Happy first day of meteorological spring. It’s sunny in patches and windy here. Not freezing cold but not exactly warm either. Except that there is a noticeable warmth in the sun now. It’s no longer a distant ball of light in the sky. It’s like it is thinking about maybe sharing some of that warmth and just slowly testing out what that might feel like.
Since the session on Thursday I have done very little. I could hit you with all the usual excuses but it just is what it is. Some days I can want to do something, really really want to do it, have very intention of doing it, not understand really why I am not doing it but still not be able to do it. Some days that just is the way it is.
Today threatened to be interesting in that sense. I’d gone to bed really early yesterday. I slept on and off for 12 hours and when I woke up Kath wasn’t there. I have no idea why I found this worrying or odd. She had said she might go for a run. But I couldn’t see a note, the house was eerily quiet, I walked all round it and even checked under the sofa (FFS, she’s not a cat!) and panic was setting in a little. So I ran back upstairs and got back into bed to hide. Then I saw the note – you know the one that wasn’t there earlier (obviously it was) and then I just felt silly. Great start to the day that.
We went to Bolton Abbey. It was tempting to say we’d just go for a nice walk, to just forget about running… but trust in the process remember. Don’t think about it too much, just tick off the runs, tick off the exercises, just follow the plan. Ok well, I’m already behind on the plan but never mind. 30 minutes was required for the next run on the plan so we made our way up to the Strid and back. We basically walked and threw in a few short bursts of running really concentrating on form. The bursts varied from 10 to maybe 25 seconds and some were on the flat, some were down and some were up and some were a mix. So I guess really we went for a walk with some running drills thrown in. The focus was on knee drive and not heel striking but landing much more mid foot. It was ok. It’s done. I feel less panicky and less silly.
Another one ticked off. Another sticker on my chart, another step close to believing its possible. And another cup of Bolton Abbey coffee to soak up the sun and watch the people go by with.
Aaaaaaaargh. I have spent a lot of time screaming into a void lately but that’s another story. I’ve had flu or a bad cold or whatever and it was awful. I still have a chesty cough. I didn’t start the Harewood House 10k, I haven’t run. I went out for a plod last Sunday and honestly it’s hard to see any positives from that (thought of course, objectively, there are some – I left the house for a start). I had a session with RunRight today, with Mark, to have another look at my run and to once again try and iron out the issues with my form. I knew I was starting from zero again and while frustrated I thought I was ok about that and accepting of the fact that I had to start again somewhere.
Well, about that. I have spent the last 5 years very slowly shifting my focus from the number that appears on the scales when I step on them or the number that’s on the labels in my clothes to what I can do. I have stopped worrying about which bits wobble, how heavy I am or how much of a tape measure I might need to get it round my hips. It was (is!) just not important. What was important was what I could do. What was important was how strong I felt, how fit I felt, how easy it was to power up our hill, walk up the stairs at work, run 6 miles, how sleep comes easy when you are actually physically tired in a good way. Well the problem with focusing on what you can do rather than the numbers is that it doesn’t work when you can’t do it.
I cried all the way home – just silent tears rolling down my face. I’m not quite sure why. The session was good. It was exactly what I needed. Seeing the videos and having Mark point out where the issues still are and talking about how to fix them was really helpful. I feel more motivated. I have my Disney training plan and Mark’s instructions on what to do. It was good. It was a positive start to the next chapter of the running rollercoaster. Well, I hate rollercoasters. Running has been non-existent, I am not strong, I am not fit. Focusing on what I can do is not a positive because what I can do is, well not a lot and certainly so much less than I could 12-14 months ago. So running and exercise generally, right now, feel like just another thing I am utterly rubbish at. There is of course lots going on here:
I have had bursts of good progress and then something happens and I am back to square one. At square one it’s hard to see there was ever progress. In this case the set back was the flu. Two days before it really hit I had a good session with Katy at RunRight, a hard session but I made it through and felt really positive and motivated after. Now it seems impossible to see how I could even get back to that level.
For all sorts of reasons my confidence is low and anxiety is high. That doesn’t help in remembering that there are lots of things I am pretty good at
It’s the anniversary of Rachel’s death tomorrow so quite frankly the world can just fuck off
I have not been this unfit for a long time. I know that it just takes time and consistency to build it again and I know that if I do my exercises, go out running regularly and stick with it, my fitness levels will go up to a level where everything is easier really quite quickly. I know. I have the evidence – it hangs on my wall in the form of Dopey Medals. I know. I just don’t believe.
The problem is, I don’t feel capable and so much of my energy has been focused on well-being which draws on strength and fitness and feeling capable. I feel physically weak and unfit and that translates into some pretty big mental wobbles which make it harder to even begin to put any sort of effort into getting fitter and stronger. It’s a cycle and it’s a cycle that is really difficult to break. It just feels pointless.
So what’s the solution? Is there one? Think about numbers again? Well, partly it is tempting. I could shift a stone pretty quickly and maybe I would briefly have some sense of achievement for bringing down the number but it would neither be healthy nor sustainable nor would it change anything at all. I am barely heavier that I was 14 months ago and I am wearing the same size clothes mostly – though some of them fit a little differently just now. Being lighter, wearing the smaller items in my wardrobe would not make me feel any more capable, any stronger, any more unfuckwithable. It wouldn’t make me healthier, faster or stronger.
