At new year, whether it has been a bizarre one like 2020 or not, many people pledge to change some aspect of their life. Most of the time this involves giving up or restricting something. Whether it be giving up chocolate, meat, alcohol, sweet treats, or something else, it all involves restriction. But, do we need to have a New Years resolution, especially one that is about denying ourselves specific things?
In the world we live in now, it is almost seen as abnormal not to want to change something about your lifestyle and yourself. It is abnormal not to feel like you should cut chocolate out of your diet, or restrict something else. Restricting what you eat is normalised, and seen as ok, especially at the start of each year. Why should we start the new year off on a restrictive note? Why should we feel the need to completely cut something out of our diet? This only has a negative effect. It either makes you crave that thing you have restricted, or reinforces bad habits and causes you to restrict other foods.
For some, the opportunity to restrict something as part of a New Years resolution is a welcome excuse to cut a food item out of your diet without it being questioned. And sadly, this is because society has made it ok to deny yourself certain foods just because it is a new year. For others, this is all part of the trend set by society. Why is it not ok to keep everything in our diets and just focus on balance? Eating a little bit of chocolate everyday, or having a sweet treat a couple of times a week, is realistically absolutely ok for you. If you exercise and eat all foods as part of a balanced diet, it is ok to keep them in your diet. You don’t need to completely deny yourself of these and you don’t have to set a New Years resolution.
Ultimately, what I want to convey is, it is absolutely ok not to want to give up anything. I believe this is a sign of contentment and a sign of self-acceptance. It represents your recognition that it is abnormal to completely deny yourself certain foods. For me personally, not giving up any food at the start of the year shows that I am able to recognise that it is not healthy for me, as a unique individual, to follow restrictive behaviours.
I want to plant this seed in your mind. Before you focus so hard on giving up something for New Years, think again. Do you really need to do this? Why not transfer your energy elsewhere and be kind to yourself. Maybe pledge to read a book a month, or show yourself some TLC once a week.
We shouldn’t feel like we have to restrict foods just because it’s a new year. Do what is right for you and not what society says is right.
Stronger together and never alone.
Just a short post from me this week as it's Christmas tomorrow and you don't want to waste your time reading my blog.
This year has been a weird one, and this Christmas will be far from ordinary, but we do have a lot to be grateful for. Whilst things may not have gone to plan, and we may not have been able to spend as much time with those we love as we would’ve hoped, I feel the kindness and care of the close to us has really come to the fore this year.
No one has had it easy to say the least, and I feel people have truly recognised this. Everyone has learnt to look out for one another more than they ever did in the past, and, without the ability to hug and be close to our closest friends and family, we have thought of other ways to show we care. Whether it has been a phone call, a card in the post, or a simple message, there has been so much thought for one another. I feel this is an incredible thing to have happened, and a very positive thing to have come out of 2020.
I wish everyone a very Happy Christmas, and whilst it may be a lot quieter and more distant than before, we are all still here for one another. If anyone feels alone or lost on Christmas Day, remember you are not alone, and there are so many people who are here for you and care about you, myself included. Take some time in the day to do what you love, be it go for a run, watch a movie, eat a load of food, or go for a walk. It is important to take some time for you.
Stay safe and positive this Christmas, and even if you feel lost, remember there are so many people who are here for you.
Blowing off the dust: PB5K
Racing. It’s a funny but precious concept in the world of 2020. A year which we all thought would be loaded with racing, bizarrely, has been almost race free. However, whilst the situation allowed, I made the most of the opportunity to race and headed to the PB5k in Ardingly to take my legs for a spin.
When I initially saw the line up, I was nervous but excited, as it was stacked. There were so many class athletes and I had no clue where I would stand amongst them. With no consistency or regularity in racing at the moment, it is difficult to know where you fit in and what sort of fitness you are in. This makes it a bit of a guessing game and a gamble, but exciting nonetheless.
