Meet Our December Cover Star - Women's Running

Meet Our December Cover Star

Author: Women's Running Magazine

Read Time:   |  October 20, 2016

Meet December Cover Star Eddie Macdonald

Photo: Eddie Macdonald

“As far back as I can remember, I’ve always loved sport,” says Lara Milward, 46. “I’ve always needed to be doing something. It’s my glass of wine or my cigarette or whatever – my piece of dark chocolate.”

The joy Lara feels in being outside and in motion is obvious the moment you meet her, and when she arrived at our photoshoot with her 12-year-old daughter Kiera in tow, it was clear that this energy and vibrancy has been passed on.

Lara’s sporting background has been varied, taking in competitive swimming, ballet and team sports, but it wasn’t until she’d become a mother – with two young children at nursery – that she saw an opportunity to help other people share her love of being active. She’d had a varied career working with a political agency and then in sports marketing – almost by accident falling into sport-related work – but, like many mothers, she felt a change of career was needed so that she could be around more for her kids. “I knew I wanted to be with my children,” she says, “and I wanted to be needed and useful.” She considered training as a counsellor, but the draw of being active was too strong. “I just couldn’t get away from the fact that I love sport and fitness and what it does for people; seeing people healthy and seeing their joy when they achieve that 5K or that 1K and they didn’t think they could.”

The idea for her business, Blitz Fitness (blitzfitness.co.uk), began when some of the other mothers from her children’s nursery wanted to train to run a 5K. “We just started from the nursery school gates, going up the river to the bridge and back.”

Lara trained as a fitness instructor. By chance, she met another mum in the playground who was an ex-sprinter and, although they didn’t know each other, they decided to run a few group sessions together. “Word of mouth went bonkers and people would join in. Our sporting background helped, I think, with the team spirit.”

Meet December Cover Star Eddie Macdonald

Lara and her daughter Kiera love to be active

Although Blitz offers much more than running, it’s important to Lara that her clients can train outside rather than being stuck in the gym. “Personally I think you get much more of a kick out of it,” she says. “I think it’s healthier. It helps you enjoy your environment and make you more aware of it. I find it very invigorating and freeing. We’ve had people in tears who didn’t realise they could run on snow – they were in floods of tears with joy. What a gift once people know they can get out there!”

As the business has grown since its foundation in 2009, now covering 250 clients, so Lara’s own sport has sometimes taken more of a back seat. “You have to be willing to give up personal goals,” she says, “I’ve always tried to have them, and as I’ve got older it’s got harder – I’m now 46, I get much more fatigued, so if I’m on my feet five or six days a week with clients and then I’m trying to do my training, I find it really hard to get performance because there’s so little recovery.”

Working in an active job all week hasn’t quite been enough to keep Lara still in her free time though – in fact, she has just taken part in her second Virgin Strive Challenge (bigchange.strivechallenge.com), on a team that travelled from the Matterhorn to Mount Etna under their own steam, using hiking, cycling, swimming and running.

She’d become involved in the first Strive Challenge in 2014 after meeting Richard Reed, the co-founder of Innocent drinks, at dinner through university friends. Richard had heard about Lara and thought she’d be perfect for Strive, telling her how the Branson family were organising it and looking for people to join the core team. “The idea was to run to Dover, row the channel, cycle to Verviers, hike to Zermatt and then climb the Matterhorn. You’d have a core team doing the lot and be fundraising along the way,” says Lara.

“At first I was like, ‘You’re joking, how can I leave my children and my business, and be away for a month?’ Then I couldn’t sleep, thinking, ‘Could I really do this? It sounds so exciting…’ I just had to say yes. I knew it was the opportunity of a lifetime. It was in August, so my husband could have time off to help, so I thought ‘Right, I’m going to be free of being mum for the first time in 14 years and go for it.’”

It was supposed to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but this summer Lara found herself back in training for round two – an even bigger challenge. “When the Bransons say, ‘We want you, please come with us’, it’s very hard to say no!” laughs Lara. She admits she also just found it hard to resist pushing outside of her comfort zone – especially as the second Strive would involve so much road cycling, her personal sport nemesis. “Running is my comfort zone, swimming is my comfort zone. Road cycling is something I’d never done before the 2014 challenge, and this time it was 150km a day for 15 days. I’m quite fearful on the downhill, you’re in very thin Lycra and the road’s a very hard surface, and there is a lot that can go wrong. So in essence that’s my ‘strive’. As a team, we’re supposed to be getting out of our comfort zone, facing our fears and promoting a growth mindset.”

For someone who clearly loves to mix up her training, running must have a strong pull to keep her coming back. What does Lara get out of it? “The camaraderie and the community and the friendship. It is lovely that you can put your trainers on, go up to Richmond Park and chat all the way round if you want. No one’s being worker or mother or anything else, it’s very levelling. I find that when you’re putting yourself physically through a challenge, often people are more real, so I’ve made some great friendships and really enjoyed that time.”

It’s clear that Lara takes her business very personally, and she says her clients’ success is what makes her proud. “The joy in people’s faces when you see that they’ve achieved something, and they thought they couldn’t, is just brilliant.”

And despite the fact that her business means her life is now in sport 24/7, Lara says that – if anything – her job has made her passion for fitness even stronger. “There have been weeks when I’ve felt absolutely rotten, I’ve lost my confidence, I’ve been very self-critical, but this has become my community. Someone will pop in and say, ‘Hey, do you fancy coming for a run?’ You’ll do a couple of miles with them, start chatting and come out of whatever that cloud is that you’re under.”

 

Lara and the team have just completed the Strive challenge. You can still donate at uk.virginmoneygiving.com/LaraMilward

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NMA’s 2020 Lifestyle Magazine of the Year, Women’s Running provides expert advice on gear and training, motivation from your favourite runners and the latest running news.

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