The Puzzle of Movement: Becoming the Kinetic Energetic

In the final stage of starting to get active the focus is on actually starting to move. Feel free to move in any way which suits you and here are some lessons I’ve learned along the way when turning getting active into part of my permanent lifestyle.

This stage is called, Becoming the Kinetic Energetic.

Balance Ambition and Attainability

With running, it is tempting to go for straight for the big distances. A training plan says you can run a half marathon in 8 weeks, so why shouldn’t you? If you train hard you’ll get results quickly right?

Unfortunately, fitness isn’t always a direct correlative relationship of input vs results. We are human beings not machines: we can’t force out bodies to stick to a constant progressive plan as figured by an algorithm. Injuries happen. Overuse injuries and obtaining injuries from increasing your exercise load too quickly are very real – and are not something be ploughed on through in the name of ‘mind over matter’.

Our bodies do things that may not fall in line with our plans and ambitions. Being realistic with self expectations and self compassionate throughout your journey will harbour much greater results than literally beating your body up physically in order to run too far a distance in too short a time, or dead lift too many Kgs too quickly – and that’s OK.

I can however, make slow progress in line with how my body adapts. I can gain more than climbing higher grades and running faster miles from my journey. This way I maintain a level of ambition and sense of progress that becomes very enticing from exercising, whilst also respecting my body and capabilities. You can too.

Engage with Online Communities for your Activity

I don’t mean follow a bunch of Insta models with chiseled muscle definition and a body shape that requires an unhealthy level of obsession to achieve. What I mean is, if you don’t know anyone who wants to get into your activity with you, go find your people.

One way of doing this is the web – Meet Up, and local clubs and Facebook groups are a great place to start. Engaging in an ongoing conversation with others like you about your journeys, encouraging one another is a great source or virtual community. Some members may be inspiring to you, and you never know, you may yourself inspire others.  You may meet up at an event and do it together – there are hundreds of people just like you who have done just that, and for as scary as that may initially seem – you’ll meet some bloody brilliant people.

Together we’re stronger.

Make it social

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Working out alone can be a good time to clear your mind, focus on yourself and take time out from your day. For years, I ran solo, I went to the gym on my own, and I only climbed in a group because you kind of need someone to belay you – until I discovered bouldering could become a solitary activity also. I enjoy being alone, and know that not everyone likes being alone as much as I do.

For years I totally underestimated the value of working out with others, undervaluing the greater benefit of running with friends, and enjoying the company of other people in a positive space. Since this bomb has dropped, I regularly go to running crew each week.

It has become a place to forge friendships who share my passions. It has become a place to shake out the cobwebs of stagnation from a low mood in the company of others, a place to celebrate achievements of one another and a safe place of acceptance.

The benefit of human contact on a regular basis is something I never valued, until now. And as an awkward introvert who is usually immersed in swathes of social awkwardness I have found the fitness people, and the running crew to be a very non-judgmental and friendly bunch. It may not feel right with the first group you run, yogi or climb with, but keep trying – eventually a you’ll find yourself a you-shaped space to be the missing piece to a jigsaw of a crew you never even knew about before.

Embrace the Power of Post Exercise Mindfulness 

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After a work out take time to sit, breathe and be mindful about how your body and mind are feeling. Just taking a moment to do so gives you time to reflect on where you’re at, how you’re feeling physically and emotionally. Is something bothering you? Is there something you want to work on? Is there a niggle in your knee that needs attention? Or are you just feeling totally zen and absorbing as much of that as possible for a moment? Stop to smell the flowers.

Don’t Focus on Weight or Size

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Weight loss is a viable goal for many but I would definitely never advocate obtaining a certain clothes size or goal weight to be the main or only reason for incorporating physical activity into your life. It is claimed that weighing yourself regularly can help with weight loss in numerous research papers.

However, focusing on weight alone can become very disheartening and a very damaging relationship with yourself. There is no self compassion or love in weighing yourself every day. This gives the scales too much power.

Use the scales if you need to but don’t enslave yourself to them. They’re a tool and deserve no power in your life beyond that. Be real with the scales and let them be real with you – and leave it at that.

Pushing your physical boundaries can be an emotional journey. Let it.

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Pushing yourself, breaking yourself down in order to build yourself up is so much more than a physical journey. ‘Your body is capable, it’s your mind you have to convince’ and this can be a very complicated and windy path of self realisation and discovery.

Sometimes it will be a struggle, other times you’ll smash your own expectations and it’ll feel emotional. You may want to shout or cheer, or even cry – this is entirely OK. Emotions are OK, and pushing yourself in order to break self-inflicted boundaries and  achieving your fitness goals can be an emotional journey. Let yourself own it.

