I’m tired and so I know I need to rest but my fitness watch makes it hard for me to do that. I got my fancy Garmin watch to help with my running training a couple of years ago. At first, I only wore it when I went out to run. Then I wore it when I went out to run or for a bike ride. Then I wore it when I went out to run or for a bike ride or for a walk. Then I wore it all the time. There are a few reasons that my smart watch became permanently glued to my wrist.
Runners love Strava. Since joining a running club, Strava became the best the place to hang out. You can give your pals kudos for their running efforts, design routes and get involved with challenges. OR you can become obsessed with what everyone else is doing & desperate to gain digital badges at the detriment of your mental and physical health. I think Strava can be a wonderful and supportive tool for lots of people but it can also be a slippery slope for those who have struggled with a disorded relationship to exercise in the past (or indeed, lead to it). Being a completionist, I loved signing myself up for the monthly fitness challenges but would often force myself to get in the extra mileage even when my body really wasn’t feeling it.
I saw someone jumping on the spot the other day to before heading back into the office after their lunch break and no-one found it odd when they called out ‘Just a few more until I hit my steps’. Everyone knew what she was talking about, a large majority had probably done similar. But guess what the 10,000 steps a day mantra ties back to? Capitalism. Yep, it was actually a marketing ploy from the 1964 Toykyo Olympics – A company began selling a pedometer called the Manpo-kei: “man” meaning 10,000, “po” meaning steps and “kei” meaning meter. It was hugely successful and the number seems to have stuck. You can read more about it here. Needing to walk 10,000 steps a day isn’t true. If I’m tired af and my feet hurt, I don’t need to walk 10,000 steps. I need to lie down.
3) Knowing the time
I like to know the time. I am borderline obsessive about being early for every social occasion (being on time is being late etc) and having a wrist watch made me think I’d use my smart phone less – often when I look at my phone for the time, I end up doing 17 different things and then forgetting what I went on it for the first place but in reality a standard wrist watch would be just FINE rather than one that flashes an angry red and tells me to Move! when I’ve sat down for 5 minutes. Even if I’ve just run a marathon.
Yesterday I tried not wearing my smart watch for a day. I’d had the idea of taking it off for the whole of June but I wanted to give myself a trial day so that I could change my mind if I missed it. It turns out that not wearing a smart watch feels good. We went for a walk and for a swim and I had no idea of the stats which meant I was able to tune into my body. When swimming, I stopped after every couple of laps to float in the water or to chat to someone else also cruising in the slow lane rather than stressing out that my watch wasn’t logging the right meters. At times last year when wild swimming I became agitated that my watch couldn’t connect and therefore the world of Strava wouldn’t know what I was doing yet I was kidding myself that I had the whole intuitive exercise thing down.
Recently, I read Born to run and it really got me thinking about how and why I run. I have come to acknowledge that there is no way for me to be an intuitive exerciser whilst I have a smart watch. If I’m honest, this is something that I have known to be true for a while but have been reluctant to face up to. My relationship with food has become tricky recently too and I think taking the pressure and numbers away from movement whilst taking the pressure and numbers away from food will only be a good thing. Maybe one day I will be able to have a healthy relationship with my smart watch for but now, it has been placed into the drawer of things that don’t have a home and we’ll see how I feel about it in a little while. I have no idea how my relationship with movement will evolve over the next few weeks, maybe I’ll want to run a lot, maybe I won’t want to run at all but I’m going to let my body be my guide, every step of the way.
If you have ever been within a 10 meter radius of me you will have probably heard about that one time I did an ultra-marathon. Just incase you somehow missed the memo, I ran from Padstow to Landsend in 3 days and it was so hard but I didn’t even get one blister which is a mystery to this day because I hadn’t even worn in my shoes properly. Eat your heart out Mo Farrah. When I crossed the finish line and burst in to tears I decided that I would categorically never run again. Once I’d eaten the amount of food equivalent to feeding a small village, had a massage and slept for a week I thought at some point I would probably want to lace up my trainers at some point.
After a long rest, I decided to start running but I very quickly struggled with searing pain in my heels (I spoke about it briefly in this post). For a long while I pushed through the pain but in the end I hobbled up the Bristol foot and body clinic and accepted defeat. Rehabbing for plantar fasciitis has been an interesting time. I’ve been forced to slow down, have loads of acupuncture and wear insoles and a sexy foot splint when the pain peaks. I was told it was likely I’d have to live with managing this pain & running short difference max 2 x a week but miraculously, right now, the pain has gone. I am sure that this is something I will struggle with at different times in my life but now I feel like I have the tools to manage it and the mindset not to berate myself if I have to stop exercising for a while whilst I heal. As a side note, I highly recommend Louise at the Bristol foot and body clinic. She is an absolute angel.
