Positive motivation is everything.

Would you run a half marathon, on your own, in the pouring rain, with no encouragement and no one to motivate you? Maybe you would but it is hard work. 

Would you run a half marathon, with 40 running friends, in the pouring rain, with motivation, encouragement, support and the most amazing positive energy you can imagine? (Filled with smiles, laughs and selfies) Yes you would. I know which I would prefer.

As someone who has run a half marathon alone with no one around for encouragement I can tell you that ok so it may be possible, but it is in no way fun and it’s a tough mental battle from the start line. I am also lucky enough to have been in the 2nd scenario just yesterday.

The reason for my post isn’t to talk about any specific marathon or even running as a topic but what became evident to me yesterday as I crossed the finish line of Warwick Half Marathon is just how amazing and powerful it is to be part of a group of like minded people. People who pass on advice, discuss what to wear before a race, get excited together, meet at the start line, push each other through their mental barriers and then regroup at the finish line and share each other’s achievements and pride. That just sums up Run Like A Girl Leamington.

Before I joined a running group I couldn’t understand the appeal, but one session with the group and the love and support became apparent. You don’t just become a member of a running group you become a part of something much bigger. Without sounding soppy or cliched you do gain a family, a running family and the best of friends. I have made friends who I feel I have known for years, friendships that will last for years to come.

Before the run I had doubts, I worried that my injury wouldn’t hold out, that my legs were too tired before I started, that I’d have to stop, that I just wouldn’t do it. Being sat on the groups Facebook page the night before with everyone sharing their worries and others giving advice and showing support my nerves were eased and I just had a knowledge that it was going to be ok. The positivity of RLAG would be enough to get me round. Then on the morning of the race when the rain was lashing down and it was a truly miserable morning my annoyance at the weather didn’t last long when I met up with the ladies before the run. We were all frustrated with the rain but we were able to see the funny side and we were facing it together. During the run I didn’t have time to really doubt myself because I was running with and talking to the RLAG ladies and the time flew by. I won’t say it was easy because we all had our struggles and moments of weaknesses with challenges to face but the power of the group seemed to make that process easier. When you run on your own it is easy to let your mind take over and as humans we can be very critical of ourselves. Go for the same run with a few friends and you stop criticising yourself so much and focus on the positives and begin to enjoy it.

Even families get involved with one of the Running Leaders little girls making lots of little bags of sweets with motivational messages to hand out to the group as we ran round. Is that not amazing?

The route was filled with supporters but what made it even more motivating to get round was that those RLAG ladies who were not racing that day still came out, in the rain to support us and encourage us from the side lines. The support a running group can give you is endless. I don’t like calling it a group because to me these ladies are more than that they are friends. 

Now this isn’t a plug to get more members for RLAG and I’m not saying you need to go and join a group to be a successful runner because that’s not necessarily true. What I am saying is it is truly amazing what you can achieve when surrounded by the right people. Never underestimate the power of a group of women, never underestimate the power of a group of women wearing running shoes and definitely do not underestimate the power of the RLAG army.

Ladies you really are amazing and it’s an absolute pleasure to be a Running Leader for you.

M x 

Positive motivation is everything.

Loneliness is a feeling.

Mental health can affect all areas of your life. I personally, suffered from anorexia. But an eating disorder or any mental illness is never an isolated problem. It feeds into so many areas of life and can be all consuming. Loneliness is something that I felt for such a long time. I think it began when I was at uni. All of my friends were going out together, socialising, meeting people. I began isolating myself more and more as the anorexia took over. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to go out, I did, I wanted the normal uni life more than anything, I wanted to be accepted, but I couldn’t. The eating disorder had taken over my mind and convinced me I couldn’t do normal things. I was terrified of putting on weight and trying my hardest to continue to lose. Going out with friends always involved meals out or drinks and I was to scared. I started using work as an excuse, I didn’t have time as I had deadlines. I was studying a law degree so this was an acceptable excuse but the more I isolated myself the more lonely I felt and the harder it was to be around people. 
My confidence dropped so quickly.

