Aaaaargh Body Image

Aaaaaargh, body image. I am struggling with that. Of course I have my moments and my insecurities but generally I don’t actually pay much attention to body image. Particularly since Dopey training it’s been about what my body can do not about what it looks like. Before that I didn’t even think about that – my brain was always more important and powerful. But at the minute…. wow.

It’s that time of year maybe – lots of ‘party wear’ in the shops and advertised, the fashion, diet and fitness industries are ramping up their campaigns and even the models used to advertise more realistically sized underwear look remarkably skinny as far as I can see. So there’s that and then there’s some other stuff I won’t bore you with including my sense of just not being able to run at all. So if I can’t run and I’m struggling with some of the yoga sequences I could easily do not so long ago then focusing on what my body can do is actually not very helpful because the answer is: not much. I can’t measure myself by number of miles I run because I’ve hardly run any through November and into December so the dominant measure, the number that suddenly becomes important is the one on the scales. I know it’s not important, I know, I know, I know. But….

I have actually lost weight and I actually fit into some jeans I haven’t worn for ages (and I don’t even have to lie down to fasten them) so it should be all good. But there I go again equating lighter and slimmer with better. Urgh. Actually I want to be fitter and stronger; lighter and slimmer may (or not) be a side effect of that. So why the niggle, why the doubts, why the insecurities? Why can’t I get slim = good and therefore I am not good enough out of my head at the minute?

Enough of that. Let’s try and focus on what I can do. Today was the second run on the half marathon plan. 3 miles ish with some speed work – 4 sets of 30 second strides in this case (basically accelerating to flat out sprint over the duration). I didn’t exactly feel energetic and bouncy when we set out. I also felt ridiculously self conscious in running gear – running gear I have worn hundreds of times without giving it a second thought. We had a warm up jog down the road and then did the first 30 seconds as we turned slightly uphill on our usual route. 30 seconds is a fucking long time when you’re trying to accelerate to full sprint – uphill. It was ok though and after a short recovery walk we continued on at a slow pace. It was really windy and I was struggling to breathe a little but the second 30 second acceleration was also fine. I tried to keep up with Kath as she pulled ahead but no chance. Next came the slopes which I really struggled on today and then my head went. Why am I so bloody crap at this?!? And given that I am so crap at this why the hell am I still trying? I nearly fell over several times on my way down the former golf course to the canal because I couldn’t really see for tears.

Once on the canal I got my act together and did another 2 lots of 30 seconds acceleration with short recovery walks after each one and then I walked up the hill and slowly ran/walked the last bit home. I didn’t enjoy it, I didn’t really get a buzz from the running or even from having done it but it did help clear my head a little. The afternoon was undoubtedly more productive than it would have been without the run.

Next up is a 6 miler at the weekend. I vaguely remember 6 miles being really quite scary. Now 6 miles is just 6 miles. Progress of sorts.





Running might have helped today

Today has been one of those days that pushes my buttons just enough to have been a really exhausting and crappy day but not enough to actually tip me over the edge or for there to even be anything specific. The alarm went off and instead of getting up I hit snooze several times, had a shower and a cup of tea, then breakfast and eventually left the house – about 15 minutes after I’d planned to be at work. Button number one pushed. By the time I got to Leeds, it was busy. Lovely.  Our book is late. We’re making progress but I’m unfocused and I keep making mistakes and having to re-do bits. That’s another two buttons pushed. This morning we had a staff meeting, I’m not good with staff meetings, they’re full of people for a start and they are mostly so totally pointless. This one also took over two hours out of my book writing time. The research ethics committee this afternoon was similar, though perhaps a little more upbeat. I have an inbox full of a mixture of stupid and reminders about things I haven’t done and then I was supposed to go out for a drink after work but that didn’t happen and I found myself struggling with the change of plans. I wondered whether I should just stay in the office but in the end I came home, had some food and sat down to work on the book.

I wish I’d gone out to run though. I’ve been slightly irritated about something all day but can’t put my finger on it. Running might have helped. Although my hamstrings are a little tight from yesterday. Anyway, it’s not all bad. We’ve started our half marathon training plan. We had a reboot run at Bolton Abbey on Sunday (which followed my London reboot run last week). It was a lovely run really. Bolton Abbey has gone all festive and further along the trail we saw a heron and towards the end of the loop a woodpecker. It was nice to stop and watch.

Yesterday we picked up the plan with a 3 ish mile run with a couple of hill repeats. It was fine. It was hard but it was fine. I felt flat afterwards though. The post-run buzz never happened. And I don’t really remember much of the run. I suppose non-eventful is good. I’m also getting a little better at doing yoga again, not great but at least I’ve done some. I’ve lost a couple of pounds and I’m fitting in my smaller pants comfortably so it’s all good really… and yet there’s something niggling.

