The Power Of Walking

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So what to do now that Beginners is finished and having decided that I am not really quite ready to graduate to Gentle Joggers ? The answer for me is Power Walking! Oh my stars and whiskers! My first walk with the delightful Joan was awesome! Make no mistake this is no soft option and naturally, as per usual, I was at the back of the pack! Joan looked after me like a gem and the girls in the group were, as ever, supportive, friendly and welcoming. It was cold, wet and windy and I LOVED it!!

Interestingly I ached more all over the next day than I ever did from jogging. I think this is going to be an excellent way of improving my fitness level!

I enjoyed the route so much that I decided to retrace our footsteps on a solo session a couple of days later….this time without the rain and the wind as companions!

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I didn’t maintain the same pace because I was so distracted by the scenery around me. I think that walking may well be my jam as opposed to running as there was no anxiety only deep, pure enjoyment of my surroundings.

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I could feel depression and bleakness withering away like the old leaves upon the ground and a feeling of gratitude twinkled through my veins.

Unfortunately my phone failed to capture the beauty of the carpet of wood anemones which is a shame as they were really quite special.

The path wound through the woods and then came out to a small country lane, so I strode onward and upwards towards the Kissing Gate into the Park.

Once through the Kissing Gate I was back into woodland again and the sound of the silence was quite amazing, there was a mystic quality to the air and all I could hear was my own breath as even the birds were quiet here. I could feel peace spreading down through me, centering me, grounding me here in this moment, my tense shoulders dropped from up around my ears to exactly my favourite place for shoulders to be! Deep breath in, feel the diaphragm lift and embrace the sensation of relaxation as the breath flows from the body. My senses become heightened and my awareness blossoms as I walk mindfully and appreciate the detail nature provides.

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The sun was breaking through gently, the trees sheltering me from the somewhat chilly wind: it was idyllic.

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As I was coming to the edge of the woods I came across this group of young deer- they didn’t seem to mind me interrupting their afternoon, and were only mildly curious as I walked passed. The golf course opened out before me as I came to the edge of the trees and the sun was chasing the clouds away.wp-image-1398665927jpg.jpg

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Indeed by the time I was on the homeward stretch the temperature was delightful as the wind dropped and blue skies encouraged me forwards.

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Week Eight: Graduation Day! We Are Runners!!

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How cute! We saw this heart shaped marking in the paving outside the front of Knole House on our last session together and I feel it captures the spirit of our lovely group as we shared time and laughter the last eight weeks, bonding as we supported and encouraged each other onward and upwards!

We have all made such progress- even me the slowest of the slow. It’s astonishing how far we have come from that first taster session in terms of fitness, speed, stamina and distance covered. Our coach has been a fount of wisdom, always there with encouragement and praise and has taken us on a journey from newbies to runners.

Memories have been made as we have run the paths around the park- Lynne’s Hugging Wall will always be special to each of us I think:wp-image-1509927443jpg.jpg

We have been so lucky as this last run together was our first real rainy run- we have had damp, cold, fog, frost, crisp sun and interestingly the weather has only ever added to our enjoyment and never taken from it. Running through the mud and rain was no less fun than on the beautiful sunny day…. I guess that means we really are runners now!

Plans for moving forward on this marvellous journey to fitness have been made and promises to continue the slj way by continuing to encourage and support each other as we go in slightly different directions. I still need to work on my stamina so shall not be joining the girls with the Gentle Joggers. I have decided that I shall focus on building fitness and stamina by joining the Power Walking group for the next few weeks and then once again sign up for Beginners with the goal of running 5k at the end of that course. The absolute flexibility to suit every individual is brilliant so we all have a clear vision of how and where we go now, having all successfully completed our eight week course

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Week Six : Say Yes To The Scrunchie

Wow go us! We ran just that little bit further this week, 3.5 miles with more running, shorter intervals and less walking….yay us!! We even jogged a couple of inclines: woot woot!

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This fabulous photo is not mine sadly, it was on the Tonbridge Daily Facebook page*. It captures the stag so wonderfully and the deer are such an intrinsic part of the beauty of running in Knole Park that I hope the photographer Jo Roots will forgive my sharing it here.

