A couple of weeks ago, I was reminded by a friend that we’d entered a race and it was in two weeks time.
Whilst I wasn’t in bad shape, I’m wasn’t in race shape. (I’m wondering, what is my race shape?)
With only two weeks to go, I did a handwritten plan on how to get there in the best shape possible. I wasn’t going to get considerably better by the 6 or so runs I was going to complete. I didn’t focus on the Yasso 800s, which heart rate zone I was in, Kenyan Hills or my mile splits.
Running is a great way to shake off the lethargy and clear your head, but there are other things too. I focused on looking after myself better physically and mentally and within a few days I felt refreshed, lighter and stronger.
It’s easy to get carried away with faddy diets when we’re not doing the basics first.
I’m not coming from the land of ready meals and manage to make pretty much all my evening meals from scratch. My lunches during the week can be a bit of a shocker. Decision fatigue means I can end up eating the same thing every day. Normally a cheese baguette followed by a Twix or a bit of cake that’s knocking around the kitchen at work. I end up feeling bloated and lethargic.
What I did
I’ve tried to bring lunch from home, be it soup, leftover pasta, the remains of the weekend BBQ. I’ve also found Waitrose rice and grain bags that are microwavable and can easily be pimped up with some falafel or some leftover chicken.
With the change, the afternoons hasn’t been the struggle they once were and swapping out the sugary treats for a banana has reduced the sudden blood sugar crash.
Do I need a new mattress, a new heavy duvet, a sleep app?
The turnaround in how people consider sleep has been fascinating. From, “if you want to be productive you should sleep less” to “the best way to be productive is to get 8 hours and take naps” and lack of sleep has “the cognitive effect of being drunk”.
Good quality sleep makes it easier to maintain your health. Running and working outbreaks down the muscle. DOMs is the soreness caused by micro-tears in your muscles. To get stronger, it’s during sleep that the magic happens and the muscle grows back stronger as growth hormone is released, testosterone shifts and cortisol normalises that regulates metabolism, immune response and how your body responds to stress.
What I did
It’s all in the prep.
- I tried to get what I have to get done, done. (man jobs, emails, study, calling my Mum)
- Turned the TV at 10 pm (really helps the mind switch off that it’s time for bed)
- Kept the bedroom tidy and clear (so you can get straight into bed and not start tidying up)
- Wrote down what I had to do tomorrow so I can switch off and not worry about it.
- Not use my phone in bed and read a book instead.
There’s a good reason it’s called “Beauty sleep”. If you get enough – you feel better and you look better.
You can run, skip and jump as much as you like but the majority of people work desk jobs (86% of Americans) and the average person sits for up to 12 hours a day
I feel that I manage to combat this by cycling to work and back every day. But there is always more to do to get off your arse. It helps with concentration and helps reset your focus.
What you can do
- Take a walk at lunch. This has the added benefit of (hopefully) getting some Vitamin D.
- Send your printing to the printer at the end of the office.
- Use the toilets downstairs.
- Walk around or go outside whilst on the phone.
- Drink more water. Walk to the water cooler.
- Go for a walk at home after dinner or before bed. Go and catch the sunset.
- Turn the TV off!
There’s even a website devoted to this – Just Stand
Do something for yourself
It could be big or small, but being a little indulgent can really make you feel better. I talk about this a lot and don’t always back it up. There’s a myriad of things I want to do or just give a try. I’ve wanted to go indoor climbing for years and never have. Flotation tanks look interesting. I’ve still not tried them.
It can be a simple as putting your favourite song on when you get home and having a dance around the lounge or sitting outside with a cup of tea and a good book.
Catch up with friends
Quite possibly the best thing you can do for yourself to feel better.
You get a bit of time for yourself. You have a laugh. Get a few things off your chest (but not too many). Be a good friend back. Inspiration and happiness are contagious. A friendship group gives you a sense of belonging. This has a positive impact on your mental health. But choose a happy friend as it works both ways.
Friends help us understand our place in the world and research shows that strong friendships are associated with reduced anxiety. Friends don’t have to be just like us either and this BBC piece points out.
I’m as guilty as anyone of looking for the next “hack” that will make me better, faster, stronger. The 4% economy shoe, the compression socks , drinks, gels, shakes, macros, ketones, grams of protein, resistance bands, foam rollers, leggings, earbuds, hair bobble or hair wax. I thought I needed a new backpack so I could run commute. I’ve got a great backpack, I was just procrastinating.
This stuff is not complicated, but it can be hard. Keep it simple. Start with one, focus on it, then move onto another.
Happy eating, sleeping, moving, indulging, friending!