I am not f#$king Eeyore

It isn’t that I don’t like Eeyore.. I just hate the notion that everyone with mental health issues are branded with the same brush. Gloomy, depressed, morbid and a total party pooper to be around. It’s just not [indignantly] me! I am lively, very intelligent and fun. Just sometimes I struggle and feel a little numb.

Anyway, going back to poor old Eeyore, I never realised that Winnie the Pooh is just an expression of loads of different mental health issues. Winnie himself has OCD and ADHD. Piglet has general anxiety disorder. Owl has dyslexia. Tigger has ADHD. Kanga has social anxiety. Rabbit has OCDs and Eeyore is a big fat depressive. What a bunch of misfits!! Wonder how they all ended up hanging around together??

The moral of the Christopher Robin stories? For me…

We are not alone, life is not perfect, but together we are a great team. Life is full of adventures and made for great friendships.

I am quite vocal and have been a bit braver with my social media posts regarding mental health of late. I have had an overwhelming response, both publicly and privately. It seems I know a lot of beautiful people – and I’m not talking the kind who have perfect hair/make up and their eyebrows “on fleek” – although that may apply to some of them…I mean the beautiful on the inside kind of people… The best ones to know.

We are all aware that exercise can help mental health issues, however, when you’re having a tough time, things like getting to a fitness class can create massive anxiety (and become a huge monumental effort), and depression can leave us feeling a little less than motivated.
So – I thought perhaps something a little less extreme – a walk, a social gathering – get a bit of sunlight and some Vitamin D.
So I created an event.

The first weekend of January I hosted our first ever “Walk and Talk” (5k walk in the woods). This is not a counselling session but a social gathering. The aims;
1. Trying to reduce the stigma attached to mental health issues.
2. A chance to blow off some cobwebs, absorb a little Vit D, inhale some fresh country air in them lungs and get moving.

Approximately 40 people turned up despite a few issues getting up the bank due to the icy weather and we had a lovely walk.

Today was the second effort and we had about 25 of the “Suicide Squad” out in the woods – grown ups, children (and on top of that our very well behaved 4 legged friends). It’s not quite as awe inspiring as Mr Jake Tyler (Black Dog Walks) with his 3000 mile run/walk – but every little helps.. we are doing our bit, and for that I’m extremely proud.

Ever been in a car with a claustrophobic, a sufferer of adhd and a depressive? Makes for very interesting conversation 😂
#mentalhealth #itsoktosay #walkandtalk #mind

 

Feeling like a Fat Rocky

The comeback is nigh (as I write this from the comfort of my sofa, in my cozy dressing gown, with a glass of wine).

It’s just so hard!

Injury sucks!

I don’t like to moan or whine, but this is seriously depressing me. My body feels totally broken and it’s past the point of driving me insane. I am on the low ebb of a wave that’s likely to take me directly into the black fog and I am frantically trying to find the answers to turn my metaphorical depressing ship around.

After my random ankle injury, I have now ended up with a *random shoulder injury. Ankle is getting stronger, shoulder is just really, really painful. I can’t currently do any boxing, which I find fantastic therapy (and also teach) and I feel like a fraud for not being able to join in, even to hold the pads.

[*shoulder injury happened sometime through the process of watching my man run 50 miles and/or sleeping in a tent. For details of random ankle injury info please read earlier DNFF blog].

I have a love-hate relationship with running. I love tootling about the countryside. the wind in your face, the elements against you. Hills are tough, but I love that feeling of elation when you get to the top. I love to run for fun. I hate it when I have to compete and then feel like I’m not good enough. I hate it when people I know beat me. And, don’t get me started on Road Running, “How fast can you do a 10k?”, “What are your splits”, “What’s your best half marathon time”…

I don’t know and I don’t care.

Except I do (but that’s another story).

It’s only when I HAVE TO STOP running (enforced stoppage through injury) that I realise how much I love it…. and how much I miss it…. and how much it affects my mental health. I am sad when I can’t run, but I am also sinking, to somewhere I don’t want to be.

I am lucky that things are on the up (sort of). I can manage to run now at least – a little pain in the shoulder, but it’s manageable –

BUT MY GOD IT’S HARD WORK!!

Anyone would think I’ve been out for months not weeks. Where does your fitness go in such a short space of time? How did I ever think I was going to run 50 miles when now I can’t even manage 5!! Who’s that fat Nicky that’s just re-joined running club? – you know the tall, slow, ginger one – she used to be thinner than that, and she used to be a lot faster too.

