So the time of Corona is moving on, as time does, in its own inexorable way and with it has come some strange new norms, not least of which for me, is the fact that I have taken up jogging.
Except that it isn’t really called ‘jogging’ any more. No, that is a word evoking a whole 1980s vibe of conscious exercise, in a disco world where the old fashioned precept of actual running (a race or for a bus), gave way to the concept of conscious, conspicuous running in order to get fit. And towelling sweatbands, of course.
But in the here and now, the act of ‘running’ has recurred; so on my sometimes slow and fast paced journey, it’s time to continue with my running commentary on the subject…
With the Spring sunshine beckoning me outside, I’ve formed a pattern of alternating running days with walking ones, choosing to take full advantage of any temperate time my tranche of UK territory will confer on me. And whilst the British have been accused of constantly talking about the weather – in our defence that’s because it can vary so much, since we can actually experience all four seasons in one day – whatever the time of year.
Fundamentally, we do have four delineated seasons, all with their own seasonal characteristics. But that being said, it’s sometimes hard to reconcile the fact that our part of the world can be stopped by a snow drift or be melting in tropical heat. That of course, is if it doesn’t happen to be raining. Now don’t be misled – it doesn’t rain all the time and how much of the wet stuff falls on your head depends on which part of the British Isles you happen to inhabit. But then again, we can experience a misty drizzle or a full blown downpour of biblical strength and diabolical effect…
But I digress – this blog isn’t about the weather. No – it’s actually about the far more lofty and interesting topic of me and my physical prowess. Or lack thereof. Or maybe both…
So I’m still running. Sort of… I’m following the Couch to 5K App, which takes you through 3 runs a week, where you alternate brisk walking with running, building up the number of minutes that you run, in a 30 minute session, as the weeks progress.
It all started with a brisk 5 minute walk, then 90 second rotations of running vs walking. During the first week I quickly noticed that my left knee was hurting. It does that from time to time if I shock it with too much upright activity. I guess it’s old age slowly starting to creep up on me. However, if I take the right supplements (Glucosamine & Chondroitin) and keep it mobile, then on the whole, it tends to be fine. I now also wear a knee support when I run and the pain has disappeared.
Being a habitual walker rather than a runner, my knees – previously pretty much neglected and unused to vigorous activity, started to ache ever so slightly; so I quickly ordered a pair of sporty running shoes to ensure that they and my feet are getting the right support.
So that’s it – time to plug phone into ear phones and go. Seems easy enough – I found an old pair of headphones with ear clips, the cord of which gets constantly tangled up, even when it’s doing nothing. I swear to you that I coil it carefully and neatly around the headband, only to find that by the next day that it has transmuted into a mass of evil, wiry knots. How is this even possible?! Having run through all the possible options, I am now forced to conclude that Gremlins are the only logical explanation. Yes, clearly the little buggers creep around when I’ve gone to bed, wreaking havoc on my carefully ordered existence, in all sorts of devious ways… But that’s the subject for another blog (I’ll add it to the list)…
Anyway, so I’m now on week four of my running odyssey. And I’d love to tell you that as a result I’ve transformed into a svelte, athletic goddess – gaining strength and stamina with every single step. But if I actually said all that, I’d be a big, fat fibber…
Instead I’m a plodding, panting pariah, pounding the pavements of the village where I live. I quickly learnt not to run on fields or uneven surfaces of any sort – it’s just harder going. Not only that, but having done several circuits of the local park last week, I realised to my cost, that it had just been mowed, and that most of the grass cuttings were stuck to the soles of my fancy running shoes, like iron filings drawn to a magnet. That is of course until I got home, whereupon they suddenly reversed polarity and flew from my shoes, scattering across every inch of carpet and floor tile in the whole, damn place. Well, either that or the gremlins have been gathering in a ghastly green harvest and dancing round my house throwing out hairy armfuls of the stuff…
And as for being gorgeously glowing with health, instead I sweat profusely and turn bright red. So red in fact, that after a run I look more like an animated tomato, than an athletic Amazonian.
