We’re Not In Control of Anything, Other Than How We Choose To Respond to Everything.

I’m working on a group project at uni at the moment. If you’ve been to uni I’m very sure you understand the pain of trying to pull people together to work on one thing who have different ideas about studying, about how to study, how close to the deadline we leave our work, if we do the work at all or try to coast through and learn from failure. We are 9 different people.

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Another group member and I were talking about the woes of our group. They expressed their frustration at people not doing what they’re supposed to be doing, about how we shouldn’t be having to nag so much and how they couldn’t bear not being able to make people do what they’re supposed to do. Donald Trump shouldn’t be president and we shouldn’t be entering an age of global nuclear threat – and we are.

However, this situation got me thinking about control. Personally, I have a very complicated relationship with control that I have had to work on over the years. I have had to take the journey from a very unhealthy relationship with control to a more balanced one. That relationship has ultimately wound up with me where I am today, in this place right here and now. I have struggled to accept that I am not 100% in control of my life. I have more autonomy now than I once did – and that boils down to having control over the only thing I have control over: myself.

I don’t even have full control over that. I can’t decide what I want to weigh and make sure that happens because my body will metabolise and respond to my diet, exercise and medications however it will. I can control my diet, but control and diet is somewhat of a complex relationship; I don’t think diet is something to “be controlled” per se so I don’t try to control it anymore. There is liberation in letting go of unnecessary grasps at control because ultimately you can’t programme your reactions or metabolism or biological processes. You can influence them, but control? Nope. Not happening. Of the things we have control of in our lives it is not entirely of ourselves and it is certainly not of others, and even more unfortunately and definitely, not of what happens to us either. What, if anything, are we in control of then?

We are in control of how we choose to respond, behave and frame our perceptions when we think and act. I say this loosely, by thinking I mean choosing acceptance, non judgmental ness and being mindful. We can choose how to respond to what happens to us and what we are confronted with in our lifetimes. Let me highlight a recent example.

At the start of this group project I was getting stressed about people not pulling their weight – I spoke to a few of my homies and they all said “take a step back, it’s not worth it”. So I did and you know what I realised? I had the power to control how much I responded to that situation, which in turn affected how much I let it affect me. I could choose to get het up and make it of high importance or I could choose to frame the situation in relation to the bigger picture – it is a first year module that only requires a pass and I am working with some people who may not even return in January. There is great power in choosing my battles when it comes to not losing my shit. Although I did need the help of my homies to help me figure this out, I still figured it out.

We do have the choice in how we respond to whatever may come our way and for as frustrating as life can be, for as frustrating as other people can be, as we can all be, we can control very little in our lives except how we choose to relate and respond to what happens to us and around us. It’s important to take ownership of that small piece of control we all have over ourselves and our lives.

So if you see someone with a pram struggling with stairs you can take the choice to walk on or stop for a moment to help. If someone is mean to you, you can take the choice to be mean back or to ignore them. If someone smiles at you in the street, you can ignore them or just smile back and let the world be working with you instead of against you. It really is a very simple idea, but admittedly sometimes very hard to implement into our mindset. It is a journey that we are all on – and we make the decision about how we respond to the lumps and bumps in the road of our journeys that defines us to the world.

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Marathon Training Journal: Week Two

Week 2

Run 1: 45 mins easy

Weather: sunny, crisp a bit chilly but very beautiful weather. My favourite for running in.

10:39 – this morning I woke up more ready for the day ahead and to train. I had mentally prepared myself for the last 2-3 days to try and pick myself up again despite my low mood, intrusive imagery replays in my mind and feeling very disturbed by the imagery and visions in my mind.

I planned everything in my new Filofax and have decided it is important to rest and schedule time to really do nothing productive: play ps3 or just chill and watch tv or listen to music.

I have been trying to make every day as productive as possible due to all the lost time to my mental health – and I think this has backfired on me in finding myself heavily overwhelmed and therefore even less productive.