 I would go out with my few closest friends to the shops but I very quickly felt awkward around everyone else. I felt like I was being judged as ‘boring’ as I never made the effort to go out. So I stayed away even more. Uni is meant to be the best years of your life but for me it was some of the worst. 
I made some friends that I love and will always have in my life but aside from them uni felt very lonely. 

Even 4 years on from uni, I ended up in hospital. The lead up to this was the darkest time in my life not to mention the most lonely. I was scared of any situation that involved people, I felt like an outsider and felt socially awkward around people.

  
Feeling lonely makes you feel hopeless, it makes you want to give up and stop fighting. I felt like this to but through medical intervention I found myself in hospital. Although I hated every second of it I’m grateful that I was able to begin building relationships again with like minded people who understood. I was forced to be around people and I made some amazing friends from this. When I was discharged I was nervous that I was leaving this safe place and coming back home to the life where I didn’t feel that I had many friends. I felt guilty that I pushed everyone away and kept myself in my safety bubble. But I knew that I wanted to get my life back, I had already worked so hard and come so far that I wanted to keep going. 

My confidence had started to grow. 

I told myself that I would start to re-build old friendships and also make new friends. 

I had introduced exercise back into my life in a healthy way and thought this might be a good opportunity to join a group. I’m not sure what initially gave me the push or where the strength came from but I saw a women’s running group near where I live and everybody on the group seemed so friendly. It wasn’t a group focused on ‘serious’ or competitive running but looked like a group of girls just going out there and having fun. I admit I was terrified of just walking up to the group as I felt that everyone would already know each other but I decided to step outside my comfort zone and just do it. I loved it!! This is one of the best things I have done and I have met some amazing people and made some great friends. If I had stayed hiding in my house I would never have some of the friends I do and my confidence wouldn’t have grown. I’m now proud to say I became a running leader for the group and get to meet so many people, forming friendships and growing my confidence.

Loneliness is a terrible feeling and at the time it feels like there is no way out. But I promise that there is. Be strong and remember that there are people surrounding you whether you have distanced yourself or not, they will be waiting and ready to come back into your life when you are ready which is what I found. I lost a lot of friends from being unwell but I’ve made so many more.

I think the advice I would give would be to realise loneliness is a feeling, and as with all feelings these can change. Start small by talking to a few people on a daily basis, when your comfortable with this arrange a meet up, maybe a coffee and a chat, pop to the shops or watch a film. As you start to interact with people you will see how good it feels. Most importantly, don’t put pressure on yourself to be accepted or try and be who you think everyone wants you to be. This can feel just as lonely.
I try and make sure that I talk to several friends each day and also arrange a coffee and catch up, the more you do it the stronger your relationships will be and the more able you will be to talk about things.

Loneliness is a sad place to be but there are ways out. 

I did it, so can you x

  

Loneliness is a feeling.

You CAN run a Half Marathon too!

Hands up who has watched one of the Great Runs on TV and thought ‘wow, I wish I could do that’?Every year I have watched the London Marathon and joked about how people can run so far, secretly wishing I could do it but knowing it would never happen. Last year after stumbling across Run Like A Girl and getting (gently) nudged shall we say by a friend to do the Blenheim 10km with her I started taking more interest in races on tv. 

After only just achieving 10km at Blenheim Palace I immediately fell in love with the feel of race day… Or crossing the finish line at least! When I was watching the Great South Run on TV while getting on with the ironing I was taken aback by the crowds, the support and all of people’s stories as to why they were running. Bowel Cancer Uk is a charity very close to my heart and I remember thinking to myself, ‘I wish I could run a big race to raise money for this charity’. As I watched more and more I began to question whether I could do it, and seeing the eldest man in the race cross the finish line triggered the idea in me that I was going to sign up to The Great North Run half marathon. I quickly picked up my phone and text my other half telling him my plan, he was in. He was so supportive and told me he would run it with me. That was when I knew I had the running bug! 

But September 2016 seemed so far away, I wanted to start training now, there and then (I’ve never been very patient) I put the iron away and got my running kit on, laced up and hit the road. While I was running it occurred to me that my friend who roped me in to Blenheim 10km had mentioned me doing a half marathon in Coventry. I calculated this being 5 months away and that planted the next seed in my mind. 

