We never know where life is going to take us or what challenges it brings. In January 2010 I was happy, so happy I wanted to stay that way for as long as I could. I realised that if Ali and I wanted a long and healthy life together, we had to change. I was clinically obese, had a bad back and my knees were feeling the strain. I had various health problems and I was ageing faster than my years. I looked ahead to a life I did not want. It was time to change. By the end of the year I had lost 4 stone - 56lbs. My confidence rocketed - I had taken control and it had worked. I was exercising, enjoying buying clothes, speaking up for myself.

I began to believe in myself again, I began to dream. For years I had watched marathons with admiration and a lump in my throat. In April 2013, I ran my first marathon.

This blog is about living life as a slim person, staying slim and fulfilling my dreams. Come and join me, support me, advise me!

Take care, Sue

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Chattering monkeys: finding focus

Focus is really not my forte. My mind is always jumping about, I do several things at the same time and I juggle non stop.  I'm great at making links and connections, love new ideas, but I am rubbish at paying attention and I just don't do detail. I've always been a fidget, perpetually distracted at school, never sure what I wanted to do or be.

So I start things with a great flourish and great intentions but finish in a bit of a state and get through life by the skin of my teeth (see my blog posts on the Barcelona Marathon for evidence!). I can get very distracted  - you wouldn't believe the number of times I've done my ankle in whilst having a good neb into a well lit window enticed by the chance to glimpse another world and not noticing a pothole (sounds like a metaphor for you life. ed). I must test the patience of himself when he has to repeat things because I've been carried away by a passing insight. Twitter of course fuels this type of behaviour, because I am a flibbertigibbet, a will o' the wisp, a dilettante with a mind that goes leaping about.

In a way, I quite like it. It's exciting and stimulating, despite the scrapes it gets me into. I have to balance lots of things in life, we all do, so it's handy that I can juggle various crises. But it was when it cropped up in my running that I began to think a bit more deeply about what all this is about and the implications.

You won't be surprised that this has all happened because of my Chi Running.  In my Chi training session 6 weeks ago, Nickwas giving me feedback and advice and I suddenly realised I wasn't really listening to him. I heard what he said but I was busy thinking about what comes next. I 'fessed up and Nick said I have a head full of chattering monkeys and I need to focus on the here and now. Yes, Nick you're right, of course I do! Now, can I just ask how many times should I .......

I forgot about the monkeys, and got on with becoming a Chi runner, focussing my attention on keeping my shoulders down, keeping my posture right, keeping my pace steady; exercising my attention and my legs.   No more listening to the iPod, letting my thoughts wander at will. This paying attention to what's going on at the moment is having a remarkable effect on my running. I've lost that sense of urgency that I have to run as fast and far as I can every opportunity because I might not be able to run tomorrow. Instead I'm focussing on my running as I'm doing it. Every time I run I listen to my Chi Running podcast and focus on the here and now.  It's paying off even in training terms - my ability to run at a consistent pace is getting much much better and I'm having fewer niggles already. I am at peace with my running in a way I haven't been before. 

Because I'm still limiting how often I run, I've started practicing my running form when I'm doing other things. You don't need to run to relax your shoulders or get your posture right.  I've been reading the Chi Walking book so I can do it when I walk about and got some really good ideas there too. Chi is beginning to seep into other areas of my life and this is good.

So I was feeling quite positive, then came the week from hell. I've been horrendously stressed this week.  I won't bore you with the details and it wasn't the worst week I've had, but I was struggling.  I'd run out of time and energy, my head was close to going ping with all the juggling. I was overwhelmed by what I had to do and guilty about what I wasn't doing.  Not surprisingly, I wasn't sleeping, so I got the early train to get a good crack at things and hopefully do enough to get ahead of myself.

As I sat on the train, shuffling a massive pile of papers, my heart sank, it was as bad as I thought. How was I going do all this? Through the fug came a ray of light - just focus on one thing. All I had to do was decide my most important and immediate priority and focus on that.  It was surprisingly obvious when I looked at my diary and then things fell into place. I could feel the pressure falling off and my mind calming as the clutter and clatter fell away.

I was in the here and now.  I'd stopped listening to the chattering monkeys reminding me of all the stuff  I had to do and getting quite agitated about it all. Those monkeys were pulling my attention in all sorts of directions, getting me agitated and holding me back. As I decided on my priority I began to feel in control and my brain began to calm down and clear.

Focus is yet another muscle I have to develop,  just like those glutes. If I am going to do a half decent job of balancing all the things I value in my life,  I need to learn to focus.

As I type, the monkeys have been distracting me -  telling me to make cups of tea, getting me to clean the kitchen and make pots of soup.  But they're not upset or alarmed, they're happily chatting and chirruping to each other, occasionally reminding me that I have other things on my horizon and that it's good to take a break. Those chattering monkeys are going to help me get balance into my life -  if I can get the little buggers under control!

Training this week fell victim to my chaos. I did half a day of serious gardening, one aerobics session, a sneaky five miler and I hope to run tomorrow, but I'll see how I feel. It's been by luck rather than design that I've got any exercise this week. A lot of the internal chattering is about when can I squeeze in a run and when can I get to the gym. I reckon if I timetable sensibly, I can cut this chatter out too.