By week four of using the app you build up to running in five minute blocks, tutored by a verbal ‘coach’ who keeps time and generally encourages you to keep going. So, you’d think that after running for 3 whole weeks, that I’d see running for five minutes as a natural graduation… But no… when I first saw that innocuous number displayed on the screen of my phone, I actually cursed. But at least there was the brisk walk first, then a mere three minute run and then… when the coach announced it was time to do five minutes, my eyes misted over with poignant self pity. “Don’t want to,” my inner toddler fumed, shaking her angry little head and about to burst into a torrent of tears. But run for five minutes I did.
In truth I can’t tell you that they, or the subsequent runs of five minutes thereafter, were fine. They were at differing times – OK.., good.., awful.., heavy.., or hard and sometimes I forgot that I was even running at all…
There is a script which (pardon the literary pun) runs through my head at various times during a run… Firstly it reminds me that I’m asthmatic and shifts my focus to my lungs – innocuous organs which I ignore most of the time, since they are just quietly going about the business of breathing. However now they suddenly feel constricted, wheezy and not up to the heavy physical task I’m demanding of them.
Next it’s pointed out that I currently have Rhinitis – an allergic reaction to the Rapeseed crop that is blooming in fields all around where I live. This means that my nose and eyes are puffy and sore, my body aches all over, I get headaches, have a sore throat and not least have huge, heavy bouts of sheer exhaustion, which no amount of resting or any other kind of prescription, will cure, (except for paracetamol when it feels particularly unbearable). ‘What the hell are you doing? says the Script. ‘You’d be so much better off at home right now, all comfy on your favourite couch…’
Fundamentally, when I’m hit with a long bout of Rhinitis, I’m knocked out. My energy dissipates and my body is weighted down with an invisible body suit made of lead. I have lived with this now for over 9 years and had to learn to live with its characteristics. So running feels counter intuitive, but then again as a result of this condition I’ve also realised that I simply cannot stop the world while I go through it, for the world simply won’t wait. And one of the major discoveries I’ve uncovered it and me, is that whilst resting is necessary to regain and conserve energy – in this case it doesn’t heal. So the Script gets told to bugger off – I have to balance my desire to disappear with being as healthy as I can in order to be in the best physical position I can, and not let it subsume me.
I’m told by my GP that it’s a mystery condition and nothing can be done. Instead I’ve just had to educate myself and actually have managed to manage down many of the more chronic symptoms really well.
So if that wasn’t enough, then the Script will tell me that my legs are stiff, my knees are seizing up and my feet weigh a literal ton. It goes on to tell me that running is bad for my body. It it wasn’t, it reasons, then why, after nearly a month, is this still such hard work? It then continues to tell me that I shouldn’t be doing this at my age – it will probably cripple me and I shall be riddled with arthritis as a result. And one of its favourite things to state, in no uncertain terms, is that I won’t be able to do another 10 seconds, let alone 25 minutes…
But guess what? I’m still standing and more importantly still running. And whilst running is undoubtbly a physical activity – above all I’m learning that the secret to my success is that it’s also very much a mental one, too.
Ok, so you might think that being a (LifeWork) coach myself, I’d know that… Well I do of course, but now I have to put it into hot footed practice. So, I use a few strategies I’ve learnt – one of the most successful of which is to smile as I go. Smiling is a simple feat of physiology – that by giving my body the physical signals of happiness and mirth, all will mentally be, well… happiness and mirth. Fortunately I don’t yet possess the ability to laugh whilst I’m running (and let’s face it, that would be weird for any passers-by), so I smile (thereby creeping out said passers-by), instead.
I also find that if I think about anything but running, then I forget I’m actually doing it. My favourite thing on the trot is to work out plots, blogs and anything to do with my writing. At other times, I treat it like a meditation and focus my attention outside of my body… gazing at the scenery and drinking the scenery in. I hone in on things I see – like a flower in bloom, and focus on them, committing them to memory.
I know from experience that so often, when my brain is clogged up or bogged down that a swim or a walk will unblock the flow and allow me space to work things out from a different perspective.
