Belfast woman who used to be overweight is now ready to run a marathon
Inspired by her husband Mark, Belfast woman Janine Ramsey started running which helped her lose eight stone. Now she's urging everyone to get their trainers on for the Belfast Telegraph Born2Run event next weekend. Una Brankin reports
Janine Ramsey (48) lives in north Belfast with her husband Mark, a fire fighter. Since she started running in January 2014, the customer services executive and Belfast Running Club member, has lost a remarkable total of eight stone in weight and has come down five dress sizes - from size 24 to size 14.
Two years ago, I was extremely overweight and couldn't walk the length of myself, let alone even think about running any distance. I decided to do something about changing my health and life for the better, with the support of my husband Mark.
I had gained a lot of weight through years of inactivity and an unhealthy diet. I would have eaten all the wrong kinds of food and didn't exercise, and I would have spent most of my time glued to the TV, drinking wine. I simply did nothing at all.
Mark had put on weight, too, but it wasn't as noticeable on him as it was on me.
He would have taken part in numerous runs before me, including the Born2Run events, which involve running all over Northern Ireland and meeting up with loads of like-minded people during and after the runs.
His own weight loss and new good health and fitness transformed his life, so I decided to join him, easing in at the start with walking events.
After that, I got on to proper power-walking. I'd get out of breath in the beginning and would have to stop to breathe - it's much harder to run when you're heavier and you forget to breathe.
You don't want the person who's running next to you to hear your heavy breathing, so you hold it.
Breathing correctly when running was the hardest part for me in the beginning, as you do tend to end up holding your breath when the going gets tough.
That, in turn, can make you panic and cause you to slow down to a walk. It takes time to get the breathing right, but it does come when you start to pace yourself and not start off like a kid getting out of school on a Friday afternoon.
Once you learn how to breathe properly - in through your nose and out through your mouth - you can run faster.
We then progressed to running via the Ormeau Jog Belfast Couch to 5k programme. I started to lose weight and very quickly became hooked - you get a high from it.
Running meant I didn't have to go on a diet, as such, but I definitely found I was cutting down on portions and was not drinking as much alcohol or eating as much takeaway food, after I started running and training three or four times a week.
When you run, you can't eat too much before the event - breakfast would have been porridge and banana, and afterwards, something light like soup and a sandwich. I still have treats, like a slice of cake, but I find that it is possible to still lose weight while running as much as I can.
As I got fitter, I started to sign up for races and runs on a weekly basis. I walked a few charity 5k events and gradually built up to a bit of running.
I very quickly became hooked and started to sign up for races and runs on a weekly basis.
I signed up for Jog Belfast in Ormeau in January 2014, which is a free Couch To 5k programme on offer across all the parks, and ended up graduating from this, thanks to the support of coach Gerard Walls and his team of volunteers.
Then, I built up to running 10km slowly and sensibly, increasing miles and pacing the distance.
I entered lots of races and events - once you have signed up, you have something to work towards. The Born2Run forest runs are stunning and such an achievement when you finish - especially under the hour, which I managed to achieve at a Born2Run race.
I have now progressed to half marathons and will do my 12th half marathon this year in Clonakilty in December.
My next aim is to run my first full marathon in Derry in 2016. Today I am eight stone lighter and I volunteer twice a week to support and run aside beginner runners starting out.
If someone had told me two years ago that I would leave my warm house at 4am in the morning and go out into the cold every single day of last December to run, I would have laughed at them and thought they were crazy. I can now go into standard high street shops and buy virtually anything in my size, like jeans or dresses - although I think my wardrobe consists mostly of running clothes now. I have far more energy - people have noticed I'm always on the move at work, running up and down stairs. I do 10 miles once a week now, in an hour and a half.
I run all over Belfast from Cavehill to the backstreets of Monkstown, the tow path and around the city centre.
I know how to pace myself. My motto now is 'finishing lines, not finishing times'.
The first time I crossed the finishing line, I was pinching myself.
I'm someone who never participated in sports in school and am heading towards 50, but now I can maintain pace with runners in their twenties. I am really proud of myself. Mark is proud of me, too.
When people see how I looked three years ago, they don't recognise me.
I go to Spain every year with my sister for the New Year and we compared pictures of me taken on New Year's Day by the town hall at the same Poinsetta tree, from last year and this year, and I hardly recognised myself. I never, ever saw myself like this.
I don't have an ideal weight, as for me it's about physical wellbeing. I will continue living a healthy lifestyle as it definitely helps the running, but don't really see it being on a diet as such.
You don't feel like eating heavy food after running, but if you do have a treat, you can burn it off.
My tips for anyone who wants to lose weight and get fit are simple.
One: don't fixate on diets. Two: sign up for Jog Belfast or any other Couch25k. Three: keep running. There are so many events out there, like Born2Run, Runher and countless other organised weekly racing events.
I'm just back from running in Malaga and Amsterdam, so I'm getting to travel more, too. I love running and I can't recommend it highly enough for anyone who wants to get healthy and have fun doing it.
I love the fact that events like Born2Run and Runher go from the very elite to the beginner. There is absolutely no ego involved; everybody runs together and it's really good fun.
Run Forest Run times and places
■ LOUGHGALL 10K
December 5, 11am
Loughgall Country Park,
11-14 Main Street,
Loughgall, Co Armagh
■ TOLLYMORE 10K
December 19, 11am
Tollymore Forest Park,
East District Forest Office
Newcastle, Co Down
■ KILBRONEY 10K
January 2, 2016, 11am
Kilbroney Forest Park,
Rostrevor, Co Down
■ MOUNT STEWART 10K
January 16, 2016, 11am
Newtownards, Co Down
■ ANTRIM CASTLE GARDENS 10K
February 6, 2016, 11am
Antrim Castle Gardens,
Antrim, Co Antrim
■ CASTLEWELLAN 10K
February 27, 2016, 11am
Castlewellan Forest Park,
Castlewellan, Co Down
A brilliant way to lose weight
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Running is one of the best ways to lose weight healthily. Here's why:
■ Running works even when you're sprawled out on the sofa afterwards. High-intensity exercise stimulates 'after-burn' energy in the body, zapping calories for up to an hour after your run
■ Running burns calories better than walking and working out. Most people can run two or three times as far as they can walk in a given amount of time
■ Also, short high-intensity work-outs at the gym may burn more calories per minute per running, but because they're done in quick bursts, your total caloric burn isn't as great as if you ran