Matt Heath: Four ways to make getting fit good fun

Publish Date
Monday, 21 January 2019, 9:50AM
NZ Herald

NZ Herald

This is your year of physical and mental improvement. Don't let pathetically crappy ankles, calves, shins, feet, blubber guts and lack of any willpower stop you from reaching your fitness goals.

Everyone tries to sort their fatness and fitness from January 1. Many of us choose running as a way forward. Of course, about this time in January, it becomes clear you've failed again.

Don't feel bad. Failure is virtually assured. Scientists estimate 99 per cent of Kiwis return to work larger and more unfit than when they left for their holidays.

Luckily the year is still young.

Like everyone else, I failed again. But I wasn't lazy. I was just stupid. I hit the streets too hard.

Started with a 3km run New Year's Day, by January 5 I was up to 4.5km. On top of the world. The Hamish Bond of running. Day 6 I got crippling blisters, couldn't walk for the rest of the day, so I bandaged my feet and ran 4.7km. This time I blew my left shin and right calf.

Took a forced break and three days later halfway up the back tracks of Mt Eden, strained an achilles. Add that to the blisters, calf muscles and splints and we had a season-ender on our hands. Luckily Spark and TVNZ sports commentator Scotty J Stevenson found me and carried me back to his place. Took to me with a bottle of vodka. I'm convinced rolling that freezing cold bad boy up and down the back of my leg saved me from permanent damage. What a great New Zealander.

My New Year's fitness regime was over before it started. Instead of losing 10kg I've put on 5. However, I still believe running is the greatest and/or cheapest form of fitness. So how should a dangerously unfit, overweight, piece of trash have started? I asked the man who ran five marathons in five days and author of the number one bestselling Running a Love Story, Dom Harvey for some tips.

1 Don't be a skinflint

Yes, you could go and start running in your old pair of Slazenger touch rugby shoes from the 1990s ... but why risk it? Running is so cheap, the only real expense is the shoes, so go to an expert shoe shop and spend the money to get the right ones for your feet.

2 The walk-run

Bill English was widely but unfairly mocked when he shared this technique on Instagram. But he was right. Run for 2 minutes, then walk for 3 and repeat as many times as you can. As you get stronger ideally you'll do more running and less walking. Eventually you won't need to walk at all.

3 Feel an injury coming on? Back off

There is a saying "no pain, no gain" and some of that is true - your lungs will burn and your whole body will probably ache, not just your legs. That is normal and you can run through all of that. What you shouldn't ignore are actual injuries. If you have achy shins, knees, hips etc, take a few days off, then try again. You want running to be part of your life forever so a week off won't hurt.

4 Do it for your brain

Running is fantastic for fitness and weight loss. And I promise you it does get easier and eventually becomes enjoyable! But one of the big surprises about running is just how good it is for your mental health. Some people talk of a thing called runner's high. For me, the runner's high comes after the actual run. So it's more like a high from stopping running. The mental clarity and sense of wellbeing after a run is incredible. And the tougher the run was, the better you feel afterwards. And if you run solo, the time alone is a great way to solve whatever you have going on in your head.

If only I'd sought Dom's advice earlier, things could have been different. Luckily you are not me. Your life is still ahead of you. Everyone fails their New Year's fitness attempts so why not start late Jan? Start today. But do it smart. Get some good shoes, start off easy and take days off when you get sore. If my humiliating injuries motivate a single Kiwi to ease themselves into a year of life-changing fitness it won't help me at all. But it'd be really great for you.

This article was first published on and is republished here with permission.