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Mojo: Lost!

As the title of this blog post suggests; my mojo is lost. I have been struggling over the last few weeks to keep up my level of fitness, to motivate myself to run and to keep to something that resembles structure in my day to day life.

When I was made redundant two months ago, I was full of energy. I was enjoying all the spare time; working through the list of things I had been meaning to do for months and most days I found myself working out twice. Packing in extra classes and lazy runs in the height of summer, I felt carefree and energetic.

Fast forward to the present day and it is a different story. My days are less structured, I have less energy than I did before and I know for a fact that I am not eating as I should. That doesn’t mean that I am pigging out, eating bad foods, just that I am skipping meals. Not intentionally, but I loose track of time and forget that breakfast has passed or its 4pm and I have not eaten lunch.

The daily stress of job hunting is not helping the situation either. The whole process takes its toll too – contributing to the lack of energy I am experiencing. I know this is only temporary and I will eventually get back on track, but in the meantime I am giving myself a hard time. Constantly questioning myself, my ability and this week telling myself I am going to fail before I have even tried – so running as not been an enjoyable experience. Usually exercise is my way of coping during adverse times, but lately this is not even working for me. And it is concerning, it is a vicious circle of wanting to get out there, getting out and not being able to push myself, then coming home – frustrated, angry and emotional.

With only two runs under my belt this week, I am doubting my ability to be able to run Bedford Half Marathon next week. Though I have still been running, the long runs have been non existent and I have not reached the training miles I would have liked to see. And each time I find myself unable to get out there I stress a little more. Saying “tomorrow,” but tomorrow comes and it is the same story.

So what do you do in this instance? Do you continue to drive forward and hope for the best on race day. Do you try and cram in miles and miles in the final days? Or do you simply sit back and take the rest in the hope that you will feel better on the day itself?

I know what my advice would be to someone thinking like me. But when you are not feeling your best, you are not your normal self – you cannot take your own advice. You continue to tell yourself you don’t have the ability, because at some of you lowest points you cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel.

It is dark and you are alone.

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Adventures, Fitness, Training

Running the Flitch Way

A stones throw away from Stanstead Airport, at the north of Hatfield Forest, you will find the start of the Fitch Way. A former railway line that covers 15 miles of rural Essex from Bishops Stortford to Braintree, completely traffic free.

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As the route is well surfaced and free from traffic it is favoured by cyclists, dog walkers, horse riders and apparently joggers too.

I have always wanted to test the route. Having run through the picturesque surroundings of Hatfield Forest I planned on numerous occasions to extend my run outside the grounds to the Flitch Way – but always seem to get lost and not be able to find a way to get to the path from the forest itself.

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Today I was determined to seek of this mysterious path way that I had heard so much about from fellow runners and fitness enthusiasts I know. And after following the northern boundaries of the forest itself I eventually discovered the entry to the path.

The Flitch Way was ready to test.

The plan was to run four miles east, until I would almost reach Great Dunmow, then turn back on myself and run four miles back to Takeley Street. It seemed relatively simple; no roads to cross, no traffic to look out for and a tranquil setting with trees over head. And with it being a former rail track I assumed it would be completely flat.

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Boy I was wrong. The only simple factor about this route is that its straight. Keep to the path and keep going straight and you cannot get lost. You can run for miles without coming across a road (I think I reached a country road around mile three).

However, it is so straight that it feels like it is never ending. With recent coaching I have received I have started to look ahead, focus on objects in front of me to ensure I keep my head up and shoulders back. The problem with this route is that the only thing in front is trees and more trees. So I focused on trees, but I kept loosing focus as to which tree and very quickly my focus was back on my feet and the immediate path in front of me.

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Although the route is straight, for a runner it has many inclines. Not massive hills, but it seemed like I was running up hill constantly. Paired with the inability to focus on something in the distance I quickly found myself getting bored. My mind wavered and at mile three I turned around to come back on myself (one mile short of my original turning point).

What seemed to be uphill on the way out, did not become down hill on the way back. In fact that too seemed uphill. When I got to 3.5 miles I had to cut my losses. I was clearly having issues with the long, straight path and I knew I would not be able to focus enough to run all the way back. Everything along the route looked the same so I had no landmarks to have has targets.

So, I hiked my way back. Three miles back to my starting point at Hatfield Forest.