But back on a run, my Script kicks in and intrudes, telling me that I’m going uphill or I just damn well can’t do this… So I start chanting a mantra… Sometimes a yogic ‘om shanti om’ – “I am peace” or at other times things like ‘I bloody love running’, ‘I own this,’ or ‘look the fuck at me, I’m running like a fucking ace.’ And I apologise for my potty mouthed musings, but somehow, swearing really seems to spur me on…
So all these things are circling through my brain and body as I go. And like the British weather they are constantly changeable, and I get to experience all of them in the space of 30 minutes, (rather than a day).
And then there are the days I wake up and want to go for a run; or when I think, ‘it’s only for 30 of your waking minutes’ woman, let’s do this.’
So though the Script tries to get me to hate running when the going gets tough, more often than not I’ll choose to love myself for what I’ve achieved in the past month, and praise myself instead.
I have to say though that there are some strange side effects to this running in the time of Corona – not least that I’ve gained a profound interest in mesh wear, wireless headphones and gel soles…
And despite the Script I’m still running… In fact I’ve covered a whole lot of kilometres since I started and I have to say, that above all else, I’m proud of what I’ve done on the run.
And that’s me today – Blonde, Blogger and Runner.
PS:To experience more of my take on life, buy the book of blog, where my ‘Love Letters to Life’ explore and celebrate the tiny and titanic aspects of life: ‘Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life’ ispublished in bothpaperback&kindle. And for a special offer of a signed author copy – click here to go tomy website now and buy the paperback for just £7.99…
I’m a novice jogger, using the Couch to 5K App, which dictates that I take a day off between each run.
But there was no way I would ever let this gorgeous Spring evening slip by without sampling it.
So this time I strapped on my WALKING boots and off I went, striding towards the sunset.
I’d plugged in my music (I was in a rare country mood this evening), but as my feet walked me to a wood, I turned off the lyrical voices of other humans, to drink in the bird song surrounding my head, instead.
And whilst I will run in the open, I love to walk in secret shade, hogging the scenery to my heart and inhaling my solicitude.
Self isolation is… interesting… for me. It’s alternatively tough and sweet. And the sweetness was this bliss – a solitary, selfish walk. A thing for me and me alone.
For in this time of Corona I can avoid others in the guise of social responsibility, rather than misanthropy… So I crossed paths, lurking and dawdling at a distance; all to stay out of the way of the other creatures out in the dusk light, walking towards night.
I felt euphoric; like I never wanted to stop…walking…ever. Endorphins propelled me on, round twisting tracks and along a trickling river bank, glimpsing fields and a picturesque church in the distance.
If encountered, I dodged the proximity of other humans, melting into the warm embrace of the wood, like a modern day dryad. For I wanted to dance to the sweet, creaking rhythm of bird song, alone.And today wasn’t a day for taking pictures of the drifts of white flowers, or the moon lowering in the sky, or trees framing the river, to share with you. And that’s because I’m a SELFISH walker, so it’s all mine – the secret sights that only MY eyes saw.
Yes, it’s mine, all mine, the drisky evening sunshine, and tonight I shan’t share my vision…
To that end, I shall end by selfishly caressing your senses – with only the remnants of my walking WORDS, instead…
I made a discovery this week which sparked memories of two stories – interlinked by time, memory and the metaphor a beautiful flower…
The first story starts with the gift of a potted Orchid, given to me by my friend Gill Potter, when my mother died, some eight years ago.
The Orchid, in its many forms, is such a gorgeous and outlandish plant and this particular one was a truly beautiful example – white, with exotic purple markings, its’ flowers springing from a base of plump, glossy leaves, betokening an origin far from the British Isles we both now inhabited.
Gill was one of many friends I made during my time with Damsels in Success – a self-development organisation for women. A piece of history now belonging to memory – one which had a huge impact on my life at the time…
We rarely see or speak to each other in these post Damsels times. From my perspective, the relationship has simply and silently transmuted, as they so often do, through circumstance and the shifting sands of time. I still have the plant though, a thing from and of that time. And the plant, in its own time, will, every now and then, flower again.
And maybe that beautiful present stuck in my psyche… For when, several years ago, another Damsels friend of mine died, I was moved to make the gift of an Orchid, too.
The reason for that gift of mine was Caroline Ashby – a member of one of my Damsels in Success groups, who became a friend – one whose colourful words and deeds were woven into the everyday fabric of my existence.
