Miles for Mind

A new month and a new challenge. May 2019 is the second offering of ‘Miles for Mind’ a virtual running event set and supported by the team at Runr (a running lifestyle brand) to raise awareness of mental health issues and raise money for Mind the mental health charity. The idea is to pick a mileage target and during the month of May run those miles and use that to talk about mental health and how, for some, exercise such as running can be really beneficial in helping to live with and manage mental health problems. I consider myself incredibly lucky that, apart from mild anxiety and sometimes low moods from the normal flow of life, I have not suffered more serious mental health problems. However, I know people who have and before I trained as a fitness instructor I worked for a local charity supporting people with severe and enduring mental health problems to get back into work so have seen how difficult it can be to have to live with mental illness. For serious mental illness medical intervention and support should absolutely be the first priority. When it’s possible, in addition to that, some kind of physical exercise and activity can be a really positive thing to help reinforce mental health and physical health. For some it might be swimming or walking, for me it’s running. I find it helpful in so many different ways: time out from normal life where I don’t have to be responsible for anything other than one foot in front of the other; a kind of mindfulness when I let my thoughts tick over but not take over as I also have to concentrate on keeping moving (and not getting run over crossing roads); a feeling of achievement from actually managing to do the thing in the first place and self-esteem that my feet, my legs, my body, ME, I did that run. Also the connection and community when you find people willing to listen and share in the seemingly endless running related chat; the sense of purpose that having and following a training plan can give. Which is where this challenge comes in…

Waaaay back about a month in the dizzying, endorphin fuelled highs of ‘this marathon training is going GREAT’ and subsequent fear ‘how am I going to keep going when it’s stopped?’ I signed up for this challenge. The ‘high’ is the only explanation I can come up with for understanding how I decided to set myself a target, which I now consider quite foolishly ambitious, of 150 miles for the month. Foolish because after the marathon tapering and recovery I really lost the momentum and will to go out and do loads of miles and perhaps I underestimated how nice it would be to have a break from that for a while! Ambitious because having now looked back at my training so far this year I was reaching around 110 miles a month so an extra 40 miles on top of that from an almost standing start feels like a big stretch! Having said that, one week in I have run 30 miles already and have a plan for how to get through the rest of the month. I’ve been been reminded yet again that the momentum and will for running loads of miles comes more from the process of actually doing it and committing to just seeing if it’s possible than anything else.

And now….. the bit where I ask for money. It would be wonderful if as well as the endorphin boost and Strava kudos for me this could inspire you to donate some cash to Mind: the mental health charity so that they can continue to do the good work they do raising awareness around mental health issues and supporting those who need it. To support the organisers of this event here is the link to the Runr just giving page – if you could help top up their total I would be very grateful and extra motivated on my next run: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/milesformind2019.

Thank you!

Please, please, please know that you can talk to me if you’re struggling with any of this. If you want to start a conversation about running or anything else I’m easy to connect with online via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram.

Easter Weekend – Recovery Time!

The first bank holiday weekend of the year approaches and for me that will mean some much needed rest and recovery time as the gyms I work at switch to a reduced timetable and cut a couple of my classes.  One of the things I think people only tend to learn about exercise once it becomes a regular thing is that having a week off the usual routine occasionally to really allow the body to rest and re-energise is absolutely essential! 

 Why is that?  Physical activity puts a certain amount of stress  [FUN stress :)] on the body and the higher the intensity of the workout (think BodyCombat, BodyPump, ten mile run) the more demand is placed on muscles, tissues, hormones.  After the workout is over it takes time, perhaps as much as 48 hours, for the body to rebuild muscles, restore fluids, and reset energy levels.  If, like me, you enjoy working out frequently and regularly you may be going into a new session not quite fully recovered from the previous session.  Although regular, consistent training is necessary to maintain and improve fitness, over time it can result in accumulated fatigue.  You might notice a general sense of tiredness, finding it harder to get going in the morning, feeling like eating more, and if it gets too much noticing changes in mood.  Giving yourself some extra time off occasionally is a good chance to reboot the system and a useful opportunity to reflect on how you’re progressing with your training or perhaps to try something different.

 

 One of the best ways to keep yourself feeling strong and energised is keep a sufficient and consistent sleep schedule of around 8-9 hours per night.  Not always easy, I know, but plan for this as much as possible.  Then give yourself ‘rest’ days during the week where activity is kept at a low to moderate intensity.  If you regularly do high or maximum intensity workouts then it’s also a good idea to plan in a ‘recovery week’ every few weeks where you can do the same session perhaps but for a shorter time or with lighter weights to reduce the stress to the body and so increase the benefit of your rest days.  People who follow progressive training plans, building strength or for an event like a marathon will notice ‘low volume’ weeks built into the plan.  

Recovery can be active or passive.  Active recovery might be going for a walk, gentle swim,  or a BodyBalance session, perhaps even baking, where the body is still moving but at an intensity level that you could keep going for a while and leaves you feeling fresh and uplifted.  Passive recovery could be anything non-exercise and not overly stimulating.  Sleep being the most passive.  The idea is to relieve stress, physical and mental, so do something you really enjoy and helps you switch off.  For me this might be reading a book, having a sauna, or meditation.  It can be difficult to claim some time for this, particularly when family members or friends want to socialise, but I find even 15 minutes to half an hour can have a wonderfully restorative effect especially if you’re able to really switch off and get absorbed in whatever it is you’re doing.  The really important thing, I think, is to learn to listen to your body, notice your energy levels and moods, be able to adapt your routine or add in some extra downtime when you need it and to ENJOY your workouts and feel good outside the gym as much as possible.