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Jessica Megan

Nominated by Cosmopolitan for Health and Wellbeing Influencer of the year for her outstanding contribution to female wellness online, Jessica Megan is also an official ambassador for breast cancer charity CoppaFeel!, as well as for anti-bullying charity Ditch the Label, and Bloody Good Period – a charity that provides menstrual products for refugees, asylum seekers and those unable to afford them.

Jessica is passionate about sexual wellbeing and self-love – here she shares how running makes her feel happy and healthy by soothing her mind and stretching her body.

When and why did you start running?
When the shelter that I got my rescue dog Bear from announced it was going to have to shut, I began running to prepare for the Spartan Race to raise money to help them stay open long enough to find homes for the dogs in their care.

What motivates you to run?
Anxiety. I get extremely knotted throughout the day – by the end I resemble a human pretzel! Running is a soothing balm to my anxious brain.

How often do you run?
Three to four times a week, for 30 to 45 minutes. Sometimes less, it depends on how much energy I have. I listen to my body. If I get to the 15-minute mark and want to go further, I will.

#CelebrateYou is all about running for your head and your heart. How has running helped improve your mental health?
Running has changed my life. I used to use alcohol as a coping mechanism and, although I still like to drink every now and then, running provides me with a much healthier method to weather storms and stress. Although I wouldn’t describe running as an alternative to therapy, I would certainly describe it as therapeutic.

What would your advice be for a first-time runner or someone considering taking up running?
Don’t sweat the numbers. The first few weeks just try to enjoy the feeling of moving your body in this new way. Don’t punish yourself and your body for not moving quickly enough. Running forums and facebook groups will have you believing that you need to be achieving numbers that are way off your capability right now.

It’s OK to have goals, but try to get comfortable with the feeling of running first. Enjoy the world around you as you run. Aim to get your heart rate up and your sweat on, but don’t obsess yourself with blood oxygen levels and kilometres achieved. This is about you and your body doing something together. And don’t forget to stretch!

You’re taking part in the virtual Vitality London 10,000 – why should other people sign up and join you?
After a mentally strenuous year, our brains and bodies need all the goodness they can get. I want people to run with me so they can feel the benefits. I know running is one of the most terrifying sports. Many people associate running with exhausting school gym sessions and feelings of inadequacy. But running is no longer exclusive to ‘elites’ with glossy bouncy ponytails and matching Lycra. It’s for everyone! Get some trainers and an old pair of joggers and give it a try.

How do you make running fun?
Amazing playlists. I go crazy about good running music. I don’t really like the pre-made playlists most streaming apps offer, so I make my own. It features a mix of metal, rap, grime and pop. I have a few really powerful tracks on there that I bust out when I’m starting to want to give up. They always help me get through an extra five to 10 minutes!

Do you think virtual events have changed people’s attitudes towards taking part and, if so, how?
One hundred per cent. Gyms are scary places for so many people for many different reasons, including fitness level, gender, affordability, etc. Some may also have social anxieties or find it difficult to travel to large cities for runs. Virtual events allow the participant to enjoy working out at their own pace from home, as well as finding comfort in completing these challenges in their local area. It means people who are neurodivergent, anxious or disabled will be able to partake in these events much more easily.

What are you most looking forward to about this year’s virtual Vitality London 10,000?
Helping to train my followers and encouraging them to see running as a sport everyone can enjoy. I am no fitness guru. I possess all the bits on my body that you’re supposed to be worried about. I have a wobbly belly, a big bum and jiggly thighs. And they look absolutely fantastic in stretchy joggers. If I can run, I promise, you can too.

You can follow Jessica on Instagram @jess_megan_