A time warp moment.
Just six weeks ago I could barely contemplate going for a run, and now I’m planning the challenge of my lifetime. How come I’ve gained so much ground in such a relatively short time? Where is the research that can follow this and report back so that it can be handed out to others when they’re also on the brink of collapse? Surely someone should be bottling this up for distribution.
Here’s what happened. I got inspired. Plain and simple! Why couldn’t I have been inspired back in March when I went into freefall? Who knows. Timing is obviously key, but also the right kind of inspiration. You see, I wasn’t inspired by a world champion, a polar explorer or even Bradley Wiggins. I was inspired by my next door neighbour. I was inspired by the fact that she (my neighbour) had finally taken up sport and exercise because she’d realised that she was not getting any younger or fitter, and felt unhealthy, with a busy family, work and social life, and ultimately needed to feel better about herself. And she went and did it! No major races, no crowning glory. Just for self-satisfaction and to feel better, the result being that she looked healthier for it too. That simple recognisance that my neighbour had done something that I’ve been living and preaching for many years had helped to turn the active lights back on inside my head.
So I started running. But me being me, I needed a goal to aim towards to motivate me. I couldn’t think of one off the top of my head, but the Bipolar UK newsletter came into my inbox just when I needed an aim – to fundraise for them and take on the Cardiff Half Marathon. My previous post When Irony Strikes Hot covers some of this – I decided to take on two events, the Eirias Triathlon (for which my partner and I won the relay prize) and a week later the Cardiff Half on 4th October. Both running parts would be wearing a polar bear outfit and I would be recognised as BiPolarBear. It was a good call, the race was not only fun but I laughed, danced and nearly cried throughout it. Supporters called out my name – be it Polar Bear, Super Bear, Super Teddy, Teddy Bear, or even Bipolar Bear – and I felt like a celebrity, bringing smiles and joy to the crowds. I momentarily considered applying to Disney World for a spot in their park.
Crossing the finish line, I certainly was spent, wearing a full head-to-toe costume on a body that already sweats profusely once the heating goes up was tough. One thing that will stay with me is the support from other runners, giving me water on the route and at the end, congratulating me for my efforts as they overtook me, and generally recognising that I was doing something with an additional challenge.
Getting home, jubilant that the fundraising support had raised over £450, and having done my first 13.1 miles in a year, I noticed that this buzz was still ongoing. I was riding on some emotion that I didn’t want to lose. It was the challenge, the adrenaline, the realisation that I had done something I never thought I would and achieved it, and why couldn’t I do more?
So I am now here, in my studio, preparing a challenge that will take about six weeks to complete, will stretch my body to its ultimate limits, and push me so far out of my physical comfort zone, it’s positively astronomical (for me). The funny thing is, mentally, I’ve already completed it.
Which possibly speaks volumes: there is no correlation between mental illness and mental weakness.
If you’d like to donate to the Bipolar UK cause you can visit my fundraising page for ongoing efforts here. Thank you!
You can do this!
I’ve officially only been a runner since the 1st January 2004, before that I hated running, I understood it, but my body was too big. I thought.
That first day, I ran for about ten minutes, my body couldn’t physically do anymore.
But I went back out the next day, and the next, and sure enough after just four months, I was looking like a runner, and feeling like a runner.
In the past eleven years, I’ve trained to cover distances I never believed my body could withstand, and on terrains I’d have happily been carried over at one point in time.
But it hasn’t always been a continuous improvement. It wasn’t until after my third child was born that my triathlon improved…indeed, he was barely two months old when I got back on the racing circuit, breastfeeding before the starter whistle. A race to get back before the next feed.
Eighteen months later and it’s a stomach operation that has put me out for about three months. I came back with PBs in every single event; 5k, 10k, half-marathon and Cyclo-Sportives, half-ironman, and most importantly for me, my first marathon distance – Snowdonia no less.
More recently I was hit with depression, rotator cuff and hockey injuries over the space of fourteen months, and yet I came back to run the Snowdonia Sevens (22 miles seven mountains) with just 4 weeks back running and a handful of training up and down Snowdon.
