What’s helping now: running

Muddy trainers delight me

In the midst of extreme busy I am definitely hankering after the blog.  It’s been quite the start to the year hasn’t it? And I am missing a morning routine on these dark mornings – which is where this blog first originated.  So here we go, back to tapping away first thing on cold dark winter mornings.

I am relishing various good habits at the moment and am very grateful for them in this strange January. I thought I would write about them over the following days.  To be honest, I needed a theme to write about so that I don’t just open the laptop and stare at it crossly – and this is it.

First up  -running.  I have written about it before and feel a certain thrill that I am still writing about how important running is in my life.  Nearly ten months ago I decided that if I was to be locked in my home all day – ok so maybe not locked in, but it felt like being locked up.  For those who were deemed as having to shield, I am sure it did feel exactly like they had been locked up and I worry about and for those people.  Oops sorry, digressions – but indulge me – I am a bit over-excited at writing again.  Back to ten months ago when I decided that it was highly likely due to my lifestyle of travelling lots to London that I was about to get ill with a respiratory disease.  I know this is not in any way a medically proven thing and that very fit and healthy people have died from coronavirus, but in my head, I have vulnerable lungs anyway and so strengthening them was key for me.  That meant cardio.  Running was and remains the most effective way for me of pushing my lungs and heart to work harder.

It turned out to be so much more than that.  Running happens outside and outside is the place I long to be.  In inclement weather the longing to be warm, dry, not windswept takes over and it is harder to get out. A daily run takes away that mental chatter. This morning I am going to go outside for a run, the mental chat is not if I should, it is “what do I need to wear”.

Running covers lots of ground, well more than I do when walking anyway, so I get to see a bit more of the world on my daily excursions.  I have generally stayed very local, in fact most of the ten months I have run the same route.  Which would dismay most proper runners as it’s not a great training method and it could be boring for many.  I have not been bored, I have delighted in seeing the route change with the seasons, the wildlife is more visible in winter and early spring.  It’s quieter on summer mornings, long after sunrise.  In the dark there is more birdsong than I would have expected.  The trees have flourished after some work by tree surgeons last winter (before my running started).  The dog walkers have changed over the year as older dogs died, and new puppies were bought by families new to dog walking.  There is a huge amount of change happening even in one place.  Gardeners probably get exactly the same thrill of seeing change happen on such a small scale which becomes something huge as the seasons change. 

The physical differences are fascinating.  I don’t like running in wind – especially not an easterly.  I really do not like running in warm weather at all.  I just cannot breathe properly and my legs feel leaden.  Some days my legs feel too short to propel me properly, some days I can run faster than others and I have no idea why either of those things are so.

Most of all, I know that being outdoors every day, challenging myself to do something I used to absolutely hate and was scared of doing, and which even most mornings now I am reluctant to do, has helped hugely.  I feel more able to cope because of running.  Without a doubt it is keeping my stress levels at a manageable level, it is keeping me emotionally more stable. And it is bizarrely good fun.  I am the sort of person who gets new trainers for Christmas and am now experimenting with running off road – even more fun to be had.

Having written much more than I intended, it’s starting to get light.  Time to get those trainers on.  Have a good day, I hope you get some time outside, running or not. 

Running in the rain

I went out for a run yesterday morning – for the first time in about three weeks.  Winter illness, a lot of work travel and inclement weather all combined to stall the running habit this winter.  Yesterday I was hit with a bizarre determination to go for a run.  Bizarre in that husband was travelling for work, and I had woken up with his alarm in the middle(ish) of the night.  So, I was lacking sleep and my running partner.  And the weather was atrocious – rain and wind.  Not as bad as it has been, but not gentle weather at all.

Nevertheless, I ran.  I ran slowly, I had to keep stopping to retrieve the wandering dog who is less keen on running than he used to be.  I even stopped for a chat with one of the dog walking friends.  But I ran enough to feel I had had a workout.