When I got home I started googling half marathon plans and it seemed that I only realistically needed 16-20 weeks to train, this was perfect! So I did it. I signed me and my boyfriend up that night to run Coventry Half. I think he was cautious as I had only been out of hospital a few months but he could see how much it meant to me and so he was very supportive. I proved that if you look after your body, give it what it needs and listen to it then anything is possible.

From that moment I started believing it was possible, I was going to run a half marathon. This was both exciting and terrifying in equal measure but however I felt, it was going to happen. I was doing this for me, to prove I can and using it as a benchmark to see where my body was at and as I had never covered that distance I wanted to see the pace I was running at and if my body could really sustain 13.1 miles. 

Training plan:

I followed a BUPA intermediate training plan incorporating speed work, hill runs and long runs at the weekend. I admit I didn’t follow the plan exactly, but I adapted it to make sure I was covering these three types of run.

Hill runs were designed to get my body used to running up hills and then to keep going and not stop. Although hard on the legs and bum these were my favourite training sessions ( in a torture kind of way 😉 ) 

Speed work was designed to help me with my pace. I would run intervals in the park mixing it up each week.

Sunday became ‘Long run day’ and at between 8 and 9am every Sunday my boyfriend and I would head out for our long run. I loved having someone to run with, you have someone to talk to, to support and encourage you during the difficult runs and someone to celebrate with when you finished the run (and someone to go out with and refuel with!)

As the weeks went by there were good and bad training weeks, ups and downs, amazing runs and runs where I felt like giving up after 3km but I didn’t, I kept going because I had a purpose, I had my eye on the prize and ultimately I kept thinking to my dream of running the Great North Run for Bowel Cancer Uk, running for my mum.

There are endless training plans on the internet which you can use exactly or adapt to fit your life. Below are some good ones to start your research with:

http://running.competitor.com/2014/06/training/the-beginners-guide-to-the-half-marathon_52399

http://womensrunning.competitor.com/2013/09/training-tips/couch-to-half-marathon-training-plan_15065

http://www.bupa.co.uk/health-information/directory/r/running-programme-half-marathon

Nutrition:

I admit I was pretty clueless when it came to nutrition, I knew I had to eat more on long run days and had to eat the right foods after a run but for me that’s as far as it went. Despite not having the knowledge on correct nutrition I still made it through training however it has taught me that this is an area I need to really focus on when I start training for the GNR. There is lots of nutrition advice out there so find what works for you. Try not to get to obsessive or caught up in good and bad food, what you can and cannot eat. There are no limits but you will soon learn what works well for your runs. Fuelling is so important and can’t be ignored.

http://www.livestrong.com/article/506701-half-marathon-meal-plan/

http://www.runnersworld.com/fuel-school/how-to-fuel-for-a-half-marathon

Race Day:

Talk about nerves! It’s strange up until race day I didn’t feel nervous, I knew I was going to turn up, I knew it would hurt but at the same time I knew I would do it. 
Race day was a different story! 

Arriving at the race village I was flooded with nerves, questioning my training, wishing I had got proper nutrition advice, seeing everyone kitted up, looking professional! But I was distracted from these invasive thoughts by the atmosphere. It was amazing! There were people everywhere, charity stands with food and drink, loud music, families gathering to watch their loved ones, it was amazing! 

The actual race:

Queuing up to start was exciting yet nerve wracking! Making sure we were in the right pen, getting my music sorted and most importantly ensuring the Garmin had Gps! But we were off, I remember running straight past my boyfriends mum at the start and seeing her there supporting gave me that initial buzz. We were off! When the adrenaline kicks in anything feels achievable but I just hoped that was enough to get me around the full 13.1 miles. As the race went on I admit I was struggling with the early distances, up to 8 miles felt really difficult and I was constantly battling with my own mind. These barriers we talk about ‘I can’t do it’ ‘I haven’t trained enough’ ‘I can feel injuries’ ‘I won’t make it to the end’ ‘I’m not good enough’ I was hit with each one of these but every time one came I fought it. I told myself I had worked so hard for this day, picturing how disappointed I would be if I stopped, people had sponsored me £500 to do this I was not prepared to let them down or let myself down. I thought about how brave my mum and dad have been and if they can get through what they have I can push through the pain for a few hours running. Then I thought about RLAG, about all the amazing ladies who go out when they think they can’t do it. I knew I encouraged them to believe in themselves and not give up so now wasn’t the time for me to become a hypocrite! 