4 weeks back running after more than six months off with ACL injury? Absolutely.
Once you get to the point where sport becomes a greater struggle than the merits and thrill it produces, it’s time to take some time out. And probably for your benefit.
I didn’t just leave sport behind though. Whenever I’ve taken time out, I’ve looked long and hard at my nutrition. Exercise is only 20% of what we look like. The rest of it is in what we absorb through what we eat and what we put on our bodies, how we treat ourselves in our mind, and how well we sleep and repair. So it’s no wonder I can get back out there fast. I look after the other 80% of me with a 100% attitude.
2015, I’ve got this. I’m quite happy to indulge in my family’s baking today (you would too, believe me), and even for the rest of this week.
But come Monday 5th Jan 2015, I’m back in the game.
Training, detoxing, refuelling, focusing, planning, actually going for it.
My first 30 days will be with the help of the only sports nutrition range I can now fully support, Arbonne’s “30 Days to Healthy Living and Beyond”. Not just a sports range, it’s also a huge part of my daily diet, so no fad, no gimmick, no waste products thank you.
Daily healthy living, that’s how good habits are created. I’m giving that 80% of me more of that 100% attitude.
I finally met up with ITU triathlete Ron Skilling and his guests tonight before a business opportunity event at the Tytherington Club in Macclesfield, and naturally we were discussing protein shakes and nutrition for managing the endurance training regime.
Sharing products that fit in and compliment a healthy training lifestyle, especially for athletes, is a big passion of mine. I’ve tried out a number of products over my 9 years of triathlon training and racing, and I believe I’ve improved my knowledge and understanding of what’s right for my body and my efforts along the way by becoming interested. Plain and simple.
A major and often underestimated key to training is nutrition, it is the foundation upon which winners win, and others, well, don’t win. Racing and training success is completed 90% off the course – in the mind, in the discipline, in the planning and preparation, and in the nutrition. This is a lifestyle course that isn’t taught in schools, or not the ones that I attended, and had this been key then perhaps my own sports at school would have improved more than they had, and errors of judgement avoided. But in retrospect, things were meant to go the way they did.
There was a brief moment in time, however, when I could have figured out the connection between these key areas and training success. It wasn’t until I had a goal and a mindset to achieve a place as an officer in the British Army aged 16 that my nutrition, my discipline, and my training kicked in, and, boy, did I change on the outside and in the head. All of a sudden I was a long-distance runner, even surprising myself; a girl who could bench press 100kg, do up to 50 press ups in one go, arm wrestle boys, and still find time to be Head of House and revise for A levels. A brief period in time of having a goal in sight was all it took for my body to change, without knowing it would to that degree.
Once that goal was gone, however, and I felt the pressures of exams, school plays, Urdd Championships, and sleepless nights take over, my weight went back on, my training decreased, I slowed down, and I was back to the old version of me that wouldn’t change until after children arrived on the scene some 6 years later.
Once the training bug was back, with my next goal to join the North Wales Police, I committed, I trained, my discipline was rock solid, and my mind-set was focused on success, and I backed all that up with what I thought was the right nutrition for an athlete in training. I didn’t realise that overloading on pasta, on potatoes, on rice, on dairy, and not getting enough varied vegetables, protein, fruit and nuts would cause my IBS from pre-baby years to come back with a vengeance. I blamed it on the stress, the shift patterns, the lack of sleep, but I didn’t look at my food. I was eating healthily. I was following the national staple diet.
Fast forward to January 2013, following a period of career and relationship ups and downs, racing successes at regional, national and international level, and periods of mental health issues, I conducted my own research into food. The only thing I could think to do to get my depression under control. What I did was educate myself, to cross-reference my patterns of illness with events in my life, with my nutrition and with my training. Key words were cropping up time and again – dairy, soy, whey, refined carbs, sugar, caffeine. I came across the Paleo diet, and I decided to give it a whirl. What did I have to lose? Some weight would be good, but the medication I had finally succumbed to would hinder any progress, so that too had to go.