Anyway, the next run is tomorrow – 3 miles with some speed work thrown in. Yay!

Anxiety is a Bitch

I went to a workshop in Birmingham today. More on that in another post if I can find the time to write that. For now I am writing because I need to. Because it focuses my thoughts on doing something. I left the workshop feeling a bit tired and struggling a little with this silly cold that started on Friday. Otherwise I felt fine. I walked across campus in the dark and drizzle. Fine. I got to the station and made my way down onto the platform. A little anxious. So many people. I squeezed onto the train and went right to the end of the carriage. I needed to breathe but the end of the carriage meant being boxed in. Rock and hard place.

The journey from the University to New Street Station is 7 minutes. 7 agonising minutes during which I could feel the panic building. I tried to control my breathing, I tried closing my eyes, I tried my mantras, I tried all the things I’d perfected but haven’t really had to use for such a long time. (I did have a little attack the other week but nothing compared to this). It didn’t work. I got off the train and got swallowed up by a sea of people. I must have had tears streaming because a little while later I noticed that my face was wet.

I had my phone in my hand. I wanted to call but what would I say? And I couldn’t actually lift my hand to dial or anything anyway. I just walked with the mass of people slowly up the steps, too slowly. I wanted to scream. At the top of the steps I ducked right when everyone else seemed to be going left. A tiny little space to breathe just a little.  I asked Facebook for suggestions for a quiet place in Birmingham New Street to sit and breathe knowing that such a place probably doesn’t exist. I couldn’t stay where I was, the crowds were relentless.

Walking helps, walking always helps. Taking deliberate steps and breaths I walked but it didn’t help, it was too slow, too many people. I focused on the ticket barrier, went through, thought ‘out’ would be a really good idea but ‘out’ was so busy, so many people just rushing and just so many people. I froze, turned round and went back. Up, up the escalator was the current path of least resistance. I went up and saw Foyles. A bookshop. Bookshops are quiet. I dived in and walked to the back. I wondered round. My chest was so incredibly tight, breathing hurt. I found myself standing and staring at ‘teen fiction’ for a while. Slowly, slowly everything slowed. I felt less dizzy, less urgent. I looked at my phone – no suggestions.

I walked towards the front of the shop. I still had nearly an hour before my train. Everything was busy and I could feel the world speed up again as I got closer to the door. Then I realised that the middle of the floor I was on had several restaurants sort of open plan popped together. They weren’t busy. It felt a bit like the eye of a storm where it’s calm with all the craziness whirling around the outside. If I could get there I might be able to just sit there, have something better than a sarnie for my tea and breathe. I’m not sure how long I stared at the path between me and the entrance to ‘Giraffe’ but eventually I went.

I don’t remember getting there. I sat in a little booth flanked by the kitchen on one side and empty tables on the other. I ordered a salad and a smoothy, nourishing and yummy stuff although I wasn’t at all sure I could eat. Kath phoned to reassure. I was starting to feel better. But breathing hurt. My smoothie came. I closed my eyes and took a long drag on the straw which induced a coughing fit rather than the calm I was aiming for. I tried again. Now my bubble was starting to build around me. The techniques I learned in the Bradford days when panic attacks were daily occurrences were working. My salad came, I realised I was actually hungry. I sat and looked around. From here things didn’t look too scary. My world had stopped spinning.

Eventually I got the bill. I took some deep breaths and took the shortest possible route, which of course I’d worked out as soon as I sat down, to the escalators. Once at the bottom I was briefly disoriented then saw the barriers and my platform and went for it. I got down to the platform and tried to focus. I tried to shut out the world but it wasn’t working. It was too busy and the panic started again. The train took so long to arrive and just as pacing up and down didn’t seem like it was going to be enough a couple of messages came through on twitter and on messenger. The tightness started to ease just a little, just enough for me to function, get on the train, find my seat and focus on typing this. Sharing it with you.

I’m breathing ok now. I think the tightness is now mostly from my cold/cough, I don’t feel dizzy anymore. I just feel tired. Really tired. Anxiety is a bitch and today she got me. She got me without warning. I wasn’t expecting her, I wasn’t ready for her. Why should I be. She’s been AWOL for over a year or at least she’s been in the background. Now that I know she’s back she won’t get me as easily again, not with that force. Time to step up the yoga, the breathing and the running miles. The bitch might be back but I learned a thing or two last time. Bring it.

Nearly 6 miles solo

I’ve got some demons to outrun. I also have a book to finish which requires a far clearer head than I currently have. I need to run. I need to run for sanity and for clarity. But I haven’t been able to really. Confidence has gone, disappeared.