I don’t have an answer. The only answer is to keep getting up every morning and trying. It’s accepting that some days getting to work with all items of clothing on the right way out and round is a win and also that some days there is no win. It’s accepting that I am where I am. Whether I like that or not is irrelevant, it just is. It’s also about trusting the process. It’s about trusting that every little tiny bit of doing something is better than not doing anything. It’s about not thinking too much, it’s about not allowing the head to take over, it’s about having made the decision that I want that version of me back, the one that can run all the way up the hill home and still have enough left to swear about it… I know what I need to do. I know I can do it because I have done it before. It’s all written down, all I need to do now is follow the plan, tick each day, each exercise, each run off. I don’t need to believe, not yet, I just need to do. Belief can wait. It’ll come and when it does, well when it does… I might try believe 6 impossible things before breakfast (Sorry Lewis Carroll).
I have not been running to a plan at all lately but theoretically my 10k plan starts tomorrow. It’s a plan from a Runners World I think and I like it because it has 3 runs a week on it. I might run more, I might not but experience has shown that when I have a training plan with more than three runs a week I tend to not manage it and end up missing key elements of the plan – like the speed sessions. So with three runs a week – most of the time split into one long, one pace practice or speed and one easy, I am more confident that I can stick to the plan as well as fit in the sessions with RunRight and some yoga.
Kath is in the process of adding a new spreadsheet to our files to track our 2020 miles for the #Run1000Miles challenge. I’m excited about having a blank sheet to work with! If you haven’t heard of this or signed up, do it. Have a look at the Trail Running Magazine website for info and get yourself into the Facebook Group for lots of advice, support and encouragement as well as pictures of stunning landscapes. It doesn’t matter whether you make the 1000 miles or not. It’s a fabulous challenge and I still think that for me it is doable. I managed 500 miles with a rather last minute 7 miles on New Year’s eve in 2017 and then I ran over 800 miles in 2018 and am at just over 500 miles for 2019. So I am again setting my target for 2020 at 1000 miles. I need just a little more consistency.
So really I am writing for accountability – Either tomorrow or Tuesday (tomorrow may be tricky as we have a funeral to go to) I need to get my moomin butt our for 40 – 60 minutes of easy running. Obviously for me that means run/walking. My easy running is basically walking so I shall be giving myself a break and accepting that while earlier this year I could run a long way without walk breaks that is no longer the case and intervals are fine! I also need intervals at the moment because my calf muscles are protesting if I try anything more ambitious that running for about a minute at a time. Which brings me to the next paragraph.
The other thing I really need to and want to do as I head into this training programme is doing all the things that are so easily neglected. I want to keep doing the yoga after running to stretch out everything that is pulling tight. My calves are suffering but I suspect that the cause is really my hamstrings which seem ridiculously tight. And then there’s the strength exercises and sessions with RunRight which I will pick up again mid January when I am back from a workshop in Germany. The sessions that is, the exercises I need to seriously pick up today really – I have been doing some of them some of the time and I was giving myself a break because everything was just so impossible (thanks black pup) but we are now in excuses territory!
So please do keep reminding me to do yoga and exercises, keep asking me about them and holding me accountable. In particular remind me that I want to do them because they make me a better runner. I am actually not at all keen on gym related stuff or on strength work or any of that – except of course I like feeling strong and capable and I totally get that that takes work so I need reminding that while I might not like the process I do like the result and I usually enjoy having done it even if I don’t enjoy doing it. I also say that about running of course so maybe one day I will actually enjoy a strength and conditioning type session while I am doing it rather than just afterwards. Who knows.
Is this the longest time I haven’t blogged since I started? It might be. I’ve barely run since the last post. I am still not through 500 miles for the year. You could say the wheels came off. Back in August I tried to hit the re-set button. Well that didn’t work too well because here I am nearly 3 months later and not much has changed. I could go over it all, analyse it, try and make sense of it but honestly it’s just bla bla and more bla.
I last tried to run properly throughout August but usually ended up walking a fair bit and my achilles or calf muscles were often niggly and very tight. I went to Keswick with Dad for a couple of nights and I ran a little while there – run/walk/run with lots of walk. I was grumpy about running. I went to a conference in early September and tried a run – it was fairly horrible and I walked lots and my calf was proper painful. It all seemed pretty pointless. And that sense of pointlessness continued through October. The notion that I might run, never mind be a runner just felt laughable. Still does in a way.
