On the run...
Here's the thing. I'm messed up.
Whatever the reasons the truth is that I really can't stand my body.
There, I said it.
As a younger woman I'd assess my value, within nanoseconds of walking into any social setting, based on whether or not I was the fattest person in the room. I've grown out of this, but less than a month ago I bailed on a party because (this isn't the story I gave) I didn't feel comfortable in my skin.
It was the wake-up call I needed to get my shit together.
A few years ago I started running. I lived on the Fulham Road, a lovely leafy area with pretty residential streets and a river running route within moments of my front door. I'd wake up at 5:45am, put on my running gear, whack on some sunscreen (I'm a beauty junkie after all) and off I'd go.
Left out of my door, through the streets and around Fulham FC's ground with a final flourish over Putney Bridge.
It was at a time when life, generally, felt a bit tricky. I have a busy mind and wasn't happy with a few things in my life so I wasn't sleeping, felt exhausted constantly and just had that low-level stress buzzing through my adrenal glands 24/7.
Running was the one place where I could find quiet amongst all that head noise.
When you're three kilometres from home and pushing yourself as hard as you can go, it's just you and your body against the world. Your mind taunts you with visions of having a lie-in or a cronut or just plain stopping and walking, but I became so well practised I could block them out and just focussed on getting back to my front door faster than the day before.
I ran six times a week as a standard and if I only managed five I'd chastise myself and feel, very strongly, like a rotten failure.
I'm not a natural runner. My physique is more Kardashian than Radcliffe, but something intriguing happened in and amongst all that plodding. I lost weight, I gained muscle tone, but I didn't get the body I wanted.
It was just a slightly leaner version of what I had before. I still hated it - all soft tummy, meaty thighs and fat knees.
And then stupidly, somewhere between then and now I got out of the habit.
Partly because it's amazing how many people weigh in with fitness advice when you're already into something. I've lost count of the times people told me I should be using weights or that I'd benefit from HIIT training instead.
I went to a very upscale gym as part of a work project and at my physical assessment the trainer told me I had a lot of work ahead of me. I remember feeling so deflated and it made me lose the motivation I'd had on those early mornings when I would run out of the door, no questions asked.
Stupidly, I listened to them. I'd substitute my runs for kettlebell tabatas, interval training or classes, but none of them gave me the 'high' that running did.
I signed up for a 10km last October and prepared with a training plan, but on the day the route was hilly, which I wasn't expecting, and I wasn't fit enough. I stormed off at the halfway mark, knowing I wasn't going to complete it in under an hour, swearing like a docker and making a show of myself.
A few months ago I had some hormone meds tinkered with. The fallout is material for another post, but suffice it to say it's been brutal and I needed that 'me time' on the treadmill when it was just me, my heart and lungs.
I am becoming acquainted with the squat rack and the weights room of my local gym is somewhere I'm definitely not shying away from, but this is about what suits me and at 38 I'm having to dig my heels in and say that running makes me feel good. If that's all I have the time to do, I'm going to do it.
And that's enough.
After watching my mother battle breast cancer I really couldn't give a rat's ass about whether I have a taut stomach or if my thighs are too chunky - my body is SO much more than that.
But what I do care about is that I feel good about myself. Only I have the answer to that, and for right now, lacing up my trainers and pounding the pavement gets me there.
I'm not going to preach that you should run, but if you're so inclined here are some links I'd recommend:
A great book I read when I first started those early morning runs: Running Like A Girl by Alexandra Heminsley.
I downloaded this ages ago, but read it a few weeks ago - by sheer coincidence - as I was thinking about getting back on the road: Run Fat Bitch Run by Ruth Field.
Nothing has ever been as motivating as new gym gear - sorry about it - and Forever 21 Activewear is a my natural opiate. As are the sportswear offerings at New Look and H&M - these are more fashion than function in the main.