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!

you-are-so-much-stronger-than-you-think-quote-1

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

One small change…..

Making a decision to change something can be daunting, and quite often we bite off more than we can chew and end up failing. With good intentions we make statements – either to ourselves or publicly – saying we’re going to make a change and totally transform an aspect of our lives.

I’ve been here, and seen others do it. ‘Right that’s it, I’ve had enough, I’m going on a diet and I’m going to be two sizes smaller in six weeks’…’and I’m going to do it by cutting all the bad stuff out of my diet and exercising for an hour every day’. And sometimes I’ve been so determined that I have succeeded for a few days and maybe even a week. But the habits have always crept back in and I’ve usually ended back where I started – rather disappointed in myself.Practice-One-Small-Change

Over the years, I’ve realised that you need be realistic about goals and how to achieve them and one thing I’ve found that has helped is to do things one thing at a time – incorporate one small change at a time and build on it.

It takes 21 times to change or make a habit, which means if you can make a small change daily for three weeks, it should start to become ingrained in your normal processes. So rather than trying to cut everything bad out of your diet, why not try cutting out crisps for three weeks, and then try something else after that.

I did this with trying to up my water intake a few years ago – I started having a pint of room temperature water every morning as soon as I got up. It worked! After a few weeks of making myself do it (and I did need to make sure I had a post-it note on my cupboard to start with), it became a habit. I still do it now, and it has encouraged me to drink more during the day.

Small-Changes

So don’t give yourself a hard time about needing to change things – do it one small change at a time, and give yourself a pat on the back for trying. Celebrate the small successes – they all lead to bigger and better things 🙂

 

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!

Don’t let life get in the way of living

We all do it, and I have been more guilty that others recently – letting the daily grind get in the way of doing things I love, and generally ‘living’. It’s been a busy few weeks, and I’ve just focused on ‘getting what needs to be done, done’ which has meant I haven’t done as much of the good things I like to do – once again seeing them as luxuries rather than requirements for my happiness. So I haven’t run as much, I haven’t seen friends and been out socialising as much as I wanted to, I haven’t baked as much as usual, nor been creative round the house (favouring the need to just keep it clean and tidy in the time I had), and I also haven’t blogged in a couple of weeks – which makes me sad.

So I’ve given myself and good talking to, and realised that I need to MAKE TIME for these things, and give myself a break – do the things I enjoy more. After all, life is too short. It’s also good for your mental health to do things you enjoy doing, and look after your well being. Don’t look on it as ‘spoiling yourself’, look on it as ‘looking after yourself both physically and mentally. A saying I heard the other day really hit home with me, and as I continue to go through quite a reflective period in my life, I’m going to try and use this as a reminder (I may even get it printed out and framed on a wall!). The saying is:

‘Don’t let your search for a happy life get in the way of living’

7018-Ralph-Waldo-Emerson-Quote-Life-is-a-journey-not-a-destination.jpgSometimes we all get caught up in our day to day being and just existing, so that we can have a good future, that we often forget to enjoy ourselves along the way. As I am sure you have heard before ‘Life is a journey, not a destination’ and this is something I truly believe.

So take time to appreciate the good things in life every day, spend time with people you love, do things you enjoy more frequently, and look around you – there’s lots to smile about along the way, if we just give ourselves the time to acknowledge it. The other stuff will still be there tomorrow…….

Stop over-thinking, it’s wasted energy

overthinking2

I am an over-thinker. There, I’ve said it. I spend too much time thinking things through to make a decision that I could have made in a much quicker time period, and without all the worry and anxiety that I put myself through (just ask my husband who is usually on the receiving end of this over-thinking!).

I’ve had lots of time to think lately, having the luxury of being away from the usual stressful workplace. But, for someone who usually over-thinks things, I’m surprised at how logical I am managing to be, and how my levels of procrastination are dipping (only slightly, it’s not a miracle).

93700-over-thinking-kills-happinessI’ve worked out that if you over-think, you just create negative energy which is wasted on worrying about things that may never happen. And it kills your happiness. It doesn’t mean I don’t worry about things anymore, I just tend to focus a bit more on the situation, analyse and make a quicker decision.

What I have found myself doing more of, is having conversations with myself about why I feel negative or worried about something, and trying to turn it around. It’s a bit like my blog about Blue Monday – don’t let yourself be dragged down by the negatives and turn your thought process on its head. And I’ve got into the habit of asking myself the following questions when I feel worried or anxious about a situation:

  1. Why do I feel worried about it?
  2. Who has control of the situation?
  3. What can I do about it at this present moment?
  4. What would make me feel better about it?

Usually by answering these questions I can put it into perspective and talk myself into not letting it take over my day. The key thing is about control, and taking that back. Realise that you are the only one who can control your life and the decisions you make, and stop worrying about what other people think.

It really is an attitude that I feel good about adopting, and it’s making a difference. Stop worrying and enjoy life.

Be someone’s sunshine

I know my last post was about looking after number one, but once you have that under control and a priority, you know you can look out for others. Isn’t it a great feeling when you make someone else smile?

sunshineBeing there for someone, no matter how small the task, will always make you feel good. Humans are wired to love others and naturally look to support. It can be something as small as grabbing an extra coffee for a colleague on your way into the office, or looking after your friends children for an hour so she can have a break. Or it can be buying a loved one that really special gift they have been coveting for a while. All of those things will most definitely make you feel good about them and about yourself. Just thinking about it makes me smile.

I love the saying ‘Be someone else’s sunshine when their skies are grey’. It reminds me to think about others and look out for people who may be struggling. And it makes me smile to think that I could actually help someone. Don’t you love it when someone comes to you for advice? It demonstrates to you that they value your opinion, and think you could help them, which in turn should make you feel good.

It happened to me last week and I recall feeling really honoured that my friend was asking for advice, and that I felt I could actually make a difference, even if I was just re-affirming their own thoughts. If it turns out you can help them, then that’s a bonus and you both come away feeling good – creating sunshine all round!

So go on, have a look around and see who could do with your sunshine in their grey day!