Saturday, 13 May 2017

Running for {mental} health

When I first started running I did so with one simple aim in mind. To get slim. And whilst this initial goal has continued to spur on my somewhat sporadic relationship with running over the years I now have a very different reason for pounding the pavements. Nowadays I run less for vanity and more for well-being. I run because it makes me feel good.

The fact that exercise releases endorphins {happy hormones} may be a well known fact but what other benefit could there possibly be for something which for the majority of us is bloomin' hard work and some days seemingly damn near impossible? Speak to any regular runner and they will tell you.


For me some of the psychological benefits of running include:

Lowering anxiety and depression:  Physical activity releases dopamine, a chemical in the brain associated with feelings of pleasure and happiness.  You may experience a sense of "runners high" or even euphoria.  Or you may just feel a little bit happier about life in general.  Nevertheless running can lead on to....

An opportunity to unwind and clear your mind:  What better way to spend a bright spring evening then enjoying the great outdoors.  I've done a mixture of treadmill and outdoor running over the years but for me nothing beats getting outside in the fresh air.  I've grown to love exploring the country lanes around my house and finding new routes and beautiful places I never realised existed right on my doorstep.  Sometimes it's hard to take in your surroundings when you feel like your legs and lungs are about to collapse but take a minute to look up and around you, say hello to the new spring lambs {yes I do this} and admire the rolling countryside or river or wherever you may be.  Breathe deep.  Relax your shoulders.  Let your mind unwind and your legs find their pace.  This is where running regularly and getting a bit fitter is key.  Suddenly you can start to enjoy your run and really begin to understand what people mean by the aforementioned "runners high".



Better sleep:  I always {half} joke that my children sleep better after a glass of wine {for me not them. Obvs} and I find the same is true after a decent run.  It could be the nice warm shower, cosy pjs, hot chocolate.... or the fact that my brain has cleared and I'm just plain too pooped to rouse to their sleepy rumbles but either way we all seem to get a better nights kip which {as any parent knows} is pure gold.   

Social interaction vs. time to yourself:  I usually run alone.  It just works out that way as I grab opportunities to go as and when I can and actually I quite enjoy the solitude, especially once the boys came along - to have that space {physical and mental} and time to myself was a tonic.  I also like to go at my own pace, no pressure to keep up or go a certain distance.  If I want to stop and walk home I can.  If I want to go further that's fine too.  But when I do get the opportunity to run with a friend I actually really enjoy it.  It's easy to chat away the miles, especially if you're lucky enough to find someone your pace/fitness level is evenly matched to, and actually finding like minded peoplee,  having someone there to push you once in a while and to swap tips with is good too :)  I love the idea of joining a local running club but at the moment the timings don't work out with having the little people but maybe one day.


Increased energy:  We've all been there.  You're tired.  It's been a long day.  The last thing you want to do is any form of exercise.  And I totally agree.  But I also guarantee {unless you're poorly pops or injured} you will feel better and more energised if you get off the sofa, lace up and get out for a trot even just around the block.  Running gives me energy and helps me make better and healthier choices plus I feel a lot less guilty if {when} I decide to have a little {big} treat.  I have to constantly remind myself of this and although it may feel awful at the time ultimately I know getting out and going for a run will help. 

Learning focus and determination by overcoming obstacles:  The last long bank holiday weekend was a week before a 10k race.  I ate and drank my way through the whole weekend and probably {no joke} put on about 5lbs.  By the Monday I knew I really had to get out and do a half decent run to keep up with my pre-race preparation so off I went {extra 5lbs and all}.  2km in I stopped and had a mini tantrum.  I did not want to be out running.  I felt awful and in a proper grump.  If someone would have driven past me I probably would have asked for a lift home.  I grumbled and stropped.  But then I thought of the race ahead of me and gave myself a proper good talking to after which I got my head down and got on with it.  An {albeit sluggish} 8.8km later I was home and although the run itself was hard work I felt so much better in myself and was so glad I got on with it and didn't give up.  Running for me has helped show my sheer sense of determination and that I can achieve so much even when the going gets tough.  And that sense of achievement does wonders for your mood and self-confidence :)

 

You may have seen the recent two part documentary on BBC1 (UK), Mind over Marathon, where the 2017 Virgin London Marathon Charity, Heads Together, worked alongside ten unlikely runners living with different mental health issues to train and take part in the London Marathon itself.  If you missed it, look it up.  Not only were the stories eye opening {and sometimes very hard to hear} but the motivation and sense of achievement was captivating and the series really helped to highlight the psychological benefits taking part in a regular running programme could achieve.  I particularly liked Paul, who throughout the training was quite open about that fact that he did not enjoy running, but stuck at it because it of the difference it made to his mental wellbeing.  6 months down the line he no longer needed to take anti-depressants and found running 2-3 times a week helped him stay more balanced and in control of his emotions.  He may even enjoy it a bit now who knows!

