Something monumental has happened in the last few weeks, but I think I need to whisper it for fear of bursting the bubble……come closer……. I think I might have rediscovered my running mojo!
Those of you who’ve been reading my blog for a while may remember me talking about my, errrrm, complicated relationship with running in the past (feel free to check out the posts here and here) but I’ve been attempting to up my exercise game recently, mainly because I haven’t been feeling as though I’m the best version of me at the moment, and I am ready for change!
I’ve been relying on my daily walking as my only source of exercise and I’ve realised that it just isn’t enough any more. I’ve dabbled with some Barre3 (which is actually really great, and boy, can you feel it working your muscles) and a little bit of kettle bell action, but I never really felt fired up enough to turn either of them into a regular, committed practice.
Then a couple of weeks ago, I suddenly started feeling really anxious. While “putting myself out there” with the blog is ridiculously exciting, it can also leave me feeling a bit vulnerable, and last week I allowed the demons to get in and take over. You know all of that “ditch the inner bitch” stuff I bang on about? Well, I’m usually pretty good at it, but last week must have been my regular skinny bitch’s week off, because it wasn’t her tormenting me about the size of my bingo wings. Oh no, no no!! It was a new kid on the block who sounded exactly like the most heinous type of school bully. You know the one…..”you’re so stupid”, “you aren’t cool enough”, “you can’t be in our gang – you’ll ruin our cred!” Try as I might, I was finding it unbelievably difficult to bounce back from the internal insults, and I knew that I was going to have to try something different to pull myself out of the hole.
So I asked myself what advice I might give to a friend or client going through a similar experience. Perhaps not so surprisingly, the first pearl of wisdom that sprung to mind was EXERCISE. Now in the past I’ve been guilty of procrastinating my way out of exercise, so I decided to act immediately. As soon as the thought popped into my head, on went the trainers and I headed out to my office in the garden where my dreadmill treadmill sits. I didn’t have any plan, aim or goal, I just knew that I needed to work up a bit of a sweat. I also decided that rather than listening to my default loud music (as I usually do when I exercise), I would instead listen to something I could get more absorbed in. I checked my podcast list and found that I had an un-listened to episode of Laura Thomas’ Don’t Salt My Game, where she was talking to Chloe Brotheridge about her best selling book The Anxiety Solution. Now if that wasn’t the universe sending me a sign, I’m not sure what it was!
After doing a bit of brisk walking for 5 minutes, something really odd thing happened……..I suddenly decided to crank up the speed and have a go at jogging. And do you know what? It felt REALLY BLOODY GOOD! When I’ve jogged in the past, even when I was doing 5k regularly, the physical effort of it was so intense that I actually despised every step. But not last week! Even though I could feel that my body was working hard, I felt as though it was flowing far more naturally than any of my other attempts have done. It was nothing short of a revelation!
But the best bit? I couldn’t quite believe the amazing affect that it had on my mood. I know that the scientific research behind endorphins and physical exercise is well reported, and my best friend swears that exercise is the best anti-depressant, but from a personal point of view, I was very aware of how the act of pushing my body managed to get me out of my head for a while. Instead of continuing to get myself lost under a pile of negative thoughts, jogging made me really focus on the brilliant work my body can do. It also made me realise that I am actually a lot fitter than I give myself credit for (HAES anyone?!) and that in itself gave me a bit of a buzz for the rest of the day. In fact, the buzz was so good, that I decided to make it a regular part of my routine and since that day I have made time to hit the treadmill (and even to follow it with a cheeky bit of yoga) 3 times a week.
One of the things I‘ve realised is that my number one concern is no longer about losing weight, or running a particular distance in a certain amount of time. Instead my aim now is to make myself feel good. I’ve realised that connecting back to my body is a really important thing for me to do and that I definitely need periods of time where I am able to get out of my head and into my body.
So am I going to keep it up? Well, all I’ll say at the minute, is that I am actually looking forward to my next session….. in fact, I might even go so far as to say that I’m excited about it.
Now who’d ever have thought that was a possibility?!
