Posts tagged ‘running’

November 16, 2013

Hobbies: BEDN #16

It’s Hobbies Day on #BEDN! Yay! Or, perhaps boo…

You see, for a scanner, everything is interesting. And therefore everything is potentially a hobby. On a great day, that can make you feel like you’re on top of the world but on a bad day it’s just impossibly frustrating as the knowledge that you’ve only got one life and are simply not going to get the chance to try everything that takes your fancy, never mind actually get any good at tennis, piano-playing, photography (or whatever subject is this week’s passion) is all too real.

To deal with my endless interests, I’ve always written plans, annual lists of what I want out of my life. When moving house the other day, I came across a handful of my notebooks and had a quick read through.

They made for depressing reading. Year after year, I’d written the same goals about my hobbies, about things I wanted to try or improve. Yet for some reason, I’ve never achieved many of these goals. I suppose there are many potential reasons for this. It could be a genuine lack of time or money. It could have been for reasons outside my control. But in honesty I think there are two main issues.

One – that I have far too many goals for my hobbies without any sense of prioritisation. Without knowing where to start I procrastinate endlessly, because the fear of choosing one thing over another feels like taking a one-way road and cutting other routes off forever. This is clearly not true, I can change my mind whenever I like!

Two – that I need to do the things I want to do, not the things I think I should want to do.

Which means allowing myself to just enjoy doing something for fun not purely for a challenge or to improve. It means going out horse riding just to enjoy a hack around the countryside instead of to improve my half pass. It means cycling to spend time with my boyfriend instead of purely to increase my distance. It means a slow walk in the woods instead of a hike around The Three Peaks. It means reading a novel for pure enjoyment and escapism instead of picking a ‘must-read’ improving classic. Sometimes, I need to slow down, and allow a hobby to be just that – something I do for fun!

And I need to recognise when, really, I don’t want to do something. For example, I’ve written ‘run a marathon’ on one of my wish lists for a few years in a row. Do I want to run a marathon? No. I do not. But I’ve written it because I think I should want to run a marathon. Because I’m a runner (or have been, at least) and that’s what runners do. They run marathons. But I’m bring honest with you and myself here – I never, ever want to run a marathon. A few miles of running around the local woods will do me just fine, thank you.

And, if I stop turning every hobby into a challenge of one kind or another, then I’ll probably end up doing more anyway because it takes the self-imposed pressure off.

I’m going to ride my new bike this week. And do you know, the highlight will be the grin that my new pink bar tape gives me, not the distance I cover. Because hobbies should be fun and I’ll do well to remember that…

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December 3, 2012

Returning to Running.

A couple of weeks ago, during an appointment for something completely unrelated, my doctor checked my blood pressure and announced that unless I could manage to get it to come down, I’d have to start taking some medication for it. And that once I was taking that medication, it would be for the rest of my life.

My immediate response was to go home, burst into stressful tears and drink beer on the stairs. Excellent. And a touch over-dramatic, I know. Not the first time I’ve had that kind of response to something a doctor has told me. Once I’d pulled myself together, splendidly supported by a soundtrack suggested by Twitter (and in particular from the always-on-the-money @wandapops) I started to think about the last time I’d been told that I needed to reduce my blood pressure and how I’d managed it.

Since my first pregnancy ended at thirty weeks with severe pre-eclampsia, I’ve suffered with high blood pressure and the only thing that has really worked to reduce it is running. Since returning to full time work after the birth of my second child, I’ve struggled to fit it into my schedule. And, like many people, looking after myself has dropped further and further down the list until it barely registers at all. Now, though, I have to re-think how I approach exercise. Not as a luxury bit of time for myself – which is how I’ve increasingly come to think of it – but as something essential, something that underpins the rest of my life.

Alongside running, I’ve got to lose a bit of weight again, and try to eat healthily and drink less alcohol. All those behavioural things that, even if they don’t give you a longer life, certainly make it feel as though you’ve lived longer! I’m not going to turn into a fun-free Puritan though. Everything in moderation. But I know that I owe it to myself and the people that love me to make a decent job of looking after myself a bit better. I know that taking medication is not the end of the world, and I’m grateful that it exists, should I need it. However, I really want to return to better habits, so that I don’t need to just yet.  I feel too young to be taking beta-blockers!

