So it's been quite a while since I last blogged here and that's partly because I've not been very good at practicing the title of this post!
I know I'm by no means alone in this; many of us find it hard to say 'no' whether it be to a boss or work colleague, to friends, partner, family or to a random in the street! We're constantly barraged by requests for our time and the instant nature of email, social media, of always being 'on' makes this even truer now than it was even 10 years ago (I'm showing my age here).
There are any number of reasons why we don't want to say that one, little, mono-syllabic word; because we don't want to disappoint the other person, because we don't want to miss out, because we want to prove that we can do it all, because we view saying 'no' as some kind of failure.
We end up agreeing to do things that we don't want to, things that we don't need to and things that we definitely don't have time for, to the detriment of other parts of our lives and sometimes even to our own health.
But enough is enough!
Forgive me if it sounds like I'm going on a bit of a rant, but it's only because I feel pretty strongly about this particular subject.
Saying no isn't about making a negative choice, in fact it's quite the opposite. It's a deliberate positive choice to make way for saying yes to the things that serve you and your objectives, rather than just saying yes for the sake of not upsetting someone.
Learning to say no means valuing your time and focusing on your priorities. Not going to that pointless meeting about a project that you're barely involved in doesn't make you bad at your job, it means that you're prioritising the other areas of your business that you're moving forward. Not going to that evening networking event doesn't mean that you're a hermit or that you're missing out on all the fun that people are most likely (not) having, instead it gives you time to spend with your friends/partner/kids, to go out for a run or maybe to sit at home and just unwind.
Now I'm not saying that we should say 'no' to everything that we can't be bothered to do - that's not the message here and wouldn't be advisable if you're keen on remaining gainfully employed. Instead, it's worth taking a step back when a request comes in and deciding if you a) want to do it b) have to do it and c) have the time to do it without sacrificing something that's important to you. This is what I like to call the holy trinity and it's remarkably helpful when it comes to saying no.
I don't pretend to be an expert, but it's definitely something I'm getting better at with age. Work-life balance is something that most people struggle with and a key step towards it is realizing that - no matter how much we may want to believe differently - we simply cannot do everything. There's no prize for being all things to all people and it only leaves you feeling exhausted and vaguely resentful of all the time you've lost.
Value your time and, remember, saying no to someone else is sometimes just about saying yes to yourself.
Now, first off, I just want to say that it's not the religious observance of Lent that I'm anti, it's the posts filling up my Instagram feed about people giving up: (tick any/all that apply) chocolate, booze, gluten, dairy, wheat, sugar, happiness (I could go on) in the name of #fitness or #fitspo.
Why? Because in my mind, fitness isn't about self-denial or penance. It's not about denying yourself an arbitrary food or ingredient for a certain period of time before gorging on it when that time is up (hello Easter eggs) and - let's face it - that's what happens.
More often than not, when people give something up, they fill that space with something else. For example, you may give up chocolate but, unless your sweet tooth magically disappears overnight, the likelihood is that you'll still be reaching for the cookie jar.
Besides, setting ourselves these kinds of goals that are all about abstinence just make you want that one thing you're not supposed to have even more. And if/when you 'fail' and break down and have that bowl of pasta/slice of bread/ice cream/whatever you feel even worse about yourself than you did at the start of the whole endeavour. Basically, it's no fun at all and - in my humble opinion - is just an exercise in self-punishment.
In my view, a much healthier (mentally and physically) route is to make good nutritional choices on a daily basis, not just over the next 40 days, because everyone else is posting about it on social media.
It's around this time of year that the New Year resolutions we've made start to fall by the wayside and I appreciate that for some people Lent is a chance to push that reset button and start all over again. But, instead of giving up 'something bad' for Lent, why not just try to manage your intake of whatever that 'something' is on a daily basis?
For example, if you were thinking about giving up chocolate, look at how often you're having it. Is it once a week, twice a week, most days, every day? Whichever it may be, instead of telling yourself that you can't eat it at all, start by just halving the amount you have either in quantity or frequency. If it's once a week go for once every two weeks or having half the amount you would normally eat - have half the Snickers bar and leave the rest for next week.
How does that change your outlook? More importantly, how does that change the way you feel? Give it a try and see what happens, you might surprise yourself.
In the long run, management is much more sustainable than abstinence. So instead of here's to the next 40 days, here's to the next 40 years!
Happy Workout Wednesday guys and girls! As I'm about to embark on a little 13 mile training run with my trusty playlist at the ready, I thought I'd share the tunes I'm loving to run to at the moment.
