End of year reflection.

In the past I have raised the question, why wait until new year to start a resolution, why wait until the end of the year to reflect? Now I realise that the answer is simple, it’s because these events, holidays that come at the same time every year give us an anchor for our memories. Whether or not we keep a journal or a blog, we can manage without it at times like Christmas or birthdays (or whatever festivals occur in your society) because our memory will fix certain dates and events.

This time last year I had taken annual leave to prepare for Christmas, and I remember how disappointed I was to be ill! I had a horrible chest infection and spent 4days in bed coughing and feeling miserable because what I had hoped for was to get some lovely daylight running miles under my belt! I’m actually sitting in the same bed in the same room, which I suppose brings the memory back but this year I’m grateful to be well and just in bed because it’s warm and comfortable!

2017 hasn’t been a good running year for me though.

IMG_0446Less than 200 miles total and almost no running through the autumn and winter! In the previous 4 years I have averaged out at about a mile per day. Not much, but in all honesty not bad at all for a previously unfit un sporty non running woman!

So is/has running been good for me?

Certainly it has helped me to maintain a healthier body weight and lower body fat percentage. In the last 3-4 months with less running, I have regained quite a few unwanted pounds and along with them a few aches and pains which had disappeared with the weight, oh and the night time reflux.

I’m less sure about about the link between mental health and running. Regular readers of my blog will know that I have had some issues over the last year or so with stress/depression/anxiety. Coincidentally over the last few months I have finally started to feel more like my old self. Just a recognition that sometimes I feel quite content. Dare I say it, happy? For no good reason, just that my underlying mood is one of happiness rather than sadness, anger or anxiety? Also, I have regained my ability to disconnect myself from emotion – in a good way. When people tell you about things that upset them, it’s about being able to acknowledge and understand what they are feeling, but without getting caught up in the emotion yourself.

On review though, I can see that my issues with stress started when I increased my mileage, trying to train for a marathon, and have finally resolved at a time when I’m not running much at all. Does this mean that running is bad for my mental health?

Well I think there’s a bit of a ‘chicken and egg’ situation going on there in that actually I might have increased my running for the ‘wrong’ reasons – a sign that my mental /emotional health was deteriorating.

Over the last year I have done an awful lot of exploration into issues about mental health, positive psychology and so on. I have read a lot, thought a lot, talked with friends and spent quite a bit of time practicing mindfulness meditation and chanting. What have I learned?

I have come to realise how much my sense of self worth has been tied up in achievement. The external recognition isn’t necessarily important (although it helps) but deep down inside there is a part of me that is always on the lookout for evidence for things in which I am ‘better’ in some way. I realised how ingrained this is when one day I was chanting with a group of Buddhist friends and I found myself counting how many ‘Nam my ho renge kyo’s’ I could do without taking a breath, comparing it with everyone else and feeling quite pleased with myself because I could do more……… seriously, what is that about?

In light if this it is easy to see how I got hooked on running- how great it felt to do something that I never thought that I would be able to do and to see the improvements – which come easily in the early days. At the same time I was able to accept that this was something in which I couldn’t compete with other people-  although I could compete with myself!  I wanted to be ‘better’ than I was last week, Last month, last year. I went to park run and noted with amusement what it was like  to be someone who was always at the back, no chance of being a ‘winner’. There wasn’t anything else that  I voluntarily did in life where I didn’t want to be one of the elite.

But even competing and comparing yourself with yourself can be dangerous. I wanted to do better, run further, run faster and when I didn’t  achieve this I criticised myself.

There were good runs. The days where I enjoyed just being outside. Fresh air and freedom and occasionally the pleasure of getting into a steady paced run. The occasional endorphin rush on the treadmill, singing along to my favourite music. Now I’m not running, that is where the nostalgia is. In the good runs. Even in some of the rain lashed dark runs, the late night frosty runs there have been good moments just because they were good moments.

I suspect that achievement is like food. We all need food, we all need a sense of self esteem and achievement. But in the same way that some people have a bad relationship with food and can’t recognise when they are eating for the ‘wrong’ reasons, so it is with achievement: it is possible to greedily consume it, without savouring the pleasure, without realising it is doing you more harm than good. In the same way that you can’t just give up food, you can’t give up achievement, you need it on a certain level in a certain way to keep you healthy and happy. You can’t just cut it out of your life, you need to rebuild that relationship into a healthy one.