So, a new schedule is needed. One in which running is built in as an essential element, not as an afterthought. I’ve struggled with running on and off for the past few years. I have poor feet and knees. But I’ve been out three times this week, and I’ve surprised myself by enjoying it enormously. I’ve learnt that what Jayne from Veggie Runners told me is very true  – namely that once you’ve been a runner, no matter how long the break, it’ll be easier to run again than it was the first time around. This is very encouraging, and has helped me to keep going when it’s been tough, cold and muddy. I’m also grateful to those people who have offered to run with me. I’m better in (slow!) company,  I think. My initial goal is to do a decent time at a Parkrun in January, and then see how I get on, perhaps with Outlaw Runners in Leeds. But this time, I’m less bothered about improving times, entering races or anything like that. This time the only numbers that count are 120/80, and my goal is to get closer to them…

See, I told you it was muddy…

September 7, 2012

A Patch of Green

Last night, after tea, my husband announced that we should all go for a walk on the Valley. To a chorus of groans and calls for one more episode of Scooby Doo, he insisted. And, he was right. It was a glorious evening. We took our ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ football (a top quality piece of kit!), and walked through the grass paths of Primrose Valley to the playing fields where we ran about and played.

The photo I took at the end of our time there really does sum up how lovely it was, even though it’s somewhat rose-tinted through an Instagram filter.

When we think of the great outdoors, we may think of the National Parks, which for me means the Yorkshire Dales or the North York Moors. We think of beautiful and protected landscapes. Those are the jewels in the crown of our national, natural environment. And rightly so. But I would argue that they are not the green spaces that make the most difference. What makes the most difference to people is green space on our doorstep, close enough to where we live for it to form part of our everyday lives and not just be part of a special occasion or to see en route to the coast. This, proven to have positive effects on both our physical and mental health, can be sadly lacking in less wealthy areas. People are too scared to use green spaces, or they’re just not used to the idea that time spent outdoors, just for the sake of a walk or run about in the fresh air, can be great.

When I posted my photo, people commented on how perfect it looked. I blame my use of Instagram for that. It’s not perfect. There is litter, people let their dogs use it as a toilet around the edges, and yes, there can be the odd bout of anti-social behaviour (and here isn’t the place for looking at the deeper causes of that).

But it’s also one of the reasons we wanted to live here. It’s a giant, often underused, patch of wild green space in the city. Thankfully it has a small committed band of volunteers working to keep it looking as good as it does. I love it here. And we’ll be back again after tea another day…

Where is your favourite patch of green space? Is there one close to where you live? I’d love to know…

May 14, 2012

Running Without Music

Recently, I wrote my first guest post for a fabulous blog, A Hell of A Woman, about running and pre-eclampsia. Since I wrote it, I’ve been feeling a bit of a fraud, considering that I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been out for a run in recent months. I can give you lots of reasons why, from lack of time to sore feet, but the overwhelming reason is my sheer bloody laziness.

Having written it, and sent it flying through the ether where I cannot change a word of it, I have taken the other option. That of starting running again, so that I’m not a liar who writes about running whilst sitting on the sofa drinking tea. I’ve been twice this week, and although I’m obviously a lot less fit than the last time I ran, I’ve enjoyed myself more than I anticipated. It’s made me want to try harder to find the time to run and to beat my own excuses for not doing exercise. I struggle with running, because I do have plantar fasciitis, which gives me a shooting pain up into my foot each time I land, but it’s being managed by physio and, if I’m honest with myself about it, it’s far easier to manage when I’m slimmer and fitter.

When I run outside, I always use my Ipod (safely; off road, in public and during the day, before you start tutting at me) to keep me going. Sadly, this was inside the bag that I had stolen recently, and although I received insurance compensation, I ended up spending my new iPod money on ballet lessons for my daughter. So I’ve earned myself much-coveted ‘Good Mummy’ brownie points, but I’ve had no music.