Running means a lot of different things to me, but one of those is some valuable 'me time' where I get to disconnect from daily life and music plays an important part in that feeling.
I know some people prefer to run without any kind of distraction be that music or podcasts or whatever, but I know for a fact that I run faster and more consistently with my earphones plugged in. I would say, that if you're running on road (or anywhere for that matter) then obviously be careful and mindful of what's going on around you!
Ok, so here are the songs that are currently featuring heavily on my playlist (don't judge me!). I suppose I should preface this list by saying that it's pretty 'eclectic'!
So, in no particular order:
- Bulletproof - La Roux
- Tron Legacy (End Titles) - Daft Punk (so so good for sprinting and pretending you're in an action movie, not that I do that...!)
- X Gon' Give it to Ya - DMX (because Deadpool)
- Hanging On - Ellie Goulding
- Hurts - Emeli Sande
- Piece of Me - MK & Becky Hill
- No CD - Loyle Carner feat Rebel Kleff
- Bloodstream - Ed Sheeran & Rudimental
- She Wants - Sunset Sons
- Starboy - The Weeknd feat Daft Punk
- Numb - Linkin Park
- Shape of You - Ed Sheeran
- Move Your Body - Sia
- Believer - Imagine Dragons
- The Sweet Escape - Gwen Stefani
- Bitch Better Have My Money - Rihanna
- Can't Hold Us Down - Christina Aguilera (remember, that whole no judgement thing?!)
- Barely Breathing - Duncan Sheik
- I Write Sins Not Tragedies - Panic at the Disco
- Helena - My Chemical Romance
- Gemini Feed - Banks
- The Girl is Mine - 99 Souls
- Freedom - (Django Unchained Soundtrack) - Antony Hamilton & Elayna Boynton
- Dangerous - Kardinal Offishall feat Akon
- Reforget - Lauv
So, there you have it, my top 25 most played songs so far this month. What tunes do you love to run to? Leave a comment and let me know!
Let me preface this post by saying that I hate repeat HATE not doing a race that I’ve planned for. It makes me grouchy, down in the dumps and a general pain to be around (so sorry to the guys who had to put up with me yesterday – you know who you are).
All that said, sometimes, not racing is the smartest thing that you can do. I’ve been struggling with an injury for the last few weeks and I’d hoped to be fit to run the half marathon I’d signed up for which took place on Sunday (without me - I know, the cheek of it!).
For the past week I went backwards and forwards about it in my mind, and to anyone patient enough to listen to my crazed ramblings! The conversation in my head between the good cop and bad cop went a bit like this:
You’ve had this in the diary for the past 2 months. You have to run it.
But my leg still isn’t feel great.
Maybe it’s all in your head?
I’m pretty sure it’s not, weeks of recovery would beg to differ! But it does seem to be getting better slowly…
Well, there you have it, you’re fine to run.
But the race is on road.
I think the impact could really do some damage.
Stop being such a baby – you’ll be fine.
But what happens if racing makes it worse? What if I’m out for months instead of just a few weeks?
Just suck it up and get it done!
And that went round and round in my head ad nauseam. Finally, I talked about it with my coach who said that he didn’t think I should run – but the Devil on my shoulder refused to take that at face value. Instead, I started to wonder if he was using reverse psychology. Basically, I was being a crazy person.
I sat on the fence about this race right up to the morning of it. I had all my gear in the car, super-cushioned shoes, I’d planned where I was going to park, to all intents and purposes, I was go for launch. I took one step out the front door and felt the pain flare up and, in that moment, I knew with crushing certainty that running 13.1 miles on road was potentially the worst thing I could do to myself. Did that knowledge make it easier to pull out of the race? Of course it bloody didn’t!
I spent most of the day second-guessing myself to the point that I decided to go for a trail run at an easy pace, no pressure, just to DO something! Within a few miles, the pain had returned and I knew that I’d made the right decision not to race – my competitive nature I would have made me feel like I had to finish in a decent time and my leg would not have thanked me for it.
The pain wasn’t the reason for my start line fail – any runner can tell you that pain is part of the deal – it was the knowledge that I have goals this year that I am determined to achieve and I can’t do that if I’m injured. Exacerbating an injury/niggle for the sake of one race didn’t make sense, not for me and – in my opinion – not for anybody. There will always be other races, other years, other challenges. But I know that if I don’t look after myself now then there may not be.
Have I made my peace with not racing yesterday? Am I over the disappointment?