The day after the last blog post I was going to go for a run in the morning. I got my kit ready the night before and laid it out next to the bed. When I woke up I couldn’t move. I couldn’t breathe. I just couldn’t see how I could possibly get my fat arse out there and run. I just couldn’t. Kath gently nudged me towards calm and shaking like mad I put my running socks on. Then the rest of my kit and by the time I was dressed my breathing was almost under control and the tears had stopped. I managed a mile, stopped to say hello to the sheep that are now in the field ours used to be in. There were a few more tears and lots more doubt about running and being fat and being fat and running. Then we headed back, mostly walking but some running.

Today we were meant to run at Bolton Abbey in their organised event for Manorlands, the Sue Ryder hospice. I was signed up for the 10k and Kath for the 10 miles. But this morning Kath wasn’t feeling well and the idea of 1000+ runners at Bolton Abbey which is her safe running place was too much, so we didn’t go. I’ve been wondering about going for a run all day. But the negative voices telling me I can’t actually run have been quite vocal. I’ve also been ridiculously emotional and tearful all weekend. At about 3.30pm though I decided that I should just go. I’d feel better for getting out, Kath was happy watching something on tv I wasn’t fussed about watching and I was making no progress with the book. So off I went.

I hadn’t really decided where to run or how far to go. I ran down the road and through the little housing estate and to the canal, then I just kept going along the canal. The autumn colours were stunning. I was hoping to see a kingfisher but it wasn’t to be today. The ducks were out in force though and one of the fields that comes right down to the canal bank on the opposite side was full of geese. I had a vague sense of working quite hard but the good sort of hard. I was deliberately not looking at my watch. I didn’t want to be disappointed. I passed what we call the stone bridge and moved from well maintained towpath to muddy track and pushed the pace. This is where I’d be likely to slow down. I still felt strong so I pushed a little more. The watch beeped for 3 miles and I ran a bit further to hit 5k and then stopped. 11.58 pace. That’s basically the speed of light for me. I seem to have accidentally run a fast 5km, trying to outrun my thoughts maybe. I had a little breather, checked my phone and wondered what to do about the way home. The light was fading quite fast so I decided that crossing the canal and going home through the fields and woods wasn’t sensible so I’d go back the way I came.

I set off back, much more slowly now and aware of my bad sock and trainer combination – blisters, ouch. I must remember that those socks with those trainers doesn’t work. Once off the mud I realised how dark it had got so tried to speed up again a little – the first mile was 13.40 pace, the second 12.20. I ran 2 miles to the first canal bridge I could use to head home and decided that it would be safest to come off the canal and head home on the road. So in the end I did just under 6 miles with the last 3/4 of a mile walking up the hill home.

I do feel better. I feel good about having got out and about actually being able to run a total of 5 miles with only one little breather. I enjoyed the moments of clarity as I was running, those moments where you’re not thinking but you just know. The clarity isn’t lasting today but it was nice to have it while I was out there. So from barely making it a mile at 14 minute mile pace earlier in the week to running 5 in under 13 minute mile pace -the first three in under 12 minutes per mile – welcome to my rollercoaster.

‘That’ kind of tired

I’ve not run for a little while and I don’t really know why. Can’t. Something is going on in my head. When I am not in a position to run I look forward to it and plan when I can go and it all feels positive and good but when I have the time I can’t. It’s all in my head of course but it feels like I physically can’t move off the sofa or wherever I am. Sitting on the train home this week I have looked forward to a run. Arriving home the idea of going out again filled me with paralyzing fear.

Yesterday I left the senior leadership team meeting (don’t, just don’t), walked to the station, got on the train, propped my way too heavy head against the window and let my eyes fall shut. ‘You’re ‘that’ kind of tired, aren’t you? I said to myself. ‘Hmmm’. I replied trying not to doze off. ‘No, you need to know  this. You’re ‘that’ sort of tired’. I woke up in a bit of a flap at Bingley – the station before mine. But I was right, I do need to pay attention to the fact that I am ‘that’ sort of tired. Tiredness that doesn’t really allow sleep at all or forces way too much sleep, tiredness that isn’t about sleep, that sleep makes little difference to, tiredness that is more mental than physical. Tiredness that makes thinking difficult. The last time I felt this tired, well let’s just not go there.

So I need to get back running, I need to acknowledge this ‘that sort of tired’ feeling and think carefully about what is causing it – to figure that out I need to run and I think I probably need to run far and on my own. Both of those just seem impossible just now. But we’ve been here before haven’t we. So, I once again invite you to come on the roller coaster ride with me. I’m hoping for a short ride but do hang on just to be safe.I will quote