You never know what's going to happen when you start running, or cycling or cooking or whatever thing captures your imagination. Writing the blog gives me a chance to reflect on what's going on and that helps.  My marathon challenge is firmly rooted in my head and how I organise my thoughts and my life. I think I got that in theory, but doing it is a bit different. Being a runner is never just about the legs is it?

Take care, keep well, run strong.


ps yes I know a chimp is an ape not a monkey! But I really like this photo. She's a few years under her belt and despite the chattering and jumping about, she has wisdom an experience -  and a nice smile!

Monday, 9 April 2012

Spring clean your running garden

Some urges just have to be given into if we are to keep balance and harmony in our lives. For me spring cleaning is a must.  Like an itch that has to be scratched, there is no choice but to get on and do it and boy does it give you a Mojo make over!

The urge to purge runs deep. Like the homing instinct of salmon or the nesting behaviour of birds, when spring starts,  up pops the urge to clean out the nesting box and spruce up the territory; to get things in order, ready for the summer to come.

For the past few days, my eyes been honing in on cluttered cupboards, dusty corners, dead plants and overgrown borders. Everywhere I look I've been critically appraising what needs done and what I can get rid of ready for the blitz.

The deed is now done and I've boosted the stock of our local charity shops with books, handbags, coats and knick knacks. I have been ruthless - well almost!  Two years worth of bills have been shredded, Mum's papers filed and my desk is tidy. There is space in my wardrobe. I know that ere long it will stop feeling wonderfully minimalist and start taking on the characteristics of a yawning chasm that must be filled, but not dear reader just yet. I have pruned the garden to within an inch of its life and consigned to the compost and re cycling bins various ancient and woody plants that need to move on to pastures new. New plants and seeds are making themselves at home in fresh compost-rich soil.

My compost bin, shamefully neglected for two years, has been sorted. I got the fright of my life when two tiny mice leapt out as I took out compost for the raised beds.  I ran into the house and grabbed a sleeping cat. Kyle shivered and hobbled back inside again with ne'er a backward glance. I looked at the mouse and it looked back at me straight in the eye, my heart melted. It will live, but if there is as much as a paw over the threshold of the house, that mouse and its family will be toast. I hope we have an agreement. Note to self to agitate compost bin weekly from now on to make it less of a safe haven.

As I type, my hands are calloused and grubby, my finger nails broken and my knees a bit creaky, but my soul is sated. I have transformed the wild and woolly wilderness of the inside and outside of our house into order and harmony.  Soon summer flowers and frocks will grace the empty beds and rails. For now I gaze on order and it feels good.

I love that feeling of everything being in its right place and being in tune with the season. It makes me feel real and human and in balance, like I have met some ancient human need to till the soil. I don't grow much these days, I don't have time to look after things so I have to be sensible or plants just don't survive. I've put in sweet peas in memory of Dad. I love the colours and the smell and the glorious over-the-top abundance of the flowers that you have to pick if you want the plants to keep flowering - how wonderful is that! I don't do much veg now as I used to, but I like my fresh herbs and this year I've put some runner beans and onions in and I'm having another crack at asparagus.  A token gesture but I love the thrill of eating food I've grown.

Looking back, I've done nothing in the garden for the last two years and it was getting me down. The front of our house was festooned with dead plants in nice pots, the back by overgrown bushes of various kinds.  Every time I look out of the window I felt despondent. Same inside the house. Old clothes cluttering up my life. It made me feel unbalanced, out of kilter, guilty.

The root of the problem? Lack of balance: too much running and rushing about.  Every spare moment I was running, up and down hills, building speed sessions, long runs and intervals into a busy schedule. If I wasn't running I was dashing about trying to do things in a hurry so I could run. Life was a roller coaster of charging about, until of course I could't even walk.

With the Chi Running,  I'm back to basics and it feels good. I'm starting to feel at peace with my running and to go with what feels balanced and right rather than what I think I should do.  I've started to feel less urgency about having to run every opportunity and I'm chucking out some weird ideas I've picked up. One notion I had was that a good runner runs all the time, only rubbish runners walk.  Now I stop and walk when my form and pace drop. I'm amazed how quickly I'm refreshed on every level because I'm not grinding myself into the ground

Because running time is still limited, I have to make choices, and just like with the garden, I need to think carefully about what seeds I want to plant and nurture. I chose to keep my long run and I've re discovered the deep pleasure that comes from just running round North Berwick and getting into that wonderful mind and body thing that happens as you run and run. Who cares about times and distances and marathons - they will all come in due course. That's what I want from running now, that's what motivates me.

That feels a bit like treason, but right now I don't care, I have my Mojo and that's what matters. I just want to see where my Chi Running journey takes me. I've a follow up session with Nick Constantine on Saturday, I'll report back!

Lots of you tapering at the moment, about to harvest the fruits of your labours, the seeds you planted are coming to fruition. May your harvest be rich and timely. Good luck! Major respect for taking on this challenge and looking forward to hearing all your tweets.

Take care