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

Sunday, 22 July 2012

You are what you think: mindful reflections on running

You know how the weather's been a bit rubbish this week? Well muggins was out and about, running  through what can only be described as North Berwick's equivalent of a monsoon, heading up a muddy slope, when I realised I was in survival mode.  My teeth were gritted, my smile had become a grimace and my head was down, eyes firmly fixed on the road in front.  Mentally and physically I'd hunkered down. I was doing a run, and that was that.  'That which doesn't kill me makes me stronger' I muttered as I turned into the wind and rain.

As I pulled myself upright physically, I smiled and my spirits lifted too.  How many times has every one of us uttered those words and how true it is that those toughest of times help us grow and strengthen.  Running in the rain is hardly the end of the world or indeed of any note at all really; as our Madeiran walking guide said to us 'it's only water' (what he didn't know was that at that very moment, the Icelandic Volcano was spewing out the ash that meant we came home by boat!).

Another favourite quote is the one from Hilary Clinton - about not wasting a good crisis.  Somehow despite the bad stuff, the seeds of hope and a better future are often closest to us when the going gets tough. And there is something very powerful about getting something good out of the hard stuff in life, it feels like somehow things even out in the end.

As I ran on, I was thinking about the tv programmes about the Olympic greats and all the studies that show that the truth of the Buddhist quote that we are what we think.  I've coped with missing my marathon and my calf injury by seeing my calf as teacher and a guide that will help me on my running journey, wherever that takes me.  I'm still being amazed by how that calf is keeping me right, reminding me that every thought has consequences. In lots of ways, it was my running equivalent of a near death experience - a serious health warning to change my ways or else - and it certainly did the trick. Maybe it's best to say it's still guiding me, there are no guarantees in life I know.

It's helped me re-write my personal rule book.  I used to have a general rule on no stopping until I finished whatever I was up to. I've seen me up ladders trying to stay awake with a paintbrush in my hand at 2am rather than leave a job unfinished. Looking at the wall in the cold light of the next morning, I could see that it hadn't been my best paint job.    From somewhere I managed to develop running rules too, like I have to run non stop, walking not allowed; and  I have to do a long run every week. Keep going 'til you drop might have its moments, but I no longer think it's the right rule to live or run by - the dropping bit can be a bit literal!

My new rules are to listen to my body and obey,  to focus on improving my running form and not to push myself hard on more than one run each week.  If I do a long run, I can't do hills. If I do a speed run, I can't do long distance.   It's strange not to get out for a good long session each week.  But  I've rather enjoyed getting that bit of time back, though I feel a bit guilty saying that.  And I return to my long run with a new vigour and energy and appreciation - absence truly does make the legs grow fonder.

There's another valuable gift that my injury is giving me - I'm learning to be disciplined and take control.  Running, and indeed life in general,  for me can sometimes be like taking a lively and enthusiastic golden retriever for a walk, my thoughts go bounding off dragging me after imaginary rabbits and interesting distractions only coming to rest when exhausted or hungry. So when I hear that little voice saying 'an extra mile? go on, go on!', I have to say 'no'.

So what if I can do 2 more miles, that's not the point, I know I can run further than is good for me. What I need to learn is discipline and control, I have to practice hard on these, it's quite a challenge for an old hippy 'go with the flow' person like me. But the deal is, when I get a better grip on things I can say 'yes' if it's the right thing to do.  They do say willpower and discipline work like a muscle, so f I can extend this discipline to cake and toast, I'm sorted!

My running journey is proof to me that I am what I think. Everyone's journey is different and it's a deeply personal experience that touches the very heart of who we are. That's so clear in the stories of the heroes and sheros we see all around us during this fabulous summer of sport and it makes their achievements even more memorable and awesome.

It's been a good running week for me despite the weather. Heavy spin class, my 5 miles and 5 hills route with my first ever series of hill sprints at the end (I only did 4 sprints, but I get the gist!). Also a fabulous sunny morning, speedy barefoot 3 miles on the beach and a long sunny 7 miler run. Distance and rigour building slowly.

North Berwick is always a beautiful place to run, but in the sun it is truly stunning - as you can see from my mid-run snap.

So onwards and upwards as they say. Raise a glass to our Tour Champion, what a great achievement. Have a great week's running and only 5 more sleeps until the Olympics!!

Take care