Now, I’m sure that no-one says any of those things. Or maybe at least not all of them in one sentence.. but that is entirely how I feel. Anxious about what people are thinking of me. Overthinking. So then you tell everyone (including those who don’t want to listen) that you’ve been injured, then injured again – and this is why you might be slow, and why you might be a little less lean than you were before!!

Breathe. Rationalise…

OK, so I’m not fat, just a little out of shape, and who cares how fast I’m running – APART FROM ME?

I’ve done a little research (googling) on how to remain positive during injury. Difficult when you use exercise to boost your endorphins and thus maintaining some homeostasis of mental health. I just wish my movement in the shoulder wasn’t so limited so I could do more other stuff. It’s affecting my whole body and the constant uncomfortable pain is wearing me down. Research is good though, the help is out there…

  1. Google says; I should remember I’m not a one-trick pony.

Nicky says; I’m not currently an any trick pony.

2. Google says; Don’t get stuck in the denial phase.

Nicky says; I tried to run an off-road marathon during the denial phase. Lesson learnt.

3. Google says; Face the facts, you have a new normal. Comparison is the thief of joy.

Nicky says; I will never be normal. What the F is a “new normal”? If this is normal, I want to be abnormal. I want to thieve the joy.

4. Google says; Plot your comeback. Planning and anticipation can be a real happiness booster.

Nicky says; I am Rocky F*@ck£ng Balboa. ONE MORE ROUND.. Just let me finish my wine first, get rid of my shoulder injury, and then we’re good to go.

Larry Winget says; “Nobody ever wrote down a plan to be broke, fat, lazy, or stupid. Those things are what happen when you don’t have a plan.”

Yes, Larry.

5. The PT (other half) and the Physio say; Do the Rehab, be patient, give it time.

Nicky says; It’s about time I was sensible and listened to the professionals.

“All legends start simple”.

6. Google says; Trust the process. It can be a long road to recovery.

Thank you Google.

So, seriously, I am now Fat Rocky on a come-back of epic proportions. I successfully managed a whole 4-miler tonight without too much grief from the injuries. It may be a long road but I have some goals, and it feels good to be getting steadily back in the game.

First up, DT40km route (incompleted, DNF, and bugging me). I may need some friends to drag me round but I am determined to complete it, race or no race!!

Second up, Deerstalker (RatRace, March 2018) – a performance (of sorts) is due in one of these events I do, so I’m making it this one – aiming for the top 25 women. About time I got a tiny bit competitive.

Some day, somewhere in 2018 – my first Ultra – yet to be attempted or completed and I have no idea when or which one. “All I wanna do is go the distance.”

I need focus, determination and strength of spirit, and not just for the events, but for the journey in between. There is a lot of hard work to come. It’s good to have goals (Google said). My bum may be huge but my mind is steely stubborn right now……

““Remember, the mind is your best muscle. Big arms can move rocks, but big words can move mountains.” – Rocky Balboa

Rocky

Thank you Rocky.

Nicky J

ALLEZ ALLEZ ALLEZ – THE CHANTILLY SWIM

PHASE 1 – THE SWIM (LA NATATION), CASTLE SERIES GAUNTLET/MIDDLE DISTANCE/HALF IRON

I’ve made it to the start line. A few tears and a mild panic attack or two on the way, but I’m here and I’m smiling.

I’m stood in the rain (yes it’s raining – and even a bit chilly) and some bloke is trying to give a safety briefing to 400 people in wet suits and blue hats, in 2 different languages. At first glance, it appears that 99% of the Gauntlet competitors are young, fit, tall, strong, buff males, and the two other English women who have managed to seek me out to chat to in the crowd are the only other female competitors. This is not strictly true, the females making up a grand 12.5% of the field (I worked it out after because I’m a bit anal like that). One of the Brit ladies asks me if I’m “actually” doing the whole thing? I must’ve looked a bit confused, she laughs and explains she’s part of a relay and she’s only doing the swim. Funny, ‘cos right now that’s not amusing me.

So, it turns out that the water quality is a bit poor – safe to swim as far as bugs/germs are concerned, but far too weedy – so they’ve changed the route. It then takes 2 men 3 attempts in 2 different languages to explain to 400 people in blue hats (getting cold in the rain) what the new swim route actually is. Instead of the planned one long circuit of a ‘T’ shape, we now have to do the ‘I’ of the ‘T’ and then 2 times round a much smaller than initially planned ‘T’. Confused? Yep, me too. All I know is, from the size of the revised route, the tight turns around the buoys, the volume of the swimming crowd – it’s going to be MAYHEM!!