So moving on from this, what comes next?

Yes, I will be running, but it will be for fun and fitness. I will still want to set goals and achieve them, but I want the feeling to be ‘I enjoyed that’ rather than ‘job done, tick the box, what’s next?’. It will be difficult, because sometimes you have to push yourself to make progress, to be able to get the genuine, intrinsic enjoyment factor. So the skill will be in recognising a pleasurable ‘push’ from a ‘drive’ where the motivation is fuelled by anger or insecurity.

Similarly in life, I’m trying to work out what I genuinely enjoy doing for its own sake. Which achievements are the gentle push of stretching my abilities, which are driven by the need to ‘prove’ myself, to purely boost my ego.

This has been a very candid blog. I sometimes worry that I over share, that I leave myself vulnerable by revealing what I think. Unusually for me I have sat on this post for a few days trying to decide whether to share it, so why do it?  Because some of you readers are my blogging friends, who understand, who give me support who may have been through similar things. To you I am giving back, sharing my trust. Thank you! Some people will find solace from reading this because maybe they are alone and it helps to know that someone out there is in the same boat. To you, you are welcome, I hope that it helps. Some people are blog voyeurs -you know what I mean – well, knock yourself out!

I pinched the image below from ‘who are you really, the surprising puzzle of personality’ by Brian Little. An interesting book which explains how what we choose to do in life interacts with our inborn personality traits. I like the book and I particularly liked this image!

IMG_0449Happy Solstice to you all!  If you are in the northern hemisphere like me, yay, it gets better from here for the next 3 months at least! If you are in the south, enjoy your long summer day!

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About mawil1

Hi my name is julie and I took up running at the age of 46! Hence 'mawil' Middle Aged Woman In Lycra. I did it at first because someone asked me to do a charity run with them. I couldn't run at all, but pride wouldn't let me be seen to be unable to run so I started a walk run programme. I stuck with it and to my surprise I found that I liked it- after a couple of weeks of progress I was hooked! My blog is about my progress in running and how I fit it in with the rest of my life.
This entry was posted in balance, blogging, book reviews, change, fitness, middle aged women, Motivation, positive mental attitude, running, Stress. Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to End of year reflection.

  1. Julie what an interesting post, you’re not alone and it is brave of you to be so candid about life. It’s unfortunate more people are not so open about their lives. between you and me I couldn’t run for a bus. I do suffer from the odd bout of depression and have over the years taken medication for it. What I tend to do now is, this sounds so silly, I watch funny films until I laugh out loud. It doesn’t always work but sometimes it does. Blogging about my menopause and disastrous life helps me.

    Have a great Christmas Julie..

    Much love Denise

    • mawil1 says:

      You have a great Christmas too Denise! There’s no doubt about it- the menopause is a tricky time! I’m sure that it plays it’s part, the constant lack of sleep due to the hot flushes, the changes in your body – a lot of stuff to cope with! But I agree if something makes you laugh out loud that’s great. My husband thinks it’s funny when he sees me laughing so it’s laughs all round!!

  2. Well done for sharing this post Julie. I’m sure there are many folks going through similar mental battles. My take on it would be that once you start running, you (and by that I mean anyone) always want/need to go further or faster. (I think that’s inherent in people and the sport). You set yourself goals and, if they are not met, you are disappointed (ergo a sort of ‘depression’ sets in). But if you achieve them, you get the opposite effect – and it’s these ‘successes’ however minor that make you feel good later in life. E.g. as I sit here, unable to run due to the snow (and recovering from yet another injury the last time I ran), I can look back on those achievements and be pleased, even proud. Thankfully this outweighs the frustration (rather than depression) of not being able to go out for a run. (I’m sure it’s a lot more complicated than that, but I hope this helps…) Have a great Christmas! 🎄

    • mawil1 says:

      I think it’s more about attitude than the actual running! If your attitude to life is a certain way, that’s how it will be with running! And of course there are ups and downs in life, as in running. When you cope, yougenerallly cope with it all, when you dont I guess it all goes to pot! Anyhow new year, new start. Hopefully the snow will eventually give way and the same for you! Happy walking and running!