Well, I’ve just written a blog post about it so the evidence wouldn’t exactly be on my side! But I’m getting there. I’m focusing on my recovery, my training going forward and on the goals that I’ve set for myself this year. Looking to the past is pointless; I can’t go back, I can’t change my decision, all I can do is look ahead. So that’s what I’m going to do. But first, I have a hot date with a foam roller!
Don't let the weekend throw you off track!
With the weekend fast approaching (yey) this is the time when a lot of people fall off the health/fitness wagon (boo).
Why? Often it's because they spend so long being 'good' during the week that the weekend turns into a bingefest on all the 'bad' things they can't have. Sound familiar anyone?
You work hard all week to stay healthy, to eat the right foods, to get your training in and then at the weekend the wheels fall off. The weekend is the time when you get together with friends and family, there are more opportunities to go out for drinks, dinner, to indulge 'because you deserve it', also time is less structured so your workout regime often gets put off in favour of something more exciting e.g. brunch! Monday rolls around again and you feel bad about all the things you've been treating yourself to, you feel guilty and punish yourself by being even more stringent with your food and more aggressive with your workouts. By the time 5pm on Friday arrives again, you're done and you dive back into those weekend habits, piling on the weekend weight. The cycle continues...
So how do we change it?
Well, first of all, we need to be a little kinder to ourselves! I work on the 80/20 principle (not just in terms of diet and training, but I'll go into that in a separate post). 80% of the time I eat healthily, mindfully and train hard, keeping in line with my goals, 20% of the time I give myself a break!
Because if I drive myself mad during the week, denying myself all the things I like, training like a beast, and saving up my 'treats' until the weekend then of course I'm going to over-indulge when the time comes around.
Isn't it better to spread the wealth and allow yourself a little bit of lee-way in your diet (by diet I mean daily eating habits not fads), so you don't feel so hard done by that you go off the deep end just because it's a day beginning with 'S'?!
Now, I'm not saying that we should all be indulging in everything that we want throughout the week - that doesn't work with the 80/20 principle either. It's all about balance - that magical # that you see all over Instagram! The idea is that if our behaviour is in line with our objectives 80% of the time, then the other 20% isn't going to have a significant negative effect.
This may not work for everyone. For most people there's a lot of trial and error when it comes to finding what your mind and body responds to best. But I can say that - for me - this principle helps to keep me on track; if I don't feel like I'm constantly depriving myself or training my body into the ground, then I'm less likely to skip out on a workout or reach for the cake come Saturday.
Here are a few more tips to stay on track this weekend:
- Schedule a class or training session in your diary, block this time out in black and white and work your social events around it, not the other way round.
- Instead of meeting friends at the pub, why not suggest trying a fitness class together - HIIT/Pilates/Yoga/Boxing there are so many options out there, add in a post-workout brunch and you're all set.
- Keep in mind all the hard work you've been putting in over the past week/month/year and then ask yourself if you really want that second helping of double-chocolate chip ice cream. The answer may still be yes(!), but at least you're being mindful and making an active decision.
- Allow yourself some non-judgemental fun! Is Saturday night going to be a Netflix marathon of 'The Good Wife'? (I think I may have just given away more about my life than intended!) Okay then, that's fine, just know that on Sunday you'll need to go out for that run/walk/class to balance it out.
What works for you to stay on track with your goals? Shout about it in the comments. I'd love to hear from you.
In the meantime, have a great weekend guys and girls!
Now, I'm not here to tell you that sugar is the devil or that if you enjoy the occasional biscuit or chocolate bar then you're a bad person. What I will say is that as a society we're consuming more sugar than our bodies can cope with, much of which we're probably not even aware that we're eating and that, my friends, is the scary part.
Sugar occurs naturally in a whole host of foods including fruit, vegetables, milk and honey. However, it's also added to a huge number of processed foods that we eat on a daily basis and that's what I'm really focusing on in this post.
The WHO (World Health Organisation, not the old rockers) has suggested that for good health, we shouldn't be getting more than 5% of our total daily dietary energy from sugar, but according to Public Health England’s (PHE) 2015 report we're getting 12%-15% of our energy from it.
So, basically, we're eating a lot of sugar, what's the big deal?
Well, the big deal is that this excessive sugar intake is contributing to a whole host of health problems including:
- type 2 diabetes
- heart disease
- some cancers
- tooth decay
And all that sugar isn't just coming from what you might think are the obvious culprits - sweets and chocolate. No, a lot of that sugar is hidden in processed foods that you may not even think about e.g. salad dressings, ready made soups and sauces, bacon, breakfast bars, yoghurts. Oh and watch out for those 'low fat' items on the supermarket shelf, many of them have added sugar or artificial sweeteners added to make up for the fat removed - sneaky, right?
