Jogging on…running, a book recommendation, reflexology and mental health

It’s a freezing cold, rainy evening in late January.  I have a rare Tuesday evening off work.  And I’ve just got in from a very rare run in the dark.  And the wonderful book Jog On by Bella Mackie that I’ve been listening to on Audible all week might have something to do with it.

I’m crap at running.  I don’t love it.  Often I’m not even sure I like it.  But I do it a couple of times a week and always feel better for it.

I wasn’t a fan of exercise until I hit 30, over a decade ago.  I joined the sparkly new gym that had opened near us when Edie was a year old and Elliott wasn’t quite yet three.  I joined this gym because it had an on site creche and I think I needed it as a means of escaping them, and my hectic life in general, for a short while a couple of times a week.

I soon realised that exercise classes and swimming weren’t for me but I did love the gym, especially doing intensive cardio to sweat out any excess energy (which I’m sure I didn’t have any of being a working mum with two toddlers).  I’m in no way hyperactive but am a bit of a fidget and can’t sit still for long.  Jay says I’m rubbish at watching telly and am easily distracted (unless there’s wine – that makes me sit).  But the gym did give me that gym buzz and I always felt good and healthy afterwards.  I really liked the treadmill, whether walking on an incline or having a little jog, but I never had the urge to take it outside.

A few years later I joined the team at Southcote and had a few personal training sessions with Emma Goodman, of Emma’s Fitness.  I remember chatting to Emma about running.  She was singing the praises of running outdoors, in nature, watching the world go by, getting lovely fresh air and couldn’t understand my love of the treadmill. Back then I knew very little about the benefits of exercising outside and liked the warm, or air conditioned, gym setting which was always the perfect temperature.  And the thought of running outside the safety of this environment at first filled me with horror. At least if I was on the treadmill and needed a walk, it would look like it was part of the plan.  And what if someone I knew saw me, red faced and sweaty, struggling to breathe on the streets of Rainham.  But something had sparked an interest and I decided to give it a go.

Well…no one told me how much harder it was to run outside!  On a treadmill I could easily run for 20 minutes straight (albeit on 0 incline and at a steady 7.5 km pace).  But outside I could barely run for 2 minutes without gasping for air and having to walk because my legs felt like jelly.  But as painful as it was I must have enjoyed it somewhat as I stuck with it.  As the months went by I got a bit better and started to enjoy it and finally gave up the gym membership in favour of the outdoors.

That was nearly 10 years ago and I’ve pretty much run outside regularly since.  Sometimes on my own.  More recently with Lolly, my 5 year old Lurcher.  I’m still not that good at it despite having two half marathons and numerous 10k’s under my belt but as I said at the beginning I always feel good afterwards.  I rarely run for more than 30 minutes these days but I’m hoping that will change.  My favourite place to run is by the sea or failing that through woods (preferably ones with paths and no massive roots to jump over!).

As the winter months close in I run less and less as I’m really not a fan of running in the rain or wind or anything below 5 degrees finding it very difficult to get the clothing gear right!  But a friend recommended Bella’s book, Jog On – How Running Saved My Life, and it’s given me a push,  motivation and a lot to think (and write) about.

Bella suffered with anxiety her whole life and found a release from it through running. Now this isn’t a particularly unique story and there are lots of books out there of inspiring memoirs of how physical challenges transformed lives but what I loved about this book is that Bella is so normal and honest in her struggles and made me change my opinion on my own running habits.  She isn’t a marathon runner but running gets her out of her own head, keeps her calm and helps her process any negative thoughts.  Much like it does for me.

Some reviews of this excellent book can be found here:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41590092-jog-on

So why did it inspire me to write this blog.  Thankfully I’ve never suffered with anxiety but had my share of mental health issues in my younger years and wonder if I’d discovered a love of exercise, or running earlier, I may have saved myself a lot of tears and sadness, and my mum some sleepless nights.  Nowadays I love being outdoors.  Running (and walking the hound) is my “me time” and a chance to either escape from the never ending to do lists or plan and rationalise something that’s bothering me or on my mind.  I don’t feel I need it for my sanity but it definitely helps clear my head and I always feel better having done it.

