Posted by: markhowell101 | September 12, 2010

The running man

If I could give one piece of advice to anyone entering the teaching profession it would be this, find something you can do on your own, which you love doing which will allow you to escape into another frame of mind completely removed from teaching. This is the story of why:

Before I started teaching I was reasonably fit and healthy playing 5-a-side football twice a week and surfing up to 3 or 4 times a week. Added to this was once a week snowboarding on the dry slope and the occasional holiday in the Alps walking and boarding. When I started teaching I found these hobbies impossible to maintain and quickly fell into quite an unhealthy state, initially losing a lot of weight (as a result of not eating enough because of stress) and then gaining lots. Throughout the majority of my training year stress was a real problem for me as I tried to adapt to a working environment which was very different to night shifts in a petrol station and 3 years of a student lifestyle. I found balancing work and a social life / girlfriend very difficult and could find no outlet to release pressure, often getting frustrated with housemates and the aforementioned girlfriend. This was difficult for all parties as it was very different from the relaxed version of me they had known for the 4 years previous.

A conversation with the head of maths at my second PGCE placement changed the way I dealt with stress, made me a better teacher and ultimately changed my life. He had been teaching in a tough school for 30 years and seemed to have a great manner about him which seemed to garner him respect from colleagues and students alike. I one day took him aside and asked what had got through him all the years and he revealed to me that he competed for Great Britain at veterans level in rowing. Every night after school he would get in his boat and just row off for an hour or 2. Without this, he suggested, his teaching career would of been over long ago due to stress.

Whilst I loved football, surfing and snowboarding none of these could be done regularly on my own, and especially not with moving to Northamptonshire, so I tried to find an outlet of my own. Having run sprints at county level in my youth and having a history of distance running in the family I decided to take up distance running. At first it started by trying to be able to run 5k and I would thoroughly recommend as a beginners way to get up to speed. I then competed in a 6 mile run and begun training for my first marathon in March, a year after I first took this up.

So now the bell goes at the end of school, I work at school until around 5, come home put the trainers on and go for a run before I start planning for the next day. I try to do 3 runs of between 3 and 7 miles 3 nights a week and then a long run on saturday morning but I often find myself doing more than this. With my iPod and trainers on I quickly forget about any negativity or stress from the day and by the time I get home I am more positive and ready for an hour or 2 planning. The benefit of running to me has been both psychological and physical as I am happier and fitter than I have ever been, a far cry from the stress and lack of health early on in training.

Being a competitive soul I have found that I love to try and beat my personal bests so I track every run (Runmeter for the iPhone is brilliant) and try to beat my best times over a range of distances. I have also enjoyed extending my saturday runs most weeks and regularly get over the 13 miles mark most Saturdays now, which means the Silverstone half marathon in March should be a piece of cake. And whilst the marathon I initially trained for didnt happen (knee injury set me back 3 weeks) I am confident that if my ballot for the London Marathon works out I should be good to run in that next May.

For anyone in a job like teaching which can consume you I would recommend running as the perfect escape. It is no exaggeration to say that it has changed my life dramatically for the better.


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