On the morning of the race I had a mixture of feelings. Excitement and nerves obviously flowed, but it also felt very unfamiliar. Whilst the gap without racing wasn’t as long as it was in the first lockdown, I felt a lot of my nerves were coming because I felt like I had forgotten what to expect from a race!! It sounds silly, but I wasn’t sure if I’d remember how to go with the race or how it felt being in the race itself. The week and a half leading into the race my legs hadn’t felt great, but this is very common for me when approaching my period. I knew I was due on the weekend of the race, and typically it would come just before the race. However, this didn’t throw me off at all, it actually gave me a bit of confidence and relief, because I knew the heavy-legged feeling would be gone, and it was. It also gives me that boost that I am a healthy functioning athlete and should channel this healthy strength into my performance, and it did, because I felt really strong when racing.
The race itself.
The race itself was really well organised, and it was nice to be able to race in a slightly larger group than I have in the past few races. The course was on an open show ground and included 20+ turns over the whole 5k. I also knew as soon as I arrived a fast time wasn’t going to be on the cards as the winds reached 15mph and it began to rain, but it was fun conditions nonetheless.
Throughout the race I felt pretty strong. My legs were able to cope with the surging as we had to slow round corners to not slip and speed up as we came out of them. I started off in the pack, but as the race went on we spread out slightly. I ended up slightly isolated in 4th place, which wasn’t great in windy conditions, and in hindsight (it’s always easy to say) I wished I tried to cling on to the leaders for a bit longer. At the 4k mark, Callum shouted to me from the side line, “you’re strong enough to get her” (3rd place) and this really made me think, actually, yes I am. I caught up with third and intended to sit on her shoulder until nearer the end, but I was feeling strong, so I pushed on ahead and overtook her. I picked up in the last 500m and came in 11 seconds behind the leaders in 16:35.
I felt slightly bitter sweet at the end. It was great to race and push myself, and I am grateful for every race I get to do at the moment, but I would’ve loved a faster course so I could accurately see where I am time wise, as I’m feeling in great shape. I massively surprised myself by coming 3rd as with the high quality field of girls running, I didn’t think being in the top 3 would be achievable at all, but it was. I think it has shown to me the importance of believing in myself and being more confident going into races. That being said, it is difficult when racing is so infrequent, as you have no idea where you stand or what sort of shape you are in.
Who knows when the next race will be, but after last weekend, I feel ready to get back to racing and when until the right race comes along next. For now it’s time to focus on training and enjoy Christmas!
Staying strong in the winter.
With the colder weather arriving and some sessions being done in minus degrees, it is even more important to look after our bodies. If we want to be able to consistently train all year round, even when the bleak bitter weather arrives, we need to help our bodies have the best chance of doing so. What can we do to help ensure this?
This is vital at all times of year, but just that little bit more when I body is having to work slightly harder on a normal basis. When the temperature drops and its cold outside, our bodies have to work slightly harder to keep us comfortable. Thus, more energy is being expended when we are just sitting around. By fuelling your body well, you ensure you have the energy needed in and out of sessions at all times. If our body needs that little bit more food, give it to it!
Unexpected rest day
With winter, in and outside of coronavirus times, comes the arrival of more coughs, colds and bugs. As athletes our immune system is having to work harder as we are pushing our bodies, thus making ourselves vulnerable to catching different lurgies. If feeling you are feeling run down and your body feels zapped of all energy, don’t feel the need to trudge on through. This may result in weeks of you feeling below par. If you take an unexpected rest day, let your body recuperate and do some self care, you may notice a huge difference. Plus, one day of rest is far better than having to take multiple further down the line because you pushed on through when you needed to rest.
As the days get shorter and more time is spent in the dark (some days we don’t see the sun at all!) it is extremely difficult to get a sufficient amount of vitamin D in Britain in the winter. As written by … ‘The average daily vitamin D intake […] by the majority (97.5%) of the population’ (SACN, 2016) is less than recommended. Whilst I am an advocate for trying to get what you need without supplements, I 100% agree with taking vitamin D. ‘Dietary sources are essential when sunlight containing UVB radiation is limited (e.g., during the winter months) or exposure to it is restricted (e.g., due to lack of time spent outdoors)’, both of which are more likely in the winter months. Therefore, unless you’re able to afford hot weather training camps for the whole of winter, which I’m not, you are going to struggle to get the vitamin d your body needs.