I thought about this a lot during my run today. I listened to the album by TENDER as sometimes more chilled music can help me relax into the run and give me what feels like theta wave thinking space. I’m speculating based on a recent lecture. It’s on the list of things to read into out of interest.

This is the kind of run that helps me to feel rejuvenated with clearer thinking and more able to face the day. I don’t know the science behind this right now and for as much as I’d like to know I’m ready to face what I actually have to do today.

Saturday Yoga:

I went to the yoga class. The past week has been quite chaotic and haphazard at best. So I’ve not managed to get myself to the gym or for a run. I felt able to go to my class on Saturday though. It is across he road and with one of my favourite instructors at the gym so her personality in leading the class really is a great motivation that draws me back regularly to that class.

I found my body remained very uncoordinated. In poses that I’m usually fine and very stable at I was wobbling and unable to get my balance. It was much harder because of this so I downgraded a lot of the poses to have a supporting knee.

The fact that I was in the class, trying and I stayed for the whole hour was enough of an achievement for me to be pleased with myself. By the end I did feel slightly more aligned with my body. Even walking felt less alien and mechanical. The class also helped me pause the thoughts and my mind. She practices and talks about the power of breath and breathing- I really needed that this week.

When Running, Motivation and Mental Illness Collide

When motivation and mental illness become intertwined and this makes it difficult to stick to any form of plan. Getting dressed can be difficult to organise in my head when I’m like this, so balancing study, running, fitness, friends, groups I like to go to and volunteering is just a dream again. I know I can, and that I will again but right now this can’t be my currently reality. I need to learn to navigate these times as best as I can, and I think that’s a long journey ahead of me.

The past few weeks have been quite scatty. I’m not sure quite what is going on, or why things have gone so awry again. They have, and that’s something I need to take in my stride as best as I can. That doesn’t mean I will always keep my strides even and steady during these times – in fact, far from it. I may jolt forward and fast in my moments of being able to organise in my head and utilise my motivation to meet my goals, then trudge slowly in an aching manner as everything I intended to do to make me feel better slips away. Time doesn’t stop for anyone and right now I could do with time stopping for me to, I don’t know, figure out what’s sending me stray and to get myself back on track.


I’m swaying quite quickly right now between able and unable, motivated and unmotivated, being able to hear my thoughts and it being just a chaos of mish-mashed noises, being able to organise myself and feeling at a loose end, thinking ahead and being stuck in trying to think at all. I’ll be honest, I fucking hate this.

It does add more fuel to my fire in that when I am able to get myself out running and climbing, or going to the gym – it propels my need to do this stuff to feel good and maintain feeling well about myself.

I don’t even know what else to say; my head is mush.

 

Marathon Training Journal: Week One

23/10/17 , Monday
Run: 30 min easy run
Weather: fresh. Not cold and not hot. Ideal running weather.


Before I went I wasn’t feeling it. I’ve been not running as much lately because of bad mood and anxiety. Which is counterproductive because running will help with those things.

I stayed up til 2am last night watching tv. I’ve been watching a lot of tv lately. This is a bit of a highlighter that things aren’t quite right. I stayed moping around the house and sleeping until 4pm at which point I said to myself I neeeded to kick myself out the door and that despite my sluggishness, headache, sloth feelings and complete lack of motivatuon to do anything but nope that I would feel better.

I was quite anxious bc I’ve not been running lately as much. Once I was out the door however it helped. I felt relaxed whilst I was running as it was an easy pace for 30 minutes. I went up to one tree hill although after some incline I started to fast walk it because it was very steep. Once up there I enjoyed the view and stood on the benches to look out over London. The feeling of insignificance really helps me to calm down sometimes. I get this when I think about the universe and sometimes when I look over London and think of how I’m one person in this massive city. It’s quite soothing in an odd way.

Then I ran down and picked up some food for dinner at Sainsbury’s. I feel more awake and more relaxed since going out – and this is something I need to keep reminding myself of!