Within two days my IBS had decreased, I physically felt less bloated and lighter. Within two months I was feeling ready to increase my training efforts as I was feeling less sluggish, more confident, more motivated. And two months later again, I was introduced to Arbonne, a botanical, Vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free company. They pretty much ticked every box I needed to put my body and mind on to the healing path.
Now I strongly believe that finally understanding my own nutritional needs – cutting out refined carbs, lowering sugar, lowering caffeine, reducing dairy to minimal, avoiding whey and soy at all costs, and increasing fruit, vegetables and water – also put my mental ill-health onto the road to recovery. I effectively still have IBS, but I know how to control it. I know that that little sandwich, that little biscuit, that cup of lovely, fresh coffee, that slice of pizza, will induce a bowel pain that makes me feel like I’m carrying a rock around with me. And I have to constantly wonder if it’s worth it? The additional benefit of finding a training fuel and training supplements that do not induce my IBS, that do not induce a breakout of spots across my back and neck due to the high fructose/sucrose sugar content, and that assist in keeping my training body topped up with the optimum stores of nutrients, even whilst not training due to sporting injury, also gives me peace of mind. I am healing, and strengthening my body from the inside out.
In June 2014 I was able to get back to training after a 6-month knee injury from playing hockey, something I’d started back up in 2013 after a 15-year interlude. I decided to do the International Snowdon Race as a goal to get my running back to pre-illness and injury level, or near to it. Bearing in mind I hadn’t run any more than 6 miles since October 2013, and no more than 10 miles since September 2012, due to a shoulder injury and that cursed mental ill-health. I only had 6 weeks to train for the 10-mile, 3500+ft event, and the first attempt up Snowdon was an abysmal fail to the Halfway House. Mentally, I knew I could do it, I had been running in the Snowdonia Mountains for years, over marathon distances. A week later I came back and I reached the top in about 1hr 30. I came back again, week after week, and my timings got faster, and faster. My nutrition? Paleo. My carbs? Vegetables and fruit. My recovery fuel? Arbonne Vegan protein shake (yummy Chocolate or Vanilla) and Antioxidant Immunity Booster (equivalent of 4,500 calories in one shot of plant goodness). My body prepping and muscle help? Cold water lake dips, Renewing Body Gelée, and Detoxifying Rescue Wash.
The week before Race Day I was asked to step in for the Police Snowdonia Sevens team, a 22-mile race over 7 mountains. I did it, with just 48 hours notice, and completed that in under 8 hours. I was the strongest on the team of experienced mountain runners that day.
My Snowdon Summit time had dropped to my near PB of 1hr 16, and on Race Day, 19th July 2014, my time up to Clogwyn Station (where the event was stopped short due to an electric storm), was the fastest since 2011 when I was PBing at 1hr 06 to the summit. Now how can that be possible in just 6 weeks, with a 22-mile event, repeated injuries, almost two years out of long distance running and training, and mental health illness? By simply getting my nutrition under control and using training supplements that improve my results without hindering my body’s ability to cope with the waste by-product.
I felt that I had kept my body primed with the correct nutrition, with the correct, positive mindset, with the belief of someone who knows that it is possible to do whatever I want to achieve, as long as I look after my body on the inside.
If you want to know more about Arbonne nutrition, take a look at what’s available in their shop, and take a look at this document – Vegan Protein vs whey and soy Jan14 – which outlines the difference between whey, soy, and vegan protein.
What are your top tips for athletes maintaining a stable diet without succumbing to the sugar overload? Are you a ‘real’ carb loader or refined? Have you turned to paleo and then returned to the staple diet?
Which food or supplement has changed your life?
Everyone is different, I know my partner can get away with eating anything he wants, for now, and still have outstanding results in the sports field. I don’t really envy him, because I believe that my holistic approach to my nutrition is also a reflection on my approach to life. Eating and Training Clean, in body and spirit.
This is an interesting article on an athlete’s approach to protein…
[Photo courtesy of Gwynfor James SportpicturesCymru who agreed to assist in the #FindArthur campaign.]