Personally, I think us runners are pretty hardcore, and nobody likes having to step away from the shorts and reach for the leggings. I for one hate running in leggings and love shorts, but sometimes, those legs just need an extra layer. Being able to run without feeling restricted is one thing, but running with numb legs that hurt is another, and we don’t NEED to do that. Wearing leggings instead of shorts means nothing! No one is going to give you a sticker or a gold medal for braving the entire winter in shorts. In fact, you’re less likely to step towards getting that gold medal if you force yourself to wear shorts in freezing temperatures and then do yourself damage as a result. Plus, your body is having to work hard to keep you warm rather than just being able to focus on putting the effort into your session. So, whether it leggings, long sleeves, gloves, or hats, don’t hesitate to layer up.
Hot chocolate milk for after training
This one isn’t just for strength, but also because it just makes you feel great. There is nothing like drinking a nice hot drink outside in the cold! Chocolate milk is already a great post-session recovery option, but warm it up (hot chocolate) and it gets even better. Plus, if it can be classified as a post-session recovery drink, why not go for it.
Just because winter has arrived, doesn’t mean we can’t remain as strong, if not stronger, than we do in the brighter, warmer summer months.
SACN,. (2016) Vitamin D and Health report. Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition. Public Health England. TSO, London
We wouldn’t take it from other people if they repeatedly offended us and told us we weren’t good enough, so why do we take it from ourselves? It’s part of human nature, but there is also a point when it becomes excessive and destructive.
I am a very self critical person, and in the past this overwhelmed me. Everything in my life seemed to take a turn, and the only way I felt able to cope with it and prove myself to have some worth, was to restrict my eating. I was good at that, so it made me feel successful, even if it was destroying me. I have since, thankfully, learnt that self criticism and destruction are not ways to validate myself and there is no need to be so hard on myself. We need to be our own biggest supporters and need to employ this.
“I have since, thankfully, learnt that self criticism and destruction is not a way to validate myself and there is no need to be so hard on myself. We are our own biggest supporters and need to employ this.”
Makes us feel awful.
Putting ourselves down comes with one thing, negativity which makes us feel crap about ourselves. Whilst we know it makes us feel awful, for some reason, we still do it. It’s like we get a buzz off it, or it comes so easily to us that we don’t even have to think about it. Kindness is the first trait we show to others, but when it comes to ourselves, it is easier to be cruel than it is to be kind. Why do we do this?! If we put that extra effort in to making others feel special, why not use some of that energy on ourselves? One of the post important types of kindness in my eyes, is the kindness we show to ourselves. That takes real strength.
Putting ourselves down serves no purpose. Sometimes it might motivate us to work hard, but 99.9% of the time, it simply makes us feel worthless and not good enough. It is a way of imposing limits on ourselves for no reason. If we encourage ourselves, like we do others, imagine how effective this could be in driving us forward! Take a race setting for example. If other people are shouting at you mid race, you feel a boost to keep pushing and work harder than you thought possible, but if people were to constantly shout demotivating, critical phrases at you during a race, you would feel awful and probably perform sub-par. So, why do we do this in everyday life to ourselves? We are basically psyching ourselves out before we’ve tried to support ourselves. We should be our own cheerleaders not enemies. We don’t need to fight ourselves, so why do it? It’s pointless.
Something I try to do is practice positive self-talk. This is when, rather than allowing the doubting, critical thoughts to over power me, I encourage myself and actually physically tell myself this. I say to myself that I CAN do this and I am stronger than I believe. I think positive, encouraging thoughts, so that my mind doesn’t get the opportunity to try and push me down. Even if I feel tired and my mind isn’t feeling quite there, being kind and positive towards myself, allows me to get the best out of that day.
Finally, I find putting myself down is exhausting! I get so fed up of my mind saying things such as you aren’t feeling great today, that I don’t have time to listen it. Those thoughts are the ones holding me back, unnecessarily wasting energy. Ultimately, we are the ones who believe in ourselves the most, not others, so we need our minds to tell us that. Of course I sometimes wonder if my goals are too ambitious, but someone once told me that no dream is unrealistic. If you want something, work for it, and push those doubting thoughts to the side, because you’ve got this.
"If you want something, work for it, and push those doubting thoughts to the side, because you’ve got this."
I love to run and I love to write, so I write about running!