Stop believing in tomorrow. Start today

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Tomorrow I’ll start running. Ok, It’s Wednesday and I didn’t go – I’ll start over on Monday. Next week is definitely the day I’m going to start going to the gym. I’ve signed up now, there’s no excuse, other than the excuse you’ll give to yourself when Monday comes.

Sound familiar?

Stop giving tomorrow so much power. The day is today. What can you do today to prepare yourself and take a step in the right direction? It might not be lacing up right now, but maybe it’s thinking of how you could start. Something may be in the way at the moment: work, study or commitments, so tomorrow may be necessary sometimes but put a deadline on it.

After a month of tomorrow’s start switching to today thinking. Tomorrow will be better from the actions you make today. Get yourself out there. Show yourself what you’re made of – and have a bloody good time doing it!

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Mind Over /half/ Marathon

Something really quite spectacular happened this bank holiday weekend. On Sunday, Hackney opened it’s roads to thousands of runners for the Hackney Festival of Fitness which included: the Hackney Half Marathon, Hackney Chase Your Mates 5.5k and a school run for the wee ones. That wasn’t quite where the spectacular was though, I mean, the organisers did a good job of hosting the event – but for me, the real beauty of the event was found within the people running it, and supporting those to run it.

I’m talking about the communities that lined the streets to cheer and support the runners. I’m talking about the pacers from running crews around London who supported and helped people to achieve their goals, targets and aspirations. I’m talking about the running crew that I have grown to love so dearly, Backpackers CLC, who supported the nervous, the slowest road warriors and the first timers. In that group of nervous, slow first timers was myself.

I have signed up to many, many half marathons in my time. Before Hackney I have made it to 0 of those start lines. At Hackney I very nearly didn’t make it to the start line again – but something was different to before. I had the support of wonderful people around me. Wifey dragged me out of bed with a, “I’m not leaving for work until you get your kit on and in the car with me”: this got me to the event venue. I started sorting myself out with food and hydration and my million morning wee’s that happen every race day  before running to the back of the last pen looking out for the run/walk flag that served as my beacon in that moment.

I was already crying by this point. I said “Hi”, showed my face and tried to hide my tears but they protested and won. I was so nervous, and had been trying to control my nerves for weeks by this point but they took control for a few moments of a mini panic attack – if I had been on my own I would have definitely gone home defeated at this point. I wasn’t alone though, I had crew around me, supporting me, giving me a hug and a pre-run pep talk. They got me breathing and they got me race ready.

This is what crew is about. Supporting each other to do our best and holding each other up. I have met these guys since february, and I still have my reservations about people. In my mind, the majority of people = bad in a whole humongous number of ways. What crew is teaching me is so valuable – that there are some bloody brilliant people out there who are wonderful, and supportive, and understanding, and non-judgmental.

Mind = blown!

This was all before we crossed the first chip timing marker point – the start line. Crossing the start line was harder than crossing the finish line. Once we were on our way, my mind game grew stronger: keep putting one foot in front of the other until you reach the finish line – and now I have crossed the start line, I’m bloody well makign it to the finish line now.

I had two friends with me, who had run this distance numerous times and could have easily chosen to run ahead but didn’t. They chose to stick together for the whole journey: start to finish, dancing, singing, laughing, skipping – generally acing it like a walk in the park whilst I plodded my way behind them enjoying their antics.

You know when your cheeks start to ache from smiling so much, and it is at that point you realise how much you’ve been smiling, how much you’re enjoying yourself, how much you are grateful for pushing to get to this moment because your face hurts – that! I had that. I had that on a 13.1 mile run. I have never run this distance before, and I never imagined that when I did I would be running the streets of London smiling like a Cheshire cat. I did, we did. Together we crossed the line as the same group that crossed the start line, but in the words of Alice, “I knew who I was this morning, but I’ve changed a few times since then.”

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I now know I can cover the 13.1 miles of a half marathon. I now believe that a panic attack doesn’t have to set you back or stop you in your tracks. I now feel like perhaps, just maybe, there are people out there that are truly wonderful and that actually, sometimes days with people in them aren’t the days that go wrong and make you feel bad and hating on the world – sometimes, they’re the days that pick you up.

This is the power of running. This is the power of crew. This was my own version of mind over (half) marathon.

London Winter Run 10k 2017

Last weekend something rather big happened. I ran the Cancer Research Winter Run 10k. A lot of people run 10k on the regular and a lot of people ran the 10k for Cancer Research last weekend. Approximately 17,000 in fact. Needless to say, it was a pretty epic way to spend a Sunday.