Am I disappointed? Very. Am I letting it get to me? Not at all.

What I re-established this afternoon is that I am a runner who prefers to run in a loop, so I do not cover the same path twice in any run, or one who enjoys running out far in one direction to then hop on the train back to my starting point (a run I frequently this way is Harlow Town to Broxbourne along the river).

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That said – The Flitch Way is a fantastic route. I would thoroughly recommend it for those who do not have an issue running back on themselves. For walkers and cyclists it is idyllic; with well maintained pathways and a covering of trees overhead it offers a safe, peaceful and picturesque route that is suitable for all fitness levels.

I would like to return to the Flitch Way. Not to run, but to complete the route from Bishops Stortford to Braintree and back. Perhaps rather ambitious and a challenge that would take the best part of a day. But if planned well, with suitable refreshments in a back pack, it is definitely one I see myself completing in the near future.

Anyone up for the challenge?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

idyllic; with

Adventures, Fitness

That time I climbed Snowdon

After climbing Edinburgh’s Arthur’s Seat a few weeks back, I got reminiscing. Thinking about adventures past, about when I climbed Snowdon with a group of friends from what was then Regiment Fitness.

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Challenges come in all forms. They don’t have to involve running miles and miles, or putting your body through the trauma that can surround a challenge which involves high levels of endurance and the months of training that comes along with it. Snowdon was one of these challenges.

Don’t get me wrong, it still required a certain level of fitness to climb it. However, it did not require months of preparation. As long as you have a basic level of fitness and can handle walking for several hours, without a fear of heights then you are able to do it. And if not, you can always jump on the train.

Obviously as I am one for a challenge and we were part of a fitness group at the time, there was no chance of us hopping on the train. And I personally wanted to experience every moment of the climb – good and bad.

Snowdon is the highest mountain in Wales and England, standing at 1,085m, with six different paths each with challenging terrains. Organised by our group Regiment Fitness, we took the Llanberis Path.

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With our back packs, clothing for all weathers and our overly sensible walking boots we made our way. On a bright, sunny June morning we were in high spirits – expecting amazing views and blazing sunshine all the way to the summit.

How wrong we were. What was a beautiful day at the bottom of the mountain was a completely different story at the top.

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The route was challenging – very steep for the first 15 minutes, which I now realise is pretty standard with any climb. The route almost then levelled out for a while, following the train path, with a mixture of gravel and stone terrains – which originally was used for ponies and mules to carry tourists to the top.

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The path changes considerably throughout the route with high steps to climb, then a very precarious, steep climb closer to the summit – which made me wish I brought a pair of crampons.

The weather is also extremely interchangeable. I remember the girls and I delving into our back packs half way up to add layers – jumpers, waterproof jackets, hats and gloves were all donned the closer we got to the summit. The glorious weather and views we experienced further down were completely different the higher we climbed.

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And the higher we climbed the scarier it became. Visibility became poor – barely even able to see in front of us and therefore hard to determine where the path ended and the edge of the mountain began. The wind was something I had never experienced before and at one point we were all clinging on to each other – desperate to reach the summit and get down back to earth as quickly as possible.

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The notion we had of sitting at the top eating our pre-made sandwiches and sipping on prosecco was quickly forgotten. We reached the top, seeing some scary sights of others having difficultly, and started our descent, with was just as arduous.

Once the scary part of the climb was done and we had the fantastic views again – we had to laugh. The summit was terrifying. The glorious pictures of people smiling at the summit with the sun shining we had seen during our research seemed so far away from our own experiences. But that’s just it – we experienced it. And despite having a little fear in our hearts at the top, we had a fantastic time overcoming this challenge.

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Trekking a total of nine miles (there and back), we were gone for several hours. Snowdon estimate six hours in total, and I don’t think we were far off that.

I do remember the buzz we had once we were back at the meeting point. That glass of wine at The Heights pub was the best I had ever tasted. As was the prosecco from our back packs on the coach ride back to our accommodation.

The challenge was complete. It was not what we expected, it was not what we planned for. However, we had an amazing experience – with many memories that will live with us forever.

And with all challenges it left me with a buzz of wanting more. I readily discussed climbing more mountains after my Snowdon experience, however other challenges have taken precedence over the last few years.

Arthur’s seat reignited my passion for trekking. And therefore perhaps 2018 will have more mountain climbs on my bucket list.

