Don’t Think A 5k is Worth Sponsoring? Here’s Why You’re Wrong

I’m running my first proper 5k Pretty Muddy ‘Race for Life’ race in October, to raise cash for breast cancer research, and have come up against a few snide comments about the fact that it’s ‘just’ a 5k, and therefore not really worth any money.

Fair enough, it’s not far (although it does have obstacles and lots of mud, ha). But here’s why I think it’s still worth it.

  1. You have to start somewhere

For some, running 5k is super-easy – it’s their warm up, their ‘rest day’, their cheeky jog on a nice afternoon. For those who run properly, 5k is almost literally a walk in the park (especially at the speed I do it).

But if you’re not used to running, and you never have been, 5k is a difficult slog to get used to.

If we all told ourselves there was no point doing anything unless we started at intermediate level, then most of us would never start anything.

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“Self-care” – 4. & 5. On sweat, my favourite yoga videos, and eating less pizza

Here’s the third post in my “self-care” series, after I wrote last week that although the term “self-care” wasn’t in my childhood or teenage vocabulary, it’s become something I’ve learned is crucial, from listening to wonderful podcasts and reading great blogs on “lifestyle design”, mental health issues, and figuring out how to live and breathe in today’s changing and demanding world.

For the next week or so, I’m going to share some of the best things I do to give myself a little space, even when I’m so busy or anxious I feel like I barely have time to pause. Today, food and exercise (SIGH).

  1. Reducing carb and sugar intake, aka, limiting my Franco Manca visits


There are more arguments around this than people on the planet, but basically, through trial and error and diets and periods of eating rubbish I’ve found that I feel better and healthier if I generally avoid carbs with my food about 90% of the time. Everyone has to do what works for them.

I’m still fatter than I want to be and I still have a serious sweet tooth (and bread tooth, and cheese and gin) but even leaving behind all the crap about Atkins and paleo and cutting out food groups and ascribing morality to certain foods – top tip, don’t do it – I know that I feel better if I don’t eat pasta, bread, potatoes or rice, or any of their friends.

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“Self-care” – 2. & 3. Going the hell to sleep

In another post in my “self-care” series, after I wrote last week that although the term “self-care” wasn’t in my childhood or teenage vocabulary, it’s become something I’ve learned is crucial, from listening to wonderful podcasts and reading great blogs on “lifestyle design”, mental health issues, and figuring out how to live and breathe in today’s changing and demanding world.

For the next week or so, I’m going to share some of the best things I do to give myself a little space, even when I’m so busy or anxious I feel like I barely have time to pause. Today, sleep.

2. Using a relaxing sheet spray before bed


And, breathe (Molton Brown)

One of the single biggest things I’ve started doing to really wind down. Spraying my bed sheets and pillows with a gorgeous-smelling, relaxing spray is such a simple thing but feels so indulgent. Plus, the smell really helps me chill out, like I’m at an expensive spa or something. I spray it when everything is done, when I can finally get into bed, when all is quiet.

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The 8 stages of getting yourself out of bed for a morning workout

It’s been over a year since I started working out 5 to 7 days a week.

As a total night owl who rarely feels human until about 10am or later, I started my routine by doing my workouts in the evening, knowing that if I tried to do them in the morning, they’d never get done. For me, establishing a daily workout habit was tough enough – contemplating doing it in the morning before work seemed like a nightmare too far.

It worked for a bit. I did my workout even if I’d been out for dinner, or if I got home a little late. It was tough, but do-able.

But then, life started to get in the way. I’d go out to meet a friend for dinner and not get back until far too late, I joined a choir with evening rehearsals, I moved flats and it started to look a little anti-social to work out at half ten at night.

And suddenly, the workouts stopped getting done. I felt lethargic, fat, dissatisfied, and unhappy that I couldn’t seem to maintain my new habit.

Suddenly, morning workouts seemed the only way: get it done before anything else, and still have a life in the evenings. Sorted! Ahem, well, yes, but…

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To my dreams, nightmares and ex-boyfriends: Please can you leave now?

