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Training in Vietnam  


As I child, I hated sport and exercise in general. ALL OF IT. As well as being teased for my ‘tomato face’, I was very aware of how much slower I was than everybody else, and being incredibly competitive would take myself out of any sporting activities completely to avoid the risk of losing.

I have spent the last 10 days biking, hiking and kayaking my way through Vietnam and it struck me how much my mind-set towards exercise has changed.  Challenging myself with all of these sporting activities, which was made a lot harder by the humidity, once would have terrified me. Instead it was fab – the achievement after running up hundreds of steps to find a cave, or cycling long distances through busy cities and swampy countryside was so worth every minute of pain.

I was hoping to fit in some training around the travelling but unfortunately didn’t get the chance until the day I flew home. On my last day in the capital Hanoi, I went for a run around one of the main lakes in the centre of the city. I was told by a local that I should go no later than 6am, mainly because of the heat but also, rather mysteriously, because of the other activities happening at the same time.

So at 5:45am I set off, feeling bleary and still very much asleep. But it was impossible to miss the crowds of people out at the same time. All around the lake were groups of Hanoi residents doing different types of exercise; from tai chi to jogging, to weight training and aerobics. They even had stereos with them providing music and barking instructions.

I had never seen anything like it! Men and women of all ages and shapes with varying fitness levels all participating in some form of exercise. I couldn’t imagine it happening on such a huge scale here – maybe a group of young women running together or a mixed ability boot camp in the park, but nothing on this scale.

There was no embarrassment, no fear of looking stupid and no heavy competition. Everyone was celebrating what their bodies could do, from running several times around the lake, to arm and leg stretches with minimal impact. That’s something I hope to bring back with me – I want to stop fearing what I look like and worrying I’m not good enough; the only person I am competing with is the one I see when I look in the mirror.



My Visit to Runners World