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Couch to 5k: On the start line of an eight-week fitness programme in Castle Park, Bishop's Stortford

Indie news editor Sinead Corr has signed up for a Couch to 5k fitness programme in Bishop's Stortford...

A week before my 55th birthday, I learned that by holding my right ear, I could stand on my left leg without wobbling.

This balance breakthrough came courtesy of Laurence Foote – the coach leading a Couch to 5k running course at Castle Park in partnership with Active East Herts – as he ran through some handy stretches.

Caste Park couch to 5k group (54346666)
Caste Park couch to 5k group (54346666)

On one of the coldest mornings of the winter so far, I joined nine other hardy souls – two men and seven women – at the start of an eight-week fitness challenge. After a five-minute warm-up marching around the war memorial, we crunched across frosty grass in Sworder's Field, taking our first steps to a healthier lifestyle.

While I jogged gingerly in the icy conditions, I was acutely aware of the leap I need to make. Over the past year, I have spent too much time eating and not enough time exercising, and the consequences are clear on my waistline.

Now firmly middle-aged, it's make or break to get more active and decrease calorie consumption. The alternative is an ever-expanding backside and decreasing mobility.

Laurence Foote (54346663)
Laurence Foote (54346663)

Nevertheless, with the thermometer hovering around 1C, the prospect of staying warm in bed and swerving the first session was enticing.

I'm very glad I didn't. Laurence, who runs Stortford-based FooteSteps Coaching and is both an accomplished athlete and experienced trainer, was welcoming and it quickly became clear the group shared common concerns and there was no reason to feel self-conscious.

Laurence reassured us that each of us is capable of completing the Castle Park 5k parkrun if we follow the programme and complete our homework.

Our first class was eight sets of jogging for a minute followed by a 90-second walk, with those splits repeated twice at home before our next Wednesday session.

Laurence Foote (54346661)
Laurence Foote (54346661)

It was a gentle introduction that made me feel optimistic about my chances of completing week two.

* The Castle Park Couch to 5k started on January 12 and will finish with a group parkrun at Castle Park on Saturday March 12.

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