Kililmanjaro anyone?

Fitness, Travel

Six hours in Edinburgh

In attempt to take a break from recent stresses I made the snap decision to take a break. To spend a day far away from home, so when I saw cheap flights to Edinburgh I snapped them up straight away. Catching the first flight out and last flight back for the evening, exploring a city nearly 400 miles away, was just the ticket.

So off I flew. With just six hours to spend in this picturesque city I had a challenge to fit in as much as possible.

Catching the tram (and I do love a tram) from Edinburgh Airport right into the heart of the city in Princes Street I took a whirlwind tour to see how much I could cover.

What I did not anticipate was how busy and bustling the city would be. With Fringe festival round the corner it seems that everyone had made the trip to visit on the same day as me. So I had to think quickly.

Firstly I headed up to the castle to see what I could fit in there. Nothing it seems. The queues to get into the attraction were phenomenal. I simply could not waste any time in queues with such little time available.

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So instead I headed in the opposite direction. Taking a leisurely downhill walk along the Royal Mile I headed to Holyrood Palace, the official residence of Queen Elizabeth II.

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There were no queues to get in so I jumped at the chance to take a wonder round the palace. Here you are issued with a headset for a walking tour – something I did not choose to take. I simply wanted to wonder round the building without a voice in my head. And it was fantastic. With all the visitors wearing headsets for the tour, the building was silent. So peaceful. So I went from room to room, taking in the history and capturing pictures where possible (note – pictures are not able to be taken inside the Palace as I discovered by not seeing the signs and being told off – ooops). I then spent some time wondering around the gardens and Abbey, taking plenty of pictures where I could.

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Leaving the palace I took a left to the one attraction I had set my sights on – Arthur’s Seat. I spent a significant time looking up, watching the bobbing heads make their way up to the top, trying to judge whether I could get to the top and back down again with enough time to make it back into the centre and on a tram to the airport in time for my flight back home.

It was one of the main areas that attracted me to Edinburgh. Google maps estimated it would take 30 minutes to the top, so I had to allow a good two hours – just to ensure that I made it back down in time. I found myself contemplating the trek for quite some time until I thought “I would regret it if I did not do it”. So up I went.

Following other eager adventurers I started my climb.

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I’m not going to lie it was tough. Like most mountain climbs, the first ten minutes is a test. I walked a little, I puffed a little, I paused to take in the views (or to catch a breath). At times I thought – “lets just get half way.” When I thought I was almost at the top, the path started a descent. I turned the corner, and realised not only had I take the long route round, but also the tougher route. Looking at my guide book on the plane ride home, I discovered the route I took was described as arduous. The guide book doesn’t lie – the second part of the climb was something else. Walking up a set of stairs that zig-zagged its way up, it required climbing steps so high (downfalls of being short) that it resembled a deep lunge motion. My gluteus maximus had never worked so hard. I was sweating like I had never sweated before and breathing so hard it was like I had just smoked a pack of twenty (and I don’t smoke).

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But I got the the final climb – which required a slight scramble to the peak. And boy was the journey worth it.

The views were simply breathtaking.

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I sat. I sat at the top for some time. Breathing. Taking in the view and simply enjoying the feeling of tranquillity. It was just what I needed.

It was here that I saw the easier route. The easy road path, followed by a grassy hill climb. Rather different to the route I took on the way up, I found myself feeling rather proud. Proud that I got to the top, unknowingly taking the tough route and not giving up half way.

Sadly – I had to come back down to earth, so I took the easy route. Slowly making a leisurely descent to the palace, soaking up the views on the way down.

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Once I had returned to ground level time was slowly ticking away. So, I had to make my way back to the city centre, up the Royal Mile, back to the tram stop on Princes Street  – soaking up as much as possible en route. Stopping in for some treats for Ross at the Fudge Shop.

There was so much I did not see or do during my time in Edinburgh. A city that is such a cultural delight, you simply cannot expect to see everything and appreciate what it has to offer in six hours. A day is not enough. I needed more time.

So, as Ross has never crossed the Scottish borders, I plan to return. To explore the city in greater depth and introduce him to the Scottish ways.

Thank you Edinburgh. You were the medicine I needed. I will be back.

 

 

Health

Making the most of Redundancy

Redundancy – a rotten, shameful word. A word that makes you feel utterly worthless and ashamed.

