With summer on its way, the streets of the Netherlands have reawakened with the sight of dusted-off trainers and lycra-clad runners but, as Rachel Kilbee has been finding out, there are some new necessities for the everyday runner to consider before lacing-up.
Plogging – No, it’s not a typo — it’s definitely ‘Plogging’ and it’s the latest craze that is spreading it’s environmental arms across over 40 countries, with the Netherlands taking up the baton with fervour.
‘Find a group of people to do it with. The more of you there are, the more fun you will have, you’ll clean up a bigger area and feel more productive pushing each other,’ says Erik Ahlström, founder of Plogga in Sweden where it all began.
So what exactly does Erik want us to do? ‘It’s a treasure hunt!’ he said. The concept is simple — you run around your local area, collecting rubbish in a bag as you go. It’s cardio exercise with an added bonus of complimentary squats and lunges whilst you litter-pick.
With over €200m spent annually in the Netherlands for cleaning up litter alone, there is certainly scope for this fitness concept to become more than just a trend. A local group that recently took to the streets of Hilversum were amazed by the results.
‘Initially I felt self-conscious, I don’t usually run through town with my rubber gloves on! But it’s a community spirited thing to do, and I’d definitely do it again!’ said Liz Young. ‘After a while, I didn’t even realise I was doing it. It’s a fun thing to do with friends!’ agreed Sanna Rantala.
Sam Atkins, an experienced marathon runner and also a member of her local plogging group said: ‘It’s good to be able to give something back and the response from the public is incredible. I even had a gentleman doff his cap to me today.’
Catalina Negru, founder and president of Rompro, has also joined the clean up movement. ‘We’re encouraging an active role in the community. We all need to contribute, and integrate into our society, and through our actions, such as plogging, we are creating a difference. People appreciate it so much. We regularly receive a thumbs up! It’s so refreshing.’
Is your mind running away with you?
If picking up rubbish is not your thing, how about mindful running instead? Donning an eye mask may not seem the usual running attire, but in combination with sticky tape affixed across your mouth the concept may initially strike runners as somewhat bizarre. However, there are currently 170 active mindful running groups across the Netherlands demonstrating that the idea is being embraced with zeal.
Jill Engelsman-Gamma is a mindful running instructor in Blaricum and encourages her clients to use the experience to take time for themselves. ‘So many of my clients are just too busy with life that somewhere along the line it malfunctions, there will be shortcomings, so I encourage mindfulness. They learn to focus on their breathing, becoming aware of their time. Less is more.’
Ilse Loo, who is just beginning a 5-week mindful run course, realised that she was looking after her body with plenty of exercise, but in today’s busy world she was often forgetting to take a rest for her mind. After wearing the eye mask for an exercise in mindful trust, she suddenly had a flashback to 35 years ago.
‘I was snow-blinded as a teenager, for a whole week I couldn’t see a thing. I had an amazing friend who took care of me and she guided me everywhere. I think today’s mindful run has happened for a reason — I haven’t seen her in years, this could be the start of re-connecting with her.’
After donating a kidney to her nephew, Sonja Hagen de Wit joined her local mindful running course. ‘I wanted to run again but I’m always at war with my breath. This helps me learn to make peace in my head whilst meeting new friends. It’s a great reward.’
The idea started in Arnhem with Martijn Mensink, creator of Mindful Run. ‘It’s simplicity and it’s pure. By taping up the mouth, you pay more attention to your breathing and not what’s in your mind. The good, deep breathing creates more energy and less stress.’
Mindful Run has been established for two years and in that time the concept has spread from the Netherlands to Belgium and Germany with interest also coming from Britain.
‘You come to us and mindful running gives you what you need. I don’t ask personal questions, I just give my clients the tools they need to deal with it,’ says Martijn.
‘Some people use it as therapy, others as life coaching, but at the root of it, the focus is fun. Lose the stress between your ears!’
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