Six Things This Runner Learned From 75 Conversations About Men’s Health
In 2018, James Martin ran 6km a day for Movember – and found it was a great way to get people to open up about health issues
There are a lot of ways to get involved in Movember. You can, of course, grow a mustache, if indeed you are able to. Or you can take part in one of the 24 MoRunning events that take place around the country during the month. Or you can follow MoRunning ambassador James Martin’s lead and run every day while talking about men’s health.
Martin ran 6km a day for Movember in 2018 and is planning to double that to run 12km a day is 2019. Both are significant numbers for men’s health.
“Last year I did 6km a day, which represented the six years men die earlier than women for no physiological reason,” says Martin. “Because of a lack of wanting to go to the doctor, or to talk about things.
“I thought this year should be a bit more, and 84 men take their lives each week in the UK, so I thought that doing 84km a week – 12km a day – to represent each one of those men would be a bit more of a challenge.”
Last year, Martin invited people to join him on his runs to talk about men’s health, and he ended up having around 75 conversations on the topic. We spoke to him to find out what he’d learned from those conversations.
1. People Want To Talk About Men’s Health
While there is some truth behind the belief that men don’t like to open up about health problems, Martin found that he had no shortage of volunteers to join him on his runs and talk.
“I had people run with me every day and on many occasions more than one,” says Martin. “At the end there were 22 people on the final run. At weekends I went off and did the MoRuns and I had people from my regional offices come join me. The response was amazing, mostly from men, which was fantastic.”
2. When You’re Out Exercising, People Become More Open
If you want men to open up, get them moving.
“I’m not the most sociable person,” says Martin. “I struggled with my mental health for many years and although I’m very open about it, just having conversations with people I didn’t know very well wasn’t always easy for me.
“The thing that struck me most was how open people were when you were running side by side, people who would never have said things to me in an office. That really struck me from the word go.
“I think with guys especially, exercise can make them comfortable. It’s what we’ve grown up with, being out playing football… You can feel a little more open and more comfortable.”
3. Men Still Aren’t Getting Checked For Prostate Cancer
Early detection is the key to surviving prostate cancer, but even when they're worried about the disease, men still aren’t getting checked.
“The number of people my age that were concerned about prostate cancer but hadn’t done anything about it – that really did surprise me,” says Martin. “They’d heard about it but there was still that slight misconception that you go to the doctor and get touched in unmentionable places. You get a blood test before anything like that might need to happen!”
If you want more information about what is involved, our prostate check explainer walks you through exactly what you can expect.
4. If You’re Open About Your Mental Health, Other People Will Open Up Too
No matter how together someone might appear, they might be struggling with a mental health problem. The best way to get them to open up is to be open yourself.
“Having people saying ‘I suffered with it’ makes it clear that they’re not talking to someone who might judge,” says Martin. “When I first became aware of a mental health problem, I found a closed door on some occasions when telling people I had this issue. Not because people were being mean, they just didn’t know how to act. I think having people who are non-judgemental is very helpful.”
5. Exercising With Others Can Help You Get Moving
Martin spoke to lots of men who had concerns about their overall health but weren’t able to get themselves moving, often blaming a lack of time.
“They say, ‘I know I need to do something to improve my fitness, my health, but I don’t have time.’ I started running with Couch to 5K – it took half an hour three times a week,” says Martin. "If you don’t have half an hour three times a week you’ve got more problems than not being fit. You have some real work/life balance issues.
“It’s almost a mental block that stops them and getting together with a group of people just helps you do it. We have a running club at work now based on what happened last year, because people realised that they could go out with people from work and it wouldn’t be the case that you have to run a sub-20-minute 5K or whatever. It’s a friendly community. I do parkrun each week and encourage as many people as I can to do it – again, because it’s a friendly community.”
6. Training For An Event Can Lead To A Long-Term Lifestyle Change
If you want the perfect incentive to get moving, sign up for an event.
“This was especially true in one group,” says Martin. “Last year six people committed to do an event in Scotland with me about six weeks before the event – some had never run – so they trained for the full six weeks. I contacted them this week and they’re all still running. Every single one of them.”
Written by Nick Harris-Fry for Coach and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.