One of my all-time favourite bloggers, Laura, once wrote a post about bumping into her ex-boyfriend. Although that in itself is a fairly awful situation  (which she dealt with with consummate class, of course) she also spoke about how she’d spent six months dreaming of her ex after he left.

And how she managed to get him (and his new fiancée she’d found out existed within weeks of their breakup, which sounds utterly soul-crushing) out of her repeated dreams about them by quietly telling them, mid-dream, that they couldn’t be there anymore. And it worked.

Apparently, this idea is mentioned in Elizabeth Gilbert’s cheesy-but-truthful ode to heartbreak, Eat, Pray, Love. I’ve read the book many times but I don’t specifically remember that bit. Maybe because last time I read it I didn’t need to.

Well, this time, world, I do need to. It may be undignified to admit it, but I do.

I’ve dreamt about previous boyfriends repetitively, too. In every situation.

I dream that we’re back together; that we’re about to get back together; that he’s there but we’re just friends (and I’m laughing along with the group, being the cool girl, but dying inside).

I’ve dreamt that I’m with someone else, and he appears, ambiguously. I’ve dreamt that he comes back and says sorry and all is forgiven. Then there’s the one where he’s somewhere in a tent at a festival (?!) and all I have to do is find him and it will all be OK (except I always just keep missing him by a minute).

I’ve dreamt he’s in my bed and then he’s not. Particularly lovely, that one.

I’ve dreamt that I’m standing on a podium giving an inspirational TED talk about everything he and the breakup taught me and why I’m a better, more whole person now. I dreamt that we bump into each other, and I behave in a dignified, totally-over-everything fashion.

I’ve dreamt that my mother, family, friends, and everyone else tell me that I really should be over it by now, and that it wasn’t that big a deal in the first place. Not like you were engaged, for god’s sake. Aren’t you finished with all this needy shit already?

I’ve dreamt that I’m being laughed at, and pointed at, and mocked, by everyone in the room – thousands of people, including his friends and other people I know ‒ for believing that I ever meant anything to him, for thinking that he would ever stay, and for being too utterly stupid (or wilfully blind) to notice the signs that he wouldn’t.

I’ve dreamt about him (them?) and woken up feeling broken all over again; I’ve dreamt about him and felt utterly furious that he’d barged in to my brain uninvited, and wondered why he couldn’t just leave me the fuck alone.

When I’m awake, I often try to practice mindfulness, and see my thoughts for the random, but not necessarily-defining, whims that they are. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But when you’re asleep, it’s even more difficult. After all, how can you control your dreams? But I can only try, right?

So next time he appears, behind the rose-tinted, totally-twisted, stomach-wrenching spectacles you always wear in dreams, I’m going to try Laura (and Elizabeth’s?) thing.

I’m going to try and say, politely and calmly: Please can you leave now?

I don’t want you here anymore.

Jillian Michaels Kickstart: Day 3 – On willpower, motivation, and habit

Wednesday 17, day 3 of 7

Three words to describe today: Motivation, Pret, ouch

How easy was the food plan? ✦✦✦✦✧ (Discovered Pret Italian chicken salad = OK for this. So great to find convenient, healthy options when you’re out/have no time to make food.)

How easy were the workouts? ✦✦✦✧✧ (Cardio is getting better but still killing my hamstrings. Lots of stretching required!)

Notable comments? Mid-week. Hang in there.

When I first started Jillian’s workouts, in January, I found out a lot about habits. As someone who is interested in psychology, I’ve read quite a bit about how to make habits, and why we tend to fall back into auto-pilot when things get tough.

Basically, long-story short: habits almost become part of our subconscious, and our bodies do them automatically, to save brain space for more complicated stuff.

This is why, when you walk or drive the same route home everyday, it’s not a struggle, and you don’t remember each bit of it in the way you would if you were finding somewhere new. Same for brushing your teeth, for example.

As soon as something becomes automatic or something you’re used to doing, it’s a habit, brain-wise. Reaching for that glass of wine come 8pm; eating pizza on a Friday; putting your workout clothes on when you get through the door and doing a Jillian Michaels DVD. That sort of thing.

