Do you love your body?

I was talking to my friend recently about how happy we felt with ourselves. Mainly how we felt with our own body. The question “if we could change on thing, what would it be?” was asked.

Now I’m not an arrogant person. I’m also not a massively confident person either. However, I genuinely didn’t want to change anything. I know for a fact had that question been asked to me ten years ago I’d have said “urghh I just hate my legs”. Now this is ridiculous. My legs, certainly 10 years ago, were tiny. I mean, if anything looking back at photos of me back then I’d say I needed them to be bigger – more muscles required.They look like sticks to me. Now I look at my legs, knowing full well I wouldn’t be able to get them into jeans I wore back then, and I’m super happy. Those legs have done me well. Fast running, strong running, marathon after marathon. I’m no Victoria’s Secret model but they’re alright. I like the way they look, I like they way they run.

Crucially I look at my body as a sum of its parts, not individual parts in isolation. My legs make sense for my body, my boobs make sense for my size (as much as I’d love to have a bit more going on…), my bum is shapely with just enough squish to it, my hair helps make my so-so face a bit more interesting… I’m being a bit tongue and cheek here, but I see myself as a package. I’m happy.

Of course I’m not 100% happy with my body on a daily basis. No one honestly is. I might wake up a bit bloated from a terribly delicious but terribly large dinner. I might have a few spots breaking out on my chin. Shit happens. I put it into perspective though. No I haven’t gained 5 pounds over night. Those spots will go away eventually. Your body is not a static thing. It changes. You have days you look tip top, and days you think you need to crawl back to bed and not “bless” the world with your appearance. I have days when I feel at the upper end of my normal weight and I might not eat as much cake during that week, but then some days I don’t give it a second thought.

I like my lifestyle right now and I like the way my body performs (100% healthy, doing everything it should be as a female and a human). I’m running faster than I ever have. I’m running more miles per week than I ever have before. I’m consistent. I’m less injury-prone. And I enjoy eating a balanced diet of 70-80% healthy and 20-30% like a child at a birthday party buffet. My 70-80% healthy is all good food I enjoy, and lots of it. I don’t track, I don’t measure, I don’t stop myself eating anything. But I do try and eat lots of vegetables, not too many refined sugars and good protein, fats and carbs. I might hit 30 and suddenly my balance might be off, but right now it works for me.I’m not bragging. I don’t think I’m perfect – I’m obviously not. But I am happy. I feel very much at peace with myself and my lifestyle. Long gone are the days I’d hone in on my flaws and worry about them. Life is too short. There are far more important things in life. I don’t want to change any individual feature because I wouldn’t be me otherwise. Flaws and imperfections, they are just life. I won’t compromise my happiness worrying about them.

What do you think about your body?

Do you have anything you’d like to change?

Do you have a good balance with food and exercise?

My thoughts on social media, technology and running

Running has changed a lot over the years.

Obviously I wasn’t there in the “glory” days of the past when running gained momentum and popularity among the masses (long before London Marathon became the entry nightmare it is today) but you hear a lot about how it used to be. Someone at parkrun told me how when they were training for the Southampton Marathon back in the 1980’s they were unable to find running shoes – if shops even sold them! He had to wear flat plimsolls. I mean, seriously. And forget gels, electrolytes, isotonic drinks and super duper compression gear. It wasn’t around back then. Some may argue is it even needed really?

Today it does seem a bit like we’ve over-complicated running (and cycling I suppose) with technology, gear and nutrition. No longer do you just throw on a t-shirt, shorts and trainers and get out the door. Put on those carefully chosen trainers (do you pronate too much? Not enough? Flat feet? High arches? Narrow? Wide?), have you had your pre-run snack (not too high in protein, careful of that fibre, is it the right carbohydrate?), find those satelites, (DON’T YOU DARE START RUNNING UNTIL YOU HAVE THEM) and run along your pre-planned route of the set number of miles according to your well-researched training plan (which you’ve got the book for, obvs). Gotta hit that mileage for the week!

Post run routine… have you foam rolled? Had a hot bath with your epsom salts? Don’t leave your post run snack too long – you’ll lose those gains and you’ll fall over with faintness! Put on your compression socks, you don’t want those muscles to get tight. But MOST importantly, have you updated Twitter? Facebook? Instagram? STRAVA. Omg, don’t you forget about Strava. If it’s not on Strava it didn’t happen! Think about the forgotten kudos, likes, favourites and comments.OK I’m being silly. And I’ll be honest with you, the thought of running without my Garmin and not tracking takes a little away from my enjoyment of running. Don’t get me wrong, if Garmins suddenly died everywhere or Strava disappeared, I would still run. Running is a significant part of who I am and how I live my life. It gives me great happiness – and health, of course.

