Wednesday, May 10, 2017

You Got This- Regaining Confidence & Showing Body Image Who Is Boss

I’ve talked a lot about training happy this year (click if you missed it). Mostly it’s because I went through a difficult period of putting too much pressure on myself to achieve running and sports goals that weren’t realistic- the times or distances themselves were fine, but I definitely wasn’t giving myself enough time and I definitely wasn’t being kind to myself. I’d be ashamed for anyone to hear the stream of angry and berating thoughts that are conjured when I’m pushing myself to achieve something- a quicker time, a further distance, a new session or technique. So training happy in 2017 didn’t necessarily mean I’d feel like a Disney princess joyfully jumping through meadows every time I donned my trainers for a run, ride or gym session, anyone who has run intervals of 800m will know there is little joy to be found there, but it was about allowing myself the time and space to do something without setting my expectations so high that I’d constantly feel like a failure.

So far, not bad. The first big challenge of the year was the Cambridge Half Marathon (click if you missed it). I’d never tackled the distance before and instead of setting a time goal, I wanted to finish it feeling proud of myself. I did just that- I fell outside of the rough estimation of time I had due to a problem with numb feet but a process of training for a new goal without trying to add more caveats to it left me relaxed about everything, because however you look at it, it was a personal best. But in last month or so, my confidence and my body image have taken a real hit.

For some of that I have only myself to blame- I’ve been drinking too much and I’ve struggled a bit with properly planning meals and the combination effect is that I’m a bit tubbier than I’d like to be, my clothes aren’t fitting quite right and it’s all a bit uncomfortable. Some of the discomfort can be attributed to experience- I went along to BeFit a couple of weeks ago and found it very clique-y and in turn it made me feel out of place, I’ve had a change to my contraceptives which has thrown me off kilter after 6 straightforward years and tackling that new 13.1 distance left me feeling sluggish in my running too. Not a winning combination. So how do you break the cycle of feeling rubbish about yourself, therefore feeling unmotivated to make any changes and thus continuing the cycle?



Feeling very much the fat lass at the back despite putting a smile on it all for BeFit

For me that cycle was broken in 2 ways. In terms of committing to shifting to some of the extra insulation I’ve been clinging to in the cooler days of spring I took the plunge on spending a bit more for some pre-prepped meals. You might have noticed on my Instagram feed lots of pictures of Everdine trays- they create well balanced, healthy meals that are ready to go at the ping of your microwave. They come in single portions and I used a big introductory discount to set myself up with 2 boxes of 12 meals. Whilst the calorie and macro count of each meal varies, they’re all fairly well balanced and made using fresh, straightforward ingredients (they call it ‘clean eating’ I hate the phrase and almost didn’t go through with the order for this reason) and taking the choice away at meal times has forced me back on track a bit. The drinking… well, there may be a bit of cold turkey going on after this weekend to try and reset the clock a bit, but I’ve already instructed my absolute worst enabler, Tom, that the enthusiasm needs to be curbed! I know it’s working, I haven’t stepped on the scales, I don’t need to. I can see my shape returning and I can feel the change in the fit of my clothes and that’s all I need to know.




And that just leaves The Great Slow Down of 2017. Transitioning to running with a UKA registered club this year has been brilliant, eye opening and frustrating all at once. The membership of the club are amazing- there are superhuman 3 hour marathon runners, there are older runners, there people who aren’t interesting in racing and there are ultra-runners but every single one of them just wants to share the running love however experienced you may be. What does that mean for me? Well every time I’ve been the last one huffing and puffing through a speedwork session, I don’t feel guilty or ashamed. The sessions are set up so even though I’m slower than most, I’m never left behind and I always get a bucket load of encouragement from other runners who can still speak actual words and so it is that I take myself off to a running club each week, knowing that I’ll be the dying at the back and leave again at the end of the evening hoping I got the people’s names right, that I might actually be improving and satisfied that whilst these might not be *my people* yet, that I belong here as much as anyone else. And so it is that with the goal of simply seeing my 5k back below 30 mins at our first intra-club race of the series last night- 29:59 would have done. Except I didn’t do 29:59. I didn’t even run my PB of 28:46. I knocked a further 1:19 off that time at 27:24, proving to myself that taking the pressure off, trusting my regular training and chilling out was the best possible thing I could have done.



Today I feel like a different person. I’m (I think justifiably) pleased with myself. There’s no niggling in the back of my head as to whether I deserve to be pleased about a personal best- I do, I ran hard for it. I don’t feel like it doesn’t count because there were other people smashing out runs in pretty much half the time- it doesn’t change the fact that I achieved something for myself, and whilst I’ll continue to try and do something about the extra weight I’m carrying right now, because I like it when my jeans fit properly, I’m no longer quite as concerned about the effect it may or may not be having on my ability to run and train. I also know that with time and a bit of perseverance to get back on track, things will even out.



One mantra I have pushed hard this year is ‘Finish lines before finish times’ and I know that may seem at odds with having just had a personal best time make me feel so much more like myself, but the point of this entire 1200 word ramble is not necessarily they what but the how. Yes, I smashed my PB last night, but I was only able to do that because I have found an environment which I feel safe in- I’m not ridiculed or ostracised or pressured and that safety net of support has allowed me to relax and trust the process. It's also ultimately about taking the time to remind yourself of one of my preferred race encouragements when I'm working as a marshal or supporting:

You got this.
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