The course was based in central London, starting and finishing in the Trafalgar Square area. The route toured around parts of London I never even knew existed – they were streets of another world. The grand London I suppose you could say, of scenery and landmarks where splendour and grand will only do. It was great to see these parts of London on a Sunday, when they sleep and everything seems so peaceful and quiet. This feeling was likely aided by the road closures for the race, which makes signing up for it next year definitely all the more worthwhile.

Many people were running the race to raise money for Cancer Research UK. Seeing the “I’m running for…” bibs on people’s’ backs around the course really brought home the enormity of the impact of cancer. It’s easy to think in numbers and figures when reading the news or watching TV campaigns – seeing names and ‘Mum’ or ‘Dad’ really hit home why Cancer Research run this event and the many others that they do each year. For the first time though, I saw signs of people running for people who survived – they were raising money so more people could survive their cancer battle too. Let’s hope that year on year we see an increase in these signs amongst the crowds.

When I went to the event the only ambition I had was to cross the finish line in one piece. In my mind, I was prepared to walk the vast majority of the race having not been able to train in the run up, thanks to my Flu of January 2017 (I’m dramatic I know). I first signed up for this race in 2016, however I was unable to run it due to being stuck in psych hospital. I swore in 2016 I would do it in 2017. In October of 2016 my friend tried convincing me to sign up for it as we have run races together before. I was hesitant and nervous having not been able to get myself running consistently for any length of time for a wee while. Eventually, in early January I secretly signed up anyway. I didn’t tell anyone until the week before – incase I didn’t go again. Nowadays my race dates are relatively guarded secrets for this reason.

Getting to the start line was half the battle. I had taken the decision to not wear a watch, or my Fitbit because the whole goal was to cross the finish line. I bumbled along at a very slow pace and after 1 hour 27 of running, I crossed the finish line curling over in an emotional mass of snot and tears of overwhelming emotion.

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The first aid volunteers at the finish line came over asking if I was not feeling well – I was feeling a crazy concoction of pride, relief, and disbelief: physically? I was fine. Emotionally? I was fucked. I had actually achieved something for the first time in ages. I had managed to outdo my own expectations of myself with the encouragement and support of my friend and Wifey, and I’d had essentially an hour and a half to really reflect  on how lucky I am, how much stronger I am than I often think, and how actually I really enjoy plodding along on a run.

For now, I am going to start running more regularly again – and hopefully another flu doesn’t stop me in my tracks again – because I just know how much it helps me mentally, emotionally and physically. In the future? Half Marathon by the time 2017 is out, here I come!!

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Running My Fate into My Hands

We all have our comfort zones. I for one am a massive culprit of staying firmly rooted within my comfort zone. At times in my life I have even reduced and reduced what constitutes my comfort zone until I am living my life trapped by my own invisible boundaries. The saying, “life begins at the end of your comfort zone” is a common quote I see floating around the internet on living a life to the full and of personal growth.

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According to this idea, all of our life’s adventures are achieved from pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zone frequently, and although I agree that we need to push ourselves out of our comfort zones sometimes in order to grow, I don’t quite follow the mantra “do something every day that scares you” because to be honest, if I do something that scares me on one day, I may need 2-3 days to recover and adjust.

This week for example, I have started running in the mornings in order to make sure I fit it in, don’t procrastinate it away for days, which turn into weeks, which turn into months at a time. Instead of always wishing, I’ve started just doing. However, that isn’t to say I have started ‘just doing’ for every aspect of my life that I have ever spent hours dreaming and wishing about because the drawback on the ‘just do it’ slogan is that I also need to be realistic. If I ‘just do’ everything I want to do, I will most certainly become overwhelmed and wind up achieving…nothing…nada…zilch…to accompany my already long list of regrets.

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In order to start running in the mornings I had to think about each barrier that was stopping me from running for so many months: the why, the what and how to change it. One barrier I came across was that I didn’t know my way around my neighbourhood since I moved in December 2015. This prevented me from going out and running outside for quite some time. Once I did I restricted myself to the same route, road and park. Needless to say, my running routes became stagnant and boring.

Now I know the surrounding roads and areas more than a year ago. I know of more local parks, woodlands and all the roads to the next few high streets from riding the bus everywhere. I don’t fully know about all of the little roads in-between and this is OK. To solve the final blow of a conundrum of not knowing a perfect loop that starts and ends at my front door, I have started packing my oyster card with me so I can  get a bus home if I need to. I have done this a few times now, and have actually never needed to use it – but the comfort of knowing I can get home via public transport is a safety net to my greater explorations of the SE postcodes of London.