29/10/17
Run: 30 min easy
Weather: a bit chilly and dry

I did this run in the morning, although remembered why the ‘lay your k it out the night before’ trick is so often repeated. I must have spent 30 minutes rummaging around for the right kit for this and that – especially as I was taking my bag for an extra layer. I ran to the house where I am currently cat sitting. I have grossly underestimated how much distance I can cover in a few minutes now. This shows I have gotten stronger rand better even if I am in a bit of the training plateau that I am currently in.

I didn’t write straight away after running this time so I don’t remember how I felt before and after. Second lesson in a second paragraph: write our running diary entry straight away.

If You’re Only Hitting the Gym for a Hot Body – You’ve Got The Living Thing All Wrong

I”ve been trying to get involved in helping people become more active through various projects and tasks set as part of my Nutrition BSc degree. These past 2 weeks I’ve been quite the hypocrite in terms of being as active as I would like – oh Hai again Depression. From uni projects that I’m involved with in trying to get people more active there is a heavy ideology, from numerous people, who I’m going to say have the best intentions at heart. That is that the reason we exercise is to look a certain way. Nothing more. Nothing less. This is a very big problem. This is a very big problem indeed.

They genuinely believed exercise is a means we go through in order to sculpt, change and gain a body that looks a certain way in order to find the elusive happiness and ease of life that comes with a “perfect” body. Internally I’m screaming. Internally I’m banging my head on the table top harder and harder with each time this underlying notion comes to the surface.

Looking a certain way and achieving what is “perfect” for that generation or time is not the answer to all of your questions. Trust me. I wasted 10 years believing the same thing, when I was the same age as the people I’m talking about and I look back with full eyes, shaking my head and thinking, “Shit! Something needs to change.” because it seems the pressures have gained momentum since I was that gullible girl too. Instead of just not eating, which is relatively easy when you’ve got a complicated conundrum of emotional and mental health needs underlying that behaviour. However, now, you have to eat right, ergo, eat what’s trendy and most expensive and over priced at the moment. You also have to do a million squats to get a good ‘booty’ – for who? I don’t know about you, but as I go about my day to day business I rarely even see my arse.

One notion to get people being more active – which isn’t a new one goes along the lines of this, “lets hold a competition of who can do the most activity throughout the week or month – we can use FitBits or pedometers.” We could if we want to send out the message that more is always better in terms of being active. This isn’t something I can support. I can’t get behind this.

At school when I was in Year 8 we did a similar competition, minus the technology, and do you know what it taught me? It taught me how to count calories. It taught me that in order to burn those calories I had to move more. It taught me how many calories were in a chocolate bare vs an apple. It taught me the difference between regular Coca Cola and Diet Coke. It had me reading the nutritional info label on my water bottle – don’t worry, there’s no calories there, just minerals. This was all before I knew about eating disorders. It was before I was even aware of my body shape compared to others because I was 12 – I was still a child.

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2011-12 : During Anorexia

So skipping back to modern-day when I am no longer living in the innocence of the end of childhood, do I work out because I want a Kardashian booty? No. I don’t give a shit if my arse warrants a peach emoji? Do I want a 6 pack? If I do, then shredding at the gym every day is definitely the way to go about it. What happens though once I have that 6 pack? Do I stop? Or do I keep going to maintain my 6 pack that, let’s be frank, very few people are going to give a fuck about unless they’re some shallow person who wants to shag someone with a 6 pack and be done with me. By falling into that mentality and culture you objectify yourself. You give yourself no value more than your appearance and I’m going to tell you exactly what I think about that:

I THINK IT’S BULLSHIT
BOLLOX
COMPLETE AND UTTER CRAP

You know what the peach emoji can do? It can kiss my derriére.

To put this into perspective even more, when you’re in your coffin at our funeral I very much doubt someone will utter the words, “what a shame? And she had such a good 6 pack as well?” and you know what? They won’t even see you arse because they lie you face up. I guess you could probably put a request to go in face down so everyone can see your beautiful perfectly shaped bottom in rigour mortis. That would be something to talk about to lighten the mood I suppose.