I never thought that I was much of a music fan. Certainly I barely know what is going on in music these days, either the ‘X Factor’ stuff or the cool, indie underground so-new-no-one-knows-about-them bands. Most of the time I end up listening to Radio 2, or whatever the kids want to listen to, a mix of Disney and LMFAO which is enough to make your ears bleed! For a brief period many years ago, I had a deeper fascination with music. I’m talking a LONG time ago, back when I used to buy Smash Hits to memorise the lyrics and try to tape the Top 40 countdown without getting any of the DJ talking at the end of each track. That took plenty of dedication and swift ‘press the pause button’ responses, I can tell you. I doubt I’d have such lightening fast reactions these days.

I’ve realised though, since losing my iPod, that I listen to music far more often than I’d realised and so I do need to replace it. I miss music, in my own middle-of-the road not very cool kind of way. (Perhaps I am cool though, those eighties and early nineties Smash Hits have left me able to sing along to almost any song from that period, which drives my husband up the wall!)

The one thing I thought I needed music for, above anything else, was for exercise. I listen to the kind of dance and pop music that my daughter loves, because the tempo is better. Also, I do love pop music, I cannot continue to pretend otherwise. (Ok, I’m not cool. I know that really…)

I run off road, and so don’t suffer from the kind of ‘ Run, Forrest, Run!’ type comments that people who run on the roads often have to contend with. However, being able to block out even that possibility was one of the reasons I’ve always worn headphones when I’m running alone. In company, it’s a bit different. I’m usually running with, or more accurately, behind, my husband then and busy concentrating all my energies on swearing at him to bloody slow down.

I’ve realised a few things when out running this week. Firstly, not listening to music meant I was listening to birdsong instead. This was actually really lovely and made me feel more a part of the environment I was running through, which was a truly positive feeling and one of the ace things about being outside and not in a gym. When I’m out with my husband, we chat, when I can breathe enough anyway, so I never really listen to the birds.

Unfortunately, I also realised that I talk to myself a lot when I’m running. On my run yesterday, it started off with the odd ‘come on’ whisper when I was struggling a bit. But when I was reaching the top of a horrible hill, there were distinct Incredible Hulk noises coming from somewhere deep inside me, until I reached the top and keeled over heaving, like an out of condition racehorse.

I was a bit shocked to hear myself so now I’m wondering if I always make these noises? Am I blithely running about with my headphones in, grunting all over Temple Newsam? Do I sing aloud? Dear God – can other people hear me?

So, I have decided, that lovely though the birdsong was, it is definitely time to invest in a new iPod. Maybe when I’m out running with my husband, I will try to listen to the birds. Running alone without music is a bit like being a character in a film with no soundtrack and that soundtrack needs to come back. I may be grunting, singing and heaving on the outside, but in my head I’m Rocky Balboa, listening to ‘Eye of the Tiger’ and feeling like a champion…

January 23, 2012

Energy In, Energy Out.

So, running again yesterday. It was hard. Much harder than last week, which lulled me into some false sense of security. Today, the wind was blowing a gale, all the frozen ground had turned into a good few inches of mud and it was really difficult. I had to stop and walk in places, because it was so slippery I couldn’t get a grip, and given that I’m only just recovering from one injury, I didn’t want to end up with another. So, I spent quite a bit of the time, walking, swearing and watching my much-fitter husband disappearing into the distance.

See what I mean?

In the summer of 2010, I was the slimmest and fittest I’ve ever been, if you discount the year when I was 19 and working full time in a riding stables. I even fitted into a pair of size eight jeans. For about half an hour. Although I am fine about being bigger ( I don’t think I’m ever really destined to be a size 8 again) I am less happy about my level of fitness dropping so much and truthfully, I don’t want to let myself get any bigger than I am now. A combination of injury, greed and laziness has resulted in me putting on quite a bit of weight and losing muscle tone and although I’m still fitter than I was at my lowest point in 2006/7, I am still unhappy about it.