When she relocated many miles away for the sake of her autistic daughter’s education, our interactions moved online. Rarely would a day pass therefore when we didn’t chat, like or comment via Facebook.
Several years later she told me she had a brain tumour. I was shocked and scared, but able to discuss it openly with her. She was scheduled for surgery to remove the tumour which would mean having to shave her head. I quietly determined to buy a scarf in her favourite colour purple, to wrap around her head, as a post-operative present.
The next Facebook post however was from her Robert – husband, announcing that Caroline had suddenly died.
I read in disbelief, shouting “No, no, no!” at my computer screen… But, still, she was gone…
Despite the many hours Caroline and I spent together, I had only ever met Robert once. But I decided that now was not the time to stand on social ceremony… So I ordered an Orchid to be delivered to her husband and daughter, giving the florist the very specific brief that it had to be a flower of the deepest purple they could find, since I wanted this to be a gift, in some sense, from Caroline herself. Not knowing Robert very well, I couldn’t know how such a gift would land…
After some time had passed he thanked me and sent me a picture of the plant, at the time when it had finally dropped its last, gorgeous flower.
As for me, it was the oddest / most contradictory mixture of feelings, losing Caroline… I say that in the sense that I was devastated and missed her so much, but simultaneously felt so very happy and grateful that I had had the joyous gift of knowing her. And it was that impulse that would always make me smile, even when my eyes were misted with tears.
A year after she died, Caroline’s husband Robert posted on Facebook, telling of how she was remembered every day “in all the little ways that we do things now.” He thanked family and friends for the support they had given to him and their daughter, and of how “happy and proud” he believed she would be of the way they had built their life since her passing.
There on the post was a picture of the orchid I had sent 12 months before, next to a beautiful photograph of Caroline. The orchid had come back into blossom, and “so” Robert said, “we go on with life, taking within us all that Caroline meant and how she showed us to be good people and love each other.”
On reading that and seeing the flower in beautiful bloom – I cried my hybrid sad / happy tears all over again…
And in this present day time of Corona, I came across the first plant, given to me by Gill. It was languishing on the dusty corner of a window sill, forgotten and un-watered. Yet despite all that, it was flowering, once again, as orchids do.
It was flowering – despite this tainted time of Corona. Neglected. Left alone. But still it flowered. Because it had to. From a life force which impelled it to.
So I pulled it out from obscurity. I gave it pride of place in the centre of the room. I watered it and nurtured it once again.
It reminded me of the stories I have just recounted – of two friends – now distant, yet distinct and interwoven, part of the fabric of my existence, whether held in either physical or heart space. Not least were they reminiscent of what keeps me motivated and constantly moving forward.
Because you see, even in this unrecognisable time of Corona, life goes on. And as I sit in self-isolation, I can choose whether to wither away, or simply survive; or, to continue to face the sun and bloom.
So I choose to thrive through this time. To run and write and reach out. To work out how I can do what I do differently, in altered times, so that I can do it to the best of my ability.
And still, I know too that there will be fears and frustrations – obstacles in my way.
But so too, will there always be Orchids.
From Sandie xx
PS: Two of the people I have reached out to in this time of Corona are Gill and Robert, who graciously agreed to let me share their parts of the story before I published it. Robert told me too that the orchard bloomed all through last year and has only just dropped its last flower…
One of the ways I’m choosing to use for coping and processing what is going on in this crazy time of Corona is to blog and post (on social media). To work through issues, share and reach out. Maybe touch, resonate or make people smile.
So it was that I posted last night on Facebook about a lack of toilet paper in my local shops. The intention of the post was to be gung ho / silly and to demonstrate that now is the time to may be just do things a little differently…
Of all my intentional navel gazing and heartfelt posts this one got the most comments – and most not the ones I’d intended…
In all honesty I was irritated that people got hooked on a perceived lack and tried to solve a problem which I didn’t actually have / didn’t really care about. Basically, it seemed to bring out people’s own ‘stuff’ instead… Several people also made the point that flushing toilet paper away clogs up drains.
