The Running Circuit

I started running about two months ago, after my GP told me to sort my lazy ass out at my NHS forty year check up. Running is cheap, instant and effective. WelI, I say it’s running but others would probably describe it as jogging. But that’s just semantics. In any event, its sounds far more impressive to tell people you run rather than jog so we shall stick with that. For somebody who is not naturally sporty, I’ve come a long way since I first started (yes, I’m not shy about congratulating myself). Even the Old Git is shocked by my progress, bearing in mind I could barely run for two minutes when I first started. Running is now part of my routine and I feel much fitter. Being out on the running circuit has opened up a whole new world to me, some good and some bad. Here are my observations about the early morning run:

1) Firstly, people don’t clear up their dog poop. I’ve noticed abnormally high levels of dog poop on the pavement and it’s totally gross. Luckily I’ve not stepped in any yet but dog owners definitely need to up their game.

2) Secondly, runners don’t know how to react to other runners. There’s always that awkward moment as you approach another runner when you waver between acknowledging them  in running solidarity (and risk being snubbed) or avoiding all eye contact. It’s a tough call to make and in my limited experience most people just want to “jog on.”

Running in my hood..

3) When there is a pedestrian walking ahead, you suddenly feel the need to start sprinting past them full pelt in case their walking pace is faster than your running pace. To be ‘outrun’ by a pedestrian would be too much of a humiliation, so you can only resume your normal running pace once you are out of sight.

4) For some reason every person that sits in the passenger seat of a passing car feels the need to stare at you as they drive by. It’s not ideal as you are sweating profusely, huffing and puffing like an amateur and generally not looking your best. The key to not being overly self-conscious is to avoid eye contact and just focus on how good you will look once you complete your run and your thighs and ass wobble that little bit less.

5) Builders always stop what they are doing and stare at you.  Some make encouraging/patronising remarks like “Keep going!” or “Don’t stop now!” and you have to smile and acknowledge. It would be rude not to. You do wonder what they say about you when you are out of earshot though. Best not to dwell on it.

6) Running is the perfect pastime if you are a bit nosy. I now notice every single new driveway, house extension and property for sale in my area.  I even notice things like nice curtains, front doors and flowerbeds. It’s a great source of inspiration for home improvement ideas and is basically an extension of Neighbourhood Watch.

7) Running uphill sucks. Always.

Remembering to stretch..

8) When the end is in sight and you finish your run you feel like a flipping champion. As you run for a bit longer or faster each time and meet certain running goals, you feel a huge sense of achievement. Each week you see improvements and that is incredibly satisfying.

9) After a run, you feel ready to eat a horse. In fact, once you start running in general, your appetite increases and you just want to stuff your face all day. I am constantly hungry and whilst I understand my body needs more energy now, I’m not sure chocolate muffins and apple danishes are part of a good running plan. Something for me to work on.

As a newbie on the running circuit I’m still navigating my way through all the various issues above. But what I love most of all is the ability to just step out of my front door and start running instantly. It clears the mind and helps you get fit fast. There’s definitely less wobble on the thighs these days which is never a bad thing.

The Emotional Health of our Children

Recently a fifteen year old boy went missing in my area and there was a big local campaign to find him. Unfortunately a few days later his body was found close to where I live and naturally there has been a huge outpouring of grief. Sadly, it seems this young school boy took his own life. I don’t know the circumstances of the case but I have seen his school friends, teachers and loved ones leaving flowers at the site where he was found, and it is heartbreaking to see the anguish on their faces and to think of the utter despair this young boy must have felt in his final days. It has made me question to what extent do we really know how our children feel and think? How can we ever be sure that they are not experiencing the darkest feelings of pain and despair?

Remembering a loved one..

We try so hard to protect our kids from stranger danger and other external dangers, but how can we protect their emotional health? At every stage of childhood, from the toddler years right through to the teen years, children experience volatile and often extreme emotions. But when they are little they show how they feel through their tantrums and meltdowns. As they get older these emotions can often become masked or suppressed. Issues such as exams, friendships, bullying and relationships all come into play and can create further stress.  What might seem trivial to us can become hugely magnified to a child and impact their emotional wellbeing.

Although my kids are young, I try to nurture an open relationship of trust where they can talk to me. But even then it doesn’t always work. The other day Flump told me she had seen something disturbing on TV that she didn’t want to discuss. She was visibly upset but categorically refused to tell me what it was, despite my best efforts to prise it out of her. I felt like a bit of a failure to be honest as my kid was unwilling to open up to me. It eventually transpired that she had seen a close up shot of a pig’s head on MasterChef which had clearly traumatised her! She was expecting to see mouthwatering cake and linguine..instead she got an unwelcome shock! As trivial as it may sound, I have to say it was a bit of a red flag for me as it highlighted  there may be times when my child will not want to share things with me, and that is a bit of a worry.

So how can we protect our kids and help them process their complex and often extreme emotions? It goes without saying that we have to actively ensure our children feel loved, respected and valued. We have to look out for any signs of depression, such as feeling consistently low, unhappy, teary, disinterested or socially isolated, and not just put it down to teenage moodiness. As parents we can try our best to communicate with and support our kids but we shouldn’t hesitate to seek help from the medical profession, who can refer children for counselling and other therapies.

Mental health is, quite rightly, a huge political issue these days and we need to remember that children too can suffer from depression. None of us ever want our kids to feel so utterly hopeless that they feel there is no way out. Their formative years can be turbulent ones and we have to be mindful of their emotional anxieties. We always talk about how resilient children are, and whilst that might be true of younger children, I believe that as they approach the teenage years that resilience turns into vulnerability. The only way our children can thrive and stay safe is if we treat their emotional health as equally important to their physical health.