And it was hugely fun, I had to divert around puddles, I leapt a few of them.  I got wet. Very wet.  But I had enough layers to stay warm and I certainly felt more awake at the end of the run that at the start of it, which was sort of the point.

I felt hugely grateful for a supply of towels on returning home.  For radiators to dry out the very soggy shoes.  For the delicious warm shower to recover. For the washing machine in which I could pile the soaked clothing.

A good mix of exhilaration and gratitude for home comforts to start the week.

Now, has writing this encouraged me to go out for another run today?

Celebrating all the things

I love birthdays, especially my own.  But more than birthdays, I love festivities as a family.  As I may have written about before – I now make up festivities.  My brain seems to operate best in the framework of a specific celebration.  I have no idea why, but the days which I title seems more memorable and enjoyable somehow. It’s not even that I have high expectations of the days, I enjoy them whatever happens.

Yesterday though was a proper festivity with its own title.  One of the matriarchs of the family reached a milestone birthday.  She is not one for large celebrations, but we do have a favourite pub for lunch and a large enough family to make even a quiet celebration rather a big one.  There were the requisite badges proclaiming her age in an  unsubtle way. There were lots of helium balloons, fortunately enough for each of the smaller grandchildren to take one each home with them at the end of the day.  And to spend a good amount of the day having balloon fights – they were definitely well used.

As always the family worked together brilliantly and there was delicious cake (I am rather looking forward to another slice today), bouquets of cup cakes, birthday decorations, fizz, everyone in the right place at the right time (not as easy as it sounds, we do not all live close together and there is a lot of flooding at the moment) and lovely presents and cards.

At the end of the day the birthday girl declared she had had a really lovely day.  Good festivity celebrated.  

As a side note, I interrupted the writing of this to send rough and ready invitations to another family gathering in a few weeks’ time.  I am obsessed.

Starting the year

I am late to the slew of new year’s blogs written by many with a love of the new start that the change of the calendar offers us.  There is a large community of people who relish the challenge of setting new year’s resolutions.  And, in my email inbox and social media feeds at least, a whole load of marketing related to getting us started on great new habits right at the beginning of the year.  I am being invited to do yoga, meditate, buy courses, explore new parts of the world, sort out my budget, track my time, take on physical challenges, go sober, make this the year I find my true self, go on retreat, book many holidays.  You get the drift of the things I tend to sign up for.

I am most definitely one of those people who love new year’s resolutions, I relish the opportunity to have a blank page in front of me and to reflect on what adventures I could challenge myself with.  But here’s the thing, I make a ton of resolutions in various guises, but none of them are really ones which I have to start now in January, and even fewer do I have to start on 1st or 2nd January.

There seems to be a big thing this year of taking the opportunity of the “fresh start” as Gretchen Rubin calls this particular opportunity to change habits.  I’m not sure I believe it is a fresh start though, I love the opportunity to have some reflection and planning time, but it is perhaps not the best time to get started on life-changing habit change.  So, I’m not.  I have plans and goals and adventures ahead.  And I am loving the feeling of anticipation that the year is full of possibilities.  I think my January resolution-making is much more akin to a gardener – now is the time of the year to browse the seed catalogues and to plan the plot, and to maybe place an order for the seeds we will need to make the plot flourish.  But it’s not time to get out in the garden just yet.

The third day of Christmas

I do enjoy Christmas, and very much enjoy it as a season, rather than just one day.  The lead up to Christmas feels very pressured, as does the day itself.  Now, having been around for nearly 50 years, I can honestly say that a perfect day is nigh on impossible to achieve and frankly when they do happen it’s by happy coincidence and not through planning a day of perfect presents, perfect meals and perfect entertainment.  And that view is coming from someone with a stable family life and a steady income to ensure Christmas budgeting can happen.