A few weeks ago my friend Maria was telling me about the Maffetone method of running which is in a nutshell: running slower to run faster and make sure you are running slow enough by staying in your aerobic heart rate zone which is where you most efficiently exercise – to calculate your basic aerobic heart rate it is 180 minus your age and this should be the max you’re hitting during easy runs. At first it is likely you will be running slower than you ever have before to keep your heart rate down but with progress it has been proven that you can run quicker within the same HR zone. It also means that if running like this through training, on race day you have the reserves to push harder, go faster and comfortably stay at a higher HR. A lot of runners don’t run slow enough on their slow runs and I am 100% guilty. For years I have been tied up in numbers, pace, miles ran and this means I have had to undo the thoughts that tell me that a run is only ‘counted’ if it hits a certain target. I knew I had to give this method of run training a go!
My first run trying this was a huge test as I knew it would mean allowing myself to walk when I needed to and stop completely if my heart rate jumped too high. Strangely on my first run I managed a consistent plod and didn’t need to stop. I spoke to Maria about it and we thought maybe my love for slow runs might have put me in good stead for this style of running. However, on my second run, my heart rate spiked massively and I had to take walking breaks and complete stops to bring my HR back to an aerobic level. So many things play into our heart rate such as heat, stress, lack of sleep and this way of running forces me to properly tune in to my body and it’s capabilities at that time. I am nowhere near as exhausted after my runs and running in this way actually makes me want to run more. Hardcore Maff-er’s also focus on nutrition but this is something I haven’t and won’t delve into.
On Sunday I had my first race of the year. I decided not to check my HR or any other numbers and just enjoy the run at the pace which felt good for me (and not race it) and it was so much better than any event I’ve done previously. When I finished the run, I drank some water and ate a Twirl, I didn’t frantically try and upload the run to Strava so everyone could praise me or instantly check how many calories I’d burned to work out if I’d ‘earned’ the contents of the post-race treats table. My relationship with running is a constant work in process but this method matched with not checking my pace or amount of time ran by turning my smart watch into a stupid watch feels like a real step in the right direction.
Turns out I was so chilled with my new running mindset, I even managed to nap on route.
TW: Exercise, eating disorders – no numbers included.
I recently updated my Instagram bio to tell the world that I am a joyful mover and shaker. My girlfriend told me that 1) I never stop changing my Instagram bio (which is true) and 2) I sound like an OAP (which also might be true). My relationship with movement has been rocky. It started as something that made me feel good but quickly became something that made me smaller. I chased numbers in all senses: miles ran, jeans size worn, calories eaten and it was miserable. I pounded the pavements as I became a seasoned runner and had little regard to how my body felt and this selfishness has caused potentially life long damage to my poor lil feet.
Last year when I completed an Ultra marathon along the Cornish coast I was so proud of myself but I was also so exhausted both mentally and physically even after a long period of recovery afterwards. When I tired to start running again I got a searing pain in the bottom of my heels which continued to visit whenever I rested after exercise. I have chronic plantar faciitiis and now need regular acupuncture, orphiotics and an extremely sexy leg splint. Stress manifests in different ways and my v.qualified podiatrist and I believe 2 key factors are to blame: Years of running on feet that aren’t quite in the right position and years of exercising in a way that pressured me mentally. This has meant that this pain is something that I will have to learn to manage and not something that I can cure. Weirdly, instead of feeling sad that my capacity to run has been wildly reduced I feel relieved and the less I run and the less I feel pressure to run the less things hurt. Go figure.
The diagnosis gave me permission to do what I had been craving for years – tuning in to my body and doing what feels good instead of clinging to my identity as someone who runs long distances. This tied in to the time where I feel good around food and accepting of my body. As long as I was striving to be smaller I was never going to have a neutral and intuitive relationship with food and movement. It was time for me to reclaim movement as something I did because I loved myself and not because I wanted to change myself.
Things that do not work for me: HIIT, circuits, burpees, running long distances, (most) yoga and gyms.
Things that work for me:
– Pool swimming I love the feeling of pushing off at the start of the length when you are under water and I feel like an actual mermaid. I love how my body feels in the water and when I’m done I like how the chlorine smells on my skin. I also like when we go for a late night swim and then stop off at McDonalds on the way home for an apple pie. – Wild swimming I love the anticipation of getting into the cold depths. I love the feeling when you start to feel a little warmer in the water. I like feeling seaweed under my feet. I love floating on my back and looking up at the sky. I also like getting warm afterwards and drinking lots of hot tea. – (Sometimes) plodding/jogging/running I love jogging to see my friend Maureen who compliments my cookie monster leggings. I love giving myself little challenges like getting to the lampost before the chorus of a song ends. I love listening to Florence and Machine when I run through the old railway tunnels and I try to sing along but usually end up giving myself a stitch. I also like stopping for walking breaks and taking lots of deep breaths. – Cycling I love my ridiculous gold shiny helmet that some people scoff at and some people cheer. I love being able to process things that happened during my working day whilst I pedal home. I love the feeling where you push hard up a hill and then get to go weeeeeeeeeee all the way down on the other side. I like when I (occasionally) overtake men in lycra. I also like when I finally reach the flat and I have a long shower and a lie down.
I am a joyful mover and shaker and it feels so good.