When I embarked on the journey towards diet free, healthy eating, positive living that I’m still on at the minute, I started casting around on the wonderful world of ‘tinterweb for people that I hoped could help and inspire me. And boy, did I find some beauties! And as I feel that they have helped me so much and continue to help me right now, I thought I’d tell you a bit about some of them so you can check them out too.
Laura Agar Wilson – Laura runs a website called “Wholeheartedly Healthy” and she also completed the IIN Health Coach Training that I’m just embarking on. She has a gorgeous and really informative website filled with great tips and recipes. She also runs a number of on line programmes, one of which (Mindset Makeover Course) I’ve followed myself and really felt a great benefit from it. I think that the thing I like best about Laura is that she is not afraid to show the real her – warts and all! She has a toddler and often posts about the difficulties that she encounters when trying to balance her healthy living/health coaching business/busy life of being a mum. She talks openly about things that do and don’t work for her and I for one, really appreciate that. It can be so easy to be sucked into the instagram filtered version of life where everything looks perfect all of the time and end up feeling that your own life somehow doesn’t measure up. But Laura’s not like that, and that’s one of the reasons why I love her! Plus, when I was looking for a health Coaching course to sign up to, she was happy to spend some time on the phone chatting it through with me and gave me some great advice. She’s ace!
Sophie and Audrey Boss (Beyond Chocolate) – I can’t for the life of me remember how I discovered Sophie and Audrey Boss, but it is fair to say that their books (Beyond Chocolate and Beyond Temptation) were pretty life changing. I can honestly say they were the first people who brought me into contact with the anti-diet, trust-in-yourself, listen-to-your-body notion and on reading their books (and attending one of their day courses in Bristol) it was as though the scales finally started to fall from my eyes! I Sometimes struggle slightly with the vehemence of their anti-diet message as I worry that the way I eat (mainly plant based, limited refined sugar etc) would be classed by them as “too diety”. However, the main positive I took from their material was their insistence that everyone should “Be your own guru” and this fabulous phrase is something I stick to and remind myself of frequently. So hey, if it works for me, then I guess I am totally being my own guru!
Jessamyn Stanley – Oh. My. Goodness. At the minute, this lady really is lighting up my life! Yoga…… Yoga, yoga, yoga. It was always something that I desperately wanted to be involved with. I wanted the lithe toned limbs and the zen like post yoga glow. But whenever I attempted it, I ended up feeling fat, stiff and smothered by my own boobs. Rather than floating home from class in a state of calm and contentment, I would inevitably trudged back home sweaty, deflated and with a crick in my neck! I came to the conclusion that yoga just wasn’t for me. I would never be able to do it “with my build”. And then I discovered Jessamyn Stanley. A gorgeous woman with a belly and ass and boobs that do not get in the way of her being a truly inspirational bendy wendy! I recently bought one of her yoga series on CodyApp and I’ve been using it to practice at home and it is making me feel ACE! I am working hard while listening to someone who lets me know what I should do if my belly gets in the way and lets me pause if I need to adjust my leggings! Seriously, if you’ve ever thought that yoga isn’t for you, just go and find Jessamyn. She’ll sort you right out!
Julie Creffield– I’m sure that, by now, you’ve all heard of Julie. I started reading her “Fat Girls Guide to Running” blog back in the days when I was doing a great deal of thinking about running and I fell in love with her inspirational but bullshit free writing. She was undoubtedly one of the people who encouraged me to get up off the sofa and start moving. She’s since gone stellar, with slots on day time TV and even a range of running kit for larger ladies, emblazoned with slogans such as “too fat to run
Dana Falsetti– Dana is another yogi (get me using the technical terms!) from the codyapp studio and I actually bought her series before the Jessamyn one…. However, looking at it now, I’m putting her on hold and focussing on Jessamyn first, because for me, Dana is a little too advanced right now. However the general feeling I get from her is the same…..I will not let my wobbly bits stand in the way of my yoga
Adriene– How could anyone not love Adriene? She is the youtube yoga guru that anyone can turn to. She is nothing like Jessamyn or Dana in terms of body shape, but it feels a bit like wrapping yourself in a big cwtch (Welsh for hug!) of calm and positivity when you watch her videos! She is just lovely and encouraging and chilled out and constantly encourages you to “Find what feels good” which in my book, can only be a good thing!
