Run for your mental health!

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK this week, and there is a lot of coverage of mental health issues on the TV, radio and social media. One thing I have really noticed is the amount of people talking about how exercise can really help mental health issues.

running and mental healthI watched a documentary recently called ‘Mind over Marathon’ on the BBC which focused on a group of people with mental health issues, including OCD, anxiety, PTSD and depression. They signed up to a challenge to train for the London Marathon (which took place a couple of weeks ago), with the advice that something like this would be beneficial to their mental health. Supported by fitness trainers and trained mental health professionals, along with others who had themselves been successful in using exercise to cope with their own mental health issues, they embarked on a 20 week training plan. If you get a chance to watch it on BBC iplayer, it was a fascinating watch, and really cemented for me the whole link between exercise and mental health which I have long believed (see my previous blog on Exercise – the best medicine).

Anyway, what made me blog about this today? Well, I had a really positive experience with a run today which really had me buzzing. I woke up in a pretty rubbish mood to be honest and after a day off the healthy eating wagon yesterday, I felt quite sluggish. the last thing I wanted to do was go for a run. But my husband encouraged me and told me to ‘get out there as it would do me some good’ (he knows me so well!). I was about 400 metres into my run when it hit me – my mood lifted, I woke up to my surroundings (I was in the woods which is my favourite place to run), felt the sun on my face and felt the power of the fresh air in my lungs. I felt amazing – buzzing even, and it’s been a while since a felt a run do that much for me. I was raving about it when I got back home and it reminded me of the programme and a quote someone mentioned:

‘Running and mental health are really good companions’

Any form of exercise is good for you, both physically and mentally – you just need to get out there and do it. Running in particular, does not discriminate and is open to everyone. Anyone can run, just take it at your own pace and enjoy it – your mental health will definitely thank you for it!



Can you be big and fit?

I’ve just watched a really interesting interview with a lady called Louise Green who was talking about how society views larger people and automatically stereotypes them as ‘unfit’, and it really struck a chord with me.

womanonscale638x425Louise is a larger lady and was really interested in getting fit, and made herself go along to a class a number of years ago, but recalls feeling like she would be out of place, she would be the biggest, the slowest there, or that people would look at her and think she was in the wrong place. However, she stayed and enjoyed the feeling, and to cut a long story short, Louise is now a personal trainer and is helping others to enjoy fitness, even if they are not the stereotypical ‘small, fit size’. Louise is indeed herself ‘overweight’ but you can see that she is fit from the videos she promotes, and from the endurance activities she talked about.

The interview was really interesting and there was a lot of live comments from viewers who said you can’t be ‘fat and fit’ or ‘fat and healthy’ and there was some debate around whether promoting that it is OK to be overweight or obese was dangerous. I agree to some extent that telling people it is OK to be fat and unhealthy is not appropriate, but what Louise is saying, and I fully believe myself, is that you can be slightly overweight but have a healthy lifestyle, and be fit and enjoy exercise if you are a bit larger than average (what is average these days?!). The danger only comes if you believe that you can be overweight/obese without any thought or action with regard to your fitness and diet and that approach is healthy – that is not OK.
fit-and-fat-artI really liked the advice given in the interview, which is something I have been saying for years. I have struggled with my weight forever, and really given myself a hard time over the years. I am not a perfect size 10 – far from it. But I’ve learnt to love myself and accept my body, and be extremely proud of what it has achieved. I will never be that size 10 again (I was once), nor would I want to be. Yet I am physically fit, love exercise, am a qualified personal trainer and nutritional advisor. I’ve run a marathon, numerous half marathons and endurance races, I’ve climbed mountains, cycled from Edinburgh to Scotland in 5 days, lifted weights and pushed myself to my limits a lot over the years. But I also love my food and socialising. My philosophy has always been ‘everything in moderation’, and don’t deny yourself. Don’t focus on your weight or the scales but try and be healthy. Life is too short.

So yes, what Louise said is so right – move your body more, eat reasonably well as much as possible, and be positive rather than giving yourself a hard time. You can be bigger than average and fit – and most definitely enjoy exercise. I’ve just ordered Louise’s book too, and am really looking forward to reading it!

Spring – the opportunity for a fresh approach

Here in the UK, the clocks went forward at the weekend, making it lighter in the evenings for a bit longer. Spring has finally sprung, we are enjoying some sunshine and warmer weather, and best of all, we are seeing flowers and plants bloom again. It’s just beautiful to be outdoors.