All this goes to show that absolutely anyone can reap the mental health benefits of running or even just going out for a walk in the fresh air.  You don't even necessarily need to enjoy it {!!} And if you can find the mental strength to get through those bad runs you are working towards so much more than getting a PB {although that's always nice}.  Lace up and get out there.  It will get easier and I guarantee you will feel better :)

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Tuesday, 7 March 2017

In memory of Granny 1920-2017

Last month we said goodbye to our dear Granny Peg.

Born on 22nd April 1920, Margaret Eileen 'Peg' Brunt left behind her loving family and friends at the tender age of 96 - including her husband Bill, to whom she had been married the best part of 70 years {they would have celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary on 29th March this year}.


Bill and Peg Brunt Married 29th March 1947
What can I tell you about our Granny?  I can tell you that she was generous, caring, kind, funny, patient and loyal - devoted to her family, friends and to her faith in God.  She was a talented needle worker,  often wearing homemade dresses and loved going out shopping and for dinner, enjoying the odd glass of Merlot or her evening tipple of Baileys.  She took pride in her appearance but was never vain and lived life to the full even into her 90's.  She was a teacher during the second world war and always had a passion for education.  She was a blessing to so many lives, not least my own.  


My earliest memories of Granny were visiting their house in Colchester, sitting at her vanity table curiously playing with her brush, mirror and powder puff.  Later we’d visit their bungalow in Swinehead, Lincolnshire running excitedly past the big bay window to open arms and Granny’s beaming smile.  Granny always went to bed with a head full of rollers and would show me her false teeth – something I was fascinated with!  We’d wake up to her in the kitchen making everyone a three course breakfast.  I’d play pop goes the weasel on the stool in her kitchen and she’d bounce me on her knee along to ride a cock horse.  








We’d go on family holidays to Cornwall and visit Flambards Amusement Park – Granny would come on all the rides with us!  We’d go fishing with Grandad with a huge picnic and she’d drop everything to run half way around the lake to help him net a fish.  She’d make her famous chocolate mint slices and Grandad would give me 50p if I finished all my dinner at the local restaurant, which I never did as I was always too full up on soup, but he’d give it to me anyway with a little encouragement from Granny.  She delighted in reminding me of the time I said “all dork” when she took me into a dark pantomime to pick up my older brother and sister, something I now say to my boys.  


When I was little I always wanted to be a Granny when I grew up because I had the best role model.  She was such a huge part of our lives and is ingrained in so many happy childhood memories.  

Celebrating my wedding in April 2013
Shortly before she was taken ill I asked Granny if she would start writing down her memories, mainly as a keepsake for my boys.  She left me a notebook for which I am now so thankful for.  I now treasure these memories and insight into her life I may not otherwise have known about.  For now they are still too raw to read fully but I look forward to sharing them with our family in time.  

One extract I particularly love reads:

“I was at the time teaching at Canterbury Road School in Colchester – only for a short time as I fell pregnant very quickly.  Jill was born in February 1948 and Jeremy in July 1949 and Bill and I enjoyed being parents.  I remember one occasion when I said to him “I breathe a sigh of relief when they are tucked up in bed”.  Bill’s work meant that he didn’t see much of them, however a little later I was out for the evening and he took over.  When I got home he said “I know just what you mean”."

I first read this from the point of view of her being relieved they were safely tucked up in bed but then I thought or maybe she was relieved, as with many parents, because young children can be such hard work!!  Either way I just hope that I can live up to being half the Mother and Grandmother she was.  

To say good bye to a loved one is one of the hardest challenges life brings but we have been so blessed and forever thankful to have been lucky enough to call her Granny.  

Margaret Eileen Brunt
22nd April 1929 - 11th February 2017

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Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Time to {connect}

This morning I hurt my back.  I've struggled with lower back pain on and off for years - at it's worse I can hardly move or pick up even the lightest object without excusiating pain and I resemble Quasimodo as my back seizes and inflames. Thankfully this doesn't happen too often and I've gotten pretty good at reading the signs that I need to take things easy before doing any real damage.  Since having the boys I've hardly struggled with my back so when I woke up this morning feeling that familiar ache and sense of weakness before a sudden painful tweak I was pretty gutted and the prospect of being home alone with twin toddlers all day was looking pretty bleak.