Today was week six of the Beginners Joggers and our first rainy run, which given the time of year it seems to me that we have been very lucky so far! We have run in the mist and fog but not rain so I was curious to discover exactly why my son has always enjoyed running in the rain.

This is a single tree taking a slightly more horizontal approach to life before stretching its branches skywards, unfortunately these two photos fail to do its beauty justice though hopefully manage to show its intriguing shape.

The light drizzle didn’t dampen our spirits and the important business of catching up with each other’s half term news was soon underway. So….. the scrunchie! Our top joggers tip comes via one of the girls, who caused her hairdresser to have a mini meltdown!! It would appear that ponytails in hairbands whilst jogging cause too much damage to fine, colour treated hair resulting in a most unfortunate mullet effect! The solution (once the offending mullet had been bobbed) is to wear a scrunchie to hold back those precious locks in a ponytail. So now you know!!

These young deer are jus’ chillin’ in a what appears to be a youth club for young deer only as there were no older deer in sight. The sight of us trundling past at a sharp jog didn’t disturb them in the slightest.

I found running in light drizzle to be rather pleasant as it helped to keep my ready brek glow and sweaty betty face cool although glasses and rain are never a favourite combination. The wet weather eased off leaving us with just grey skies to run under and run we did! Even I managed to achieve this weeks target of eight minutes despite trailing well behind the girls. The progress we have all made in six short weeks is quite amazing really. Naturally despite being in my comfort zone at the back I was never left behind as that is simply not the SLJ way! Last is never least and extra loops allow the faster girls to stay challenged while little short legs me catches up: it’s win, win for everyone.

*The photo of the stag at the beginning of this post was taken by Jo Roots and featured on the Tonbridge Daily Facebook page. 

Choices And Changes

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I missed a Fitball class this week. My body and mind felt like lead, moving my limbs was like trying to wade through cold, claggy custard and the deep stresses from the last few days caught up with me to overwhelm and devour my energy. Depression tried to claw its way back into my mind  and erode away my sense of achievement and desire to continue this journey towards a healthy, happy me. I stayed in bed and the day disappeared- this has happened before…but this time there was a difference. Thank goodness.

I was able to practise kindness to self, to allow myself the time I clearly needed to recharge and replenish my inner resources instead of castigating myself in ever increasing circles of recrimination. I nurtured self and took the time I needed as opposed to sinking black despair at having missed a class. I chose to take a positive view rather than falling into bleak negativity. This is real change! This is me being the change I want to see. This change in attitude is as meaningful to my mental health as my exercising is to my physical health. This is holistic progress

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I used the time in the comfort and warmth of my safe and beautiful bed to reflect on the changes and choices I have made since last September. The decision, the positive and deeply personal choice to change my shape, my physical health, my space, my well-being, my happiness has been huge. It has not been a smooth journey, nor has it been easy yet overall the momentum is all forward and like a pebble thrown into a pond the ripple  effect has translated into so much more than an increase in physical health through exercise.

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I have started taking better care of me more often, I have decluttered and taken books, clothes and shoes to charity shops, I have tidied and cleaned, I have gardened… not perfectly, not every day, sometimes not as much as I would have wished for but consistently just that bit more than before. I am proof that one change leads to another and the ripple effect is real

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The Wrong Knickers! Also…What A Fantabulous Run!

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Another cold and misty day for week five of Beginners Joggers and the Park was as stunning as ever. Unfortunately I had left my phone at home so no photos from me today. I found the above photo on line. We set off on a slightly different route so that instead of entering Knole through the Hole In The Wall we climbed over the old steps further along the boundary wall. It is a fun and charming way to enter the Park. I do have a photo of my own (on the left below) from a walk with one of my daughters last Autumn and found another on line to better illustrate the steps.