I’m not saying that body image isn’t important. It is important to not hate your body. It is also important to learn to love your body – but guess what? Your body does so much more than look a certain way. It fights injury. It fights infection. It allows you to run 5K if you so wish. It allows you to have sex. It allows you to taste and smell and experience and it lets you do the monkey bars – I mean, what’s better than being able to use your body to play and being able to. Stop wasting your health on vanity.

 

 

Apple Harvesting and Juice Making with The Orchard Project

Last week at Growhampton – a sustainable social enterprise at the university of Roehampton, we teamed up with The Orachrd Project and  harvested apples from the campus orchard. Until recent years the orchard was completely grown over and had been neglected for a period of time. One of the tasks that Growhampton and The Orchard Project undertook was to re-open up the orchard from the overgrowth and maintain it. The Orchard Project started as an urban orchard project in London and now helps maintain community orchards nationwide. The fruit of this labour, is as predicted, a variation of fresh apples growing on the healthy trees. Last year some pear trees were also planted and will come into fruition within the next 3-4 years.

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In order to harvest the apples we used a tool which was a bit like a small pond fishing net but instead of catching fish, we were catching apples. Once the apple is in the bag you position the bag so the branch goes between the teeth of the entrance to the bag and snaps the apple free from the tree. This on a really long pole, which extends to what must be ~3m in length at the maximum extension. This makes it quite hard work because when the weight of the apple drops into the bag it takes a bit of effort from your shoulder, arm and back muscles to keep control of the pole.

When harvesting we separated the apples into ones for cider and ones for juice. If they had become bruised then they went into the cider pile. On Sunday we went to the pressing site in an arch way at Herne Hill in South London. We had ~550Kg of apples to sort, crush and collect juice from. It was quite as big a task as it sounds and took a whole day of work between a team of 10 people in order to get through the yield.

The first stage was quality control. If there is a lot of bruising then the apple was discarded. If there was only a little bruising then we just cut it off. The reason for this is that when the apple bruises beneath the skin a chemical reaction occurs and the waste product of this can spoil a batch of juice. However, when fermenting for cider it is destroyed in the fermentation process – which is why apples with bruises are OK for cider and not for juice.

We washed them once in the first bucket, then again in the second before piling them into crates. From these crates the apples went into a pumped up blender that smashed the apples up into small pieces and churned them out of the bottom. Form this you make cheese – which sound odd but that’s what it is called. It doesn’t involve real cheese.

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Apples mashed up and waiting.
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Making cheese

The building cheese process involved using a square frame within which a cheese cloth fabric square was placed at a diagonal angle. The smashed apples were scooped into the frame then once the frame was full the cloth was folded over in one direction. Once the frame was removed a wooden pallete was placed on top and the process happened again until there was a pile of apple parcels stacked upon one another separated only by the wooden palletes. Once stacked as tall as it could go and still be able to fit under the press the basin rotated 180°. The machine then slowly raised the base upon which the pallettes were stacked upon. In the process all the juice was released from the apple and funnelled out through pipes in barrels of juice.

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and press…

Each time apples are pressed from an Orchard the juice and cider are different because of the variety of the apples changes from orchard to orchard. This means that no two batches of juice or cider are identical.

The Orchard Project works to enable communities to conserve and utilise the natural orchards around the country and in London that may have been neglected and forgotten about. In return for the apple yield The Orchard Project give 50% of the juice yield to the orchard or organisation who maintains each orchard, and use the other 50% to bottle and sell for funds to keep The Orchard Project going.

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Source: http://www.theorchardproject.org.uk

The drinks produced by The Orchard Project in London is called Local Fox Cider and London Apple Juice – it is a dry cider with no sugars or juices added in the process. It is a completely natural process of fermentation that occurs naturally. Both products are produced only from apples harvested from the urban orchards of London. More than producing juice and cider, The Orchard Project is a community project that empowers local communities to develop community spaces and harvest.