But instead of retreating to bed and feeling sorry for myself {as would have been the case pre-baby days} I checked we had enough supplies for the day, sent Mr H off to work, dosed up on painkillers, got my heat pad out and got semi-comfortable on the sofa.

That was over 5 hours ago and 3 things have occurred to me since:

1) how generous people are with offers of condolence and help when you're a friend in need

2) how I've been forced to go cold turkey off chocolate and biscuits due to the fact we have nothing tasty in the house and leaving said house is not an option {this has been tough. Especially when feeling sorry for ones self}

3) how this has probably been the most connected I've felt with the boys for ages!

We're all busy and when juggling a family, working and keeping on top of house chores it's so easy to go through days and weeks on autopilot without really taking stock to connect with those around us.  We work, we prepare meals, we do the housework and laundry, we go to our exercise class, we change nappies, we get ready in the morning whilst simultaneously answering emails and eating breakfast, we organise play dates and catch up with friends then rush back for lunch, we kiss our children goodnight when they're deep in the land of nod then get up and do it all again.

I've realised that I have such a strong fear of the boys not being 'entertained' that I pack our day with so much we hardly get the opportunity to just be. Today we didn't get dressed up, we didn't go to twins club, we didn't pop to the shops, we didn't do housework, we didn't have a complicated lunch then rush around picking up toys before nap time. Instead we cuddled, read books, watched twirlywoos {very educational}, we chatted {in toddler speak}, we got their gardening tools out to play with, we chilled.  And it's been lovely!


The boys have been really good and patient - maybe they sensed mummy wasn't feeling good and took pity on me. I've not raised my voice once. Maybe they didn't feel the need to play up as they had my undivided attention. The house is a tip. My housewife radar is going crazy but I actually don't care. All that can wait. This must be what daddy daycare feels like {hahaha!}  

I'm not saying we don't already do these things or that I'd want everyday to be like this but it's been quite releasing to ditch the to do list and have a total lazy day {something which used to be saved for hangovers!} The boys have gone down for a nap and I'm totally chilled {possibly due to the pain killers....!}. We've got fish fingers for tea which they will love and if we end up watching the Gruffalo 500 times before bed then so be it.

Everything else can wait until tomorrow.

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Friday, 20 January 2017

Time for {health}

Following on from my Time to {diet} blog post back in November I’ve decided to change tact and re-focus on my no.1 goal for 2017 – Health.  So instead of part 2 of Time to {diet} here’s a restart with Time for {health}.

I’d still like to lose weight and use aspects of different diets such as Slimming World and the Diet Doctors but centre everything around a healthy lifestyle rather than just my weight alone.  Health encompasses a lot more than just how you look and that’s the mind-set I’d like to shift.  Health is about how you feel, attitude and mental well-being. 

What does health look like to me?

-          Clean
-          Clear skin
-          Shiny hair
-          Slim
-          Confident, relaxed, happy persona
-          Well fitting, styling clothes
-          Fit and toned
-          Fresh colourful food
-          Energy
-          Simplicity
-          Sitting in the garden with a tan and denim shorts, a salad and glass of wine watching the boys play in the sunshine.  Hair thrown up in a bun, make-up and care free J
-          Walking into work fresh as a daisy in a well fitted outfit and heels ready and focused for the day.
-          Lazy Sunday mornings in a clean un-cluttered bedroom drinking coffee and catching up on the news/planning future blogs/emails. 
-          A family wellie walk in the forest before meeting friends for a pub lunch.
-          Running along quiet country lanes getting into a rhythm listening to my favourite tunes, feeling the wind and sun on my skin. 
-          Friends and family sitting round a table full of home cooked food and delicious wine {have I mentioned wine yet?!} laughing, chatting and reminiscing. 

On holiday in 2011
Reflections on health

-          Keep it simple, de-clutter
-          Surrounded by positivity and beauty
-          Believe
-          Focus
-          Organisation – top 3 tasks
-          Me time – time to indulge in favourite things, pamper
-          Build fitness into everyday life
-          Run
-          Watch the pennies – take control of money
-          Meal plan and weekly shop
-          Home cooking, new recipes, variety
-          Ask for help when needed
-          Take time out - head space, time to process, seek guidance and reflect
-          Time for mental health
-          Less stress, more patience
-          Slower pace of life
-          Quality over quantity
-          Practice patience and positivity
-          Hydration 
-          Music and dance – let your hair down!
-          Avoid negative, high maintenance relationships
-          Create memories
-          Keep learning, career development
-          Fresh air
-          Take pressure off
-          Balance
-          Family
-          Friends
       Be kind
-          Be honest
-          Be present
-          Be loving
-          Be confident
-          Be creative
-          Be thankful
Running my first 10k in 2012

