Cancer Research UK Tough 10, Box Hill

I was looking for some trail races a while ago. I like running. I love natural environments so it feels like a natural progression for me to take my running from the city to the trails.

For me personally there’s only so much city running you can do and feel inspired. There’s also the niggles you have to take into account like traffic lights, pedestrians that are waking, cars, bin bags, lamp posts… it’s a concrete jungle that leaves me feeling lack lustre at times.

To me my relationship with running feels like I would like it to progress as a way to get in nature, a method by which to explore the world and an experience that makes me feel very alive. Sometimes pollution fumes and sirens don’t quite do that for me. So I looked for some trail races and found the Tough 10 series by CRUK.

They rate the difficulty of their races by the number of trainers, 1-3. This race took part on Box Hill And was rated three trainers tough. Box Hill is known by cyclists and was one of the steepest ascents in the 2012 Olympic cycling events. The steepness of the ascent is quite brutal.

On the first ascent we climbed the steps by the stepping-stones. 270 stairs but not equal stairs, these are slippy woodland stairs which tend to be much more of a step than your average stairwell. I walked up and felt every breath and tiny oxygen atom mattered. Once at the top there were some flatter stretches, some down hill and a few more uphill.

I really enjoyed the variation of the terrain. I loved the views even though I’ve been and seen them before – there’s nothing more rewarding for climbing something than taking a breather to look around and admire the views you earned from the climb. The ground was quite slippy and I didn’t lose my footing.

I rolled my ankle once and didn’t go over or injure myself thanks, I think, to the ankle wiggling exercises I do before a run. Running on the slope down hill felt amazing when it was a gentle gradient. I felt like I could relax and my legs just carried me along. I felt so free and alive just running through the woodland. My legs just carried me and I breathed easy.

I honestly feel like I’m starting to get the going for a run to relax and unwind thing. It’s not always super hard work anymore – and it now is very enjoyable. I’m definitely going to be hitting up some more trails – it wasn’t as hard for me mentally as I expected it to be.

This race was 10k and I feel like I’m finally comfortable with than distance so now it feels like the right time to started increasing my distance up to 15/20km. Bring it!

I went to Kobox yesterday and although that was a 50 minute class it felt much harder mentally to stay in the class and push through despite being less time – I think this was because we did exercises by the wall as well as punching the bag and the exercises were weighted so I struggled quite a lot with them. Whereas I’ve been running more consistently for a few months now so my body is quite used to t by comparison to weighted squats, trunk twists and mountain climbers.

I mean I already established last week that my core isn’t strong enough and that I’ve lost some of the core strength I did have – and this class confirmed my thoughts further.

So here’s to getting my mojo back. Here’s to trail running being bloody fabulous. Here’s to increasing the distance and getting stronger in order to do this.

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When Running, Motivation and Mental Illness Collide

When motivation and mental illness become intertwined and this makes it difficult to stick to any form of plan. Getting dressed can be difficult to organise in my head when I’m like this, so balancing study, running, fitness, friends, groups I like to go to and volunteering is just a dream again. I know I can, and that I will again but right now this can’t be my currently reality. I need to learn to navigate these times as best as I can, and I think that’s a long journey ahead of me.

The past few weeks have been quite scatty. I’m not sure quite what is going on, or why things have gone so awry again. They have, and that’s something I need to take in my stride as best as I can. That doesn’t mean I will always keep my strides even and steady during these times – in fact, far from it. I may jolt forward and fast in my moments of being able to organise in my head and utilise my motivation to meet my goals, then trudge slowly in an aching manner as everything I intended to do to make me feel better slips away. Time doesn’t stop for anyone and right now I could do with time stopping for me to, I don’t know, figure out what’s sending me stray and to get myself back on track.


I’m swaying quite quickly right now between able and unable, motivated and unmotivated, being able to hear my thoughts and it being just a chaos of mish-mashed noises, being able to organise myself and feeling at a loose end, thinking ahead and being stuck in trying to think at all. I’ll be honest, I fucking hate this.

It does add more fuel to my fire in that when I am able to get myself out running and climbing, or going to the gym – it propels my need to do this stuff to feel good and maintain feeling well about myself.