Mile 8 marker became visible and I finally found my feet, I was in a great rhythm, I was smiling and the crowds around me were amazing. It was buzzing!! I finally began to believe and I was experiencing the runners high that we all talk about, I was actually doing it! I will never forget crossing the finish line with Ian. It felt amazing to have trained together and finished together. To top it off as I crossed the finish line I looked up and my sister, brother in law and twin nephews were stood there cheering. I had no idea they would be there but it’s true, it’s not just your race, you share it with so many people. 

Truth:

It hurt, my legs were so sore I couldn’t walk up the stairs and I developed injuries I didn’t know existed!

Would I do it again. Of Course I would!! 

My Half Marathon tips:

– if your in two minds about doing one, just sign up! You come to believe you can once you start training and seeing your body adapt

– train with other people- even if it’s just one of your runs a week, motivate and encourage each other

– for your first half marathon, don’t focus on time, don’t put pressure or expectation on yourself just go out there and enjoy it.

– make sure you have comfortable trainers, if you need new ones, change them gradually and don’t change too near to race day

– personally I didn’t use any energy gels, but if you want to make sure you test them beforehand

– don’t do anything different on race day to a normal training day

– hydrate, hydrate, hydrate in the week leading up to the race and not relying on the morning of the race

– queue up early for the toilet! You don’t want to be stressed about getting to the start line. It’s amazing how many people need the toilet at the same time!

– my biggest and most important tip is to enjoy it, enjoy the preparation, enjoy the run and celebrate afterwards

– oh and equally as important… Smile when you see a camera, they are likely to be official photographers and those photos will be landing in your inbox after the race!

So, do you think you have what it takes to run a half marathon?

Too right you do! See you at the start line 😉

https://home.justgiving.com/?take=10 

You CAN run a Half Marathon too!

A Letter To My Younger self

If you had to write a letter to ‘your younger self’ what would you say? I was asked this question and it really got me thinking. This is such a valuable thing to do.

My letter to my younger self:

Hey there little one,

You probably don’t recognise me now. You won’t recognise me for the happy, healthy person that you see before you. I write you this letter looking back at the quiet shy little girl who was hiding in her own shadow. I just want to take you in my arms and reassure you that you will get through this. You will get through this and come out of the other side a better person.

Things were difficult for you, I can see that now. I can see how you were struggling with so many things, so many thoughts going around in that little mind of yours. You were carrying the world on your shoulders and no one could see your struggle. No one could see the pain in your eyes, the regret in your heart and the damage that was done. No one could see that you were about to hit the self-destruct button. 

Looking back I can see the torture you were going through. I understand why you did what you did, I understand where your eating disorder came from and I know you always asked yourself ‘why me’ ‘why is this happening to me’ but I’m afraid that bad things happen to good people. You were a good person, and I’m telling you this now because I know you never believe that. Somehow you thought you deserved this, for not speaking out and getting the help that you so needed and deserved.

I’m sorry for what you went through, I’m sorry for how I treated you. You should never have gone through this alone.

You have been on quite a journey- a journey that however hard has taught you so much. A journey that will continue to teach you and show you who you truly are.

When you get to uni try and enjoy it- it’s meant to be the best years of your life. I want you to find the work life balance. You can never have too many friends. These people that you will be spending all of your time with will be friends for life, you are going to need to keep them close, you will need them one day. Go out with them, socialise, get drunk and spend your Saturday’s hungover and eating pizza on the sofa. Whatever you do do not isolate yourself, don’t put too much pressure on yourself and work 24/7. You can only do your best, and your best is more than good enough. Uni should be the best years of your life, make memories that you can look back on and smile.