The next time you're in the supermarket, why don't you do a little test? It'll be fun (maybe)!
Check out the list of ingredients on some of the processed foods i.e. anything that's not fresh fruit, veggies, milk or unprocessed meats and see how many of them have sugar. Oh, and don't just look for the word 'sugar', there are a whole host of names for it! “Syrup”, “sweetener” any words ending in “ose” can usually be assumed to be sugar.
Once you've identified the sugar, take a look-see at just how large a component it is in your food. Hint: the higher up it is in the ingredients list, the more sugar it contains.
For example, if a ready-made pasta sauce reads: Tomatoes, onions, sugar, garlic, then sugar is the third most prominent ingredient.
BACK AWAY FROM THAT PASTA SAUCE!
Don't worry, I won't be following you around the supermarket with a megaphone doing that, although...
Where you can, try to find substitutes for those with high sugar contents - there are almost always alternatives available even in the processed food aisle and (although I appreciate we're all busy people) cooking from scratch allows you to control exactly what goes into your stomach.
Like I said before, I'm not here to scaremonger or to make you feel bad for having a biscuit with your afternoon tea. I'm raising the issue as it's one that surprisingly few of the people I speak to on a daily basis are aware of, and I think it's something that we should all know more about. Forewarned is forearmed and all that and the more knowledge we have the better informed our decisions are.
With that in mind, here are a couple of articles you might find interesting if you want to learn more.
BBC Sugar Explained
The Sugar Conspiracy
It might seem strange to think of gratefulness as a choice, but it really is. It's about more than just saying thanks when someone gives you a present or does you a favour or pays you a compliment, it's a state of mind and it's fundamental to our happiness.
In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson:
"Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”
So what does that mean? Well, to me it means being grateful for both the good and the supposed 'bad' things in life. If we look hard enough even the outwardly more negative parts of our lives (especially for those of us living in relative privilege in comparison to the other 90% of the world) have something to teach us and that, in itself, is a reason to be grateful.
Here are some examples of what I'm banging on about:
Instead of saying "I hate getting up early for work," try "I'm grateful that I have a job to go to that helps me pay for the things in life I enjoy."
Instead of "It's raining and cold outside, yuk!" try "I'm grateful that I have a warm and dry home to watch the rain from."
Instead of "I can't be arsed to wash all these dishes," try "I'm grateful to have shared a meal with my family/partner/friend."
Instead of a glass half-empty view, try to be grateful that you have a glass.
But changing your outlook on the flip of a dime isn't easy nor is it sustainable. I'm not expecting everyone to go out there and suddenly only see rainbows and unicorns (although how awesome would that be?! Unicorns, guys!). Anyway...
So how do we live a more grateful and therefore happier life? Well, my groundbreaking (insert eye roll) suggestion is to start every day writing down one thing we're grateful for, just one thing. How easy is that?! Then, over time, that one thing might become two and then three and so on, until we train our minds to focus on being thankful, to choose to be grateful.
This is mine for today:
"I'm grateful for George the Dog because although he wakes me up early, even at the weekend, he's always happy to see me and he gives the best cuddles."
I have a feeling George may feature in quite a few of my reasons to be thankful!
How about you? What are you grateful for today?
Today I want to share one of my women crushes with you guys: Nikki Kimball
Why? Because I think she's awesome!
For those of you that haven't heard of her, Nikki is an American ultrarunner of epic proportions. She’s won the Marathon des Sables (a six-day race covering 156miles through the Sahara Desert), UTMB (103mile race in the Alps with a total elevation gain of 9,600m), Western States (100miles in California's Sierra Nevada in scorchio June!) as well as representing the US in a huge number of international races. So, basically, she is an amazing runner. On top of all that she also has a day job as a physical therapist. Anyone else wondering what they're doing with their days?!!
But Kimball's undeniable running prowess is not the only thing that I admire about her . One of the reasons that she's made it on to my list of woman crushes is her ongoing battle to cope with her depression. She has been vocal about her illness and is passionate about raising awareness.
There's such a stigma attached to mental health issues, although it's a topic that's getting talked about more and more which (personally) I believe can only be a good thing. It affects so many of us at some point in our lives, whether we suffer from it ourselves or it's a friend or family member, so I think it's a fundamental conversation to have.
With that in mind, I'll leave it to Kimball to talk about her experience with depression (which is still ongoing), check out this podcast to hear what she has to say about it. She shares the challenges depression presents her with, not only as an ultrarunning athlete, but also as a regular person trying to live her life on a daily basis.