 

Today though, I took an even more bold move than I have done in a good while. I had my tools with me: my oyster, my bank card and my phone – fully charged. I was prepared for any eventuality that might strike whilst running up a london suburbia street that I don’t know. I hadn’t studied the map, I hadn’t planned my route. All I had in my head when I left my driveway was the first road I was going to take. After that, the world was my oyster. The roads of SE london were at my feet and I had prepared to just go. With a push in my confidence and a wobbly step outside of my comfort zone that turn up a road that totally lost my bearings in relation to where I was vs home brought a few racing thoughts of panic.

“Should I turn back?”

“That road back there was a bus route I know”

“Where am I going to come out at?”

I didn’t turn back. I didn’t stop running. I didn’t panic – I Just kept going. I was running out of my comfort zone, quite literally. After I had finished my run I used my phone to find my way back to where I knew and walked home. I wasn’t that far away at all in the end. In fact, I was very much closer to home than I realised. It was fine. It was great. It was quite freeing knowing I just went. Although the anxiety was still there slightly, and even when I think about it now a pang of anxiety snaps in my chest but I did it.

 

I won’t be pushing myself out of my comfort zone for the rest of today though, or even at all tomorrow either. I am still quite fond of my comfort zone. I am still quite a homebody and find comfort in staying with what I know. I will however, keep pushing myself out there slightly over time in order to grow. It’s not that life begins at the edge of your comfort zone, it’s that growth starts at the edge of your comfort zone. From growth, we achieve and become more of what we want and less of ‘just is’. From growth, we see our limits and know our core. From growth, our fate is in our hands rather than our fate being at the hands of anything and everything except yourself.

From growth, I am going to become the best person I can be – and for me, there is no carrot on a stick more desirable than that.

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Climbing Kisses and 3 Kilometres

Yesterday I went climbing. It was great. I haven’t been for some time, so my hands had softened up- as you can see from below and I forgot my finger tape. However, it was great fun and definitely great to try out a new centre as so far in my climbing journey I have only climbed at one centre, which is a very nice centre known at The Reach, but it was good to go to The Arch in Borough too.

As usual with climbers, the competition is with yourself, and helping each other out is the name of the game as a friendly fellow leant me some tape to cover my sores so I could climb some more. Dear friendly climber, it was much appreciated.  

This morning I ran my first 3km in my 10k training plan. It went quite well and I managed to dig a bit deeper to get a 7’47” average pace instead of the usual 8’36” which I feel quite pleased about. I feel slightly stronger in myself and hope to feel stronger by the time Tough Mudder and Rat Race Dirty Weekend rock on up in a months time. I am in my final month of preparation and I feel like I’ve only just started despite knowing this was going to happen for a year and a half nearly now. I had planned to be in peak physical fitness and shape, I can only laugh at how much that didn’t happen, but despite this, I’m trying..still. I won’t give up, I refuse.

When I weighed myself this morning I miraculously gained about 5lb in two days. Obviously this is some sort of joke that my scaled are playing on me. Ha ha scales, well done, good one. Hil-arrrrr-ious! Seriously, hilarious!

So I decided to start taking measurements using My Fitness Pal, which I use for nothing anymore other than recording my weight and measurements on charts – fun, I know. So here we go – for I am yet to be brave enough to do a before shot my measurements go as follows:

Hips: 37.3″
Bicep: 11″
Thigh: 25.2″
Waist: 32″
Weight: Late April Fools but usually 162lb.

I don’t know what measurements I would like to aim for, this I need to give some thought. I have a goal weight, but not goal measurements, but it would be nice to be a size 10-12 again so maybe a 28″ waist would be a good goal to aim for. Which isn’t unachievable, and the rest of the measurements will follow.

My First 5k

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I managed my first 5km run today in a long time. I didn’t run the whole way, in fact I walked quite a lot but that’s OK – because it gives me something to improve on. I felt better running today than I have been lately, I think because the weather has picked up and I could go out in my hoody and it was a great temperature and breeze for exercising outside.

I’ve been in a pretty foul mood all day, which ultimately was my motivation to get out and get moving because I KNOW exercising whether I’m hitting goals or not, helps my mental health and mood difficulties. So there you go – my bad mood got me off my arse.

The run wasn’t too bad, there however, is a lot of room for improvement.

I did 5km
42:34 mins
8’28” average pace

I’m keeping these stats clear so I can hopefully, over time, see some improvement. I don’t feel particularly exhausted and feel like I could have done an extra km or two so I may go swimming tonight as well – we’ll see how my evening goes.

Another motivation to keep moving and counting calories is that when I stop, I stop losing weight as well, which sucks because I want to lose a fair amount of weight on my journey.