When your struggling remember it is ok to ask for help. You are going to need help along the way and that’s ok. You need to be open and honest with those who care about you and any professionals that want to help you. Don’t resist help. When treatment is offered to you I want you to promise me that you will take it- jump at the opportunity and don’t let go. You are going to need treatment to get better and the sooner you get it the easier your life will be. The sooner you start down your road to recovery the more of your life you will have to live. You will soon realise just how precious your life is, don’t waste it punishing yourself. Don’t waste it punishing yourself for something that isn’t your fault. Take the help and start to work through recovery. Your uni course can wait- there is no pressure to finish your degree, your health comes first.

Forgiveness, this is something that you find difficult but you need to forgive yourself, no one blames you for this. You just experienced something no-one should ever have to and as a child you were given too much responsibility. You had to grow up long before your time but that isn’t your fault and wasn’t your choice. I know you blame yourself for keeping it all in, suppressing your feelings and trying to protect everyone around you but that wasn’t your job then and it isn’t now. You were the child, you are the teenager and you are not responsible for other people. They can and will look after themselves. I know you have done all you can to protect them but you are destroying yourself in the process. Forgive yourself for not getting the help when you needed it and stop blaming yourself. Stop feeling guilty.

You struggle to express your emotions but I want you to remember that it’s healthy and normal to be angry. Feeling anger does not make you a bad person, people wont judge you. It’s important to express anger when you feel it, you have been bottling up your emotions and deep down in the mix you do feel a lot of anger, you just don’t allow yourself to really feel it because it’s uncomfortable. Your allowed to. Considering the circumstances you have every right to feel anger, the sooner you let yourself feel this without the guilt that comes with it the healthier you will be. 

You are going to experience a sense of deep loss, it will feel like grief and it will hurt as you let go of all that you have known. But grief is a process, at first you will be in denial but this is where you must listen to me. This is really happening, there is no denying it. You are seriously ill and the sooner you accept that the sooner you will be ready to get help. Loss is a horrible feeling but it is just that, a feeling that you will overcome. Grief gets better with time. Give yourself time.

Most importantly of all I want you to remember just how loved you are. You are about to embark on the biggest journey of your life and there will be dark times ahead of you, times where you feel like giving up and wanting to end it all, but if you listen to my letter to you you will get through it. 

You will discover the real you and that is going to be such an exciting time. The eating disorder has taken over your life, sucking the life out of you and leaving you the shell of the person that you were. The person you see before you has been pushed and pulled and shaped by the eating disorder, it’s not real. You are about to discover the real you, you will find new hobbies and interests and make so many new friends. Enjoy this process. You will look back in years to come and see just what you have overcome, there is hope. Be strong. Life is waiting for you.
Mx 

What would you say to your younger self? Have a go 🙂 

A Letter To My Younger self

What are you going to START for Lent? 

What are you going to START for Lent? 
I can’t believe it’s that time of year again. Pancake day is just around the corner and so that means Lent will soon begin! Thousands of people will be giving something up on Wednesday 10th February. Some may be doing it for fun, others to prove a point and many for religion.

I’ve done the giving up chocolate for Lent every year since I don’t know when. I did it for the wrong reasons, as a way to deprive myself and lose weight. So this year as part of recovery rather than depriving myself or restricting myself of something I have put a spin on the typical idea of Lent. This year instead of giving something up I wanted to take something on. 

I am going to start finding one positive thing in every day. Sometimes I feel that life is so busy, with work and jobs that need to be done that we don’t have time to reflect. We are quick to notice and complain about everything that hasn’t gone well in the day that we fail to see everything that was right. This links in to mindfulness and the work I have started doing on this. 

Every day I will be finding the positives in my day. 

I will also do doing some form of writing each day throughout Lent, whether this be a blog post or working on my book

What are you going to START for lent?

M x

  

What are you going to START for Lent? 

Gratitude 

A big part of recovering from any illness is being able to see clearly, that you are surrounded by so many things to be grateful for. I was blind to this for so long, I became so self-focuses and inward thinking that my life became food, exercise, negativity. My life became existence and survival, and even then I wasn’t doing a very good job!