I don’t even know what else to say; my head is mush.

 

Marathon Training Journal: Week One

23/10/17 , Monday
Run: 30 min easy run
Weather: fresh. Not cold and not hot. Ideal running weather.


Before I went I wasn’t feeling it. I’ve been not running as much lately because of bad mood and anxiety. Which is counterproductive because running will help with those things.

I stayed up til 2am last night watching tv. I’ve been watching a lot of tv lately. This is a bit of a highlighter that things aren’t quite right. I stayed moping around the house and sleeping until 4pm at which point I said to myself I neeeded to kick myself out the door and that despite my sluggishness, headache, sloth feelings and complete lack of motivatuon to do anything but nope that I would feel better.

I was quite anxious bc I’ve not been running lately as much. Once I was out the door however it helped. I felt relaxed whilst I was running as it was an easy pace for 30 minutes. I went up to one tree hill although after some incline I started to fast walk it because it was very steep. Once up there I enjoyed the view and stood on the benches to look out over London. The feeling of insignificance really helps me to calm down sometimes. I get this when I think about the universe and sometimes when I look over London and think of how I’m one person in this massive city. It’s quite soothing in an odd way.

Then I ran down and picked up some food for dinner at Sainsbury’s. I feel more awake and more relaxed since going out – and this is something I need to keep reminding myself of!


29/10/17
Run: 30 min easy
Weather: a bit chilly and dry

I did this run in the morning, although remembered why the ‘lay your k it out the night before’ trick is so often repeated. I must have spent 30 minutes rummaging around for the right kit for this and that – especially as I was taking my bag for an extra layer. I ran to the house where I am currently cat sitting. I have grossly underestimated how much distance I can cover in a few minutes now. This shows I have gotten stronger rand better even if I am in a bit of the training plateau that I am currently in.

I didn’t write straight away after running this time so I don’t remember how I felt before and after. Second lesson in a second paragraph: write our running diary entry straight away.

If You’re Only Hitting the Gym for a Hot Body – You’ve Got The Living Thing All Wrong

I”ve been trying to get involved in helping people become more active through various projects and tasks set as part of my Nutrition BSc degree. These past 2 weeks I’ve been quite the hypocrite in terms of being as active as I would like – oh Hai again Depression. From uni projects that I’m involved with in trying to get people more active there is a heavy ideology, from numerous people, who I’m going to say have the best intentions at heart. That is that the reason we exercise is to look a certain way. Nothing more. Nothing less. This is a very big problem. This is a very big problem indeed.

They genuinely believed exercise is a means we go through in order to sculpt, change and gain a body that looks a certain way in order to find the elusive happiness and ease of life that comes with a “perfect” body. Internally I’m screaming. Internally I’m banging my head on the table top harder and harder with each time this underlying notion comes to the surface.

Looking a certain way and achieving what is “perfect” for that generation or time is not the answer to all of your questions. Trust me. I wasted 10 years believing the same thing, when I was the same age as the people I’m talking about and I look back with full eyes, shaking my head and thinking, “Shit! Something needs to change.” because it seems the pressures have gained momentum since I was that gullible girl too. Instead of just not eating, which is relatively easy when you’ve got a complicated conundrum of emotional and mental health needs underlying that behaviour. However, now, you have to eat right, ergo, eat what’s trendy and most expensive and over priced at the moment. You also have to do a million squats to get a good ‘booty’ – for who? I don’t know about you, but as I go about my day to day business I rarely even see my arse.

One notion to get people being more active – which isn’t a new one goes along the lines of this, “lets hold a competition of who can do the most activity throughout the week or month – we can use FitBits or pedometers.” We could if we want to send out the message that more is always better in terms of being active. This isn’t something I can support. I can’t get behind this.

At school when I was in Year 8 we did a similar competition, minus the technology, and do you know what it taught me? It taught me how to count calories. It taught me that in order to burn those calories I had to move more. It taught me how many calories were in a chocolate bare vs an apple. It taught me the difference between regular Coca Cola and Diet Coke. It had me reading the nutritional info label on my water bottle – don’t worry, there’s no calories there, just minerals. This was all before I knew about eating disorders. It was before I was even aware of my body shape compared to others because I was 12 – I was still a child.