I haven’t blogged because I have nothing to say. As I stopped running or rather just gave up trying to run, I felt relief more than anything. Right, let’s all just stop pretending this was ever going to work. I’m not a runner, we’ve established that now so let’s just move on… I’m actually quite an effective couch potato! Term started, I didn’t miss running. I felt no pangs of envy as Kath pulled on her trainers and headed out. I didn’t even get a rush of excitement scrolling through websites looking at reduced trail running shoes. Nothing, nada. In fact really the only thing I felt was tired and a bit grumpy and a bit angry at the world and fed up and upset at everything and edgy and tense. And then I remembered:
‘You have depression you fucking idiot’ I reminded myself one morning a few days ago and a rare moment of perfect clarity. ‘Depression wants you to think that you can’t run, that it makes no difference, that it’s all pointless… but you can’t be sure it’s real’. Well maybe I had a point. So I went through all the things I was thinking and feeling about how generally crap I am at everything by listing them in my head and then (also in my head) marked them like I would a student essay – which basically meant going through the list and writing ‘unsubstantiated assertion’ in the margin over and over again and ‘You have some interesting ideas which are presented in a relatively coherent manner but your argument lacks evidence, contains factual errors and you do not appear to have consulted even the basic data available to you’ in the (imaginary) comments box.
So after giving my own argument a hard fail I decided it was worth going to my second strength and conditioning session with Katy from RunRight (more on them, why I didn’t want to go but did and how it’s been so far later because they really do deserve their own post) and then the next morning, in spite of soreness in core muscles I had no idea even existed, I went for a run.
We went to Bolton Abbey and we ran the short loop using 30 second run/ 30 second walk intervals. We stopped for photos, we soaked up the colours and we enjoyed being out. I see things differently when I run than when I walk. I see more. That might sounds counterintuitive but it’s true. When I just go for a walk I get too lost in my own world and thoughts. When I run I am much more focused on the surroundings, the colours, the sounds, the smells and I am much more likely to see the wildlife, the birds…
So I ran. It was slow and ploddy but it was ok. I’m not done yet. I did miss it. I just didn’t know I did.
So, time to try and hit the pause button for a sec, time to stop the self-sabotage and re-set. I’ve been thinking that for a little while but of course my brain is sluggish and muddled with depression so doing that is easier said than done. As you know running hasn’t been going to plan at all and one of the side-effects of not running enough is a real dip in mental well being. And of course the dip in mental well being makes it much harder to go out and run. Thanks Universe for that cycle of nonsense.
Yesterday I had a panic attack which I guess was pretty major except that it was nothing compared to the old Bradford panic attacks and I knew what it was so just rode it out. My train was cancelled and then the next two trains coming through were cancelled too so 4 trains worth of people eventually tried to get on the next one. I was squished in a corner next to the toilet with a bloke’s rucksack sticking sharply into my chest. It was airless, noisy, uncomfortable and a bit smelly and within minutes the oh so familiar blood rushing in my ears, jelly legs, inability to breathe and racing heart kicked in. I tried to distract myself on Twitter and I tried to consciously ground myself and breathe. I sort of tumbled off the train in Leeds and sat on a bench for 15 minutes or so before I trusted my legs to take me to the office.
At work I sat and stared at my screen for a while mostly close to crying for no apparent reason. I was close to tears all day and my heart rate stayed high. I had a lovely PhD meeting and briefly felt better. I had two other meeting though during which I did my usual high functioning, perfectly on the ball keeping it all together act and then I left the last meeting and walked from our beautiful Headingley campus to the station with tears streaming. When I got home I should have run but I felt exhausted. When the alarm went off this morning I should have run. I know I should, well let me change the should. I want to. I want to be out there running but I am struggling to convince myself. It’s hard to explain.
Instead of running I’ve been eating crap, craving sugar mostly, drinking too much coffee, eating out, eating mindlessly, putting on weight, moving less and less… I’ve been faffing with work and worrying about things I should just leave alone. I haven’t been good at holding myself to my own standards of sensible working hours, not engaging with idiocy and prioritising work based on what is important to me. And the thing is I know I’m doing it. Depression tells me it’s easier and trying to do anything else is pointless anyway. It tells me I can’t run, it tells me doing the things I want to do at work will make no difference. Depression is all about the insecurities hiding in the background all the time and pushing them into consciousness and then into the foreground. Depression lies but it does so convincingly.
As I was struggling to breathe on the train yesterday morning I decided I needed to re-set. I haven’t managed that today but I have made a start! I didn’t manage to be more positive at work really but once home I really wanted to try and get out for a run. I lost the battle though and only managed to cover a mile and a half and had to walk most of that. Of course my brain is being bitchy and reminding me of how useless as I am. But I’m trying. I got out even if for a little bit. Then I managed to cook a relatively healthy meal and I am trying to be kind to myself and take things an hour at a time. I still feel tearful and a bit useless but also that maybe I’m beginning to turn a corner. Writing this takes some of the power out of it. The panic attack yesterday was a clear sign that things are not ok and I think maybe I needed today to spiral a bit before hitting pause and re-set.
I will try and run more – I want to and it’s hard to explain why I haven’t and even harder to explain why I’ve been eating crap, spending too much time on the sofa, too much time behind a screen and not enough time outside. I don’t know why I’ve been drinking too much coffee and eating too much sweet stuff. That’s depression for you. Nothing really makes sense.
Let’s see what tomorrow brings. I am aiming for neutral with a healthy sprinkling of self care or at least a lack of self sabotage