You’re back in that place where you have to figure out how to start running again.

How did you get here? Retrace your steps to where it all came undone. You will strengthen your comeback against a relapse, but only if you’re honest with yourself.

{Click here for a handy 10-point(+) checklist if you’re also starting out again}

Will this be a 100% fool-proof? Nothing ever is, darling.

img_20161115_123725Mid-season. Between events. Without excuses, not even dull ones. When you’ve lost sight of the goal, and the lens falls out of focus, there’s no one thing to quite place a finger on. It’s just all very woolly. Vague. Nothing. Nada. You are faced with a brick wall of your own design.

It dawns on you, gradually, because there are no surprises, just a painfully slow lifting of the veil, that your shape has altered; thicker in parts, lumpier in others, slower, heavier. One voice tells you, this isn’t ideal, but what the heck. Another throws in a rash comment about not fitting into your clothes anymore, you wince at the thought. And a third decries you’ve lost everything you’ve worked hard for, you fool.

You understand that this can happen at any time of the year, entering the in-between. Perhaps more than once. That tug-o’-war between not caring and caring too much plays out to ensure that you feel guilty either way. Still, you don’t deal with it today, it can wait. And wait. And wait. All the while you’re changing, on the inside and on the outside. Others are noticing, saying things in tiny doses that cut another nick into your confidence. You can no longer pretend you’re at that same elated point at the top of the mountain, when you’re now clearly underwater, swirling with the currents, being carried farther and farther from the shore and the vantage point you once held.

It’ll be a long swim back, metaphorically. And it’s always achievable, the only variable is you. Whether you decide to take on the full strokes, resting when you need to but narrowing your focus on that former dot of yourself high up on the summit. Or you float with the debris, hoping it carries you to shore, but if it doesn’t, well at least you thought about it.

img_20161026_223910Either way, you’ll have to battle the weather, the swells, the unsavoury residue that comes across you with the tide, the feeling of treading deep water on the days you long for a shoreline, the loneliness of this solitary endeavour, through murky riptides and the freezing surf. Either way, it’s a tough call to make. Sink or swim. Do it, don’t do it.

As with running, nobody else can put the effort in for you. Nobody will throw you a life raft if you don’t call for help. And sometimes, asking for help is harder than going it alone.

***

Good grief! I get to this point of woe-is-me and what have I done, and then I manage to go for a little trot and it’s like someone has switched on the disco lights again. Two days later and I’m writhing in agony, remembering what it feels like to feel the muscles ripping and then recovering. Do we all repress the aftermath of that first run?

The in-between. What a curious place. Is this a representation of body dysmorphia? I don’t know about you, but I was as fit as a fiddle (albeit sore and cranky) just a few months ago. But when the dark clouds started to gather over my head, I could no longer see it for what it was (health, strength, survival), and instead I saw fatigue, fear and failure. I always see failure. My inner imp pushed and prodded with these disparaging thoughts to the point of stopping all sport, all activity, telling me to see what I really was; not good enough, pointless, mediocre at best.

Inevitably, nature runs its course when sloth-mode hijacks all sense of enthusiasm.

Information isn’t wisdom—I know that not being active will result in the breakdown and shortening of my muscles, the accumulation of fat deposits, the swell of my blood sugar levels, the decline of my VO2 max, the dwindling of my muscle strength and stamina capability. Yet I felt powerless to stop myself from doing just that, reversing months of training, years of conditioning, a lifetime of willpower, in order to argue with an imp.

img_20161123_214048Half-a-stone and two dress sizes later, I am back to training again simply because the lights have come back on. With the pain of what once was resting firmly around my shoulders as a reminder—of what could be again, and also of what I have discarded. Beginning with a few yoga shapes to alleviate the tension accumulated in the hips, knees and shoulders, I opt for just short excursions to revive the stiffness in the joints. A slow pace, listening to my breathing and my sense of coordination, staying on the dry pavement whilst my ankle and lower leg muscles condition themselves to the wobbles, and an expectation that being breathless, feeling a bit sick, feeling a bit woozy, are all par for the course until my fitness levels readjust. In short, if it doesn’t feel a bit hard, it’s not going to make much of a difference.

While I can see that this is, in itself, a fabulous position to be in—being able to start again and build on what I have learnt and experienced—it is, in all honesty, a real pain in the butt. Because I’ve now realised that I didn’t need to argue with that little imp, I needed to defend myself against the greater darkness. To keep going whilst the battle raged within my own head.