Lauren Laverne – Not a health coach, yogi or body positive campaigner, but a BBC Radio 6 music DJ, co-founder of The Pool, and all round brilliantly fabulous lady, who I have a massive girl crush on! I listen to her show every morning while I’m studying and writing my blog and I love her. She would definitely be an honourory member of my Very Special Girl Gang which obviously also includes all of the amazing women above. And Claudia Winkleman. And Caitlin Moran. And Sali Hughes. And Marianne Keyes…………. Everyone does that, right??! Ok, I’m going to stop now!
I hope that you feel inspired to go and check out some of these awesome ladies, and if there’s anyone you feel I’ve left out, then please let me know in the comments below. I am ALWAYS on the look out for new inspiration!!!!
I’ll get straight to the point. Exercise and I have a pretty tricky relationship. Its something I know I should do. Its something I know I could do. I even know when I should and could do it. But oh so often I just cant be arsed!
When I was a kid, I was never really a run-around-like-a-lunatic, racing for the sake of racing kind of kid. I was more of a thinker rather than a do-er and I suppose I could be accused of not having changed much! If I had to pick my exercise thing as a kid, it would have been swimming. I LOVED swimming and I was always pretty good at it. A strong swimmer, not a fast swimmer, as everyone seemed keen to tell me (how to make someone feel a little bit rubbish at something they’re actually not bad at eh?!) In fact, during my sixth form and university years I worked as a lifeguard and assistant swimming teacher – a job that I loved and have really fond memories of. So why don’t I swim now you may ask? Well, (and heres where it starts) I could give you a myriad of excuses. Stuff like…..our town pool is manky; the public swimming timetable doesn’t fit in with my timetable particularly well; It means that I have to re-do my hair and make up more than once a day…..Vain I know, but what can I say? I’m just telling you the truth! I wouldn’t blame you for telling me to shut the hell shut up! And then I start to question myself…..Why Amy? Why are you making these excuses? Are they real and valid or are you just bullshitting yourself?? Hmmm, maybe I’ll ponder on that as I continue………….
I have tried. Honestly, I really have….. Look, here are some of the other exercises I have tried to stick to over the last few years:
Zumba. One of my bezzies, Julie nagged me for MONTHS to go to Zumba with her and to be totally honest with you, I resisted for yonks because I was terrified of making an arse of myself. But when I eventually surrendered and went with her I LOVED it!!!! For the first time ever, I really did get that buzz that everyone bangs on about. I got ridiculously hot, sweaty and out of breath and I loved every minute of it. I kept going for about 18 months -2 years and at some points during that time I was doing 2-3 sessions a week. And then our amazing teacher quit to go to uni as a mature student. And try as I might, I have failed to find another teacher who is able to inspire me to shake my booty in quite the same way as Anne Marie. So Zumba and I split up!
Running. Ahh, running! For most of my life running was my nemesis!! Something I couldn’t do, wasn’t built for, and was convinced I would die trying. But sometime after my second baby was born I stumbled upon a number of blogs written by larger ladies who for their own specific reasons were all embarking on their own running journeys and I started to get a little curious. Around about the same time I also read Alexandra Heminsley’s Running Like a Girl, which inspired me more than any other book I’ve ever read. Seriously, if you haven’t read it, I cant recommend it highly enough. So anyway, I did all of this reading (see, I told you- a thinker rather than a do-er!!) and spent a lot of time imagining myself attempting such a feat.
