Is your body ready to run….really ready?

Is your body ready to run….really ready?

IS YOUR BODY READY TO RUN? EFFICIENTLY?? AND PAIN-FREE?? Humans are meant to run, whatever the distance, aren’t we? We keep running with little niggles, knee issues and injuries, that’s just the way it is, isn’t it? But, when my body became ready to run, things changed.

I introduced myself to strength and conditioning coach, Keith Downer (of The Natural Movement Studio) when I walked, or, more like hobbled into his gym 3 days after completing The Race to the Stones.  Race to the Stones takes place on Britain’s oldest path called The Ridgeway, and I’d just completed it with a friend in July 2016.  It was our first 100k! Being in the UK, the weather could have been anything.  Gratefully, it was a clear morning, and off we went. Day turned into night. We continued to cross uneven, rocky, bumpy, narrow, hardpacked, difficult terrain with sheer determination, Donna Summer music and unbeknown to me at the time, a squishy slug which made a home in my running shoe! There was no hanging around at checkpoints either; eat, drink, go. 

We finished 23hrs and a few minutes later when the sun was coming up. And, after a prolonged loo break in the grass, we managed to jump up and down with joy quite a few times even though moments earlier, particularly me, was dragging all my limbs on battered and blistered, slightly shuffling feet! About an hour later while sitting in the finisher’s tent savouring our accomplishment, surrounded by collapsed runners feeling quite chuffed with ourselves, we didn’t move so well.

Everything was seizing up and the pain of my Iliotibial band (ITB) made me think my leg would never bend again!

My instructions to Keith was ‘please make me be able to run for 10 min cross country and I’ll be happy’ thinking my running career was over before it really started. Keith sent me home to rest.  Little did I know… I was the one going to be given some serious instructions and lessons!! Having been involved in the fitness industry for 30 years and being fortunate enough to learn about the body plus strength and conditioning from knowledgeable, walk their talk coaches, I did have a great grounding in this area. 

The difference now was that I was seriously experimenting with the knowledge for running performance and injury prevention. About a week later, being somewhat able to move again, I went for my first training session and there were some serious lessons given to me in why body management, strength and conditioning, and having rest would help my running, prevent injuries and keep me functional for every day. 

It begins with… Mobility Drills: https://youtu.be/x5IWioHxlKw Full biomechanical assessment to determine how your body physically moves as one ‘unit’. Simple. We tend to spend lots of time behind a desk, at meetings, in cars, trains, and planes, and our bodies get ‘glued’ into a position that’s usually hunched over, experience neck, shoulder and back pain, along with other discomforts.   Then, with every good intention of ‘getting fit’, we go for a run. 

We expect ourselves to be fully physical functional, and perform to whatever our expectations are. Great!!  Except, we get injured; ankles twist, knees hurt, ITB’s don’t work, Achilles problems, tight hamstrings to name a few.  We feel disillusioned, and annoyed because now, we can’t run. The mobility drills are a great indicator of how your body moves or doesn’t move as a unit.  Doing the drills, you will feel which parts move, bend, remain stable and upright during movement, or not.

You may be pleased with your range of movement, or you may be surprised it’s not quite what you thought it was. Remember, do not force the movements.  Forcing can cause injury. Any level runner or athlete could use these mobility drills because they can flag up signs of something not working quite right, and point out areas for strength and conditioning work. 

Injuries can be kept at bay because you know what needs to be fixed to keep you running and very importantly, have everyday functional fitness, because really…it’s much more fun to move! *Quick follow up:  Keith’s the very first question to me literally right after finishing my first 50K race on the Isle of Wight the following April, was “How’s the  IT?”  My reply: “Oh yeah…I forgot it’s good!”  I was excited because I came 6th female and I was still walking just fine. Happy Days!!! These drills are what we started with and continue to do.

 

Rochelle

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Get up, Get out, Feel good!

Get up, Get out, Feel good!

Feeling sooo ‘blah’, you’d rather sit on the sofa than go find a trail to run, get to the gym, or do anything else, I can empathize. For me, I have learnt how to counteract that!