Now that’s a grand idea, training through depression, but here’s hoping that I’ll one day figure out how to do just that—push through and keep the training going, so that I don’t have to start all over again.

Until then, as the proverb says, “I shall fall seven times, and stand up eight”.



Here’s a handy 10-point(+) checklist if you’re also starting out again:

  1. img_20161119_155358Dynamic warm-up, whether a seasoned pro or a newbie, your body will thank you.
  2. Wear what is comfortable, all black or vibrant, confidence needs building up not knocking back. {Add an extra buff around the wrist, it catches the sweat, snot and tears.}
  3. Be hydrated—fresh cold water, sipped, not gulped. A tip from Rupert over at Mountain Fuel, particularly great for warmer weather, is to sip, swill then swallow.
  4. Start out slower than usual, you can always get quicker. Superstar triathlete legend Pete Norman once told me on the morning of the GB Triathlon Champs in Hamburg over a coffee, “Leave your watch at home”. Your time is less important than your perceived fitness right now. Focus on the feeling.
  5. If you use music, can you also focus on the details that need fine-tuning? You are your own coach, no one can feel what your body feels.
  6. Head to a viewpoint, something that will raise your spirits when you get there. What colours, smells, sounds are you aware of? Breathe it all in. Take photographs if you’re like me, keep the focus wide rather than on just running itself, this is a journey. And this is mindful running.
  7. Don’t want to be seen yet? Run by lamp light, wear reflective gear, bring a torch if the lamplight isn’t great.
  8. Do an out and back if you think it’s all you can manage, with a hill for added gusto and strength training, you can always go for more laps with short breaks in between—same training plan for an ultra, by the way. Plan it on an app if you want to record it, or take on a challenge to give you a nudge to go further. I use endomondo and the #YouVsTheYear challenge.
  9. IMG-20160623-WA063_edit_1Yoga post-run will not stop the aches, but it will improve your flexibility. Just five-ten minutes has a greater effect than not doing any. I found a handy beginners guide at Camp Bestival thanks to traveller & yogi Jennifer Ellinghaus, her little book comes with little pictures as a pocket guide. Doing yoga outside during the run, why not!
  10. Recovery—arguably a blog post topic in its own right—OK, so it might not be a ten-miler for you just yet, but hydration and some light food will still help your body recover positively. Avoiding food and water is likely to bring on cramps. When I say food, I mean something filled with nutrients. A fried egg and some spinach are light enough to get this new regimen under way. If you’re keen to try the protein shake, at the very least be sure it doesn’t contain fructose. Check out mindbodygreen for some tips on making your own recovery fuel and searching for powders. My choice is the vegan and gluten-free Essentials vanilla protein shake mixed with PhytoSport recovery and Greens Balance by Arbonne as a nutrient-full package. (No issues with ethics or drugs testing.) To use this effectively I’m looking at an hours’ worth of moderate exercise at the very least, or a 30-40 minute intense session of speed drills or HIITS. Post-short runs I’m still going to opt for a fried egg or banana, and a coffee, until I plan a meal.
  11. A bonus tip—post-run I tend to scoff a bit of chocolate (as opposed to the whole bar if I’m avoiding the run). What I notice is that I don’t have an appetite for all that sugar, therefore running actually helps my chocolate last longer!
  12. Second bonus tip—getting back to running for some may highlight the waterworks conundrum. Suddenly running {fast}, downhill, or on the spot can cause a bit of leakage. Thankfully, I’ve always found this to be a temporary issue (though never completely resolved I must add), after getting back into running and doing core work, and also paying attention to my hydration habits, the SUI debacle beings to fade into the background. Dr Juliet McGrattan wrote a great article on this for Women’s Running UK.
  13. And finally—join a club, it doesn’t have to be in person, virtual clubs are popping up to give you some nudges and inspiration for trying new things, new routes and even contemplating racing again. Here are a few club/support sites to get you started:
    • UKRunChat—also on twitter as #ukrunchat for Sunday and Wednesday 8-9pm to talk running and occasionally win prizes
    • JogScotland—to find local support groups across Scotland for runners
    • iRunWales—to find local support groups across Wales for runners
    • ParkRun—for Saturday 9am free 5km ParkRun events near you or sign up to join in, Sunday morning for Juniors
    • RunTogether—to find local support groups across England for runners
    • NIRunning—to find local support groups across Northern Ireland for runners

Little and often…little and often.

Namaste x

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