Studies show that difficult/less fun habits, such as daily exercise, generally take longer to make than easy ones, such as eating a bar of chocolate every day at 3pm.

Various books suggest that you can change a habit in 20 to 30 days. Well, for me, back in January/February, it took 31 days – and a big dose of determination and doggedness.

30 Day Shred workout DVD

30 Day Shred workout DVD

I did the 30 Day Shred in 31 days. (It was first recommended to me by a few nice people on Twitter, including @pinkjellybaby and @Blonde_M – not sure if they’re still doing it, but they said it was a good idea!)

Anyway, I took the 30 days literally. I was fed up of feeling crap about myself, so I went for it. I took one night off one evening when I was feeling pretty ill. Every day save one, come hell or high water, I did that damn workout. I knew if I let myself take a break for no real reason, I’d just drop back into my old habits. So I didn’t.

I consciously tried to make new habits, without being too harsh on myself.

I gave myself a good thing to look forward to when I got home (a cool glass of water and maybe a couple of crackers), went upstairs to change into exercise clothes (meh), and did the workout (tough but satisfying). I did it whether I came home from work early, or whether I went out for dinner or drinks and didn’t get home until nearly midnight (yeah, nearly threw up those times. Nice).

I told myself that even if I didn’t want to, or couldn’t be bothered to do it properly, I’d still do it. It’s what Jillian (and the blogger Nicole Antoinette) rather American-ly call “showing up”. Such a powerful phrase.

I’m not saying what I’ve done is particularly amazing. None of this is particularly amazing. I’m not *that* smug, I promise.

I don’t have kids or anything like that to worry about. I don’t have big health problems or work night shifts. I don’t have to budget for every penny I have, or spend 2 hours’ one way travelling to work every day. I’m very lucky that the only thing stopping me is lack of willpower.

Equally, I know that some people – normal people, with jobs and responsibilities – run marathons and ultra-marathons, and climb rock faces and mountains, often in the face of incredible odds. Other people stick to incredibly restrictive diets ALL THE TIME, for health reasons etc. Hats off to those people. They’re the amazing ones.

But for me, those 31 days were significant. The first time I’d actually stuck to something physical like that, day-in-day out, for a month. Yes, I’ve done some hard stuff before (Cambridge finals are pretty demanding, as are job interviews after months of unemployment) but this was different.

This proved that me, serial sports and PE dodger, could actually work out properly and regularly, and not skive or make excuses. The inches I lost off my waist certainly helped motivate me too. As did Jillian’s no-nonsense kick-your-arse then tell-you-you’re-amazing attitude.

Discovering all these motivational slogans didn’t hurt either.

But I realised that willpower alone isn’t enough. Using the Shred, I consciously stopped it being about “wanting to do it”, and made it about “being a habit to do it”. If you wait until you WANT to, you hardly ever will.

And sometimes, that’s the only thing that works, when I think “DON’T WANNA WORK OUT TODAY”. “Don’t wanna eat the salad, want the chocolate”. “Don’t wanna get up, CAN’T MAKE ME.”

Sometimes, it’s the reminder that, that one time, I actually did it. Paradoxically, sometimes the only thing that keeps me going with difficult stuff is the idea that one time before, I kept on going. And then kept it up for another seven months, to today. Every day, I try to make sure that carries on. In other words: habit.

As this particularly useful quote says: If you’re tired of starting over, stop giving up.

Like I said yesterday: It’s about just keeping on keeping on.

(ps. Getting a bit more used to the food plan today. Have been sticking to 1,200 calories or fewer, and although I’m still a bit brain-foggy, it’s been OK. Drinking more water has helped, so that’s a plus. I did have to quite physically RUN AWAY from biscuits in the office though, to stop myself eating them all. Gah.

I also managed to watch the PASTRY week of the Great British Bake Off without going out to buy a chocolate eclair. Might have a cheeky one at the end of these 7 days though. Just one won’t undo a week’s worth of work, right?!!!)