I can easily stare out of a window and wander in my thoughts for hours on end. I can ruminate, speculate, reflect, and overthink about almost any given topic at any time. I can make myself sad, melancholy, worried, and generally confused and carry others’ woes for them. Oh, I also tend to put myself under excess pressure to try to figure everything out! My mind isn’t an awful place to occupy, however, a little more of a light-hearted dwelling doesn’t go amiss either, I do like to smile, laugh a lot, and dance around the house!

30 years ago I started running to lose weight, (those often used words) to fit into the clothes I wanted to wear. Now, I run for different reasons, including mental wellness (gratefully, those NOW often-used words). I realised that when I run, particularly trail running, my mind clears and becomes focused. All the ruminating, speculating, reflecting and overthinking dissipates, and I can even make sense out of confusion. I find solutions and creativity while I am busy watching where my feet go. I put the world to rights. Feelings of anxiousness are relieved while I get myself over hills. I like listening to how my breathing settles as I find my pace. I love being outside and reminding myself of how big Mother Nature is. All this happens for me in a short or long run or even a good brisk walk!

When that ‘anxious’ feeling rears its ugly head for whatever reason, and I think I’ll just give in…I change my mind. I get up from the window, sneakers go on, grab my headphones for my favourite disco music, get outside and get fresh air even for 15min. Whether I walk or run, the result for me is the same: I know I’ll return focused, productive, and motivated, and that anxious feeling is replaced with ‘feeling good’.

Research is starting to show that my experience isn’t unique. Indeed recent science has established that it’s not just feelgood endorphins that are released while running. A 2017 study on mice at the University of Heidelberg medical school in Germany found not only higher levels of endorphins in the rodents who’d run for fun, but increased endocannabinoids – yes, like the active ingredients in marijuana! This hormone leads to lower anxiety, a higher pain threshold and a greater sense of well-being. Literally a runner’s high!

Running doesn’t only have an immediate mood payoff either. A Clinical Psychology Review study which looked at previous research into the exercise/mood connection found that cardiovascular exercise like running increases the level of serotonin and norepinephrine – the same happy hormones boosted by anti-depressants. Many doctors, therefore, are now prescribing exercise along with medication to treat depression and anxiety, because statistics say 1-6 people are found to suffer.

But what if you don’t run? Don’t despair. A University of Toronto study found moderate exercise for 20-30 minutes a day boosted happiness and prevented a depression. So if you’re thinking of starting to run, it all begins with small-step goals. Jogging or walking to the lamp post on the corner and back, can help you begin re-programming your brain, hard-wiring it for calm contentment rather than anxiety and despondency!

Find your sneakers, your headphones, your music, get up, get out and start to feel good.

Another story you might like: A Little Behavioural Change and Cookie Baking Scheduling

 

Rochelle

Did you find this article interesting? Visit our other sections Mind & Body, Inspirational Life Journeys & Recipes to read more!

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Disclaimer: Run Body Run is an online magazine that shares events and services related to fitness, health and well-being that may be of interest to our followers. Please note Run Body Run is not affiliated in any way with the pages or people whose stories and recipes are shared in our articles. However, this article may contain affiliate links for products that we feature on our Recommended Products Page. We only endorse products we use and truly believe in. If you are interested in any events, products or businesses mentioned, please contact the companies and organisers directly for full information. If you feel that parts of this blog relate to you and you’d like to discuss this further, please fill out the form on our contact page.

Finding yourself again: mind, body & fuel tips to feel your best in every day life

Finding yourself again: mind, body & fuel tips to feel your best in every day life

Finding Yourself Again…

Are you doing the 101 things that need to get done every day without enough sleep, the right fuel, and with your head swirling?

All the while, you’re also delicately balancing your family, career, and relationships. No wonder you’re stressed out.

Mind, body, and fuel are so important when it comes to elite athletes. But why do we overlook and undervalue these in our own everyday lives?

I remember feeling just like this.

Let me flashback to a few years ago.

During that time in my life, my goals included:

  • Becoming a part-time athlete who glided through marathons like a pro
  • Losing weight to fit into my favorite jeans
  • Calming my anxious mind while I had a part-time job, studied as a full-time sports psychology student, and was taking care of my family

At the time, I wasn’t the greatest sleeper. Usually, when taking my kids to school, I’d stop for a takeaway cappuccino and a chocolate croissant at the coffee shop. Sure, that gave me a quick jolt of energy, but it never lasted. I’d get in my workout and head back home.