  3. Paula C says:

    Some people will find solace from reading this because maybe they are alone and it helps to know that someone out there is in the same boat. I am one of those people & this post did help.

  4. I love your honesty and your trust Julie. I get the achievement thing. Running in the early days is full of huge achievement but then it seems to peter out for many of us. I am rattled constantly by one running person I come into contact with regularly. She is always getting fitter and stronger and going longer and longer with distance. For some reason she makes me feel inadequate because despite giving running as much time and energy as I possible can I’ve got slower. After reflection on this many times I realise that I am ok with this. I love running and am content to be much slower than everyone else. I appreciate your insight into why you run and the whole achievement thing. Thanks for posting this xxx

  5. Gareth says:

    Lovely post indeed. I think youve hit the nail on the head with regards to achievements and missing them leading to the cycle of depression from non existent pressures we only put on ourselves! Think though of what you have achieved over the last year – The mindfulness, the connections with people and it’s all there its just hard to recognise at the time as an achievement I guess. It is what it is and you are who you are. For what its worth the support of you and the others does help me a lot – thats something youve achieved without even meaning to. Keep on keeping on with who you are =)

    • mawil1 says:

      Thanks Gareth, I don’t begrudge the last year, I think that I have learned a lot and now I’m armed with tools to help me take care of myself and in a better position to do some of the things that I want to do. I feel really positive about the future and ready for the ‘next stage’. This year was just a bit of time at base camp- prolonged by a bit of stormy weather! I think that you have a great year ahead of you too! I’m looking forwards to hearing about it!

  6. Thanks for writing down my end of year reflections. You nailed it. Happy xmas to you and your family!

  7. CJ says:

    I used to get very bloody about everyone going further and faster than me… I had to distance myself from all of that and just focus on what makes ME tick, motivated and happy… It isn’t easy, but writing it down, here, and sharing with like minded blog friends help put things into perspective I think.
    I think you are doing a MARVELOUS job! All the best to you and your boy and HAPPY MOVING!!!! YAY! xxx 2018 will be the year we meet for lunch a nice long jaunt up some hill or something OK? XXX

  8. Darlene says:

    This is such a welcome post. Thanking for sharing your feelings.

    Many times I have to wonder if I am a REAL runner. Everyone is getting coaches, having PR goals, analyzing their training plans, posting about their drills and paces.

    Me I just run. No watch. No plan. No coach.

    I enjoy racing. That is why I run. It makes me feel good. I will do it until i can’t. Hopefully into my 80s….

    Sometimes I run well and sometimes I don’t. It is what it is. There will always women slower and faster.

    Hope you keep going…

    Happy New Year!

    • mawil1 says:

      I think that you are a real runner! Your enthusiasm comes through your posts – and you win in your age group! I love the way that you always manage to get your running in no
      After where you are too!

  9. shazruns says:

    So well written. I think it like most things is a balance and you have to work out where that balance is. I have found that some runners can have a negative impact on my enjoyment of running, so now I’ve realised that I avoid them and limit interaction were I can. Good runs and bad runs will come and go, but hopefully the good will prevail and we will all have a fab 2018 x

    • mawil1 says:

      Thanks Shaz! So much stems from understanding ourselves – like recognising that some runners ‘bring you down’. Once you realise you have the choice of either avoiding or dealing with the thoughts that they generate. Here’s to 2018 and all the runs, good or bad! I’m sending you positive wishes for a job doing something you love in 2018. Jxx

  10. Interesting blog, mawl1. Running is addictive for sure. Many addicts turn to running to beat their addiction, in fact.

    I would never tell anyone they have to run. Sometimes I truly think it’s a dumb thing to do. For me, though, it really does help me through the stressful times. For some it’s just another added stressor. Some do well pushing themselves, and others fall down the rabbit hole. And sometimes we don’t know we’ve fallen down that hole until the cracks start to appear.

    I hope you figure it out & a very Happy Christmas to you!

  11. oscardiamond says:

    Candidness indicates strength. Glad to see you are identifying and shedding negative pressures. They may be self created but they gotta come from somewhere. We could all do with a bit of insight in this area.

  12. mawil1 says:

    Yes.😊 But sadly you can’t make people have insight….

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