I really enjoyed getting involved with the harvest and juice pressing with The Orchard Project. It was good fun and speaking for myself, I really enjoy getting involved in community projects like this: you tend to meet nice people, have a bit of a giggle whilst you work and in return I had some banging apples from the orchard day and a Local Fox Cider: both of which were banging by my account.

To find out more The Orchard Project and see what they’re up to in your area click here.

 

 

 

Britain’s Ocean City, Run Plymouth 10K

As part of my running training for the Marathon I have signed up to a few races to make sure I stay on track. I work better with smaller and more frequent deadlines in all parts of my life. The London Marathon is quite a big goal – so in order to keep on track so that I don’t rock on up on Marathon Day completely unprepared I have set a few mile stones along the way.

Some races are milestones. For example some half marathons along the way to keep the distance in the forefront of my mind. Some are just for fun because once you have race fever signing up for races just becomes a bit irresistible, especially when you know people running.

My Dad was signed up for this one. I think he does most of the Plymouth Running Festivals, mainly the 10k and half marathon each year. He offered for me to do it with him, and what better way to have some father daughter bonding time than plodding through a 10k together? I love running races with other people – this is a form of socialising that I can get on board with.

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The day before I was worried the race was going to be a DNS or DNF for me. I felt really unwell. I was hot and cold, I was stumbling around a bit and losing my balance. I was feeling fuzzy headed – so much so it took me longer than usual to read the menu at the smoothie bar and understand what was in each one. It all seemed a bit like a blur to me. Stacey helped pick one for me. In fact, getting a smoothie was her idea and it worked. It transformed me – I can’t remember what was in it exactly; some spinach, some fruits, frozen yogurt and perhaps some other bits and bobs that escape my memory right now.

Before hand I was saying it would be a miracle if I got around the course without tripping over my feet because just walking around town on that Saturday I was tripping, falling and generally a bit of an uncoordinated mess. It wasn’t an ideal state to find myself in the day before race day.

I tried a few things, and they all seemed to add up to work: I had some re-hydration formula, I had a smoothie, I ate some carbs then at 9.30pm that night I crashed out for sleep. I think a combination of factors from the previous week led to that place – I had done a 2 hour cycle and not been able to refuel afterwards because I was scraping being on time for my lecture (I got lost, a lot. It should have been a 70 minute ride). I didn’t rehydrate with anything other than water and remained in a semi permanent state of feeling dehydrated no matter how much water I drank. I didn’t even have a Lucozade sport, which is often my go to. I kept making myself get up early and was refusing to go to sleep when I needed to because I wanted more hours from my days.

There’s a few lessons in there:
– if you’re feeling really tired, just go to sleep no matter how short changed you feel from your evening
– smoothies are a great way of getting in bunch of nutrients when used in moderation.
– always refuel after a lot of exertion with some carbs and protein and a little bit of some good fats.

Theoretically, I know all of this. Practically I wasn’t following my own advice or knowledge and chose to ignore my body begging for rest and salts. Lesson = use your knowledge of nutrition to help you and listen to your body Monica. It knows what it needs and you can’t out do your body’s needs with your mental desires to do otherwise.

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Race day I had my usual breakfast of porridge and banana. This is a staple pre-race breakfast for me. It always works and doesn’t come right through me. I stomach this meal well despite what gastric issues I may have. The race start pen was around the corner from where my Dad lives, which reduced the travel nerves and stress of missing the start wave. This was a luxury that I quite enjoyed on the day.

When we were in the pen we acknowledged a minute of silence for everyone who couldn’t be with us today. It was honoured well and I imagine that for a lot of people running for causes related to any losses they may have experienced this will have been a really important minute to clarify the why of their race that day. I think it was also important because Plymouth is a Naval town. Growing up I knew more families with ties to the MOD than not – and this will have been of importance to everyone for whom their partners, brothers, sisters may be currently deployed – or may have lost someone during a deployment.

