Happy Day of Happiness!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Over the weekend, I found out that today is the International Day of Happiness.  Proposed to the UN in 2011 and approved in 2012, the first day actually took place in 2013 on the spring Equinox.

As the Happiness Personal Trainer, my ethos is to encourage people to pursue activities that bring happiness (even I am guilty of this).  My coaching can encompass physical activity, nourishing food choices, allocating free time differently, and looking for new inspiration.  I believe everyone can experience happiness, but in today's modern society, we sometimes lose sight of what truly makes us happy.  It might be sitting on the beach in the sun, spending time with your kids, volunteering at the animal shelter, fishing while the sun rises, sleeping until noon on Sunday, or having ice cream for dessert.

Here are my top 10 tips on finding happiness:

1.  Don't be afraid to try.  If you love Strictly Come Dancing and think dancing could be something that brings you joy, sign up for an introductory lesson.  Or if you have stacks of poetry, attend an open mic night.  Be being brave, you might experience joy.

2.  Phone a friend.  Forget about texting and email.  Speaking to a live person can make all the difference.  Call an old friend from uni, meet your gran for tea, or call on a neighbor for some human contact and enjoyable chat.

3.  Seek inspiration.  If you aren't sure what would make you happy, head to the library for a nw book, see a movie at the cinema, head to an art museum, attend a religious service or look for inspirational quotes on Pinterest.  A few simple words or a striking painting might change your mood for the day.

4.  Don't worry.  Easier said than done, I know, but if you can forget about what other people think of you, it will  make a world of difference.

5.  Treat yourself.  Indulge on massage, new pair of shoes, fancy chocolate bar, or popcorn at the movies.  You are worth every cent.

6.  Get moving.  Exercise is known to boost serotonin.  The amount of time you need to exercise to feel the benefits is different for different people.  Running, biking, swimming, or walking are good activities to try but you should also choose something you will enjoy.  Yoga and pilates might work for you too.  Don't give up if you don't feel amazing right away (I know it takes me 45 minutes to achieve a runner's high).  Just keep at it!

7.  Chase the sun.  Light is also something that can trigger serotonin release.  So book a weekend getaway to the beach and pack your sunglasses.

8.  Declutter.  I joke that the state of my living room mirrors my mental state.  When I spend an hour putting away laundry, dusting, and finding a few things to donate, I feel like a load has been lifted off of my shoulders.  Spending time in the room is much more pleasant when it is a bit neater.

9.  Outsource.  If there is something hanging over your head, it can feel like it is haunting you.  If you need ironing done, inbox sorted, a craft completed or your bike cleaned, it might be worth it to hire someone else to do it so you can move on.

10.  Smiles and hugs.  Try smiling.  Go on, just try.  If that doesn't work, download a comedy podcast, watching your favorite funny film, or ask a colleague for a funny video of their kids.  Hugs might also help if you have the opportunity someone.

Use #HAPPYDAY today on social media to share your tips on what makes you happy or leave a comment below.  I would love to hear from you.  :)

Mind and body reset

Monday, March 19, 2018

A little over one week since returning from Tanzania and things are feeling normal again.  My stiff walk, similar to a post-marathon gait, has disappeared.  My appetite and breathing are back to normal and my mood has improved.  The laundry pile in my living room is getting smaller too.  When I finish these big challenges, it always takes me a week or so to process what I have done and then figure out how to refocus my life.  Refocus might not be the best word, as I always have work and family to keep me in line.  Without a goal on the horizon, I sometimes feel lost and without purpose.  What should I do with myself if I don't have a race in the diary? We don't have kids, so I am lucky that I can structure my free time as I wish (with a few dog walks scattered in).  It is so easy though to waste time on social media, with naps, and in front of the TV. I work best with a weekly training plan structure in place.

I feel like Kilimanjaro took up as much mental effort and attention as a marathon.  Five months of planning and training went into it and I achieved what I set out to do (hurray!).  As soon as I got back to London, I knew I couldn't go long without adding in some dates to my diary.

I have rested every day since since my return (aside from 45 min spin class that I taught on last Monday).  Because my body was still adjusting, I focused on sleeping.  No blogging, no studying, not much time social media.   In the back of my mind, I have been trying to process how best to share my tale of climbing to the top of Africa.  There are so many tips and suggestions to share, I think I will put everything into an e-book so anyone who wants to do the hike themselves can know what to expect (leave a comment below if you has any specific questions about the trek so I can be sure to answer them).  It has been really nice not to have to worry about squeezing in a run before the snowfall and having to finish off a blog post before bed.

Although my body wasn't stiff or sore more than three days after returning to London, I got a sports massage from my friends at Function360. I am a big baby when it comes to deep tissue, but the therapist listened to my concerns and I felt refreshed after my 60 minute appointment.

Over the weekend, I took my last days of rest and set a plan for the next few months.  We are travelling to Thailand in April and to my hometown for wedding in late May.  There isn't much time to set up a new routine, but I am going to do my best.