Now at the time, my husband was doing loads of running (he still would be if it wasn’t for a slight glitch with his heart at the minute) and he was uber keen to get me on board. So keen in fact, that he agreed to let me spend a lot of our money on a treadmill to go in the summer house at the bottom of our garden. Why? You might ask…. Well it was because at the time, the biggest obstacle holding me back was my crippling fear of people seeing me out running and hurling abuse at the useless fatty who was inflicting herself and her sweaty wobbly bits on the general public….. Sad, sad times. Anyway, we bought the treadmill and off I went. And I really went for it. I downloaded the NHS Couch to 5k app and followed it to the letter, and whaddya know….before too long I was doing it! Running 5K, 3 times a week. And what was even better was that I eventually plucked up the courage to take my running outdoors. I was getting up at 5.30am 3 times a week, going out for a gorgeous (when I say gorgeous, I mean that the scenery was gorgeous, not the act of running!) solitary run on quiet country lanes, watching the sun come up and I was back home and showered in time for the school run. Hell, I even inspired my best mate to start Couch to 5K too and she ended up running Bath Half Marathon!!!! In fact, these are a couple of cards she sent to me at the time………..
…….The second one completely sums up how I felt about a running every time I did it! However, I did also get an ENORMOUS sense of achievement from every run logged. The buzz that came from pushing my body and proving to myself that I was capable of so much more than I had believed, was immense.
And then I got a gammy hip. It started gradually but soon got to the point where it was causing me a lot of significant pain even when I was just walking. I went to a physio who gave me some exercises to do and while it did improve slightly, it only really went away when I was having complete rest from running. And so pretty much as soon as I had discovered my inner Flo-jo, I was forced to put her into retirement for a while. Well, I say a while but its now been about 2.5 years!!!!! Its safe to say that my running mojo has well and truly left the building. My Dreadmill still sits glaring at me in my office while I write and I keep promising myself that I’m going to start again. But I’m afraid to say that I now well and truly have The Fear. Maybe sharing my fear with you will now encourage (*shame*) me into taking it up again…..watch this space!
Spinning. Hmmmm. What can I say about spinning? Other than that I hate it! I have really, really tried to get on board with spinning, but do you know what, my undercarriage isn’t so keen for me to continue with it! I just don’t get it. I don’t get the pain and discomfort. I don’t get the being in a room with lots of other very sweaty people all the while being shouted at by a very fit 20-something while your bum goes screamingly numb! And If I’ve learnt something over the last few years its that I have to want to do the exercise if I’m to have any hope of sticking at it! Incidentally, I have also learned that for me, if exercise is going to happen, it has to be a morning/daytime thing rather than an evening appointment. I just don’t feel like schlepping out to a class in the evening. In my happy space, evenings are for cooking a nice meal, sorting the kids out, chatting to my husband about the day and generally winding down before bed.
So what do I do right now? Well, not as much as I should do I know that much! My one saving grace at the moment is my Fitbit and I love how that keeps me focussed on at least upping my step count each day. When the weather is dry (yay spring) I make encourage the kids to scoot to and from school so that I can walk. Each round trip is approx. 6,000 steps so more often than not, I find that I am managing around 14-15,000 steps per day. Albeit not particularly brisk ones. Things have also moved up gear more recently because Ben has caved in to the Fitbit pressure and so now there’s a bit of healthy competition going on in the house!
Apart from walking, my current joy is Jessamyn Stanley who is 100% encouraging me to hit the mat and get my yoga on every day; If only for a very short burst, but a little is better than none eh? I also intend to start doing some open water swimming sessions with one of my best mates and her sister in the next month or two. Its something I’ve been really interested in having a go at for ages (I live in Cornwall for goodness’ sake!) but as yet I haven’t managed to be brave enough to fight my way into my wetsuit and plunge myself into a disused quarry full of freezing cold water. Hmmmmm, it sounds so appealing doesn’t it?! But if anyone’s going to encourage me to get in there, it’s Ellie!
Oh and BTW, I feel that at this point I should just throw into the mix how much I freakin’ LOVED the This Girl Can campaign! I mean, really, really, ultra, mega inspiring. The first time I saw the ad, I cried at its awesomeness. In fact, maybe I just need to head off and watch that on loop for an hour or two to help me re-find my mojo!
So, a wee bit of exercise is happening and plans are afoot for a little bit more, but I am aware that maybe its still not enough…….. Any keen exercisers out there who feel they can inspire me to take up anything fabulous that will suddenly turn me into a fit-a-holic? Please, pitch in…. all suggestions gratefully received!