After my workout, I felt tired and virtuous. After all, I was training. Back at home, I’d have a small handful of salt and vinegar crisps (which really meant devouring the whole bag because I’d just exercised, and it was “okay”).

Then, I wouldn’t be hungry for lunch.

I’d pick my kids up from school and make homemade (…redemption!) apple carrot muffins. I snacked on these until my “real” dinner, when I finally got around to eating some vegetables.

I thought I was moving closer to my goals.

Reality begged to differ.

  • There wasn’t any “gliding.” My iliotibial (IT) band injury had reared its ugly head again. I was in pain. My body hurt and my knee was swollen. I wanted to get back to running ASAP, but it didn’t seem like it’d be anytime soon.
  • There wasn’t any hope for fitting into my jeans. With lattes and squishy, yellow and pink chequerboard Battenberg cake for lunch, this clearly wasn’t working.
  • My anxiety was here to stay. I wanted to be and to do so much. As a mature student, I was gratefully diagnosed with dyslexia and Attention Deficit Disorder, which explained a lot. I wrote essays with a tutor by my side. Generally, I was grumpy.

Was there any hope for me?

Meanwhile, I was always exhausted. Weight training continued, but I wasn’t running. My uni results came back. While they were alright, they weren’t a reflection of my best.

After uni finished, my days felt a little less frantic. That’s when a friend of mine suggested trail running. I was already working with my strength and conditioning coach, so I started working with a running coach, too. Together, we focused on my eating and sleeping habits, how I was feeling physically and mentally, and how I was resting and recovering.

It all started to become more and more clear in my head. Every decision seemed to affect something else. It was all so inter-connected! The more in shape I got, the more I started to feel like myself again.

During that time, I came to really understand how the mind, the body, and your fuel work together. It’s a balancing act, and I find keeping the body, your mind, and your fuel supporting each other is a daily work in progress. Finding your way back to yourself is about progress—not perfection.

Strategies for Success: A Few Ideas for Achieving Your Best

How can you keep your mind, body, and fuel working in tandem to support you for sports and/or everyday living? I have some ideas:

1.) Dig into the mind-body connection.

The mind and body are in constant communication to keep you healthy. Thoughts and feelings can even physically manifest in your body. I’ve understood this relationship for a long time, and it’s a powerful one.

When your mind is overwhelmed, it can’t be in touch with the body as well as it’d like to be. Too many swirling thoughts can create anxiety, which can lead to poor food choices, which leads to less restful sleep, which leads to grumpiness.

2.) Re-set and re-focus.

When you need a re-set, take a few minutes and slow down. Find a quiet stop. Take a seat.

Make a list or draw out a mind map so you can get your thoughts down on paper and free up valuable space in your head. I find that mind maps can be quite colourful and relaxing to make.

Take a deep breath. Prioritise what can get done (and what can wait).

3.) Set a goal.

Small goals pave the way towards achieving even larger ones. It doesn’t matter how much progress you’ve made. Instead, it’s about making progress. Small steps in the right direction mean you’re gaining knowledge, learning the processes, and building confidence. That’s already an achievement.

4.) Do what you love.

When you love what you do, you’ll enjoy getting back to it. I like to dance around the house to my favourite disco or 1970’s funk music pretending to be Diana Ross. It always seems to make me smile or laugh, whether people or watching or not!

The same goes for working out, heading into the office, and what you do in your free time. If you don’t love what you do, it may be time for a change.

5.) Choose foods wisely.

Whilst chocolate croissants and cappuccinos are tasty, they aren’t a substitute for fresh and wholesome food that gives you real energy. Anyone can survive on coffee, cake, and crisps, but you won’t have the energy or the attitude you want.

If you’re too busy to find time to fuel your body well, you might be…too busy.

Focus on essential fatty acids, an array of colourful vegetables, proteins and carbohydrates. Not only will your exercise and confidence improve, you’ll probably lose weight. Plus, when you wake up in the morning, you’ll really feel rested.

6.) Rest and recover.

You know that phrase, “Get a good night’s sleep and you’ll feel better in the morning?” Well, if you’re not getting a good night’s sleep, you won’t feel better in the morning. Rest is crucial for recovery and everyday living.