The Precious Early Years

Lately I’ve become particularly aware of how quickly my kids are growing up. Flump is seven going on sixteen and now rolls her eyes at me when I speak, as if I’m some sort of ancient, clueless ignoramus. Ludoo starts full time school in September and has gone from watching me like a hawk and demanding my constant attention to telling me he doesn’t love me and wants to throw me in the bin. Charming. It seems the tables have turned and I’m no longer viewed as the centre of their world. And as much as I enjoy my growing sense of freedom, I’ve also been left feeling somewhat bereft. The precious early years of childhood are racing by and I wonder if I’m really making the most of them.

Ludoo and Flump

So often I urge my kids to get a move on, dress themselves, feed themselves, wash themselves – you know, basic life skills. Ludoo consistently refuses to feed himself (unless it’s pudding of course in which case he very efficiently polishes off an entire plate). He insists I sit next to him and lovingly feed him each and every spoonful as he takes his sweet time chomping, chatting and chilling. It drives me nuts as it’s painfully slow and I’ve clearly got other things I could be getting on with. But have I got better things to get on with? Why am I willing my boy to grow up so fast when soon he will not need me at all?  As infuriating as it is, soon I will miss my boy not wanting and needing me.

As for Flump she is already fiercely independent and can do most things on her own. In fact she doesn’t even want to hold my hand anymore when we go out as it’s not cool…SOB! If she misbehaves I sometimes find myself lecturing her about the need to act more maturely and set an example to her younger brother. Of course we all need to set boundaries for our children, but why am I urging my little girl to act beyond her years? Why am I forcing her to grow up when soon she will lose her  childish, carefree ways?

At the weekends, I will often pack the kids off with the Old Git so that I can get a bit of time to myself. Sometimes I practically shove them out of the front door, armed with snacks and water bottles, just so that I can get some peace and quiet. We all need a bit of down time to recharge, but I’ve started to wonder if I’m wasting the opportunity to make precious memories with my children. Don’t get me wrong, I spend plenty of time with them but how much of that is quality family time? The early years are short lived and family days out undoubtedly form the basis of many wonderful childhood memories.

Hanging with my homies on a family day out..

As the years hurtle by, I feel a growing sense of panic that the children are getting older and a strong need to appreciate every single moment of their childhood. That’s not to say I’m not looking forward to the years ahead, but the early years have a special sort of magic. This is when they need and want us the most. This is when they yearn to be around us. This is when they want kisses and cuddles. Soon those days will be gone and I will be faced with moody, know-it-all, grunting pre-pubescents. As uncharacteristically sentimental as this post is, I feel I need to let my kids be kids, warts and all, and cherish every single, beautiful, frustrating moment so that it is embedded in my memory for years to come.


It’s Time to get Fit

Some people are naturally inclined to be sporty, active and fit. Others, like me, are not. For those in my camp, the thought of getting up at the crack of dawn to go to the gym or of going out for a run once the kids are in bed is crazy, unthinkable and, quite frankly,  abnormal. There’s more chance of my kid volunteering to do English comprehension homework or of the Old Git emptying out the bins without prompting than of that happening. However, even for those of us in the “inactive” camp, there comes a point when we realise something needs to change and it’s time to get fit.

Some of us do it soon after having a baby, or after experiencing a health issue or perhaps because we have a special occasion we want to get in shape for. For me, it was the realisation that I’d hit my forties and could not rely on my genetics for too much longer to keep me trim and/or healthy. Turning forty is like a slap in the face that forces you to consider your own health as you never know what could be lurking around the corner. Diabetes, cholesterol and blood pressure checks are all a permanent feature of your life post forty. Depressing, right? So I had my wake up call and announced to the Old Git that I was going to start exercising. He smirked. The kids laughed. Nobody took me seriously.

Keeping fit!
Keeping fit!

Two months on and I am now a fitness guru. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating but at least I’ve started exercising a few times a week. That’s a flipping result for me. My friends don’t believe me when I tell them I’ve started running as they’ve all been doing it for about twenty years plus and have failed to enthuse me. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t jump out of bed at 5am or ever envisage signing up for the London Marathon but I do feel like I’m the absolute boss after I’ve managed to run for twenty minutes continuously, considering I  could only run for two minutes when I started. I’m high-fiving myself as I type.

I also attend weekly Zumba classes which I LOVE. It’s like going to a  disco on a Monday morning at 9.30 am. Who would have thought? All those years of clubbing pre-marriage/kids have finally come in useful. I am particularly outstanding at the fusion bhangra moves and enjoy lip syncing to every single song. It’s bloody marvellous.

My biggest challenge with my new fitness regime is deciding what to wear. I feel I need to invest in some funky exercise gear as I’m currently wearing fifteen year old tracksuit bottoms and post-pregnancy leggings. It’s not cool, but it’s all I have. The Old Git is hyperventilating at the prospect of a bulk purchase, but has impressively managed to restrain himself from moaning about it. He doesn’t want to piss on my parade, after all.

Chocolate is my weakness/love..
Chocolate is my weakness/love..

As for my diet, I’ve been cutting back on the samosas and chicken pasties. In the past I have had an abnormal intake of these deliciously moreish snacks but they aren’t doing me any favours. They have to go. But I can’t seem to make any progress in cutting back on chocolate. In fact, the other day I went for a really good run and decided to celebrate immediately by eating a giant Easter egg. Not ideal. I have zero self-control when it comes to my chocolate intake and have been known to lecture my kids about the damaging effects of too much sugar whilst chomping on a Toblerone.

The critical question is, will I continue with my new fitness regime? What are the chances of me going out for a run in the winter when it’s pissing down with rain, sleet and snow? Fairly slim, I’d say. But at least exercise is on my radar now. I may even have to consider joining a gym. Shudder. Better late than never, I suppose.