Whilst my favourite time of the year is  Autumn, as I love the colours and I am more of a cold air ‘wrap up warm’ kind of girl, I love the sense of opportunity and new beginnings that Spring brings. After a long Winter when many of us have spent a lot of time indoors, with shorter darker days and sometimes miserable weather, it’s a real treat to see the sun shining, trees budding and flowers blooming. It lifts your mood, instils a sense of anticipation and excitement, and generally makes you feel happy.

This time of year always makes me want to sort things out and clean up – I guess it’s a bit of ‘Spring cleaning’. It also makes me want to try new things and focus on what I can do to improve things. So I’ve been busy about the house painting, clearing and cleaning and having a good sort out has really made me feel good – almost cleansed!

springcleanfitness_headerAnd I’m taking a similar approach to myself – focusing on how I can improve my well being, health and general outlook. To do so, I’m cutting back on sugar and looking to up my running distances (and using my Garmin tracking app to give me stats and focus). And one more thing I’ve decided to do is to challenge myself by incorporating one body weight exercise a day to my routine for the whole of April – I’ve decided on press ups. I’m going to start with 10 a day and build it up each day. Small changes, one at a time.

Spring – it’s time to bloom and progress!

Your mind is your strongest ‘muscle’

The inner drive to want something is what initially motivates us to do something, and physical fitness or power plays a key part in getting us there. But it is your mind – your mental power – that will determine whether you make it there or not.

56553818297a453ffe25acfd36895a91Take a fitness challenge – like a race or an obstacle course, or climbing a mountain. You need to be physically fit to complete it, and most people will normally follow some kind of specific plan. But if you aren’t in the right place mentally, or can’t pull on your mental strength to get you through the tough parts, it can all fail at that point.
It’s so important to make sure you focus your training on the mental side as well as the physical. But how do you do that? A few things that work for me:

  • Recognise progress
    You need to see progress in your training, and remind yourself how far you have come each time. Give yourself that pat on the back for getting through a stage, and focus on the positive elements of your progress.
  • Identify the negatives
    Yes, look at the negatives, but focus on how you can learn from them and work out how to deal with it when it happens again.
  • Look out for the signs of your mental weakness
    Learn to notice the signs of when you are feeling mentally weak during your training, and think about how you overcame them – or how you can do in the future. This will help you in the hard moments of your challenge.
  • Talk to yourself
    Listen to that inner voice, and use it to its full effect. Tell yourself you are good, you can do this, and you will feel proud at the end. This really works! You can do it our loud if you really want to 🙂
  • Visualise the end
    This really works for me. During a tough moment in a run, or when I have climbed some tough mountains, I’ve visualised myself at the finish and thought about how I will feel. And I ask myself how disappointed I will feel if I don’t push on.

And finally – Dig Deep! When you start to feel the ‘pain’, dig deep and believe in yourself. you know you can do it. As my husband frequently tells me ‘It’s all in the mind’. And it can make or break your determination.

You are stronger than you think!


Yesterday I ran a half marathon. This was something I had been training for over the last few months, covering some good distances and racking up the mileage. Despite this however, I really didn’t believe I would be able to complete the run without stopping, or in a decent time. I even had doubts on whether I would be able to finish.

This was all ridiculous, and I had to keep giving myself a good talking to at the start and throughout the run. Of course I could do it, and of course I would do it in a decent time, and I would be ecstatic at the end.

Strength and determination stem from mental willpower and belief in yourself, and quite often you are much stronger and capable than you think. This was definitely the case for me yesterday. Whilst I knew I had it in me to complete it, I did have to keep telling myself I was strong and I could do it, and I dug deep to get myself through it.

IMG_1617It’s achievements like this that make you stronger, more capable, and more aware of your own strength and ability. I finished that run with a sprint finish (I kid you not!), over taking a few people on the last 200 metres, and I felt fantastic – so proud of myself, and yet so surprised at my own ability. Others around me never doubted me and always believed I would do it

Yesterday proved to me that we have the strength inside ourselves to achieve whatever we want, to overcome those difficult situations, and to make yourself proud.

You are MUCH stronger than you think – just remember that!