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I was really anxious this week about keeping up with the girls,  as I had missed last week’s session due to family commitments and had limped out with a pulled muscle the week before. I have also had a really bad time with my IBS playing me up a lot over the last five days so that was another reason for anxiety to play havoc…which in turn makes  unfortunate episodes more likely. It’s a catch 22 situation! So I dosed myself up with Imodium to feel safe enough to not miss out on this weeks Joggers

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IBS had led to me being pretty much housebound for far longer than I care to think about before I embarked on the FODMAP diet, under supervision of a clinical dietitian. It’s a difficult diet to follow, but the benefits have proved to be life changing as without it this journey back to fitness would have been close to impossible. FODMAPs are a collection of short chain carbohydrates and sugar alcohols found in foods naturally or as food additives. FODMAPs include fructose (when in excess of glucose), fructans, galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS), lactose and polyols (eg. sorbitol and mannitol). This regime has seen my symptoms reduce by about 70%- as predicted by my lovely dietitian Emma and so now as long as anxiety can be kept at bay I am mostly good to tally forth from home with confidence.

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http://www.kcl.ac.uk/lsm/research/divisions/dns/projects/fodmaps/faq.aspx has information from King’s College, London about the FODMAP diet.

I knew that the girls had achieved a couple of fabulous four minute runs the week before last whilst I was struggling with my pulled muscle and would surely have built on that in my absence last Wednesday. I was also very aware that, although I had managed to get out and about despite the ravages of flaring IBS, most of my outings over the last seven days were spent walking not jogging. I was worried my stamina had not improved sufficiently to allow me to keep up on my short legs with the lovely ladies!!

Well my stars and whiskers what a run! It was wonderful! Sure enough I did struggle somewhat and fell behind a couple of times, but not for long!  In fact the worst problem I had was not the running it was my knickers!!! Note to self: never wear the wrong knickers jogging! We spend much time discussing the right bra and indeed other bits of kit, but no time talking about knickers! Turns out this is an oversight: heed my advice now…. lacy french knickers are no good for jogging in! Constant wedgie!

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We ran 3.3 miles with intervals starting at four minutes- what progress we have made since starting out five weeks ago when we were running for thirty seconds intervals! We did do a couple of one minute intervals on the inclines but once we were thoroughly warmed up, had done our dynamic stretches we pushed the pace and time up to intervals of five, six and then….nine and then….ten minutes. Way to go girls! We shared a Hi Five moment as flushed with success and only slightly breathless we celebrated our achievement. As it turns out the target interval for this week was six minutes so we truly spanked that this week! Hehe! SLJ FTW!!

A Few More Snowdrops 

Today’s jaunt revealed a few more snowdrops. There are dramatically fewer than this time last year which is a shame as I love them so. It was a struggle to leave the house this afternoon but I am glad I managed it as discovering these little brave lovelies lifted my mood. The grey skies reflect the gloomy bleakness of depression that is trying to reclaim me so finding beauty along my walk helps to keep the blackness at bay.

A further boost to mood occurred when I spotted my first crocus and a couple of iris blooms- beautiful! Unfortunately I couldn’t get close enough to take my own photo as it was in someone’s garden so I found one as similar as possible on the good old internet

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A Little Local Wander

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Friday was a somewhat chilly day with low grey skies attempting to dissuade me from trotting forth from my cosy sitting room! However, as Sam so rightly points out there are few days when it is impossible to go out and particularly as I missed our weekly Beginner Joggers session on Wednesday I was determined to wrap up and get out there!  I decided to stay local as a change to the Park and I am so glad I did!

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I chose to explore a path that I have driven passed many, many times since moving here and at the back of the new houses behind Tesco I followed the river path and found this! I knew the River Darenth ran along here through Riverhead, but hadn’t realised the extent of the body of water there

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Even under the lowering skies it is stunning! I spotted a heron as well as plenty of ducks and moor hens

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The river is beautiful and peaceful despite the close vicinity of the huge supermarket, the new houses and the main road.

I walked and jogged as far as I could along the river side: the signs saying PRIVATE discouraged further exploration… So I retraced my steps back to the main road.

I headed through Dunton Green, over towards the path through woodland that leads towards the Wild Life Reserve.  I found a piece of  sheltered, flat ground and decided to do my dynamic stretches

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I have grown in confidence over the weeks so that, despite still struggling a little with working through the stretches whilst out and about, I able to complete these important movements. I still do my cooldown stretches at home ^^

The river reappeared, meandering through the woodlands so I was able to capture a few photos along the way. I saw another heron, but again it was too far away for my phone to be able focus and capture the moment.