My struggle is that my work and personal life are feeling blurred. I now realise that the commute to work is a hard boundary but as I work from home I am not able to find this separation. My challenge is to find a new boundary at home because otherwise it becomes exhausting. I also have to consciously stop “overdoing it”, but rather to find time to slow down and go deep into quietness. Most of all, have gratitude that I still have a job ❤
After reading this comment that was made in response to my post on ‘hormonal stress’ I was inspired to write about some of the practical ways that I am trying to separate work, ‘training’ and home life. The challenge of establishing boundaries between work and ‘life’ within our homes is a real and crucially important one. It is a current issue but also a lesson that is invaluable to learn for longer term wellness. So, today I have decided to share what Graham and I are trying to do to create separation from our home and work environments.
Parks are closed. Trails too. Events are cancelled and we are dusting off our road-running shoes. Yes, we are living in a sensation of limited freedom. But today I share how it is the choices we make that will give us back our wings. Here are my suggestions for ensuring that you thrive through these challenges.
What is Freedom?
We all value it, so what does it mean? Freedom is simply the ability to have choices. To choose what we want to do, when we wish to do it, and how too. The reason so many of us feel trapped right now is that it feels like our choices have been taken away. However, all that has been taken from us are our habits, our routines, our old normality.
Find your new normal
Without our old routines to latch onto, we can feel wobbly and unsettled. We can wake in the morning feeling edgy or unmotivated. We grasp onto media and social channels to fill in voids. Another cuppa to fill the emptiness. Awake at night with ‘busy head syndrome’. But if we recognise what is at the core of this unsettledness, a sensation of ‘stuckness’, then we have the capacity to choose our way out. Personally, I am choosing to ‘find my new normal’ and you can too. Begin by writing a list of all the options you still have available to you. Don’t forget to include all the new options that have become available, such as online yoga or camping in your back yard. Then begin to schedule this into your ‘training’ routines or my Training Planners.
The word freedom raises images of a bird spreading its wings and soaring higher. So, where do you wish to soar once the restrictions end? If you were the bird, what type would you be? An eagle striving towards its target? A dove peacefully watching the world pass? A chicken reworking its turf? A duck diving beneath the surface? Weird? Yes! Whacky? Definitely! But this analogy will help you to realise what goal you are setting and what attitude and values you need to adopt to achieve it. From now on, every time you head out the door or begin planking in the spare room, see it as training for this dream to come. (Need inspiration? Join me on one of my Find Your Feet Tours!).
Find the abnormal in the boring
I am getting so many requests from individuals about how to avoid road running. So, I would like to ask - why? Why avoid the road if it can take you on an adventure every day? A road is a window into a landscape. Along its verges you will see remnants of those who travelled before you, vegetation gripping with strength & ferocity to a precarious life, a day awakening around you, birds cheering you on, insects humming cheerfully, front yards to ponder, letterboxes overflowing with stories. Yup, there is so much to see when you run on the road… you just need to CHOOSE to see it! In fact, the other morning the highlight of my run was seeing a scorpion crossing the road. This simple something is what I would have missed had a chosen to not venture outdoors.
Find Freedom on the hills
It may be hard to find the time, energy or open space for exercising during these times. To get the most out of yourself and your precious time, head for a hill. If you are nervous about getting injured from road running, upgrade your running shoes and then find a hill. It is so hard to injure yourself running gently uphill. I am not asking you for hill sprints. In fact, I beg you not to! Instead, run up, aiming for consistency and great running form, then walk or jog back. Repeat. Again, if you find this concept ugly and awful, then you are choosing to find it ugly and boring. Perhaps choose to see the mindfulness, health, vitality and challenge in it instead? (I write lots about the virtues of hills and hill running technique in my Trail Running Guidebook).
Don’t make do
I am seeing lots of very worn-out running and walking shoes on the footpaths and local urban pathways. If you are leaving the gym, pool or trails and venturing towards the concrete or asphalt, this is not the time to run in dead shoes! Make sure you select something that has a little cushion and provides some protection to your feet and legs. You can visit my Find Your Feet store and ask one of our gurus for advice if you need help choosing the best shoes for you.