I have seen many of my friends being made redundant from their jobs over the past few years and always thought “that would never happen to me.” When you are told that your job is “fundamental” to the business, you may at times suspect that it could happen but at the same time never believe it will actually happen to you.

Well it did. After spending the majority of my adult life being passionately loyal to a company I learned a very crucial lesson – in that at the end of the day, when all is said and done – loyalty gets you no where. Business is cruel and heartless.

There have been times when I should have left and times when I had the opportunity to leave the company, but during those times I stayed fiercely loyal and thought, I could not possibly hand in my notice at a crucial time for the business. It’s a pity the business and those who make the decision don’t have the same view.

When I first found out about my predicament I was angry, I was ashamed and I felt worthless. It was like the years and years where I have put in the time and energy, even during the worst possible times, felt like nothing. I’m not going to lie, the process has made me feel extremely low. It has brought me to my knees in terms of mental and physical well being – questioning every aspect of my profession over the last twelve years. To say it has been hard would be a lie – it is beyond that. Some days it is simply a struggle.

Those who have gone through the process would probably relate – you can have your great days enjoying your time off, time to think and time to re-asses. Then there are days when you have the biggest fight – to get out of bed, to constantly job search and to go to countless interviews.

So as with most aspects of my life – I can only try to spin the negatives I am feeling in a positive way to, hopefully, help others who have been through the process or are going through it. And at the same time, speak out to ensure my mental health does not take a battering.
Catch up with friends and family. Time is precious for everyone, so use the extra time wisely. Over the last few weeks I have spent time with my sister and nephews in Cornwall, I have made a conscious effort to keep in contact and see friends and with it being school holidays I have made it clear that I am free to take my niece and nephew close by out for days out. Catch up with as many people you can, as being with people makes up for the loss of human interaction you would get throughout the day.

Keep active. Being an active person I have always felt that I just don’t have enough time to work out. So over the past month I have often worked out twice a day – running, followed by a second strength work out or class at the gym. And it has helped keep me stable physically and mentally. As always it is a great outlet for stress.

Get outdoors – nothing beats being outside. And lucky for me my redundancy has landed in our Summer season. So I can get outdoors. I have worked on the garden, spending many hours of my first week off at garden centres – bringing a new meaning to the term “gardening leave.” I have also frequented the local fruit farm, picking raspberries and strawberries, and spent a good amount of time racking up the running miles or simply sitting on the sun lounger.

Work on that “list”! The list of jobs, errands and even the things that you have wanted to do for ages but never get round to doing at the weekend. I have cleaned out numerous cupboards, washed numerous windows and had a good clear out – spending lots of time at the dump or charity shop. Anything to keep myself occupied. But spread it out – a couple of chores each day so you don’t run out of things to do.

Take a break! The biggest misconception with being made redundant is that you should spend every waking minute either job hunting or going to interviews. In reality it is not possible. You will go mad. You will spend days looking at the same jobs from different recruitment agents and it will become draining. Running back and fourth to interviews will be equally draining – so take a break. I have taken a break for two weeks – after finding myself rather frustrated and drained. I flew down to Cornwall – ignoring my emails and any calls from numbers I did not recognise. I made plans for day trips – booking a cheap flight to Edinburgh to spend just six hours exploring as much as I can. And I will continue to do so until I find something that is right for me.

Make plans – incorporating all of the above. Spend time doing the things you enjoy, but also allow time to keep on the job hunt.

Don’t settle for just any job just because you are scared and in a panic. I was offered a job within the first week of job hunting but I turned it down. It was a perfectly good opportunity, but I simply did not get a good feeling. I felt there was something better, something more. So don’t be afraid to turn something down. The interview process is there for both parties – you are interviewing the company as well as them interviewing you.

At the end of the day it sucks. Nothing is more demoralising than having the decision to leave a company taken out of your hands. To not have that big send off and goodbye. To make you feel like you have done something wrong. The only thing you can do is try to remain positive, to make sure your day is filled with a mixture of “work” (i.e. job hunting) and pleasure – doing the things that make you happy.

And finally, think positive thoughts. Take the positive feedback where you can and keep your head up – she says.

I say this now, only five weeks post redundancy. Will I feel like this in one months time or will I be teetering on the brink of panic? Who knows?

All I can do is follow my heart.

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