I would also highly recommend her documentary 'Finding Traction' which is available on Netflix and charts her quest to become the fastest person (male or female) to run America's oldest hiking trail, the Long Trail, which is 273 miles! Yes, it's a doc about running, but it's about so much more than that; it's about equality, about striving for success no matter your sex, about grit and hard work and the limitlessness of the human spirit. #inspiring
In the spirit of my love affair with food (seriously if we were in a relationship, food would have a restraining order out against me) I've renamed today 'Tasty Tuesday'. Every Tuesday I'll be posting general nutrition chat and there may even be the odd recipe here and there (be warned - Nigella I am not).
Today it's the turn of a veggie that's been on my mind for a while (that looks weirder written down than it did in my head) and it's been getting more and more press in recent months. Yes, you've guessed it (or maybe not), I'm talking about the beetroot.
So what's the big deal about these little purple delights? Well, firstly they're really high in nutritional value - i.e. you get a lot of micronutrients for your buck! They're rich in calcium, iron and vitamins A and C. They're also a great source of folic acid, fibre, potassium and manganese.
In terms of their health benefits, it's been suggested that beetroots can help lower blood pressure, prevent dementia and also enhance athletic performance. Oh, and they may or may not turn your pee pink - fair warning!
It's possible that the effect on performance is due to the nitrates in beetroot reducing the body's 'oxygen cost' when taking part in endurance sports such as long distance running/cycling, but research is still ongoing. I'll stop blinding you with science now, promise.
Endurance athletes like Amelia Boone (OCR Goddess, lawyer extraordinaire and general girl crush, if you don't know who she is Google her immediately or maybe after you've finished this post) have long been vocal in their belief in the benefits of beetroot and, although research is still ongoing and the jury is still out on the 'real' benefits of this unassuming veggie, I figured I'd test it out for myself.
Jumping in with both feet without looking as is my preferred way of doing things, I'm going to spend the next month increasing my beet consumption (whole and juiced) to see if I notice any difference in performance and I'll keep you guys updated. So watch this space for beetroot-related updates. I know, I know - you can hardly wait! Am I right?!
So far today:
4 whole beetroots consumed - result: still not a pro athlete (dammit)! That said, I would highly recommend one of today's lunches (yes, one of): beetroot, feta cheese and spinach leaves with a little olive oil and black pepper.
For more information on the benefits of beetroot check out this article in Coach magazine.
Before I start, I just want to assure you all that this post is NOT about how much you weigh! (Cue communal sigh of relief)
Bodyweight exercises i.e. exercises that you can do without any equipment other than yourself are often overlooked in favour of more accessorised workouts that involve free weights or kettlebells or resistance machines or TRX or all of the above. But bodyweight exercises, done correctly, can be just as effective and they have the added benefit of being able to do them anywhere - in your home, office, garden, park - wherever!
For those of you that follow me on instagram (@rdench_runs) you'll know that I promised to post this morning's strength & conditioning workout (leg and core focused). So, as I like to deliver on my promises, here you go:
20 minutes stationary bike (5 minute warm-up followed by 15 minutes on high resistance - if your thighs ain't burning it ain't working!)*
Static squat - hold for 1 minute, 20 second break, repeat x 3
Sumo squat - as above
Sit-ups - 1 minute, concentrating on form and not putting strain on neck, 15 second break, repeat x 3
Crunches - as above
Boat pose - 30 seconds, 15 second break, repeat x 3 (third set with Russian twist). If you're not familiar with this one then check out this helpful video.
Side lunges (alternating legs) - 1 minute, 20 second break, repeat x 3
Heismans - as above
Wall sit - as above
Leg raises - to failure (break of form)
60 seconds mountain climbers followed by extended plank for 90 seconds (no rest in between the two exercises)
60 seconds mountain climbers followed by standard plank for 60 seconds (no rest in between)
And done! Phew! :-)
The timings can be adapted to suit level and the time you have available to training, and if you decide to give it a try then make sure to let me know how you get on!
Remember, just like any workout, focus on your technique and work within your ability. If you're not sure of any of the moves ask a PT at your local gym to demonstrate and if you have an injury then be mindful of it!
*To keep this completely bodyweight you can switch the above out for a 20 minute run (5 minute warm-up jog followed by 15 minutes preferably over undulating terrain)
All opinions are my own and this blog is intended for motivational and informational purposes only. The information is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult a medical professional before starting a training or nutrition program.