But I love the post-race analysis of a run. My splits, cadence, elevation… I find it interesting. It adds to my enjoyment of the run. Strava segments are fun to get involved with and beating a run you did a year ago is always a nice boost. It gets me motivated and I love having a log of what I’ve done.

My legend of a granddad who’s in his 80’s uses Strava. He regularly goes for walks, hikes and bike rides and logs it all. He’s a cool guy. I remember having a conversation with him a while ago where he said he wished he could have written a blog or had Strava back in the days when he was in the thick of his mountain climbing. Claiming segments, summits and routes left, right and centre. You could easily prove who got somewhere first. It wasn’t just relying on someone’s word. He’s a highly competitive person so I imagine this would have really boosted him to see his achievements in this way. So though back in the day it might have been a simpler world, there are definite advantages of how it is today.

And social media? Oh yes I’m certainly guilty of excessive over-sharing. Pre-run photos, intra-run photos, post-run photos… I’ve done them all. Look at my new shoes! Look at how I did in this race! Or just simply boring guff about how I went for a run one lunchtime and didn’t get rained on. I’m not breaking any records or doing anything really that worthwhile to shout about.But still, I like to share. I like to throw my little run into the soup of social media and interact with other runners who have done just the same. I prefer to follow people who are similar to me. Elites are interesting don’t get me wrong, but I love the posts where someone has just gone for a 4 miles run at 9.30min/miles on a normal Wednesday morning. I like to connect with runners all over the UK and the world – people doing exactly what I’m doing. No disrespect to anyone, but most of us aren’t that fast…but we all love running and the community of that is fun to be involved in. It’s interesting to see what others are wearing, what runs they’re doing, where they’re going and what they want to achieve.Yes some posts I roll my eyes at. Some posts can annoy me. Or make me jealous. When you’re injured, social media is certainly a dark place to be. But equally, it’s an uplifting place. It’s full of good natured people with good intentions who like to support others. I will never meet 80% of the people who I follow and follow me on social media, but that doesn’t mean I don’t take an interest in what they do. I want them to do well, give advice when I can, receive advice when I need it… For me social media, when used wisely, is a good thing.

That said, I do know I need to work on how much I use it. Especially when Real Life is happening. Learning to put my phone away and not telling Twitter every tiny boring detail of my life. Learning that the people actually next to me in the flesh are more important than hundreds of, essentially, strangers.

What I do know for certain is that I enjoy the way I run – Garmins, selfies, over-sharing and all – and I’m glad to be involved in different communities, but I don’t need that stuff to make me happy and fulfilled. As long as I have the important people with me and I’m not injured, I’m happy.

What are your thoughts?

Do you use social media?

Do you track your running?

What’s next? My Running Goals

There’s nothing like a good race to get you feeling confident about your running. Though confidence and enthusiasm needs to not fall into getting overly-confident (aka cocky).

My Brighton Marathon PB has given me such a boost. I’m not lying when I say I am genuinely still shocked by my time and how good I felt running. I didn’t actually think I could get a PB let alone a significantly sub 3:20 time. So it’s definitely boosted my confidence in my own running ability.

With that in mind I have two main goals. I’d love to get my half marathon time a bit quicker. It’s currently 1:34:30. I’d loved to be closer to 1:32. I have the Jersey Half in June which is supposed to be quite flat and fast so I’ll be aiming for that. During this time as well I’d LOVE to get a sub 20 at parkrun. In terms of time goals, that’s all I have. I’m generally not hugely bothered about times but it would be nice to “give it a go” again… who knows. And it’ll be nice to have a proper focus for my training.So going forward I want to do to put a bit more thought into my running. I do just tend to run all the miles at one pace and occasionally blast a parkrun out. This isn’t a great way to train, so I’ve heard… I also want to get to running five times a week, rather than my four times.

OK this all sounds like me heading towards doing too much and over-training and getting an injury but I’m going to be cautious, listen to my body, recover adequately (sleep and eat well) and CRUCIALLY make sure I run the fast stuff fast and the slow stuff slow. Ideally I’ll have a Tuesday run where I’ll put the effort in and do an actual speed session, then have two other runs I keep SLOW and gentle, then Saturday parkrun (which I won’t blast out every week but plan when I want to) and then a Sunday long run, sensibly paced.