So when I was on Twitter the other day I saw the ‘Gratitude Challenge’ a challenge that lots of people seemed to be taking on in January. This is a 52 week challenge whereby each week you can think about and appreciate or show gratitude to something. 

  
I saw this as the perfect opportunity to truly reflect on what I have to be grateful for that I was blind to for so long. I may not post each week but over the course of 2016 I will be answering to each of these weeks. 

Who would like to join my on this challenge? Why not set up your own blog posts and tag me in them, or comment underneath mine. Have you too been blind for so long, have you had an illness that has taken away your focus on the important things in your life? Or has life simply got in the way meaning you haven’t been able to stop and think about all of these important things? 

So here goes…

Week 1: Why start this challenge?

It’s important to be able to appreciate what you have in your life, I personally lost sight of this but I’m finally reconnecting with everyone and everything around me so I saw this as an opportunity to spend half an hour each week refocusing and showing my gratitude to the things that make up the most important parts of my life.

  
Week 2: Spouse or significant other

I have been with my boyfriend now for almost 5 years and he has been amazing. He has seen me at my very worst on many occasions yet he has stood by me throughout. Through my hospital admission he was there most evenings and made sure that I had a visitor every day. He has been there through the tears, the tantrums, the depression and anxiety attacks and he has never judged me. I am truly grateful to him for still being with me and I know that most men wouldn’t have stuck around in the circumstances. He has been there for me in any way he can. It hasn’t been easy but I could rely on him to be there whenever I need him. One of the nicest things for me through recovery was to be able to see how he changed as I got better. It was nice to become a real girlfriend again and begin to give back. 

I could go on and on about how grateful I am to my significant other but actions speak louder than words. Another part of why I am doing this challenge and looking at what’s in my life is also to take part in some small act of kindness to show how grateful I am. These only need to be very small but they will show I care.

So what am I going to do for my boyfriend that shows my gratitude for him?

I think a cup of tea in bed every morning is just the ticket!

Thank you for reading and I hope to see some of you joining in the challenge.

M x

Gratitude 

Happy New Year

Happy New Year everyone! 

You may have noticed that I have been quiet for a little while, but I’m back and ready for some serious blogging in 2016!

Who else reflects on their year on New Years Day? I do, I like to look back and see what has gone well and what I would like to change.

What can I say, it’s been a challenging year to say the least! However although I spent most of it in hospital recovering from anorexia, I’m so glad I did. It was awful, painful, I hated every single day and was desperate to leave but I stuck it out. Somehow I had it in me to see the treatment through. I can now be proud of how far I have come. Not only have I set myself on the road to recovery I have also set myself up to entering 2016 strong and healthy. I’m one for New Years resolutions, well setting them at least! Every year for around 6 years I’ve sent that New Year’s Eve text apologising to my family for what I’ve put them through and promising next year will be different. It never was. I was saying and promising what I thought everyone wanted to hear. On 31st December 2014 I made the same promise. This time I stuck to it, I got help and last night when I made that same promise, that next year will be different I can be confident that it will, because I’ve already taken the steps I need to fulfill that promise. I’m in such a good place compared to what I was that I’m entering 2016 feeling strong and healthy. This year my goal isn’t to survive the year as it was last year but I have so much more I want to achieve. My goal isn’t to learn how to eat properly again, isn’t learning to feed myself or tolerate myself, it’s not purely existing but to run my first half marathon and then my second and third for charity. This time last year I could only of dreamed of being able to do that.
I have big hopes for 2016, I can’t wait to be the best I can be, focusing on my career, my little business venture, starting my new role as a running leader, running my half marathons, being the kind of daughter, sister, auntie, girlfriend that my family deserves. Recovery is still very important to me and I will be working on this everyday, making sure that everything I do is having a positive effect on me, building my confidence and making me as happy as I can be.

I’ve got big dreams and I can’t wait to see where this year takes me!!

Happy New Year to you all, remember recovery is possible. I’m always here to give advice and share my experiences with you so please just ask.

Let’s raise a glass (of prosecco, not water this year 😉 ) to a healthy year.

M x

  

Happy New Year