Do your strength activation
Lazy butt? Weak calf muscles? Grumpy back? Achilles grumbles? These are all signs of a lazy core and gluteal muscles. Pull out the yoga mat and YouTube galore! There are so many great exercises online. You may also like to join an online yoga class or reach out to your physio or PT who may be offering tele-consults. This is the perfect time to address the imbalances.
Find excitement in tempo running
If you are more experienced, this is the perfect time to up the tempo. I absolutely love tempo running and I implore you to get creative. Begin with a 15-20min tempo run but over time begin to adjust the terrain and durations of your tempo sessions. Add hills. Break it into 10-minute segments with shorter recoveries. Try a new route. Go longer. Bugger it… run backwards if you have to! Anything you do, so long as it is paired with great recovery, will be a step in the direction you choose.(Learn more about tempo running in my Trail Running Guidebook).
So, as you can see, we have choices. In fact, they are all around us and we are blessed to live in landscapes that provide so many to us.
Choose freedom in self-isolation.
Choose to keep a dream alive.
Choose to run along a road to nowhere and watch the world not pass you by.
This blog stemmed from a client's email query: 'I live in the UK where it is super cold at the moment. How do I prepare for your relatively hot Australian conditions?'
Preparation for our athletic dreams requires a harmony of focused recovery combined with enough strain to see gain. Baby steps.
However, in the face of injury we need to respond quickly. Baby steps don’t suffice. When injury strikes, there is no such thing as ‘meeting in the middle’. We either want to listen to our body or we don’t. We either want to get better or we won’t. We must acknowledge the weaknesses that led to the injury. We must take responsibility for the road back.
Whilst it is imperative to hear the wisdom of the gurus around us, at the end of the day we are the ones who knows what is at stake. We are the ones who knows what our body wants to say to us… We set the dream. We take the steps. We reap the rewards.
Lee walks softly through the sliding doors into my living room, a converted 1960s garage which we rent from generous friends who live above. For three years we lived humbly since we sold our home in Canberra and thrown everything into our Find Your Feet adventure business here in Tasmania. Lee meets my outstretched hand with a quiet confidence and yet boyish nervousness. I feel like I am looking in a mirror. ‘Well this should be interesting!’ he remarks with a husky smoothness laced with an accent I cannot place.
How much of an endurance challenge is mental or physical? I have always been at a lost for an appropriate response and grabbing at random numbers. Seventy percent physical? Forty percent mental? Or should this be fifty-fifty? Or… Just days away from the my first 100km trail running event I can now respond with more conviction. Breaking down any endurance challenge into only mental and physical components is over simplified. Right now I can testify that there is a huge emotional element to endurance performance too and I believe that we often overlook the incredible power that our emotions hold over us. This begs the question - are we putting enough emphasis on emotional intelligence as we strive to succeed in endurance challenges?
Sometimes you reach a point where you know some things need to change. In February 2016 I realised that it was time to audit my life after experiencing the devastation of raging fires in northern Tasmania’s Wilderness World Heritage Area, a back injury and turning 30 years old. I started journalling my thoughts and actions, quickly realising that I felt completely unharmonious between my intentions and actions. Furthermore, I knew that my body wasn’t healthy. I looked fit and was running strongly on paper, but underneath this there were old habits that were holding me back. Crunch point.
This article was featured in the latest "Travel Play Live" magazine:
I am doubled over. With hands on hips, I gasp air into my lungs. My head feels heavy and achy… a dull throb enhanced by the altitude. This Italian mountain is a beast! I look up to where the trail squiggles near vertically above me and try to make out where the track crests the pass. It is somewhere up there where the bare rocks merge into the mist. I look down. My hotel where everyone else is still sleeping is just a mere 100m below me. I have barely started and I am feeling… vulnerable.
A Recap of the World Orienteering Championships, Scotland
Elite athletes are constantly asked to focus on routines in the lead up to competitions. These include when to arrive, how much to train, when to sleep, what to eat, how to execute your race strategies and what to do for recovery. However, I have come to learn that routines cannot and should not dictate how you approach orienteering races. This year’s World Orienteering Championships once again reiterated that for me.
Day 4-14: Lost-Your-Mojo Syndrome
The weather feels colder. Your sick of the colour of your running shoes. Work should be for the under 30’s. Where did all this traffic come from? You think you will just start training again in Spring or Summer.