Again, this is all very much “in theory”. I can get fairly negative about my running and believe I’m injury-prone so I’m always expecting the fun times to stop at any point when my next niggle crops up. Watch this space I guess 😉 But I am going to try so hard to be sensible and not just run all the miles at my usual pace. Basically I’m hoping to think more strategically about how I should be running. Let’s be honest, I don’t usually do this so this is all very much new territory for me.

Alongside my time goals, I obviously wouldn’t be me if I didn’t have my fluffy goals too. I’d love to tick off some more parkruns from the alphabet challenge (Jersey will be done in June) and tick off a few more tourist locations.

I also have a bit of an itch to do the Cheddar Gorge Marathon to celebrate turning 30 in June. I really loved that marathon. Yes it’s tough and super hilly, but it’s so chilled and scenic. And what would be more fitting than running a marathon as a way to celebrate my birthday? But it’s all very much just thoughts at the moment…What are your current running goals?

How do you like to celebrate big milestone birthdays?

Do you have structured training or do you just run how you fancy?

Rants and Raves #40

I am in a very happy place right now. Life is good. I mean, a marathon PB does do that to you, but life in general asides from that is going well too. Here are some bits and bobs I’m loving and ranting about lately.

Rave: I had literally one of the best Mondays. My work had organised a bake sale to raise money for Stand Up To Cancer and it just so happened to be on the day after I’d run the Brighton Marathon. Usually the day of the marathon straight after you don’t feel like a whole lot (despite having dreamed of all the food you’ll eat). Though I did refuel well, I was more than ready the NEXT day to celebrate with a lot of sugar.Literally I was the first one at the cakes when the email was sent around and I loaded my plate up. For my first round, I had a slice of Victoria sponge (heavenly. Normally I’m not that big a fan as I find it a bit dull but my god this was a good one), a salted caramel cupcake and a white chocolate cookie.The salted caramel cupcake was very gooey and so delicious. Post lunch I had round two, another salted caramel cupcake (it was just so good the first time), another slice of Victoria sponge and a salted caramel crepe (which I heated in the microwave). And in the afternoon, PURELY to be polite to my friend, I tried his chocolate cake… gahhhh so good.So I definitely think I’ve caught up with what I burnt the day before 😉

Rant: Still on the subject of cake… Right each to their own and all that, but it hurts my soul that Victoria Beckham had a watermelon cake for her birthday. Not a cake in the shape of a watermelon but a cake made of watermelon (some may argue that that’s not even a cake).She’s always been rumoured to not eat much and be super conscious of unhealthy food (and is super slim) so I’m not entirely surprised but COME ON. Just have a slice of cake. (Obviously I’m making a snap judgement here purely on what she projected to social media and have no idea if she did eat cake in her own time blah blah blah so this might be an unfair comment, but whatever).

Rave: OK this is one for the ladies predominately. I’ve recently downloaded Clue. It’s a period tracking app.Now I am a big fan of apps that track stuff. I track my running, my steps, my sleep, sometimes I’ll have a mosey on MyFitnessPal if I want to know the nutritional value of something (I don’t track meals or food though – that would probably trigger me to become overly obsessed, which I certainly don’t want to be). But anyway, I like stats and data.

I love this app because you can fill in lots of lovely detail about your cycle (god I hate that word) – I won’t go into the specifics, but you know what I mean. Lots of things are affected by your hormones and period so you can fill out this data and then after a few months it can help forecast and predict things for you. It also tells you when you’re most fertile and ovulating and uses the data you put it to learn and predict. It’s also FREE and someone else can track your cycle too if you share it with them (yeah bit weird but hey whatever floats your boat).

Rave: I love movies. I love food. I LOVE the sound of Taste Film. Basically there’s a monthly film experience where the audience eats the food that’s served within the film (or basically relates to the themes of the film). Oh my god how good does this sound?? Apparently they did Bridget Jones’ Diary and actually had blue soup. The food looks amazing. I would so love to do this at some point. My only issue is it’s only in London… standard.