-     The way forward

-          Be open about my health journey
-          Ask family and friends to support
-          Make small everyday changes
-          Drink more water
-          Use basis of Slimming World but focusing on health rather than dieting
-          Monthly weigh ins – shift mind-set away from just weight management
-          Start running again {will be easier as spring approaches!}
-          Take a packed lunch to work
-          Weekly food plan
-          Keep a food and mood diary
-          Don’t have unhealthy treats in the house
-          Start to de-clutter and simplify
-          Make more effort to be organised
-          Home pamper sessions
-          Set goals – write them down somewhere prominent as a reminder
-          Look into furthering my education and career development
-          Take pressure off myself

Joe Wick's Thai Green Prawn Curry
So basically {as my brother pointed out} I want to be a yummy mummy {haha}!  I want to make my boys proud and bring them up in a healthy, happy household. I want to wake up feeling good and positive rather than sluggish and demotivated.  I want to see this through and not give up when the going gets tough but also not to put so much pressure on myself that I crumble. 

Just remember – you can do anything but not everything! 

Quality time with my little people
Good luck everyone!

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Sunday, 1 January 2017

4 {simple} things for 2017

The start of a New Year brings with it an opportunity to reflect.  On years past and hopes for the future.  A New Year, a chance for new beginnings, to start over.  You may well poo poo New Year resolutions which inevitably fall by the way side by spring but I think there’s something nice about taking stock and mindfully looking ahead to a potentially more fulfilling life.  No matter how big or small your resolutions may be - to climb Mount Kilimanjaro or have a weekly coffee date with yourself it doesn’t really matter.  The point is you’re taking the time to look forward positively.

Reflecting on 2016

2016 has been quite a year.   One of the major adjustments for us has been my return to work after maternity leave and balancing this with life as new parents {blog post coming soon}, I lost my baby weight {plus some}, then regained a few pounds, I trained for and completed a 10k trail race, celebrated the boys’ first birthday, celebrated 3 weddings, made new friends and reconnected with old ones, had some amazing days out and continued to navigate the ever changing landscape of parenthood whilst sneaking in the occasional date night and baby free latte.  It’s been another emotional  rollercoaster of a year and, as with the year before, it’s one I’m very thankful for but also happy to draw a line under and start a fresh in 2017.  

So following on from my last New Year's post - 4 {simple} things for 2016 here are my 4 {simple} things for 2017:

1. To focus on health

This is my main goal for 2017.  I don’t want to diet. I don’t want to restrict. I don’t want to slave away at the gym.  I want to be healthy, eat and live cleanly and hopefully reap the benefits there of.  I’d like to gradually introduce healthy habits and exercise into our daily lives - drink more water, walk, get to bed earlier.  The reality is I don’t have the time, energy or motivation to commit to anything more than that.  So why beat myself up or set unrealistic goals?  I’d like to look after myself, to take pride in how I look and feel and also focus more on mental health.  Watch this space {or takea peek at my latest Pinterest board}.

2. To be more adventurous

I’ve just painted my nails black.  That may sound very mediocre but for a girl who hardly ever ventures away from pinks and pastel this is quite a feat!  And I love it!  So this year I’d  like to try stepping out of my comfort zone and be more adventurous, take more risks, big or small and embrace change J  

3. To have regular family days and date nights

Life is busy.  Mr H has been working 6 days a week for the last ~6 months and his only day off is for daddy daycare {!} whilst I’m at work.  It’s great that he gets to spend a whole day just him and his boys but we hardly ever get to spend any proper time together as a family or just the two of us.  This is something I feel quite strongly about as, you may be shocked to know, I quite like my husband and miss spending time together on a regular basis.  Marrying a chef you expect the unsociable hours and being passing ships in the night but that doesn’t make it any easier.  This year we will be celebrating being together for 10 years – a whole decade {who knew anyone would choose to put up with me for that long?!} and to spend time together is precious. 

4. To blog more regularly!

This year I’d like to commit building up the blog with regular posts and social media.  Why?  Because it’s my outlet, my therapy, it helps me think more clearly and focus.  It helps my confidence, shares experiences, allows self-exploration and connects me with people.  It documents our life and shares our hopes and dreams.  It makes me happy and is something I think about a lot even though I  haven’t been posting very often J  One thing I’m not going to do it put pressure on myself to post every week etc but I definitely want to commit more to posting more regularly J 

So Happy New Year to you all and may 2017 bring you health, peace and prosperity.   


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