Photo on 2011-08-26 at 15.46 #3
2011-12 : During Anorexia

So skipping back to modern-day when I am no longer living in the innocence of the end of childhood, do I work out because I want a Kardashian booty? No. I don’t give a shit if my arse warrants a peach emoji? Do I want a 6 pack? If I do, then shredding at the gym every day is definitely the way to go about it. What happens though once I have that 6 pack? Do I stop? Or do I keep going to maintain my 6 pack that, let’s be frank, very few people are going to give a fuck about unless they’re some shallow person who wants to shag someone with a 6 pack and be done with me. By falling into that mentality and culture you objectify yourself. You give yourself no value more than your appearance and I’m going to tell you exactly what I think about that:

I THINK IT’S BULLSHIT
BOLLOX
COMPLETE AND UTTER CRAP

You know what the peach emoji can do? It can kiss my derriére.

To put this into perspective even more, when you’re in your coffin at our funeral I very much doubt someone will utter the words, “what a shame? And she had such a good 6 pack as well?” and you know what? They won’t even see you arse because they lie you face up. I guess you could probably put a request to go in face down so everyone can see your beautiful perfectly shaped bottom in rigour mortis. That would be something to talk about to lighten the mood I suppose.

I’m not saying that body image isn’t important. It is important to not hate your body. It is also important to learn to love your body – but guess what? Your body does so much more than look a certain way. It fights injury. It fights infection. It allows you to run 5K if you so wish. It allows you to have sex. It allows you to taste and smell and experience and it lets you do the monkey bars – I mean, what’s better than being able to use your body to play and being able to. Stop wasting your health on vanity.

 

 

Britain’s Ocean City, Run Plymouth 10K

As part of my running training for the Marathon I have signed up to a few races to make sure I stay on track. I work better with smaller and more frequent deadlines in all parts of my life. The London Marathon is quite a big goal – so in order to keep on track so that I don’t rock on up on Marathon Day completely unprepared I have set a few mile stones along the way.

Some races are milestones. For example some half marathons along the way to keep the distance in the forefront of my mind. Some are just for fun because once you have race fever signing up for races just becomes a bit irresistible, especially when you know people running.

My Dad was signed up for this one. I think he does most of the Plymouth Running Festivals, mainly the 10k and half marathon each year. He offered for me to do it with him, and what better way to have some father daughter bonding time than plodding through a 10k together? I love running races with other people – this is a form of socialising that I can get on board with.

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The day before I was worried the race was going to be a DNS or DNF for me. I felt really unwell. I was hot and cold, I was stumbling around a bit and losing my balance. I was feeling fuzzy headed – so much so it took me longer than usual to read the menu at the smoothie bar and understand what was in each one. It all seemed a bit like a blur to me. Stacey helped pick one for me. In fact, getting a smoothie was her idea and it worked. It transformed me – I can’t remember what was in it exactly; some spinach, some fruits, frozen yogurt and perhaps some other bits and bobs that escape my memory right now.

Before hand I was saying it would be a miracle if I got around the course without tripping over my feet because just walking around town on that Saturday I was tripping, falling and generally a bit of an uncoordinated mess. It wasn’t an ideal state to find myself in the day before race day.

I tried a few things, and they all seemed to add up to work: I had some re-hydration formula, I had a smoothie, I ate some carbs then at 9.30pm that night I crashed out for sleep. I think a combination of factors from the previous week led to that place – I had done a 2 hour cycle and not been able to refuel afterwards because I was scraping being on time for my lecture (I got lost, a lot. It should have been a 70 minute ride). I didn’t rehydrate with anything other than water and remained in a semi permanent state of feeling dehydrated no matter how much water I drank. I didn’t even have a Lucozade sport, which is often my go to. I kept making myself get up early and was refusing to go to sleep when I needed to because I wanted more hours from my days.

There’s a few lessons in there:
– if you’re feeling really tired, just go to sleep no matter how short changed you feel from your evening
– smoothies are a great way of getting in bunch of nutrients when used in moderation.
– always refuel after a lot of exertion with some carbs and protein and a little bit of some good fats.