Also, I always thought I was a bit rubbish at running.  I know some amazing marathon and ultramarathon runners that are truly awe inspiring and compared to them I’m really crap.  But does that matter?  No it doesn’t.  Comparison is the thief of joy and all that and I should just get on with it and enjoy it.

Bella’s book has made me realise it doesn’t matter if I’m not fast or can’t go very far.  Or even if sometimes I can’t run for 3 minutes without having to walk for a bit.  So what.  At least I’m giving it a go, giving myself some space and fresh air and blowing away the cobwebs.

So why have I spent an hour hammering away at the keyboard wanting to share my running story with the world and what the hell has it go to do with REFLEXOLOGY?!? It’s a bit of a tenuous link but there is one…

Firstly, runners can most definitely benefit from reflexology. And so can anyone suffering with mental health issues.  Not only is Reflexology physically great for tired, achy feet and bodies, but it can also lower stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol which are often high in anxiety sufferers.  When I first started having reflexology I was suffering with stress and it was the only thing that helped me completely switch off.  I’d never known a calm like it. It’s not a quick fix and, like running, won’t make all your problems go away, but it might give you a bit of respite from your daily struggles.

For runners, Reflexology may alleviate stress & pain, encouraging the body’s ability to heal itself, restoring & maintaining health and harmony.  It promotes strength and balance, sharpens concentration and may improve fitness levels.  In addition to supplying muscle cells with nutrients and oxygen, the blood stream removes the toxins and waste products generated by increased muscle activity.  Reflexology is thought to improve circulation and enhanced circulation facilitates the removal of waste products from the body and prevents many of the aches, pains, spasms and cramps that typically follow extended exercise periods.  Reflexology may assist the delivery of blood to areas of the body that need it most.   This improved circulation may also prevent, and aid recovery from, injuries.

I won’t even mind giving you a treatment if you’re missing a toe nail or have a few blisters that can be worked around.  Or if your feet are too sore then facial reflexology may be preferable. And, having a session before a big race might help you sleep better and feel rested for the big event.

So there’s my tenuous link…running and/or mental health can both be improved with REFLEXOLOGY.  I got there in the end and thanks for sticking with me!

If you’re not aware of the benefits of exercising outdoors on mental health, it’s thought to build confidence, relieve stress, train your mind, boost your mood and much more.

The fantastic team at Day One Wellness advocate outdoor exercise for all and offer anything from personal training, group exercise, running clubs and retreats.  If you’re in Kent and want to know more check out what they do here:

http://www.dayonewellness.co.uk/

And the fabulous Emma Goodman runs outdoor fitness for new mums in Pushy Mother Classes, personal training sessions and running groups.  Find out more here:

https://www.emmafitness.co.uk/

So if you’re feeling a bit low in these winter months, depressed, anxious, grieving or not feeling yourself, try going for a walk.  Or even throwing on a pair of trainers and try giving running a go.  It won’t magically make everything better and it might be hard to start with but give it a try.  And have some reflexology. And read Bella’s book as it’s filled with honest accounts from someone who’s been there, interesting and scientific research from around the globe and useful coping mechanisms, including the importance of talking about your worries and seeking help.

Thank you Bella Mackie for making me realise that it doesn’t matter how fast or how far you go, as long as you just Jog On.  I am now a “Good runner…a person who enjoys running and wants to keep on doing it” and I’m looking forward to my next run already as know that only good can come of it.  I thoroughly recommend anyone interested in running, thinking about giving it a go or if you suffer with anxiety or any mental health issue, to read Bella’s book.  Which you can buy here:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jog-How-Running-Saved-Life/dp/0008241759

Or better still, get is on Audible as she has the most beautiful, husky voice.

https://www.audible.co.uk/search?keywords=bella+mackie&ref=a_hp_t1_header_search

Other websites you might find useful:

www.mind.org.uk

www.youngminds.org.uk

www.thisgirlcan.co.uk

www.runkeeper.com

www.c25k.com

www.aor.org.uk

Thanks again for reading to the end and I hope you found at least some of it interesting xxx