Initiate Plan A = Stay out of the way, take your time, and try not to drown.

Gauntlet water

We finally get in the water – after a further safety “description” of the cycle route and run route and any obvious potential calamities along the way (in 2 languages) – and we are already about 10 minutes past our allocated start time. The water is awful. Awful awful. Weeds up to my waist and as I dip my head in to acclimatise, I realise there is zero visibility. It also has a very pungent smell. I love swimming, I really do. Just not today.

We set off at a slow pace from the back and I realise I am already in the wrong position; at 2-3 metres away from the bank the water is unswimmable for all the weeds. I breaststroke a bit, but it’s not really any easier going. Maybe they have just put us in here to dredge it ready for the Olympic distance!! I make an effort to get my head in and do some front crawl but I am struggling as to what to do with my breathing – I don’t even want to open my mouth in there – never mind do any letting of air out. And then the man next to me decides he needs to give me a big hug around the neck and I don’t get my head out fast enough and swallow a big load of water. I am a little sick as I cough it out. I do love swimming, I really do. I breaststroke a bit more to compose myself, still coughing dramatically, and try to figure a way around without drowning anyone, including myself. People are swimming in all sorts of directions, crossing over each other – can they not spot/sight?? and as suspected, the turns around the corner buoys are just ridiculous. People are walking in places as the weeds are too thick to swim in. Crack on Jenkins, crack on. I do some front crawl, interspersed with breaststroke, and eventually manage to get some kind of a rhythm going. I am now a bit more relaxed, all time goals out the window. Every now and then I pull a few weeds up with my stroke. They are hanging off my arm, all over my hat and my goggles, stuck to my feet. And that smell!!!

Finally we paddle round the last buoy – heads up in the melee – and I spot John on the bank. I give him a thumbs up. “Nice work Jenkins,” he shouts and this makes me smile as it’s probably the most appalling and ungainly swim of my life.  Nice to see him there though. I crack on for the last stretch and have never been quite so glad to reach the shore. There is a funny ramp we have to climb onto to get out and the marshal seems to be intent on helping everyone else out of the water apart from myself. It’s OK, I can manage, don’t worry about me.

I grin at John, who has made his way around the bank to the swim exit, and he is full of praise and support. I am struggling with my wet suit, so get him to unzip me before I make my way up the steps of the Chateau into transition. He told me afterwards that I looked a bit like the Creature from the Black Lagoon, sporting an attractive dark, dirty patch under my nose. Lovely.

Gauntlet swim exit

I’m not really tired or out of breath, as it’s not been a very quick swim from my standards (1.9km in 49 mins), but I’m still not very speedy up the steps, taking my time. The nerves seem to have dissipated somewhat and I feel more relaxed about getting on the bike than I have done in ages.

Wriggle my way out of my wet suit and then start the process of getting my shit together. Helmet on, mouthful of Chia Charge, drink of water. All my stuff is wet. Wet socks on, wet shoes on, mouthful of Chia Charge, drink of water. I can’t see out of my glasses and have nothing dry to wipe them on so stuff them in my back pocket for now along with an energy bar. Final mouthful of Chia Charge, race belt on (loaded with gels), gloves on, and away we go – push to the “bike out” then we go all the way around the ring of transition, under the inflatable, round the side, under the next inflatable and then finally we can mount the bike. Nice going Jenkins – a whopping 7 minutes in transition.

Phase 1 “successfully” complete.

Wilderness is a necessity and there’s not an app for that…

“And, into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.” – John Muir

~Forest Bathing~ (otherwise known as shinrin-yoku)

This delightful phrase conjures up all sorts of images in my head – some ethereal beauties in a mystical place, with floating white dresses, sunlight flickering through the trees and glistening on a warm pool of clear water. A lush green forest. Wine drunk out of goblets. Someone playing a flute.. and a harp…Merriment and laughter.

Turns out Forest Bathing doesn’t quite include all these things, which I have to say I find marginally disappointing.

So what does it actually involve? Forest Bathing is based on the very surprising theory that spending time in nature can lower your blood pressure, fight off depression, decrease stress levels, boost the immune system, and increase everything from memory to creativity.

The idea with shinrin-yoku, inspired by ancient Shinto and Buddhist practices, is to let nature enter your body through all five senses.