First off, I am going to get back to my blog.  While writing my Kilimanjaro blog posts, product reviews, and ebook, I am also going to be finishing up my Future Fit training diploma in nutrition.  I am learning so much about food and really enjoying it.  Unfortunately, Kili sidelined me a bit meaning I am a few weeks behind in my timetable.  Once I am finished, I will be able to offer additional healthy eating advice and coach clients in person or online.  I pride myself on my lifelong learning and want to get as much out of this course as I can.

To keep me motivated in training, I have signed up for the following:

The first event is the Marathon du Medoc, a French fancy dress (costumed) "race" near Bordeaux.  I say "race" because there is lots of wine and food along the course.  My friends from Advent Running had a spare place so I hope I can keep up with their running and drinking pace.  Must add wine drinking to my training plan!

At the end of September, I am tentatively booked into Ragnar Relay with some of my Fitbit Fifty teammates and a 100 mile new sportive called Velo South.  I am waiting to see if we can find 10 people for the Ragnar.  If not, I will do the sportive (I hope I finish in one go, rather than needing three tried to meet the challenge as I did with Ride London).  My husband prefers cycling, so it will be nice to have an excuse to ride with him over the summer.

Finally, my next World Marathon Major is  New York Marathon in November.  I decided to book in  with 2.09 Events (upon recommendation from Charlie at The Runner Beans) as the price wasn't unreasonable for flight and entry.  A few friends live in the city so I have a couch or two to crash on.

Endurance seems to be the word in 2018.  In May, I will enter a 5K race in my hometown with my sister-in-law and step-mom.  They typically place in their age groups, so I am a little nervous about how I will perform.  I don't think I will be able to keep up but I will do my best.

What races do you have in your diary for 2018 so far?

Thanks to Function360 for the complementary treatment.  You can get 15% off your appointment with the code #F360MM15.

I did it!

Friday, March 9, 2018

We started climbing at 11pm, in the dark and through knee deep snow.  At 8:30am, I was on the roof of Africa with my new besties.  Big thanks to Eco-Africa Climbing for a tremendous trip and to the Altitude Centre for all the expert training and preparation. 

Many more blog posts to come but for now, I rest.

Tapering: an art you need to master

Monday, March 5, 2018

The 2018 marathon session has begun.  Tokyo kicked us off in late February and runners are rejoicing that their winter efforts are paying off.  Most runners will be following a 12-18 week training plan and built within there is a reduction in running load in the few weeks leading up to the race.  This is known as tapering.

Tapering is probably the best part about training.  You have permission to train less and rest more.  Friends who don’t race might not understand how this ‘less is more’ strategy works in the lead up to the big day.  Your body will understand it though because it will need to recover, repair, and rest.
Depending on the event and your starting fitness level, you probably have been working hard towards your goals for the past few months.  You will have had rest days built into your weekly routine but as race day approaches, it is time for your body to experience less intensive training.  This will ensure you are in optimal form on race day.

Tapering is a tricky thing to figure out.  You might find yourself asking: How long should I taper for?  Will my fitness level be maintained while decreasing my training load?  Does cross-training count against me when tapering?  Can I still eat the same amount of food even though I am doing less?  Why do I feel guilty for resting after so many days of hard training?  Here are a few answers for you.

How long should I taper for and how much can I do?

In a meta-analysis of 27 studies, Bosquet et al.(2007)1 found that a two week taper period with training volume decreased by 41-60% was the perfect combination for desirable competition outcome.  There was no need to change intensity or frequency of sessions.  The simplest way to apply this to your training is to decrease the length of your training sessions.  However, this study looked at multiple disciplines (running, swimming, cycling, rowing) so it is unclear if this golden rule applies to all disciplines.  You also need to take into account your own body and how it responds to training. For example, you might be more fatigued at the start of your tapering because of long hours at work recently, which means you will need a longer tapering period.

Be sure to monitor your eating habits to match up calories-in with calories-out during a taper.  You will be at risk for a change in body fat levels if you consume more calories than you are burning.  It is suggested that you eat a carbohydrate-rich diet as part of a successful taper to help maintain muscle glycogen levels which will help provide energy to your muscles during the race.2

Is there anything else I can do while tapering to improve my performance?

Here are a few extra tips to help your body make the most of your taper.3
  • Reduce the change of DOMS by scheduling in a sports massage and/or wearing compression garments.
  • Assist your autonomic nervous system by getting lots of sleep in a dark calm space.
  • Keep hydrating even though you are not training as much.
  • Consider travel and time zones when calculating your taper period.  Also take into account changes in temperature and altitude from where you are used to training to where the race is.

Have you ever tapered before a race?  Do you think it helped or hindered your performance?

1.  Bosquet, Montpetit, Arvisais, and Mujika.  Effects of Tapering on Performance:
2.  Walker, Heigenhauser, Hultman, and Spriet. Dietary carbohydrate, muscle glycogen content, and endurance performance in well-trained women. J. Appl. Physiol. 2000.
3.  Mujika. Tapering for triathlon competition.  JOURNAL OF HUMAN SPORT & EXERCISE. 2011.

Portions of this post originally appeared on the non-defunct H2 Life Blog.