So, time for a plan. As well as the weekly outdoor run, I will make a better effort to get to the gym for two mixed cardio and weight sessions a week and also try to find something that will help my ever-decreasing flexibility.  Although my body is far better suited to cycling than it is to running, the reality is that running gets me fitter, faster. I simply don’t have the time on a regular basis to put in the miles of cycling. So that will have to be for occasional fun, with completing Cycletta being the highlight of my cycling year.

The simple truth about losing weight and getting fitter is this: Energy In vs. Energy Out. That’s it. Although there are a million ways (all complete with a best-selling diet book) of doing it, they all rely on that one fact. Granted, there are better and worse ways of obtaining that energy, but I’m not a nutritionist, so I’m not going to try to describe them. Suffice to say, more of what you eat should be in the form of vegetables than Mars Bars. But that’s it. If you put more energy into your body in the form of calories, than you expend through living, breathing and exercising, that energy will be stored by your body. Use up more energy than you put in, and your body will use up those stores of energy. The bonus is that muscle uses up more energy than fat, even at rest, so you continue to benefit from the exercise even when you’re not actually in the middle of it.

Of course, what this doesn’t take into account is our emotional relationship with food. If I tell myself I’m not going to eat cake for a week, there is barely a second goes by without me thinking of cake. So, the deal I am making with myself is this – a bit less cake, a bit more exercise. Just enough to tip the Energy In vs. Energy Out balance. We’ll see how I get on.

January 20, 2012

Sprinkles: why it’s time for serious skincare.

I went for a run the other day. The first one in months, and of course, the day we decided to venture out, it was minus 4 degrees. Covered up in as many layers I could practically manage whilst still retaining full mobility, with a pink Buff secured over my ears, I looked great. By which, I clearly mean, a bit rubbish. The run itself went really well. It was bloody cold, but the fact I am pretty unfit meant I was soon warm and running through the woods, jumping over fallen branches and avoiding frozen puddles was as much fun as I remembered it being before my stupid foot injury, so I was really pleased. At the end, I was steaming like an out-of-condition racehorse, so the weather wasn’t so much of a problem.

Only when I got home and went into the bathroom for a shower did I notice the skin on my face. I’m blessed with that ‘lovely’ pink skin. You know, the kind that turns red at the hint of the sun, rarely tans, just gets more freckles, and in my case, turns bright purple after exercise and stays that way for hours… So, naturally, it was purple at that moment. It was also really sore though and it still is.

My skin appears to hate the cold. Which is weird really, because it hates hot weather too. So basically, my skin is against ‘weather’ in general. That’s helpful.

Alongside this revelation is my lovely son’s obsession with my ‘sprinkles’. I must have spent most of my life being in a state of shock because I always seem to raise my eyebrows. Always. Which means that although I’m not massively wrinkly on the rest of my face, I do have lines across my forehead, deep furrows like perfectly ploughed field. Ok, I’m exaggerating a bit, but they are there. And my son is very concerned about them. The other day, he gave me a little cuddle, then ran his hand across my forehead, talking about my ‘sprinkles’. Then he frowned with all his might, and pointed to the teeny tiny furrows between his eyes.

This is why I forgive him…

Adorable though it was, I have now started spending a lot more time in front of a mirror peering at them, pulling at the sides of my face to see what I might look like if I had a facelift and imagining a perfectly-Botoxed and therefore furrow-free forehead. Not that I’m going in for surgery. The mere idea of voluntarily injecting myself with any form of Botulism purely out of vanity makes me shudder – although each to their own and I know lots of people do.

What I am going to do, though, is invest a bit more in my skin care. I need a serum, decent moisturiser, face masks. Whatever it takes to make me feel a bit better about it, and stop my face feeling so sore. At the moment I am hacking off the tops of off my lotions and potions to make them last until pay day. Once it arrives though, I am planning to spend a bit of money on saving my face. First up is an emergency treatment to take away the soreness, then I’ll look for a serum and moisturiser to help me deal with my sprinkles…

Here are my favourite emergency skin-saving remedies:

Eve Lom TLC cream – rich, designed for more mature skin and great for taking away the tightness of dry and sensitive skin and the soreness of my wind-chapped cheeks.