If any of these thought processes have crossed your mind, you are likely suffering from Lost-Your-Mojo Syndrome. Here are some suggestions for getting it back:
Are you currently basking in the beautiful aftermath of ultra-running euphoria? On returning to your hotel did your saturate your day of running in the shower then crawl under the white hotel duvet to twitch yourself to wakeful sleep? At dawn, did you utter a groan when your feet hit the carpet and cringe as you lowered yourself onto the breakfast chair? Did you quietly revel in the ‘you-are-mad’ stares from hotel guests?
If so, you will be experiencing Euphoric Ultra Runner Syndrome. Enjoy it whilst it lasts because sadly, this is often replaced with Lost-Your-Mojo Runner Syndrome for which you must orchestrate your own recovery.
Here are my recovery suggestions
Thousands of runners recently attended the Ultra Trail Australia 100 and 50km races in the Blue Mountains. Sometimes it is hard not to be amongst the racing. However, sitting on the other side of the fence whilst the action gallops past gives a wholesome insight into the nutrition & hydration strategies of athletes.
Three Classifications of Athletes
In the race, we observed three types of athletes:
I was anxious for the race on Saturday. Excited, but anxious. I wasn’t scared about breaking records or standing amongst a cohort of amazing elite runners. No, I was scared for the same reason as any other athlete there – will I finish? How much will it hurt? And most importantly, can I run well enough to feel content with myself afterwards? After all, can there be any greater emotion than contentedness?
In the week leading in to the race I allowed myself to feel scared. As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow explained – ‘For after all, the best thing one can do when it is raining is let it rain.’ And through my life experiences I have come to realize that some of the things that rightly scare us can also become our greatest strengths.
Since the start of 2014 I have been battling return from an Achilles injury. I do not use the word battling loosely as this is what it has been. A battle. I have tried just about every quick remedy I can. In this order I have tried and mostly failed:
This is Part Two of my article series -Diet Patterns of an Injured Athlete. What a can of worms I have opened for as you will soon find out, there will be a Part Three!
In Part One, I wrote about my battles with inflammation and Achilles Tendonitis, describing how I had tried just about every form of treatment for my stubborn injury. After 9 months I began to query my overall health, eventually reaching a point where I realized there must be more at play than just my running, training and biomechanics. What I now believe was occurring in my body was an accumulation of stressors that were inhibiting my body’s ability to recover from my chronic injuries and training loads.
We are lead to believe that overtraining is a ‘syndrome’ reserved for the elite or the silly. After all, elite athletes can easily complete hours of solid training. And the silly? They just do a lot. However, in this article I wish to highlight an important paradox about overtraining.
Since the start of 2012 I have been working behind the scenes with a number of our young athletes. They all bounced into our first meeting with large ambitions, boundless energy but slightly ‘broken’. Injuries, sickness and fatigue!
Here I would like to share a story. In 2010, during Find Your Feet’s early days I had a lovely young guy, Josh, who approached me for some advice. Having grown up on King Island and only recently moved to Hobart, Josh was keen to develop his running. His initial goal was to complete the Flinders Island 30km race that was in about four months time. However, Josh was broken.
My recent Irun article discussing the importance of recovery in training sparked remarkable interest amongst readers. I loved reading through all the feedback. One reader asked a very thought-provoking question: to what extent does the recovery process and necessity of rest change in an older runner? My correspondent was a remarkable 65-year-old athlete who recently ran the Boston marathon. Following the event, he pulled up stiff and sore, especially in his hamstring muscles. He explained that even with plenty of therapeutic treatment and stretching, it had still taken him ten weeks to recover. For me, his story raises two questions, does age alter the degree of damage that occurs to the body during intensive exercise and is the recovery rate significantly delayed?
I am sure many of us have had to stop running for a period of time. In desperation to maintain our fitness we find ourselves delving into the garage to pull out that old rusty bike. Perhaps the novelty of running training everyday has begun to waiver and in a moment of weakness you are walking away from the bike shop with a shiny new machine? Or are you like myself who sometimes migrates into the gym when the temperatures plunge and the thought of another day with cold, wooden fingers is just too unappealing? The purpose of this article was to broach the difficult topic of cross-training for athletic performance and to review the literature to determine if cycle training impedes or supports our running.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.