Theoretically, I know all of this. Practically I wasn’t following my own advice or knowledge and chose to ignore my body begging for rest and salts. Lesson = use your knowledge of nutrition to help you and listen to your body Monica. It knows what it needs and you can’t out do your body’s needs with your mental desires to do otherwise.

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Race day I had my usual breakfast of porridge and banana. This is a staple pre-race breakfast for me. It always works and doesn’t come right through me. I stomach this meal well despite what gastric issues I may have. The race start pen was around the corner from where my Dad lives, which reduced the travel nerves and stress of missing the start wave. This was a luxury that I quite enjoyed on the day.

When we were in the pen we acknowledged a minute of silence for everyone who couldn’t be with us today. It was honoured well and I imagine that for a lot of people running for causes related to any losses they may have experienced this will have been a really important minute to clarify the why of their race that day. I think it was also important because Plymouth is a Naval town. Growing up I knew more families with ties to the MOD than not – and this will have been of importance to everyone for whom their partners, brothers, sisters may be currently deployed – or may have lost someone during a deployment.

In the starting pen I needed the obligatory third wee that happens every time I go for a race. I haven’t decided if this is nerves, because I drink too much due to dehydration anxieties, or if it’s because races start so early in the morning. I was getting nervous because I needed a wee. I thought there may be toilets on course, which is what I had to have in mind to stop getting anxious about it. I decided to run and see how I went – and secretly hoping that somehow I could perspire from my bladder.

Once I started running and got into the stride of it I was fine. So there is another lesson learned – sometimes a wee can wait and your body will prioritise running. I just don’t want a Paula Radcliffe moment because I don’t think I would get away with that seeing as I’m not Paula Radcliffe. There were no toilets on course but I made it anyway.

When looking at where we ought to start within the crowd because people who start farther forward with people much faster them are quite annoying, we kept an eye out for the pacers. I was aiming for a PB, which would mean getting anything less than 69 minutes. Ideally, I wanted to be between the 60 minute and 70 minute pacer. We set off and the crowds were quite thick until ~3 Km in.

The crowds began to thin out slightly on the first long and gentle gradient. I say gentle, in terms of running it is gentle but when you’re running it always feel like much more. The course was a very simple loop to 5km away and then back again. Along the embankment road the scenery was good as the misty fog hung over the water as the sun began to get brighter throughout the race. I didn’t take any pictures because I was very busy chasing that PB. I started the race with my Dad and near the 6 Km mark he told me to run on and chase it. I asked if he was sure because normally I’m all for sticking together and finishing together. He’s no novice to races and has smashed more 10 Ks and half marathons than me – so when he said he was sure I agreed to run on.

We had set out quite fast chasing the time in the first half of the race – this meant that the second half of the race was much more tiresome and it became harder to maintain pace and push on. between 8 and 9 Km the 70 minute pacer caught up with me as I had slowed down quite a lot, so I kept my eye on her. At times I was watching her flag bob up and down just ahead of me, like when your tour guide on holidays abroad has a colourful umbrella they stick in the air for you to follow as your guide, her flag was my guide and I had to keep up.

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I made it. I managed 1:10:50 – it’s within the minute of 10 so I’m going to count it. I’m not a pro so every millisecond isn’t too important to me. Even though I achieved my goal time I decided to maintain my ‘time is largely irrelevant’ philosophy on running. I found it quite stressful chasing that time and I had to really push myself to achieve it. Yeah I felt proud but no, I won’t do it again on a regular basis. I was pleased with myself but adding such an unnecessary stress onto it was as it says on the tin, stressful. Instead I’m going to focus again more on how my body feels when I do my running.

Was it enjoyable? If not, why not? Are there any lessons to be learned? Do I have niggles that need stretching out in stretch class or yoga or even a sports massage? As long as I’m improving over time as I have done from where I was to where I am, and from where I am to a new place in the future that is what matters. I think I’m going to maintain the philosophy of trying to be a better version of myself for me, of trying to improve on what I am whilst appreciating what and where I currently am, and on enjoying progress in ways that may be difficult to measure – but you know what? I don’t need to measure everything in my life. This is a difficult life lesson for me but micro-managing and quantifying everything in my life to justify, understand and realise where I’m at isn’t always necessary.

img_1240So lessons learned: no chasing times on a frequent basis, smoothies are great for nutrients if you’re feeling all over, plan for your wee’s right up to the race pen, listen to your body about sleep and rest, refuel after 30+ minutes of exercise, and stay hydrated all the time even if that means chugging more rehydration salts than you’d like because lets face it, they taste iffy, then do it. That’s a lot of learning from one day.