The mind and body gives you clues when you’re overdoing it. Are you listening to them? It’s okay to take a day off from a workout or take time out when life is too stressful.

When I rest and recover, I like to get back to basics. I search for new recipes online or in magazines, read a book, listen to music, or cook for my friends and family.

Active rest is also useful in recovering. There are many physiological reasons why active rest is useful for athletes, but it’s also important for daily living. Try going for a long bike ride or doing gentle laps in the pool. You might even take a stroll in the park. Exercise isn’t always about pushing your limits. You can calm the mind and help your body recover at the same time. Switch it up. Take a new route. See where you end up.

When you’re ready to feel your best, take a step back and see what state your mind, body, and fuel are in. Are you focused on one and neglecting the other three? Are they all in need of some TLC?

Use these simple strategies and slowly work your way back to feeling like yourself once again!

Other articles you might be interested in:
A Little Behavioural Change and Cookie Baking Scheduling
Lets talk about hormones and how they rule our lives
Why do I feel tired all the time?

 

 

Rochelle

Did you find this article interesting? Visit our other sections Mind & Body, Inspirational Life Journeys & Recipes to read more!

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Disclaimer: Run Body Run is an online magazine that shares events and services related to fitness, health and well-being that may be of interest to our followers. Please note Run Body Run is not affiliated in any way with the pages or people whose stories and recipes are shared in our articles. However, this article may contain affiliate links for products that we feature on our Recommended Products Page. We only endorse products we use and truly believe in. If you are interested in any events, products or businesses mentioned, please contact the companies and organisers directly for full information. If you feel that parts of this blog relate to you and you’d like to discuss this further, please fill out the form on our contact page.

Middle East Desert Running – Intro 101

Middle East Desert Running – Intro 101

Jump back to 2016.

I visited Dubai often. My daughter was living there, and, being the ‘forever beach-bum,’ I was happy to visit and visit often! Amongst the glitz and glam that is Dubai, the ‘beach’ experience can still be found. Sun that warms the bones, soft white sand and the smell of Hawaiian Tropic sun lotion is definitely my kind of living. It’s second nature as I grew up by beaches in New York.

In the early evening on one of my visits in January 2016, I listened to a podcast about the Marathon Des Sables (MDS). Not my usual go-to type of podcast, as I always consider ‘other people’ do those things, but because I vaguely knew someone who had completed the MDS, I wanted to hear more about it. The information that centred my attention was the participants. Out of approximately 1100 participants in 2016, just 165 of those were women. Right then and there, I knew I wanted to be one of those women! I have no idea why I just did. By the end of the evening, I was on the waiting list for Marathon Des Sables 2017.

In early February, having returned home to the UK, I received the news that I had got a place! I was speechless; speechless with excitement, speechless with the unknowing of what I had really signed up for, and speechless with the reminder of how life changes from moment to moment, and I was now going to run 250k in the Sahara Desert with a pack on my back! “OH, MY WORD!!!”
Once all this speechlessness subsided and I knew what my April 2017 holiday was going to be, it occurred to me I should probably train in a desert and thought how fortunate I was to be able to go back and forth to Dubai and amongst the glitz and glamour, the desert MUST be accessible??

To this day, the best thing I ever asked Google was ‘How do I run in the desert in Dubai’. Instantly, up popped up a video of a few men in the middle of a desert, wearing backpacks, tight shorts, caps, long sleeves and white fabric things attached to their footwear that wrapped their ankles I learned were called gaitors. They were climbing up a sand dune, sliding down a bit, standing still to rest a few seconds, then continuing up the sand dune until they reached the top looking exhausted and proud. Then the best bit, they got to run down! I wanted to do that too!! They were part of a group called the Desert Trail Runners (DTR’s) and had weekly runs in the desert! Fantastic!

The second-best thing I ever asked Google was how to get in contact with the Desert Trail Runners. A month later I was in Dubai. I woke up at 2:45 am to meet with Lee, the DTR running coach at a taxi rank in central Dubai for 4:45 where we also met 7 other runners. We then travelled an hours’ drive to Fossil Rock in the Emirate of Sharjah where I started my desert training for Marathon Des Sables 2017.