Neals Yard Remedies Wild Rose Beauty Balm. I use this lots-  as a creamy cleanser and exfoliator (when used with the muslin cloth it comes with) or, more often as a rich, use anywhere, moisturiser. It smells wonderful, and although it has quite a greasy texture, it sinks in well. I really recommend this for things like chapped lips too.

Darphin Aromatic Renewing Balm. This works really well as an overnight balm on dry and sensitive skin and the combination of essential oils makes it smell amazing. Great as protection against environmental conditions.

I admit that they’re all pretty expensive but they do last me for months and months.

I’ve also heard very good things about the following two creams. Although I haven’t tried them yet, I intend to soon:

Lush Skin Drink – Designed for dry and sensitive skins and great at helping you to winter-proof your skin. Plus this one is quite a lot cheaper than the others, so  could use loads if I needed it!

Lush Skin’s Shangri La – Described as being great for winter, and leaving you cheeks that are soft to the kiss!

So, that’s my chapped cheeks dealt with. Next is the search for a great moisturiser and extra treatments to save my face in the longer term!

My sprinkly face…

July 8, 2011

Let’s get physical!

Hello folks.

It’s been a while since I posted anything here. Life is pretty hectic, although truthfully, I’ve spent much of the last couple of weeks sitting on the sofa watching other people expend energy – at Wimbledon and now the Tour De France.

Watching incredible sports people at the peak of physical fitness and determination, and even after witnessing today’s sad accident that has just befallen Bradley Wiggins of the Team Sky Pro-cycling team, my interest has been fuelled in undertaking more physical challenges and seeing what my body can achieve. Even clearly lots of pain after breaking a collar bone, Wiggins was already talking about when he would be fit enough to start training. What amazing dedication. He was in such great shape, with a chance of the yellow jersey this year and now we’ll never know. I wish him a speedy recovery.

My relationship with my body changed so much after having children, especially the first time around when my baby daughter and I nearly died. The fundamental shift in my thinking happened after this, as many of the things which I had been self critical about really ceased to have the same power over me.

I can have children. This is the biggest and most amazing thing my body has achieved, for which I will be eternally grateful. I cannot get into a pair of size ten jeans (although for a brief shining period of last summer, I could) but it doesn’t matter. Nor do I have the greatest skin, having both a few spots and now wrinkles. Who knew you got both at once? I thought I’d move seamlessly from one skin problem into another, not that they’d just pile up on top of each other! But anyway, although I do have a weakness for lovely skincare products, it doesn’t bother me in the way it once did. After two emergency c- sections, I have tram line scars across a stomach which on a bad day resembles pink blancmange anyway, so a couple of wrinkles are really neither here nor there. What matters more, is not what my body looks like, but what it can DO.

I can walk, run, dance, swim, ride a horse. I can dig my allotment. I can sing (terribly, but with gusto) while I’m in the shower. I can carry my kids around on my shoulders. One at a time, you understand, I’m not the Hulk. I can cuddle them both at once though, which is lovely. I also seem to be popular for sitting on, whilst watching TV together,  and I can also watch films, read books, listen to music, play games. I can eat, drink and be merry. I can explore the world and climb to the top of the Eiffel Tower.

But what interests me now, is what else could I do? Could  I run a marathon? Get back on a bicycle, for the first time since a childhood accident put me off for life? Climb a mountain? Where are my limits? It would be great to know what I can achieve with this one body, with its scars and wrinkles!

Well, I’ve decided to take some inspiration from the sports people I have been watching. The bike has been taken out of storage ( thanks to my lovely friend Hannah who left it with me after she emigrated) and is being prepared for my first wobbly trial. The running has increased to three times a week in preparation for the Yorkshire 3 Peaks challenge to raise money for Bliss (the premature baby charity) which is now in the diary for September and I am even contemplating Cycletta in October – which is a women-only 40k cycle ride on closed roads for charity. Assuming that I make it past those first rides and find someone willing enough to be my team mate, that is!

So, 35:35 Challenge has taken on a distinctly physical feel to it. For now, anyway. Other things are still in progress, including the flying and music. More on which another day…