It was also a lot of happiness in one day. S came out to support us, I ran with my Dad which I have never done before, and we had a small family gathering in Costa after the race. It was a bloody good Sunday – and that’s not even mentioning the afternoons activities.

Processed with MOLDIV

Future Self – A Letter I Wrote to My Future Me

Last year, in a bid to try and improve my life I bought The Daily Greatness Journal. I am a big fan of the self improvement trend that’s been going on because I believe that we can all always be better at something in our lives – and the tools out there for self improvement can help with reaching those goals. There is not such thing as perfection, but there is definitely always room to learn, improve and enhance our life experience.

When I did the prep activities in my Daily Greatness Journal I was quite low in mood; it took me about a month to get through all of the goal setting, action planning and writing letters of forgiveness, acceptance and missions to myself. One activity was to write a letter to yourself to open in a years time. I didn’t stick with using my Daily Greatness Journal for more than 3 months because the level of positivity in every question was too much for my winter depression brain to handle. I did however take from it that goal setting, and self reflection on a regular basis can help with achieving what we want from out lives.

I learned about self efficacy, about picking myself up after a blip, about accepting myself where I am right now in order to achieve the goals I want to, about the effect of practicing daily gratitude, daily mindfulness and the art of perseverance. I’m not saying I’ve mastered all of these qualities, and I am saying that this journal helped me focus in on my behaviours to initiate behaviour change and improve my ability to have and utilise these qualities within myself. It helped me dig deep to access my ability to achieve the goals I want.

It’s not wonder cure for a stressful life, and it is a useful tool in helping hone in to your behaviours that may be more or less efficient to change what you want to. There are plenty other tools, journals, books, apps, and sites out there with similar principles. The Daily Greatness Journal is the only one I have used so I cannot comment on comparisons of products – but there’s so much out there at the moment there is bound to be something suitable for your own style and needs if you want to find it.


Since writing down my goals in the way that The Daily Greatness Journal asked me to, I cemented them into my mind. So in this letter to myself, I wrote about what I wanted to achieve in the next year. I wrote it on the 22nd October 2016. I know yesterday was the 3rd, but the temptation grew too much seeing as I was so close to the date, but hey, it’s pretty much been a year. So here goes, here’s my Letter:

To Future Monica,

It is now late October 2016. A year ago I had big hopes for 2016 and lots of plans, but it hasn’t gone quite according to plan.

So far this year I don’t feel very accomplished, pleased or proud of myself. I am rather disappointed. My mood hasn’t levelled out as much as I’d have liked it to by now. I have better coping skills from DBT for not engaging in target behaviours but I don’t FEEL any better. Currently I am very angry and frustrated with my team and the majority of staff involved in working with me.

I have recently started university and I am finding this change difficult to cope with. I never finished my book. I didn’t go climbing much, and not at all with the club outdoors. I’ve stopped running. Exercise isn’t as much a part of my life which saddens me. I enjoyed it.

So I haven’t been admitted much. I’ve not been in contact with emergency services as much by far – and these are positives but it doesn’t mean I’m feeling or coping particularly better.

A lot of energy has gone into DBT and resisting target behaviours, and target behaviours that focus on my QUALITY of life have diminished. I want to change this within the next year, or at least move towards making this change for myself and my life. Things I would like to achieve working towards this are:

  • Exercising regularly
  • Run 10k race, maybe a half marathon
  • Climb regularly
  • Lead climb outside
  • Explore outdoors and nature more via walking, climbing, camping etc
  • Read for pleasure again
  • Keep writing
  • Have some good quality close friendships
  • Keep studying and do well at it
  • Eat healthier and cook more

and within myself:

  • Feel more stable and/or able to manage my mood better
  • Feel more energised, fit and healthy
  • Feel strong, mentally and physically
  • Believe in my own capabilities
  • Have a more positive outlook on my life and future

and finally, ENJOY myself more,

All the best,
Monica

When I read through this it helped me to reflect on a period of time that was longer than a week or day at a time – and it made me feel better about myself, and the changes that have occurred in the last year.