Arriving at a car park at the crack of dawn, with no one you know, surrounded by sand dunes and mountains wearing my usual run shorts and sleeveless top, no-frills road sneakers, an ill-fitting backpack containing small loose bottles of water and thinking you’re prepared, is a little surreal. After the initial shock of seeing the towering golden sand dunes which you think only exist in movies, I was told you’ll be climbing that, I gulped, crossed my fingers and started following the others across the sand as fast as I could, I didn’t want to hold anyone up!!

Having somehow managed to get myself up the ‘ginormous’ dune that led to Fossil Rock, stunned at what I had just done, I then continued to heave myself up two further dunes; Devil’s Plunge and then The Bowl. A total elevation of 350m and the shock at what I had just achieved, rendered me speechless yet again. Two to three hours later and I was done, back in the car park, eating watermelon and pondering what I had just achieved. If I had known what was going to be presented to me that day, I may have thought twice. Sometimes, ignorance really is bliss!

Fossil Rock will always be a special place to me as it was my introduction to desert running. The preparation for MDS also introduced me to the outstanding sights of the UAE’s desert terrain. Fossil Rock, officially known as Jebel Maleihah, wasn’t the only place I was fortunate enough to train in. I raced at Wadi Najab in Ras Al Khaimah which shares its borders with the beautiful Hajar Mountains of Oman and tried to run in Rub’ al Khali, the desert in Abu Dhabi only to realise those picture-perfect sand dunes were actually blocked off by barbed wire, so  I took to a blisteringly hot car park of a hotel at mid-day instead. It seemed like a good idea at the time!

In my running adventures through the harsh and daunting Hajar mountains, I discovered the relentless terrain of Jebel Shams, known locally as the ‘Grand Canyon of Oman’ and rightfully so, it’s near 10,000ft elevation makes it both the highest peak in the Hajar Mountains and in Oman! The 70 million-year-old landscape was a pleasant 30 degrees cooler than the coastal areas in July. On one of my journeys here, I climbed to a pool of water at the bottom of the canyon where I sat and listened to the sounds of the birds circling above. Along my way, I found pomegranate trees, darkly coloured butterflies, mountain goats climbing somewhat bare trees to forage whatever they could and stone buildings from how long ago I wondered.

In the deserts of the Middle East, I’ve discovered another life really does exist. It is a different adventure every time. I’m forever fascinated by the Bedouins that really do live in these terrains and how much of our ‘real life’ they partake of if any. I’m also forever fascinated by the camel farms and how camels feature in everyday desert life. I am amazed by the trails that seem to just exist, and, always ponder how difficult it was to get the very well-spaced out electric pylons in the middle of all this sand.

These different experiences provided me with a variety of emotions every time; the deserts true vastness was breathtaking and awe-inspiring. At the same time, it could be intimidating because you inevitably become ‘misplaced’ when all your landmarks look the same. The terrains made me truly understand the wonder of Mother Nature. The brutal weather with its intense heat, sandstorms, wind and welcomed cloud coverage was grounding and real! You cannot fight Mother Nature. You work with what it gives you, you do your best and build resilience and strategy.

All my training in the UAE’s desert certainly provided me with the experience I needed to run and complete the MDS. I did fall in love with the Sahara as well, particularly at night and of course, now I’m wondering if deserts everywhere else would provide the same kind of adventure for me as those of the Middle East. Will they give me the same sense of history? Will they give me the same sense of awe? The same sense of realness and grounding? I keep uncovering just how many countries the desert in this region encompass and I’ll make sure to get back to Abu Dhabi, not just for its car parks but to run those dunes! I do love a desert.

Rochelle

Did you find this article interesting? Visit our other sections Mind & Body, Inspirational Life Journeys & Recipes to read more!

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Disclaimer: Run Body Run is an online magazine that shares events and services related to fitness, health and well-being that may be of interest to our followers. Please note Run Body Run is not affiliated in any way with the pages or people whose stories and recipes are shared in our articles. However, this article may contain affiliate links for products that we feature on our Recommended Products Page. We only endorse products we use and truly believe in. If you are interested in any events, products or businesses mentioned, please contact the companies and organisers directly for full information. If you feel that parts of this blog relate to you and you’d like to discuss this further, please fill out the form on our contact page.