Monday, 14 March 2016

Running for mental health

More and more people are taking up running as a way not only of improving physical fitness but also enhancing mental well being.

As Spring is finally on the way it seemed like the perfect time to find out more about some keen runners we know through our local mental health charities plus some equally enthusiastic PAVO colleagues. 

I asked them to tell us about their running experiences, their local groups, and if they had any good tips for newbie runners.

Helen Worthington, (centre front in photo right) works in our Finance Department, and runs regularly with Tanat Trotters in North Powys. She says: "running gives me ‘ME’ time. What could be better than running outside in the fresh air in our lovely countryside? It really motivates me to do other things." 
Top tip for newbies: Little and often - try running between weekly class runs.

Claire Sterry, County Development Officer in our Llandrindod Wells office, says: 
"I've recently started in the walk-to-run group which gradually increases the amount of time you run, and lessens the amount of time you walk each week. At first I found it really tough, but going to a group (Just Move Llandrindod) really helps. By Week 7 at the group I had run 5k with a bit of walking too. I never thought I would be able to do that, but the encouragement and camaraderie really helps. I’ve even been out between sessions, and am noticing a real improvement in my fitness and recovery rate. I’ve even signed up for a 5k park run this month!"
Top tip for newbies: 
Going to a group helps to keep you motivated and get into a habit of doing it. Mid week runs also help to keep up momentum, and improve fitness.

Sarah Leyland-Jones is PAVO's Senior Officer Community Transport & Training, and also based in Llandrindod. She says: "Running clears my head of all the rubbish, gives me focus and entering events keeps me motivated. I never thought I could do it, now I’m a new leader at a local running group called Just Moves Walk to Run."
Top tip for newbies: Don’t give up, you really can do it, get yourself a running buddy, it really helps, especially on those days when you just don’t feel like it.

Sue Davies works for the PAVO Bookkeeping & Payroll Service in Llandrindod. She says: "I run as part of the Just Moves group mentioned by Sarah. It gives me a chance to get out with a group who all help one another stay motivated. It’s great to get away from the desk and clear your mind from work. I might not be the fastest or able to run far but it’s great fun."
Top tip for newbies: Running with a group helps you stay focused.

Summer running with the Tanat Trotters

Nicky Morris is the Manager at the mental health charity Ponthafren Association in North Powys. She is based in Newtown and says: 

If anyone had said to me 6 months ago that I could run 5k without stopping I would have said that they were lying and it was not an achievable goal. Even though I am not an unfit person, I didn’t have stamina or staying power. By attending the "So you think you can’t run?" group at Ponthafren in Newtown, facilitated by André Hutchinson, I can now run/jog 5k without stopping. One of the main things she has taught us is: 

The tips and tricks she has shared with us have been so valuable. Before when I went for a run I would start off far too fast. My posture and breathing were all wrong, and I would just burn myself out. I would also listen to my head saying that I was tired and needed to stop, rather than listening to my body, which could carry on for much longer than my head was telling me I could do. André shared a saying with us, which is very true:

Everything you've ever wanted is one step out of your comfort zone.
- Anonymous - 

She also gave us some practical tips on how we could ‘learn’ to run:
  1. Point your feet forward - use the whole of your leg to adjust if your feet splay out.
  2. Lift the crown of your head. Let your chin drop (imagine a balloon attached to your head).
  3. Bring shoulders directly over hips.
  4. When your posture is correct you should feel a light tension in your lower abdominals. Check for proper alignment by looking at your shoelaces.
  5. Practice the above on one leg at a time. Memorise this.
  6. Remember looseners before a run (or dynamic stretches) and dynamic and static stretches after a run. 

André's passion and enthusiasm for running have rubbed off on us all. She has made us believe we can achieve. Also, being part of a group, the peer support we give each other has been so positive. 

I still wouldn’t call myself a runner, but I have now upped my exercise by joining other activities and the gym, to ensure that I have a holistic approach to my wellbeing and this has come as a result of being part of this group. I feel much more confident in my abilities to achieve and can honestly say because of André's support and guidance mentally I am now stronger too and physically fitter.

We have just started a new beginners group every Thursday 5.45pm – 6.45pm alongside the group that is already running, as we want to continue to support people to achieve and believe in themselves. 

Jenny runs with the Ponthafren group and says:
 I never considered myself to be a runner. I still don't really! Due to work commitments (and life in general) I'd got out of the habit of regular exercise and never seemed to 'have time'. I've recently moved house which gave me the opportunity to join the running group at Ponthafren. There is a real mix of people which is a great social part of the group. The support from the others is so encouraging and everyone has improved so much since the first few weeks. Since starting to run with the group I now take myself (and the dog) out a couple of times a week on short runs. I find that running can be enjoyed on my own or with a group. For me, it is a chance to forget everything else for a while. Being out in the fresh air and the achievement of completing even a short run is fantastic and it makes me feel so much better in myself for doing it.

I've done a couple of 5 and 10k runs over the years, but a friend of mine asked me whether I would like to enter the Lake Vyrnwy half marathon. To start with I thought, this is a crazy idea and how would I ever get round? It's 13 miles! The more I thought about it, because I like a challenge, I convinced myself that I would be able to do it and it wouldn't matter if I didn't run all the way. It was actually finishing it that mattered. I did the training and doubted myself right up until three quarters of the way round! Well I did it. You couldn't really call it running, but a steady shuffle was a better description! I didn't stop. When I finished I was so pleased with myself at what I'd achieved and still can't quite believe I did do it.

But you don't have to run far to feel good. Running provides so many benefits for me, and it doesn't cost much - just a good pair of trainers is really all you need. Groups like Ponthafren and other places like the internet are able to provide so much good advice and guidance. Anything is possible.

Ponthafren Association's So you think you can't run? group
Thanks to everyone who contributed to our running blog post. Do you run? Tell us about your experiences in the comments box below.


  1. Really inspiring post. Exercise is something that can lift you out of yourself if you're having any kind of mild day-to-day issues- like we all do sometimes.

  2. Hi Anonymous

    Thanks for your comment. Great to get feedback on our posts! Yes, I'm more of a jogging gardener than a runner (I'm very impressed by my running colleagues), but I agree that exercise can really help.


  3. How amazing, inspirational and all those words that describe you lot. I have currently been involved in PAVO and have a keen interest in all issues relating to well being and befriending. Well done. I am both a professional, advocate and volunteer xx

    1. Hi Anonymous

      We really appreciate your comment, many thanks. I will make sure my PAVO colleagues, especially the running ones, pop in to the blog for a break from their exertions and take a look.

      All the best