Your biggest obstacle is yourself

obstacle 2We all make excuses, place blame on circumstance or events, and even other people for things not going our way. That’s because it’s easy to do, and even easier than to admit that it is down to ‘me’. It really is true when people say that the biggest thing stopping you achieve anything is yourself.
I’m currently training for a half marathon. I’ve completed quite a few in the past and I know what to expect on the day (having run this particular course a number of times). This time round, I’ve been quite good with my training, mainly because I have been really enjoying running and I’ve seen results – my times are getting quicker and I am able to cover longer distances without too much more effort. In the past I’ve had the nagging doubt that ‘I won’t finish’ or ‘I’ll look really stupid to the crowds’ or even ‘I can’t do it’. But this time I’ve realised that the only thing that will stop me (completing the event, and doing so in a manner of which I will be proud of myself), is me!

just-do-itI know I can do it, and I can do it in a good time, and I can enjoy it. I just need to keep telling myself – keep that mantra going in my head as I run, and give myself positive boosts along the way. I’ve found this really helps when I run, and in other elements of life too – stop telling yourself you can’t do it, and think of all the ways you can manage it. Don’t blame other things or people – take responsibility for your actions, the situation, and the possible outcome. And then enjoy the feeling of achievement.

If you can overcome ‘yourself’, you can do anything you set your mind to!

The power of beetroot!

My husband is a keen gardener and we have a fantastic allotment and kitchen garden where we grow a vast array of vegetables and fruits. It has been a real eye-opener to see what we can grow, how much we can harvest, and what I can do with it all. I’ve really enjoyed having the freedom to try new recipes and ideas with lots of different vegetables.

image1-3One veg we have had huge success with is beetroot – the vegetable that has so many benefits, tastes great, can be used in so many different ways, yet not a lot of people eat it. I’ve made chocolate brownies, rich tasty juices (I have one of these to kick-start my morning every day), salads, coleslaw, houmous, cakes, beetballs….the list is endless. This week we picked a few from the allotment and I made the most delicious beetroot and goats cheese tart – see below for the recipe details. This tasted so good as a hot dinner choice, and even better the next day as a cold leftover with salad – I will definitely be making this again!
I’m guilty of thinking of beetroot as that pickled stuff in a jar that my Dad got out at Christmas, or had with his crackers occasionally. I never really tasted it as a youngster, or wanted to! But now, having grown it and researched it, and tried so many recipes with it, I can see how versatile, healthy, and nutritious it is – and it has so many health benefits.

Beetroot is a good source of iron and naturally occurring folic acid, so therefore is great for getting your daily intake (which most of us struggle with). It also contains nitrates, betaine, magnesium and other antioxidants.

Other research has shown that beetroot can support lowering blood pressure and even prevent dementia. And one that I am super impressed with is – it boosts exercise performance, which is why we see so many exercisers drinking its juice before,during and after exercise.

beetroot-glovesSo, go on, give it a try – eat it, drink it, and reap the benefits. Oh, and
why not try baking or cooking it in a different way, like a cake 🙂

Oh, and useful tip – wear gloves when handling it!

Let me know what you do, and if you enjoy it.



Recipe details – Beetroot, spinach and feta cheese tart:

1 tablespoon Olive Oilimage3
1 red onion, diced
500g peeled and grated beetroot
3 tablespoon white wine vinegar
3 tablespoon water
small knob butter
375g all-butter puff pastry
1 medium egg
200ml creme fraiche
200g feta cheese
two large handfuls spinach
8 cherry tomatoes, sliced
handful of olives, chopped

Heat oven to 220 degrees C. Heat oil in pan and fry the onion until softened. Add beetroot, vinegar, butter and water. Cook over low heat for 5-10 mins, stirring occasionally, until all liquid has evaporated. Set aside.

Roll out pastry, place on an oiled baking sheet and score line approx. 1.5 cm from edge. Brush with egg and score again. Cook in oven for 10 mins until golden and raised. Remove and press down with your hands on the centre.

Spread spinach leaves and tomatoes on pastry. Add creme fraiche to the beetroot mix and spread on top of spinach. Add feta cheese and olives on top and bake for 5 mins until cheese has melted.

Serve and enjoy!



Get outdoors, but stay safe!

We’ve had some pretty rubbish weather in the UK this week, with a lot of frost and fog. This morning was particularly foggy and slippery out there, and when I looked out of the window I wasn’t really up for a run, but knowing how good it makes me feel, and how I need the time for myself, I pushed myself out the door. Not before I made sure I was visible though!