As a repeat sufferer of anxiety and depression and a firm believer that prevention is better than a cure, I enjoy researching various “natural” ways to aid my mental health. I like to think of it as arming myself with a little self-care tool kit of ammunition against the BLACK DOG.

I am lucky enough to live very close to a beautiful wooded area, and I have to admit, it is definitely my “happy place”. I love running in the woods. It’s peaceful, it’s hilly, often muddy, and I feel at home. Relaxed. Unfortunately, in forest bathing terms, the word on the street is… that you don’t quite get the benefits if you’re tearing around the trails on your feet (or on a mountain bike perhaps). This is because you are quite likely to still be hitched up to civilization – connected to your phone or your Garmin possibly? More than that, yes of course, you are obtaining some physical and mental benefits, but to really get the most out of nature, you actually need to be present in it, not distracted by your own great story of self. “When you’re pursuing a sport, you get cardiac points, but you’re not necessarily getting nature points,” – Rachel Kaplan (researcher University of Michigan).

The idea is simple: a person basically visits a natural area and walks in a relaxed way (like Mr Soft perhaps?) Although, forest therapy in groups tends to involve guided activities and meditation as well.

According to (what is now becoming quite extensive) research, to experience the ‘healing’ power of trees, you only need to be in the woods for a short time. By spending as little as 15 minutes among the trees there are calming, rejuvenating and restorative benefits to be achieved.

So, as we are dog sitting for friends this week, I thought I’d multi-task and have a go at this whole forest bathing thing whilst on our early morning dog walk. I’ve been feeling a bit stressed out with 50 hour (plus) working weeks, impending Half Iron I’ve not done enough training for and business plans that need a whole lot of attention that I don’t have the time to devote to at the moment….

…..Wander calmly, with “soft fascination” (love that phrase). Peace and serenity. Breathe. Take in the smells, sights and sounds. The woods are alive. Sunlight. A gentle breeze. I totally get this forest bathing malarkey. I am feeling holier than a monk and very, very pleased with myself – for a good few minutes at least. Then the mind starts wandering, thinking about work and the day ahead, what I’m going to make for dinner later. What time I have to be up tomorrow morning? How long will it take us to get there? Did I ring that gentleman back about his granite worktops? How many steps have I done so far?… Then all of a sudden the dog spies/hears an animal deep within the bushes and goes bounding off, hurtling through the undergrowth, chasing his prey with great vigour. Seemingly the dog finds the woods his own little “happy place” too. Only he must have had a little too much enthusiasm for hounding his victim and I can no longer hear his big bouncing doberman body crashing through the vegetation. For the next 5 minutes (no exaggeration) shouts of “Murphy” “HERE!!” “Murphy Dog” “Murph” “MURPHY!!!” are echoing through the woods, my screechy voice (can’t shout) interspersed with varying degrees of successful (and unsuccessful) wolf whistles. I am now in a mild panic and start swearing under my breath a lot, wondering how I would even begin to explain that I’ve lost the doberman and where on earth would the search party start? Deep breath. Last really, really long and loud wolf whistle (the kind which would make my Dad proud) and he comes lolloping back (from an entirely different direction), totally out of breath, one ear flipped back and stuck to his head, half a tree attached to his collar and looking entirely pleased with his little adventure.

OK, so maybe it would be better to attempt my mindful wandering without the big, daft dobey, but by the time we had finished our walk I felt good. The blood was pumping a little, I was warm, flush in the cheeks. I felt totally energised. Also, although my thought patterns had appeared entirely random, wandering, lost and completely in the way of my serenity, I felt like all the worries of the day had already been solved. I was ready to face the day. I believe it’s what they call “clarity of mind”.

So, it seems that Forest Bathing is the next “new” thing on the agenda for mental wellness. A trend almost, like yoga and juicing. However, forest therapy (along with other holistic approaches – like yoga) such as Shinrin-yoku, have roots in many cultures throughout history. With the ever growing development of overweight screen addicts, aggressive/distracted lovers of the social media, those maintaining several platforms so they can be likers, sharers and seekers of approval, we have arrived at the age of Urban Desk Jockeys and Digital Narcissism… and of course the more important statistic of 1 in 4 people now sufferers of stress, anxiety, depression or other mental health issues  .. perhaps we should all go and hang out in the woods.

As John Muir wrote, “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home. Wilderness is a necessity.”

There’s not an app for that.