I have been quite aware recently that things had greatly improved. Recently, with thanks to Facebook memories and such, I can see snippets of where I was 1 and 2 years ago. I was in a very different place. 2 years ago to the day I was discharged from my longest stay in hospital at that time. I remember this as a very disturbing and quite traumatic time in my life. 1 year ago, I started University and I was trying really hard to get involved with running again with little success. I was low, and I wasn’t coping or enjoying going to uni. With help I managed to stick it out and I’m so glad that in those months of thinking I wouldn’t be able to do it that I did.

So where am I today? Today I am training for the London Marathon 2018. Today I am studying my 2nd year at university. Today I am functioning more, dressing more to my own taste and style as opposed to living in tracksuits because they’re basically pyjamas you can wear out and about. I signed up to the gym again and I actually use it. I speak to people more and have ever so slightly less anxiety about doing so. I believe that this degree if within my capabilities and I’m damn well going for it. I get up each morning and I’m able to. It’s not always easy but the main difference is that I can and I do.

I’ve achieved a lot of that list already, and perhaps some more than I ever imagined that I could back in October 2016:

  • I exercise a few times a week now. It has become a habit and when I miss to many days I miss it. At the moment, this is a definite lifestyle choice I am making and managing.
  • I’ve smashed 10k in February, a half in April, Tough Mudder Half, and I have a 10k this weekend that I’m excited for and not too nervous about.
  • I’ve been climbing more and am bordering on being better than I’ve ever been at climbing.
  • I’ve been on a few walks and outside ventures. I went to Sardinia and explored the nature in another country – and get this, I enjoyed it. I really really enjoyed it.
  • I’ve read about 6-7 books this year for pleasure.
  • I’m writing right now, so…
  • I’ve managed to make some friends and connections where I live, through running and am exposing myself to more situations where the possibilities to make friends and have human connection is more possible.
  • I’m still studying and I did well enough to feel pleased with myself in my 1st year despite the challenges I faced and the time I missed.
  • I cook every week at the moment and have been experimenting with recipes from all the books I’ve bought over the years.

and as a result:

  • I feel more able and capable of managing my mood and the associated problems
  • I feel more energised, fit and healthy. I’ve started to see muscle gains from my training too which is always a nice bonus.
  • I feel quite strong physically and stronger than I was mentally. I am more able to take the hurdles as they come and manage them more effectively than I could before.
  • I believe that I can more than I ever have.
  • My life feels very much worth living. I am making plans for the next 1-2 years and I can see myself being around to take part in those plans. For the first time in years I don’t think I won’t be around in the next 1-6 months.

I mean wow! I’m 99% sure I will be alive and well for the mid and long term of my life unless a catastrophic and freak accident happens. I’m not even praying for such an accident to happen because you know what? I am actually enjoying life at the moment – even with the ups and downs that happen to us all. It all, finally, feels very very worth it.

This exercise has been very useful for me – so I think in the next week I will write myself another one. Lets see where I am in a year’s time. Hopefully, I’m still doing well, enjoying my life, and happy to be alive. Some of it is pot luck with my illness. I doubt I will ever be free of being potentially knocked sideways by my illness – but that doesn’t mean I give up, sit around and wait for it to happen. It means instead that I try and give my life a damn good go. It means I make the most of the time that I have when I am feeling well. It means I am pro-active in creating the life I want so that when I am knocked off my feet that I have a life I love to get back to and a life I love that I feel is worth fighting for.


Why not give it a go? Write yourself a letter about where you’re at today, and in general and what you hope to achieve in the next year. They can be big or small goals, the only catch is to make them realistic. There was a set of tools that helped me reach deciding these goals, and they were focused on really answering questions to discover and realise what my values were, and what was important to me in my life. I recommend doing that so that the goals you set are really close to your heart.

Peace, love and DOMS,
Mon