Afraid of coming last?

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One of the most common reasons I hear for people not taking up running or entering events is that they are afraid that they will be last, hold people up or be embarrassingly slow. I completely appreciate the anxiety and emotions behind this fear. After all we were brought up to believe that the point of being in a race is to try and win, and we are competitive creatures by nature, always comparing our performance to others, and trying to avoid painting ourselves in a bad light.

However, for me, being afraid of coming last in a race or even being slow on a training run is kind of missing the point. That is because you forget to compare yourself to the people who haven’t even turned up, and also you forget the most important comparison of all. How are you doing today compared to yesterday? How are you doing this week compared to last month? How are you doing against the goals and dreams you have for yourself? In truth where you come in relation to others is far less important than how you feel in yourself, as I’m sure many a weeping Olympic Silver Medallist can testify to. Just think, 2nd best in the whole world, and yet completely gutted because they haven’t met their own personal goal.

In  a way I’m lucky. I’m a well trained back-marker. Yes I could win the class cross country when I was 14 years old, but I ran many cross country league events as a teenager where I would finish in the bottom 5. This never bothered me. I hadn’t normally trained much and was happy just to make it to the finish. Routinely on a set of race results I always look for my name backwards from the last finisher. If I have more than 10 behind me I consider it a good day. Recently I’ve had up to 50 behind me in some large races, which is outstanding! As I say, comparing today with yesterday.

I have spent years of my life not taking part in sport at all, and I would prefer 1000 times to be in a race in last place than to feel trapped in inactivity on the couch. (Of course, had I thought that at the time I would have got off the couch – so it’s not quite that simple). I suppose my point is, don’t let fear and anxiety stand in your way. There is no shame in last place, even if it does happen, which it may very well not. I admire most the runners who come in last. They’ve been out the longest, often worked the hardest and frequently shown the most courage. If it was up to me I would probably award prizes by starting to count positions from last. And at least then I might finally get an Olympic medal someday!

 

A trip to the seaside

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As a parent, one of the first challenges I faced when deciding to get more active was how on earth would I fit in in? Where would the time come from? What I found was that once I committed to a regular exercise plan I began to look for, and find, opportunities in a variety of places. Some of these opportunities were more creative than others and led me to consider activities I may have otherwise dismissed.

This is how I found myself half-way up a North Yorkshire Moor, pushing my bike uphill, through torrential rain, on a Saturday afternoon, around 35 miles into a 50 mile bike ride.

The “opportunity” arose when my parents invited us to stay in Whitby for the weekend. My Dad was running part of the route of a 100 mile event, which will take place in May. My Mum was going to drop him off at a start point and head into Whitby for the day, and then stay overnight. So we agreed to join them, which is when I had my idea. “If my Dad is going to run into Whitby, then I could cycle there”, and then “if I’m going to cycle there, I might as well start from my house, it’s only, errr, 50 miles!”

Now full credit here must go to my husband, because he of course is the one who would then have to entertain our 4 year old whilst I embarked on said crazy ambition. Usually this is where the Mummy-Guilt kicks in. Isn’t it selfish leaving them for the day?, shouldn’t I be spending all my spare time with the family?, Isn’t it my priority to build sandcastles and eat ice-cream? The sane and rational answers are no, no and no, but this is never what a Mummy-Guilt mind will tell you.

The benefit of this particular plan is it gave me something to battle my negative mind-set. First of all Nana would also be at the seaside, and could provide entertainment back up. Secondly, the trip in itself would be providing entertainment, and third but most importantly I would create a world for my son where it seemed perfectly normal that on a trip to the seaside there was a choice of transport: car, bike or running! So it was decided I would (attempt to) cycle the 51 miles from my home to Whitby, via the North York Moors (hilly – but most direct).

I didn’t expect it to be easy, and I certainly wasn’t sure I would make it to the end, but I really wanted to give it a try. So I did. I cycled, walked, pushed and dragged my way up hill and down dale, until eventually I came to a beautiful sight. A sign that said: “Whitby – 9 miles”. With less than 10 miles to go at last I thought I could make it. The rain was still torrential but in the last 5 miles it was all downhill. I even clocked 37mph as I made my rapid descent into the seaside town. A warm shower and a hot meal later, I was so elated I celebrated with 2 puddings! Re-united with the family and happy that I had managed to fit in my exercise for the weekend – if not the whole week.

 

FitBee is born!

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I am really excited to be launching my new FitBee website. FitBee is all about creating inspiration and support for people who would love to have an active lifestyle but have struggled for some reason.

I have been on a journey of my own in the last 12 months. It began in February last year when I admitted to myself I was struggling with my mental health and needed to find a path back to the healthy, happy lifestyle I had once enjoyed. I was struggling to see how it was possible to have time for myself with all the work and family commitments I was trying to juggle. I was trapped in a thought process which said making time to exercise was selfish, and a luxury I could no longer afford. I was helped by Dr Claire McGuire at Raw Horizons Retreat, who helped me realize that taking care of yourself is not selfish or self-indulgent, but actually one of the kindest and most considerate things you can do for your family.

It’s certainly not been easy, but I’ve been able to find a way to get exercise back into my life, and the rewards have been enormous. I am less stressed and more attentive to my family, I set a great example in both the exercise I do and the food I eat, and the progress I made in my fitness also gave me the confidence to tackle the extra weight I’d been carrying since pregnancy. The most important benefit though, and I cannot stress this enough, is the overwhelmingly positive impact it has had on my mental health. How ironic then, that it’s often in the mind that self-limiting beliefs arise, that stop us sticking to an exercise plan, or getting off the couch at all. If you can break that cycle, being active can fuel positive thinking and positive thinking fuels a desire to be active. It sounds simple, but it is so, so hard.

It is the determination and belief that the cycle can be broken which has inspired me to launch FitBee Lifestyle Coaching. Initially a resource for inspiration and ideas, I soon hope to gain my coaching qualification to help people directly. If you are interested and would like to share your stories and ideas you can also visit the Facebook page. I’d love to hear from you.