As I write, I am listening to stories of people’s Christmases marred by financial instability and domestic violence. Those who are sick, caring for the sick, or bereaved have a tough time at Christmas.  Actually, why should the day be perfect for any of us?  Why would Wednesday this week, above all others this year, be perfect?  What other Wednesday have our families conversed in a calm happy manner with no arguments, tantrums? What other Wednesday has every meal gone perfectly to plan with everyone loving everything put before them?  What other Wednesday have I had the perfect amount of sleep and adequate energy all day?  What other Wednesday has every TV programme and board game been engaging and fun for everyone? Getting all that right on one day is a huge expectation.

I much prefer seeing Christmas as 12 days – in that time various things could go wrong, there is time to be grumpy, or sick or just overwhelmed, but over the 12 days there are wonderful highlights, which make for a really merry Christmas.  Some of those highlights may be with family, others with friends, or even an afternoon alone with a good book.  A walk in the sun, a Christmas card with a lovely message from someone, delicious chocolates brought to a work meeting.  All combine to make this a season of mostly joy.  That’ll do for me.

Half way through that month

I am not a usually a huge fan of the month of February, it feels like a failed promise. Every year people express relief at January having ended and it now being February. I never see the difference, it just feels like a never-ending winter at this point.

Although February has slightly longer days, it’s hardly spring for anyone but the birds who are in full song in the mornings and the local woodpeckers are cheering up the morning walk no end. As is the fact that those slightly longer days means the morning walks are in the light

The foxes who are disturbing my sleep with their yipping and yelling think it is the start of spring too. Actually they are disturbing the poodle’s sleep and he tells them off for being noisy. I appreciate his attempt to defend our sleep.

The ducks are enjoying the wetter winter as it is creating a small pond for them on the newly created flood area where we walk. And the changeable weather means that some mornings they’re swimming and some mornings they’re standing on the pond’s ice. Always amusing, I am sure they are not as bewildered as I think they look.

There are clumps of snowdrops everywhere and the crocuses are popping through. Every morning we stop and chat to various folks about whether winter will ever end and express surprised delight at the milder mornings or the clearer sky when that happens.

And because I really do not like February, I have arranged mini-breaks galore. One involving regrouping with some of my oldest friends and catching up gloriously over good food and drink. Another involved exploring a part of the UK coast I had never visited and spending a Sunday afternoon watching dolphins feed. Another involves visiting family we love and cherish but rarely get to see and the final trip involves a bit of adventure visiting a European city which has been on my to visit list for ever. I think this is a definitely the most travel in one month ever.

A successful reframing of February I think. Great month, love it!

Some days turn out better than expected

Generally I am a glass half full type of person. This week I am struggling with a cold and with a full diary, which is preventing the recovery time I need. So my glass looks nearly empty right now.

This morning started with a grumpy version of myself who had slept badly and was struggling to start the day. The day is ending with me feeling very accomplished. Have I ticked everything off the to-do list? Nope, I just do not have the energy. Have I looked after myself as much as I can and done as much as I can otherwise? Oh yes.

I asked for help, I let folks know I don’t feel well and of course, just as I do for everyone else, people rallied around to help. I got a lift somewhere when I thought I would have to walk or take a long bus journey. I snuck in a nap whilst someone else cooked dinner. The floors got washed in preparation for a meeting this evening in my house.

And then, I also tried to notice the nice things people do, even without me saying I am under the weather. Someone called and chatted through how to publicise an event at church, so I wasn’t left feeling I was trying to work things out on my own. The meeting in my house was productive and friendly and a group of people who did not know each other a month ago is starting to feel like we have a shared interest and were sharing some of our stories with each other.

My long work meeting was productive and amongst people I like and respect. I had meaningful contact with friends on WhatsApp groups and on texts and feel very grateful to have had an insight into their days too. A group at church has rallied around and found a replacement for me in a role I am standing down from, making me feel supported and happy in my decision to leave, by sending me emails and texts assuring me all will be well.

Have I still got a long list of things to do tomorrow? Am I still feeling unwell? Yes. But for now, today was a day well lived. Thank God.