I’ve seen so many runners on dark evenings or in bad weather, like today, out there in poorly chosen clothing. It may give you a good silhouette (black is slimming as we know), and hide all those lumps and bumps, but dressing in black in poor visibility is just silly, and can be dangerous. So, I made sure I was hi-vis in my choice of running gear, and was confident I could get on with my run and people could see me. I also sent the husband out in a hi-vis vest 🙂

So even though I didn’t fancy it, the run was so refreshing, gave me time to think, and has set me up for the day. It has also made me feel a little bit better about the over-indulgence which I have enjoyed over the last few days……

So go on, don’t use the weather as an excuse – get out of the central heating, away from the TV and get some fresh air and exercise. I guarantee you it will make you feel better! Just make sure you stay safe and visible.




Exercise – the best medicine

‘Exercise is the most potent and underutilised antidepressant, and it’s free….’

Someone I follow on Instagram posted this caption this morning and it really struck a chord with me as it is something I passionately believe in – exercise is the best form of medicine, the best stress reliever, the best mood lifter. I just wish more people realised it, or thought about it in that way.

I’m not saying you have to go all out and do a 10 km run every time you feel low, but even just jumping around for 10 minutes or dancing to some music can really make a difference. It gets the endorphins going and makes you feel a whole lot better.

I went for a run this morning, and I felt so much happier and ready for the day not only afterwards, but whilst I was out. It did help that it was a beautiful autumnal morning and I was running in the woods and along the canal (and stopped to capture some moments – see pic), but the mere feeling of being out and pushing my body a bit just made me feel happy. img_0212I get this burst of happiness inside when I am outdoors, and I can see the beauty of the world. I know I will feel like this when I am out, which makes it easier to talk myself into getting out! I was able to think things through that were bothering me and realise how insignificant they were (I had a moment yesterday when I stressed about something really silly), and I was able to make plans.

Taking the time out for yourself is so important, but we all tend to neglect ourselves over others or tasks when the going gets tough, or find an excuse not to go out for that walk/run/gym class. I’ve seen so many people suffer from stress or just let daily life get on top of them, and in doing so they’ve forgotten to look out for number 1 – themselves. A trip to the doctor in extreme cases can result in antidepressants being prescribed, and whilst I know these are necessary in certain cases, I wish people would try and incorporate more exercise into their lives first. This is especially true for those who suffer from long term depressive episodes, and I have seen friends reap the benefit of exercise in these situations. Don’t let excuses get in the way either – find someone to sit with the kids for 20 minutes, or take them with you; tag team with your other half so you can both get out; or just put it in your diary as a proper activity so you stick to it.

I love the feeling of being outdoors and feeling good about myself and am on a mission to help others see how just a little bit of exercise can help them!

Go on, give it a go, it might even make you happy 🙂



Get out there and do it!

I signed up to a challenge with a friend this month, mainly to help her get back in the zone of running, but I have to say it has massively helped me and my attitude to fitness and general activity. I’ve been a runner for about 10 years or so, and have completed numerous half marathons, a few off-road mud events, and the London Marathon once (and would love to do it again). My friend started running in January, and set herself a challenge of running 5 km in 12 weeks – which I have to say she completely smashed. She has managed to keep up with the running and nine months later was still getting out a couple of times a week but not doing the distances she would have liked.

So I found this challenge online with Ronhill called ‘Run every day in October’ which is what it says in the title – you have to do something every day. We decided that our shortest distance would be 1 km and we are aiming to get to completing a 10 km by 31st October.

shutterstock_222191515-750x381We’re now 25 days in and the end is almost in sight, and it has been a real eye-opener for me. I’m not the fastest runner, and 1 km takes me approx 5 mins 45 secs – 6 mins 30 secs, but on some days I have really had to give myself a real pep talk to get out and do it! I’ve had to be organised and make sure there is someone to sit with the children if needed, or I’ve had to do the double-child buggy run.

The one thing I have really noticed though, is even on the days when I have had to run at the very end of the day, in the dark and cold, and I really haven’t wanted to, I have felt so good for getting out! And I know I feel like that about a lot of other activities – going out at 8 pm to play netball on a winter’s night, getting up for a gym session98f53469dea0b17972ef475b342778b4 on a cold wet morning at 5 am, and even sometimes the thought of having to take the dog for his walk over the field. But every time I force myself, I feel great.

The dread of doing something is ALWAYS worse than the actual activity itself. And basically if you can turn those negative dread thoughts into the positive feeling you get after the event, you’ll feel a whole lot better to start with! Exercise, however little (even my 6 mins), makes you feel better. If only we could bottle that ‘high’ after exercise (even a 1 km run) ……..