While recovering from a series of injuries accumulated from cycling, our February Body Leader of the Month discovered parkrun. Since his friend introduced him, Gareth was sold on the parkrun concept and has been an avid campaigner for the benefits that parkrun brings to the local community. Gareth is now the National Operations Manager for parkrun Australia and was the founding Event Director of both New Farm and South Bank parkruns. Like a lot of parkrunners, Gareth is relatively new to running but has learnt to understand his body to ensure he can keep turning up every week to improve his 5km time. Paul recently caught up with Gareth to discuss what he does as a body leader.
Q1. What inspired you to initially start looking after your body?
In a moment of weakness, I got roped into going mountain biking with a group of friends. I really loved the ride but after what seemed like a near death experience, I decided I needed to get fitter. They were a great group of guys to ride with, but I really didn't want any of them giving me mouth to mouth!
Q2. What do you currently do to look after your body?
I still ride when I can but running seems to dominate most of my training sessions these days. I also include some strength training at least once a week, swimming training on the odd occasion and, not really sure if it qualifies as looking after my body, but I also play mixed netball once a week. Basically I do something physically active every day and try to stretch at least once a day.
Q3. What motivates you to continue being proactive with your body?
I really enjoy being physically fit and being able to take on most challenges thrown at me. I have a group of friends that I have met at parkrun that are around the same fitness level and we all spur each other along. If I miss a run due to injury or laziness I really feel like I am getting left behind. On the converse, if it is cold dark and rainy outside and I am the only one out training, I feel like I am getting ahead.
Q4. What is your favourite form of exercise?
I really love jogging with my dog Elvis. He is a 45kg Rottweiler who, like most dogs, loves getting out and about in the great outdoors. He gets so excited when I strap on my shoes and for the first km or so he is pulling on the lead. We live in a hilly area so after his initial burst of energy and excitement is gone, I usually end up out in front and dragging him along.
Q5. What is your top health tip?
You are never too old or unfit to start, so just start! I meet some incredible people through parkrun and I really love watching them build up their fitness, improve their health and most importantly, realise their potential through self belief and achieving goals. Case in point is a parkrunner who at 80(ish) decided he was going to run a marathon, having never run more than a couple of km's at a time. He turns up each week and after a couple of months is now able to run almost all of the 5km distance. Obviously he has a fair way to go to get to marathon distance but he is definitely well on his way. Also, I think for people starting out it can be discouraging if you judge yourself against more seasoned athletes. The most important thing is to look to improve yourself. So, stop comparing yourself to other people and start competing against your own performance. You may even surprise yourself.
Q6. How do you know when your body is asking for help?
I am fairly soft when it comes to pain tolerance so I struggle to ignore any aches and pains. If it hurts, listen to what your body is trying to tell you. If you have an acute injury, treat it before it becomes a chronic problem. Your body will thank you for it.
Q7. What strategies do you find work best for you?
I am really good at talking myself out of doing exercise, so while I am running through all the reasons in my head of why I shouldn't exercise, I am getting dressed and putting on my shoes. Once the shoes are on, I am committed. Also, having someone to train with definitely helps and making an appointment to meet them for a workout will make sure I don't pike. I have also recently started stretching a lot which has really helped shorten my recovery time between sessions. I find that stretching really reduces the post exercise aches and pains and makes sure I am ready for the next session.
Q8. What is your greatest physical achievement?
While not strictly exercise, I recently undertook a massive landscaping project in my back yard. I live on the side of a steep hill and unfortunately there is no access for machinery down to the back yard. On top of the actual construction and excavation components, I had to cart everything in by hand, including massive amount of sleepers, concrete, soils, aggregates, the works! The project took me several months to complete and almost broke me both physically and mentally but looking back on it now (as I sit on the back deck with a beer in my hard) it was my greatest physical achievement to date.
Q9. What is your goal for the future of your body?
Because of my involvement with parkrun, my main goals at the moment are centred on improving my 5km time. I am by no stretch of the imagination a fast runner but when I first started running, it use to take me around 35 minutes to complete 5kms. I now consistently run it in around 29 minutes and my ultimate goal is to run 5kms in something starting with 25 (25:59 counts!). Parkrun aside, the goal for the future of my body is to keep physically active and injury free for many years to come.
Q10. What is your definition of a Body Leader?
My definition of a body leader is someone who looks after the mental as much as the physical and has a well rounded and holistic approach to health.
We'd like to thank Gareth for his time and providing us with an insight into what he does as a body leader. You can also find out more information about parkrun here. Keep an eye out for our next body leader it could be you!