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  • Jenia Ratcliffe

How running saved my life

Natasha Leslie took up running to get fit and healthy for her children.

"It's the easiest thing in the world. All you've got to do is put one foot in front of the other. That's it," Natasha Leslie says.

Like walking, running can be done anywhere, anytime.

You can run on your own or in sweaty packs, or combine it with swimming and cycling to compete in a triathlon.

However, if you've never been a runner, approach this activity with caution; it has the reputation for being highly addictive, as Natasha has discovered.

Her road to running glory, which began six years ago when she was in her mid-20s, had a rocky start.

"Exercise was abnormal to me and I grew up with my mum and dad not participating in sports," she says.

"My ex-husband left so I went into a bit of a depression and drank quite a bit.

"I knew obviously that's not what I wanted my girls [her daughters] to see as they were growing up."

Natasha, who lives in Karratha, in Western Australia, was aware of the incidence of preventable disease in her community, and was motivated to be healthy for her daughters.

She began by running 50 metres at a time and admits it was difficult at first.

She often struggled getting a breath but persevered, and in 2017 she qualified for Rob de Castella's Indigenous Marathon Foundation squad for the New York Marathon.

"It's changed my life completely, going from being a very lost young woman who completely didn't know where my life was going," Natasha says.

"I had three children I needed to raise by myself, no family support. That program and running has honestly saved my life.

"It's what I do every day still. If I'm upset or stressed or even just having a good day, I go for a run."

Natasha says she's not only learnt resilience through running, she's also met some of her best friends while pounding the roads.

"The running community is great and the support we get from other runners is incredible," Natasha says.

She runs early in the morning to beat the heat and says her body and mind are feeling the benefits of her running six days a week.

"Definitely take it slow [when] you're starting out. You don't want to burn yourself out and then hate the sport," she advises.

"It definitely comes down to consistency; consistency is key.

"It's going to be hard at the start but having that consistency, you do see improvements.

"And that's when people feel better mentally and physically, and then you just want to keep going back."

Is running for you?

You can do it anywhere, as long as you have your shoes with you.

It can be a very social activity, or you can run alone; it's entirely up to you.

If you're not sure, why not try parkrun, a free five-kilometre timed and family-friendly event held every Saturday morning in locations around Australia?

If you need motivation, there are many events held around the country — and internationally — every year.

Benefits of running:

  • Cardiovascular fitness and endurance

  • Stronger bones

  • Improved leg strength

  • Making new and supportive friends who share your passion

Equipment needed for running:

  • Invest in a pair of running shoes that suit the shape of your foot. Aches and pains, particularly to the feet, knees and back, can be caused by wearing the wrong shoe.

  • You'll need running clothes that won't chafe.

  • If you're running in the dark you'll need a light, and a hat and sunscreen in the daylight.

Common running injuries:

  • Hip and thigh injuries — inflammation and tears in areas like the hip joint and the iliotibial band that runs down the outside of your legs from your hip to your knee. This band can also tighten with overuse, which can cause discomfort. Regular iliotibial stretches are recommended.

  • Knee injuries — irritation or inflammation in the kneecap (runner's knee), or the knee joint.

  • Lower leg injuries — shin splints and ankle sprains.

  • Feet injuries — pain in the heel and arch of the foot caused by inflammation.

Article from ABC Life

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