the station instead of getting the bus, then please feel proud of yourself. Exercise is a celebration of what your body can do!

  • Walk whenever you can – try to take the stairs rather than the lift.
  • Schedule it in – for most people, if something isn’t in their calendar then it doesn’t exist. Figure out a time slot that works for you and pencil it in.
  • Make it non-negotiable – Treat exercise as your time, act as if it’s an appointment that cannot be rearranged. This will help you to commit so that it becomes part of your life.
  • Choose the right time – be realistic and find out what time works for you! Are you a morning person, a lunchtime person or an evening person?
  • Set realistic expectations – start smaller, with 2-3 workouts a week and build it up from there. How long is comfortable for you to exercise for? Being too ambitious to start with will only make you feel disappointed if you can’t make it.
  • Do it with Friends – Don’t underestimate the power of community. Friends help push you and keep you motivated. They are also someone to be accountable to. It makes it harder to come up with excuses not to workout.
  • Invest in a fitness tracker – Fitness trackers can motivate you to boost your movement and track your progress.

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