Rant: The London Marathon have changed their Good For Age Entries. GFA is basically the way that some (UK based only I believe) runners can get into London ‘guaranteed’ by achieving a certain time. I was able to get into London last year through this method as my marathon PB was sub 3:45. Anyway, they’ve changed some of the criteria.Mary wrote a great blog post highlighting the changes and her own opinion on this so check that out as it’s a good read. My opinion is this. OK it’s a very over-subscribed marathon and I imagine they needed to re-asses and readjust the times (well, the men’s time mainly) because of the demand. I personally don’t think the current ballot system is the best approach (it’s not really explained how the ballot system picks people and some people believe it could be down to the London Marathon wanting a spread of different people etc. etc. so some people who have entered like five times still can’t get in). It’s VERY hard to get a place. So the GFA was one way for certain runners to get in.Now that’s fine. They can set whatever criteria they like – it’s their race. What I object wholeheartedly to is that they changed these times mid marathon season. It’s like changing where the goal posts are half-way through a football match. For example, James was aiming for a sub 3:05 at Brighton so he could then do London next year. If he’d have gotten 3:04:59 he’d have been super pleased – as of Sunday the GFA still stood that his age group with a sub 3:05 could get in. Then a day or so later, the times changed and suddenly he needed a sub-3. Luckily for him he did get a sub 3…but how devastating for people who didn’t but were momentarily happy thinking they had qualified? Or that they’re entire training had been focused on sub 3:05 and NOT sub 3? Five minutes is quite a chunk!

There were a lot of sad people on social media who had this exact issue. That said, I don’t think London is the be all and end all of marathons. Yes it’s easy for me to say that having done it, but I only really did it because it was a Major and I’m trying to do them all. Obviously it depends on your experience, but though I did have a good experience I wouldn’t say it was the best marathon – not even top three for me. It’s a faff. It’s super busy. It’s expensive to get to and from (don’t forget, they don’t send out the bibs either so you need to go to London twice). And most importantly, there are SO many other good marathons in the UK and outside the UK – better than London, in my opinion. London IS NOT the only marathon.

What do you think about qualifying times for races?

Have you ever done London?

Do you like health tracking apps?

Collecting things

When I grew up I loved collecting things.

I would be the girl with 10 Tamagotchis. I had more pogs than I knew what to do with. I loved those rubber wrist bands (especially the ones filled with sparkly liquid). I had the Pokemon cards. Spice Girl photos. Gel pens. You name it, I collected it.

As I grew up (have I grown up? I don’t think so…), I stopped collecting things as much in that kind of childhood sense, but I still did things that allowed me to get my kick as a teenager. I played on game consoles and the computer, leveling up and collecting special items. Oh man I was a cool kid.

But then since going to university and then starting a Big Person Job though you just don’t do that sort of thing anymore really. No time, no space, no money. Oh hey adult life.

Then I started running. And my passion for collecting began once again. Races…medals…experiences. I’m not a race fanatic but I do enjoy doing different races about the place – enjoying new areas, seeing different places, meeting new people, getting a nice medal. It’s all good fun. I tend to dislike doing the same races over and over (though some are clearly worth it, hello Romsey Beer and Cake Race) because I like doing different ones. Collecting new ones, if you like.And marathons. Ahh marathons. Doing the Marathon Majors is collecting game for me. It’s a long game, don’t get me wrong, but ticking each one of the list is just something that I love to do. I don’t necessarily care about the times I get or if I break my PB. Nope. I just want to collect each medal and earn my bigger Six Star Medal at the end.And alongside that I’ve been trying to complete different parkrun challenges… get to 50, get to 100, get to 150, now get 20 different ones, now get all the letters of the alphabet, get to 200…250… tick off all the local ones, the Brighton ones, the Bristol ones, the Birmingham ones. Ahh call me a loser, call me a weirdo, but I so enjoy this kind of thing.

Most importantly, it keeps me motivated to run – and with that to be healthy and uninjured, work hard at the gym, take rest seriously, eat a balanced diet. It keeps me mentally healthy as well to not focus on smashing myself at every parkrun or race. It’s been a long while since I’ve felt disappointed about a parkun time. I remember when I first started running and every race I had to beat my last time, every parkrun had to be faster  – and if not, why not? Could I justify why I’d run so slowly? It really ground me down.

But now I’m happy to plod along, get my barcode scanned and add another one to my list. I see progress in a different way. Yes of course I want PB’s and fast times (damnit I want that sub-20 parkrun!) but it’s not everything for me. It’s not why I put my trainers on. Yes maybe this has been somewhat to my detriment when I’m not making “omg amazing” gains in my speed and I’m still no faster than I was when I started but I’m 100% happier with where I am, both body and mind.

I’ll make my progress in the ways that I enjoy. Alongside that I’ll pepper it with the occasional “hard goal” of a certain time but it won’t break my spirit if it doesn’t happen right away (or at all!), because along the way I’ll have other fun goals to tick off as I go that really only mean something to me.

And I’ve found as an adult you can still collect things. Don’t even get me started on my new found love of geocaching… ;-PDo you collect anything?

Why do you run?

Have you ever done geocaching? I’ve just gotten into it and I quite enjoy hunting around and trying to find different ones – the app is great!