One of my strongest childhood memories from school days was the humiliation of coming last in running races. Every single bloody time! And not just a little bit last, but a loooooong way last. Even though I was a bean pole of a kid, all skinny and gangly, my legs felt like lead. It was like running with a concrete building perched on top of me. I was not built for speed. That certainly didn’t change over the years! What I did learn to do was find a way to wangle sports days, and instead would head off down to the Condamine River, and there I would swim naked with the school boys who also fancied leaving the running to other people.
A couple of years ago, after having private laboratory testing for my adrenal and thyroid health, the report came back with the firm message: medically advised not to exercise. It was like a kick in the guts. I’d been carrying excess weight for a number of years that wouldn’t shift regardless of calorie restriction or exercise. Being told that exercise was injurious to my health was the last straw. I, being a determined Capricorn, continued to walk, and added weight-resistance exercises to my daily life. I kept cardio limited to walking and use of the recumbent bike and a little bit on the rowing machine. Over the past two years I’ve slowly built my body up and have learnt to become friends with it after feeling betrayed by it for so long. I took up swimming and aquafit classes, too, until swimming in water for several hours a week had a negative impact (chlorine is one of the worst things for the thyroid).
I have so often felt at my wits’ end, and the frustration of living a healthy lifestyle, but having a body which doesn’t reflect that, has many times left me questioning everything I’ve learnt about nutrition and health. It would be (and has, at times, been) too easy to fall into victim mode, but each day is a new day and I keep searching, exploring, and experiencing ways to be as healthy as possible.
One thing I have learnt is that stress of any description is a massive endocrine interrupter and is no one’s friend.
I’m not sure what inspired it really, maybe it was watching my friend Sara learn to run, but I got to the point of thinking: I have to do something radically different. I have to do something my body isn’t expecting or thinks it can do.
I found myself standing in the magazine section at the supermarket looking at publications of interest: Vegan Life, Gluten Free, Yoga, Gardening, Rural Landscapes, etc.
Women’s Running magazine sat there as if to say ‘why not?’ I laughed at the idea. Me, run? Don’t be stupid! Apart from having a body that doesn’t run: big (okay, huge) breasts, legs like lead, shoulders which have dislocated more than a dozen times, poor adrenal history, low thyroid; the magazine whispered something to me. I left it on the shelf.
Each week I’d pass the magazine section, and it would catch my eye. I wasn’t stupid enough to pick it up!
And then one day I noticed our local gym was going to start a Couch to 5k programme. Essentially you go from being a non-runner to learning to run 5kms over the space of about 9 weeks. I was on the verge of signing up. What stopped me? Was it because it was Winter and I was scared of slipping on ice? Yep, good reason not to do it! The last thing my shoulders need is for me to sleep up and cause more injuries to an already fragile body.
The REAL reason I didn’t sign up was actually because I thought my pelvic floor wouldn’t hold up. I’ve been on trampolines and rebounders, and figured running would have the same impact, and frankly, I didn’t fancy peeing my pants in public. So, I let go of the idea.
I felt like I’d let myself down, big time, but continued walking for half an hour on the treadmill (at 6kms an hour) several days a week, as a warm up to my weight-resistance work. Each day I could feel myself becoming stronger and faster.
Some months later, I googled C25k again. I read through the programme, and searched people’s success stories. What if I ran on my own, somewhere near home, where no one would see me? It was a Thursday, and I decided that come Monday I’d give it a go. I love Mondays, and knew it would be a good day of the week to start. However, the next day was a beautiful sunny Friday morning. I was out walking collecting feathers to use on an altar for a wedding I was due to officiate the following day. The Sun felt fabulous on my skin. I was alive, and happy with life, and suddenly the thought overwhelmed me: start C25k right now! And my legs moved. They moved! I looked at my watch and checked the time. And that’s how my first day of running started.
Saturn was conjunct my ascendant. I love Saturn. Most astrologers and students of astrology pass on the idea that it’s a malefic planet which brings no good. But I love Saturn. It’s the Wise Elder of the zodiacal system. Saturn, to me, is the Fairy Godmother dressed in Crone’s clothing. She teaches us about plans, goals, discipline, and just getting on with things. She is the Goddess of Responsibility, and when we embrace that life is a pleasure rather than a slap in the face. I adore how Saturn just gets on with it all, without a fuss, and makes things happen.
I’m now in week five of this programme (I had a week or so off between week 4 and 5 due to being away on work commitments) and am in absolute AWE at how I have adapted to life on two feet. My body wakes up and expects me to run, and the hardest thing for me at the moment is ensuring I have rest days in between so my muscles and heart have time to heal and process the increased work load. Yesterday I could have run twice. For someone who wasn’t a runner, I most definitely am one now. I am blessed to have had this transit of Saturn over my Sagittarius ascendant (Sadge rules thighs/upper legs). Every time I run, I tell myself: I am fit, I am healthy, I am strong, I have powerful legs.
I love the discipline of running: one foot after the other. Some days, the first part can feel like hard work, but by the end of the session my legs have loosened and warmed up.
The runner’s high is real, people! Running sets me up for the rest of the day. It’s like a happiness drug times ten. This past week Mars, the planet of drive, energy, passion and athleticism, has travelled over my ascendant, too. Bonus! All that extra high-octane energy pumping through my leg muscles. I feel ever so grateful for it.
Often by week five of the Couch to 5k programme, people are considering pulling out. But Mars has given me a boost, and I can really get a sense that in one month from now I’m going to be able to run FIVE kilometres without stopping. Just over a month ago, running for one minute was monumental, and frankly, I thought I might just die when my heart pounded so much. I’m barely aware of my heart now when I’m running.
I love to run in the mornings (the ascendant in our natal chart rules sunrise), and I get such a buzz being out the door while my family sleeps, and then watching the Sun rise over the hills.
There is a whole world in every step that I take: the breeze through the wheat fields; geese on high; birdsong; wildflowers in bloom; brambles, early morning mist shrouding the horizon, a red hot air balloon gracing the sky, hares bounding through the fields. Alone with my thoughts, I am creating not only a healthy and fit body, but a way of life in which I carve out some time for me where I am free of distractions. One step at a time.
My natal Saturn is in Aries (the athlete). For 48 years, I have felt held back in terms of body movement (I was expelled from ballet class aged five for not being able to touch my toes!!). And now, Saturn, that Goddess of time, aging, discipline and dedication, is showing me that: if you have a body, you’re an athlete. Consciously using the energy of Saturn allows us to become the ‘author’ of that part of our chart, and the energy it contains. Bit by bit I am learning about the best way to use Aries, both physically and emotionally.
Veronika Robinson is the author of many books, both fiction and non-fiction.
I Create My Day: simple ways to create a beautiful and nourishing life, is one of her most recent publications. All her books are available as signed copies from www.veronikarobinson.com She is a second-generation astrologer, a women’s mentor, and a celebrant (weddings, funerals, namings, and other rites of passage) who officiates ceremonies throughout Cumbria.