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Rob Kerr, UCS Psychology Student, triathlete

This week across the country organisations and groups are marking Mental Health Awareness Week. The theme this year is Body Image – How we think and feel about our bodies.

Rob Kerr, UCS Psychology student and athlete talks to us about the physical and mental health benefits of living an active lifestyle. We also discuss the social benefits of running, and how you can get involved in Shrewsbury.

Why is exercise so important to you?

I’ve always exercised, my family are quite active. I do it to maintain my fitness and it makes me feel good about myself. We all get stressed in our lives and exercise is how I deal with it. It’s good – it gets you out with nature and it helps you collect your own thoughts. It helps you to set goals and it puts you out of your comfort zone, which I think is important for wellbeing. I think if you stay within your comfort zone then things become too easy and even small challenges start to bother you more than perhaps they should. By exercising, there are always plenty of challenges to take on. It’s very rewarding to do stuff like that.

Are you a member of a club or society?

I’m a member of British Triathlon and also our local triathlon club in Shrewsbury, SY Tri. It’s great to find support and advice from other people and find people to exercise with. Sometimes it’s nice to exercise on your own but ultimately it’s nice to exercise with friends as well. Being a member of a club helps to mix it all up a bit. I can’t talk highly enough of it – I’d recommend it to anyone!

If you’re looking to get into sport I’d say just join – go along. You’ll find someone there with a similar outlook to you. Just see where it takes you. 

There’s a huge amount going on in Shrewsbury with various other clubs such as Shropshire Shufflers, Shrewsbury Athletics Club and also the weekly Parkrun too. Do you have any involvement with those?

Absolutely! I’m involved in Parkrun both as a runner and as a volunteer. I’ve also just finished my dissertation which was all about Parkrun. Parkrun is great because it has its own community within itself. I guarantee anyone that does it, after 6 or 8 weeks you will know the names of a lot of the regulars. They have their own social scene and a lot of little friendship groups that have offsprung from that. These are groups irrespective of class, age or anything like that – it’s just a real mix of people.

Through Parkrun everyone knows everybody else. Whether a member of Shropshire Shufflers, SY Tri, Shrewsbury Athletics Club, everyone knows one another and often train together. It has really brought down the barriers and made running less exclusive. There are no cliques – it just feels like one big community which I think is just a great thing to have achieved.

Finally, what advice would you give to somebody who would like to get into exercise, but is a complete beginner?

Couch to 5k is one of the best places to start. Often people lack the confidence to make that start, or to join a club. It’s a 9 week programme to get you up to a 5k - you just download the app and off you go!

Parkrun is a complete mix – you’ve got people at the front who run it pretty quick, you’ve got people at the back that walk. You can just turn up and I guarantee you’ll be in the middle of the pack somewhere. It’s a really positive experience, and if you enjoy that then it encourages you to take things one step at a time.

I’d suggest that people also look at the local clubs and see what they offer. The clubs embrace all members irrespective of ability – so just see what’s out there for you!

More information about local clubs, Parkrun and Couch to 5k can be found in the links in the article.

All UCS students are eligible for free membership at Shrewsbury Sports Village and the Quarry Swimming and Fitness Centre . To enquire about membership or if you have any queries about this article, contact ucs.support@chester.ac.uk

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