In the starting pen I needed the obligatory third wee that happens every time I go for a race. I haven’t decided if this is nerves, because I drink too much due to dehydration anxieties, or if it’s because races start so early in the morning. I was getting nervous because I needed a wee. I thought there may be toilets on course, which is what I had to have in mind to stop getting anxious about it. I decided to run and see how I went – and secretly hoping that somehow I could perspire from my bladder.

Once I started running and got into the stride of it I was fine. So there is another lesson learned – sometimes a wee can wait and your body will prioritise running. I just don’t want a Paula Radcliffe moment because I don’t think I would get away with that seeing as I’m not Paula Radcliffe. There were no toilets on course but I made it anyway.

When looking at where we ought to start within the crowd because people who start farther forward with people much faster them are quite annoying, we kept an eye out for the pacers. I was aiming for a PB, which would mean getting anything less than 69 minutes. Ideally, I wanted to be between the 60 minute and 70 minute pacer. We set off and the crowds were quite thick until ~3 Km in.

The crowds began to thin out slightly on the first long and gentle gradient. I say gentle, in terms of running it is gentle but when you’re running it always feel like much more. The course was a very simple loop to 5km away and then back again. Along the embankment road the scenery was good as the misty fog hung over the water as the sun began to get brighter throughout the race. I didn’t take any pictures because I was very busy chasing that PB. I started the race with my Dad and near the 6 Km mark he told me to run on and chase it. I asked if he was sure because normally I’m all for sticking together and finishing together. He’s no novice to races and has smashed more 10 Ks and half marathons than me – so when he said he was sure I agreed to run on.

We had set out quite fast chasing the time in the first half of the race – this meant that the second half of the race was much more tiresome and it became harder to maintain pace and push on. between 8 and 9 Km the 70 minute pacer caught up with me as I had slowed down quite a lot, so I kept my eye on her. At times I was watching her flag bob up and down just ahead of me, like when your tour guide on holidays abroad has a colourful umbrella they stick in the air for you to follow as your guide, her flag was my guide and I had to keep up.

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I made it. I managed 1:10:50 – it’s within the minute of 10 so I’m going to count it. I’m not a pro so every millisecond isn’t too important to me. Even though I achieved my goal time I decided to maintain my ‘time is largely irrelevant’ philosophy on running. I found it quite stressful chasing that time and I had to really push myself to achieve it. Yeah I felt proud but no, I won’t do it again on a regular basis. I was pleased with myself but adding such an unnecessary stress onto it was as it says on the tin, stressful. Instead I’m going to focus again more on how my body feels when I do my running.

Was it enjoyable? If not, why not? Are there any lessons to be learned? Do I have niggles that need stretching out in stretch class or yoga or even a sports massage? As long as I’m improving over time as I have done from where I was to where I am, and from where I am to a new place in the future that is what matters. I think I’m going to maintain the philosophy of trying to be a better version of myself for me, of trying to improve on what I am whilst appreciating what and where I currently am, and on enjoying progress in ways that may be difficult to measure – but you know what? I don’t need to measure everything in my life. This is a difficult life lesson for me but micro-managing and quantifying everything in my life to justify, understand and realise where I’m at isn’t always necessary.

img_1240So lessons learned: no chasing times on a frequent basis, smoothies are great for nutrients if you’re feeling all over, plan for your wee’s right up to the race pen, listen to your body about sleep and rest, refuel after 30+ minutes of exercise, and stay hydrated all the time even if that means chugging more rehydration salts than you’d like because lets face it, they taste iffy, then do it. That’s a lot of learning from one day.

It was also a lot of happiness in one day. S came out to support us, I ran with my Dad which I have never done before, and we had a small family gathering in Costa after the race. It was a bloody good Sunday – and that’s not even mentioning the afternoons activities.

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