Basically people didn’t get the joke…
It was time to examine my reactions and see what I could learn from this, but first – the original post:
So… I have searched and scoured, peered and craned… Reached up and hunkered down, all to no avail…
Every blimmin time I’ve been in a shop for the last month, despite my hunting high and low, there has been no flipping toilet paper to be seen on the shelves! Not ONE roll. Not even the horrible scratchy stuff!
And whilst many of you out there are hoarding, MY stocks are running low and I’m having to eke out the sheets…
Met by yet another empty shelf last evening at my local shop, (my ONLY local shop); I decided that I would no longer be a slave to the concept that the wiping of my arse from tissue paper on a roll was not the only way to… well… go.
So I bought a box of tissues instead – ha!
So THERE all you toilet paper thieves who would heartlessly deprive my rear end of its basic hygienic privileges – I shall NOT be cowed by your lack of regard for the cleanliness and comfort of my bottom.
I shall instead wipe with a tissue (well not a WHOLE one, obvs), because I can tell you now, that MY ARSE REALLY DOESN’T CARE!
As the responses rained down, my ego roared and I had to stop and think… I made this my final comment: “END NOTE: So I try and make people laugh in these strange times… Instead it becomes a conversation, going in directions I couldn’t have fathomed and certainly never intended. But that’s conversations for you… Wishing you laughter, clarity and above all, to stay safe everyone 🙏.”
As an NLP Master Practitioner I learnt that people see the world through their own filters, so will respond to what resonates most with them. I think it’s natural that we will naturally ‘follow the herd’ of a conversation.
Ultimately I made a post – not a commandment, so I had the responsibility to listen to what came back and learn my lessons from it.
I’ve decided to keep reaching out, regardless of what my ego is now telling me as a result of all this. **Stamps feet in toddler like, tantrum type affirmation**
So… how do you keep your calm, when it seems much of the world is frustrated, snappy and anxious? Well in truth, maybe like me, you don’t, 100% of the time. But you keep choosing the calm path and continue to take choices that cherish, rather than rubbish, this strange Corona time. For me that has been a commitment to exercise and to be pushed, in every way to take up running… Still very much a beginner (beyond running for a train), but determined to control the things I can – including running – and accept those that I can’t.
So, it’s been another busy week…
During which I couldn’t honestly claim to be the perfect person who radiated constant calm… Yes, I’ll admit that in amongst the smiles and seriousness, I’ve snapped and sulked…
People all around me (at a safe social distance) are also manifesting stress in an myriad of ways. I choose to recognise that for what it is – namely their response to what is going on and most likely nothing to do with me. I also choose not to judge myself or anyone else for frayed tempers, tantrums and tears.
And while I’m at it, I’m going to add to my Conscious Choice List:
Firstly I’m making every effort not to take out my own frustrations on others.
I think constantly about what I can positively bring to ‘the party’ both at work and with all those people I care about – my circle of family and friends.
I’m making sure that I take care of myself, which includes eating healthily and exercising… I’m still allowed treats though!
I check in with myself – deciding to be aware of what’s going on for me, so I can change direction if necessary. I’m also honest with those around me about where I am emotionally, so they understand and so that together we can either accept or find a way forward.
As I say though, I’m not perfect and still very much a magnificent ‘work in progress‘, which means that it is more important than ever that I celebrate life’s little wins…
Once such was when when I woke up in the Spring sunlight a couple of mornings ago, with my brain rattling through its latest list of anxieties. Instinctively I decided that before I did anything else, it was time for a run…
As with many such things I first went through a procrastination phase. This included browsing online shops for the latest and best running gear, including shoes and headphones. However, I had most of these things already, so the only piece of new gear I actually ended up purchasing – to spur me on in my jogging journey – was an armband – so I could easily plug into my running app (‘Couch to 5K’) and fill my head with motivational music.
So on the morning in question, before anything else, I strapped it on over my running gear and stepped outside.
Not many people were out and about that early, but everyone I met (and kept a caring distance from), returned my wheezy / breezy ‘Good morning’.
And the running was tough at times, but I did it. All of it.
And here is a picture of me post run – pink-faced but happy I’d started the day the right way.
And that was what I choose on that day – equanimity – for me.