Is it Because I Can’t Run? (How Exercise Has Improved my Mental Health)

 

Dear readers, 

these posts have been back dated from my current blog. More coming soon.
Lately, I’ve been researching the role protein and omega oils have in relation to Alzheimers (blog to come soon) Please read this article and watch this space. In the mean time I’d really appreciate your support at http://www.justgiving.com/forgetfuldaisy

much love,

A forgetful daisy Staci

xx




Hia everyone, sorry it’s been a while but I’ve been very ill lately and am still currently in recovery. Please feel free to check out my last blog here which will explain a little more. Currently, I’m writing about my experiences in a recovery hospital but it’s quite a big project so watch this space in a couple of months time, and I promise all my experiences will be revealed. 


Part of my recovery has been an excellent gym programme and I’ve been inspired to do the great north run this year for the Alzheimer’s Society. ( http://www.justgiving.com/forgetfuldaisy) It was a really difficult decision to choose which charity to run for as I’d considered quite a few but many of my family have suffered from this disease so I’m running for them. (Sending a big hug to my gran and aunty up there, this post is dedicated to you both xx) . Personally, I believe both mental and physical fitness are closely interlinked just like a the chains of a bike. If one breaks, it’s a lot harder (if not impossible) to cycle. I’m also a firm believer that fitness is likely to reduce the risk of a heart related illness and keeps the mind fit. According to althletics UK: 

‘Mental illness is the single largest cause of disability in the UK and accounts for one third of all illnesses. It is also the largest cost to the NHS at £10.4 billion (10.8% of the NHS budget)’ 


So, in the words of Cicero: 

‘It is exercise alone that supports the spirits, and keeps the mind in vigour.” Marcus Tullius Cicero

 

Clearly this Marcus guy was a goodun’. The latest advice from the NHS states that: 

  • at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity such as cycling or fast walking every week, and.
  • strength exercises on two or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms).

With the thoughts of both Marcus and the NHS in mind, I set off on a quest to find out what the best programme for me really would be. Having previously never been a runner and recently being diagnosed with a range of illnesses, I’m finding it a rather big challenge both physically and mentally as I always appear to be tired. While there’s a plethora of research that supports mental illness, recovery and excercise, I didn’t quite understand what the best approach was. So I’ve been searching for the best training techniques and I thought I’d share the best tips with you. I also believe it’s really important to share my progress so I pledge to keep this post updated if you donate the price of 1 coffee. Sounds like a fair deal right? Thanks in advance.

At my initial training session I was set a SMART goal: 

S – Specific (clear) eg. I will run the Great North Run 

M – Measurable – you will know when you’ve achieved them eg. September 

A – Achievable – you can achieve them eg. I’ll pledge to run and go to the gym 3 times a week in line with the NHS targets 

R – Relevant – they mean something to you eg. this is for my aunt, grandma and myself so I’m fit and healthy 

T – Time-based – you set yourself a time limit to achieve your goals. eg. September here we come!!

With this SMART  target in mind, I’d like to review the best possible approach- that is if there is such a thing? But firstly, I found an interesting statistic from Mind that stated that those with a mental illness are ‘twice as likely to die from a heart condition’ but why is this? 

Well, it may partly be due to some of the bad side effects of anti-psychotic drugs that are prescribed but it may also be the illness itself. Recent medical research explains that the drugs can trigger weight gain, as well as interfere with the body’s breakdown of fats and sugars

Mind and other recent medical research have suggested that people with mental disorders generally ‘adopt behaviors that increase their risk of such problems, including a poor diet, smoking, drinking alcohol and lack of exercise,’

Dr. Goldie says that psychiatric medications account for a lot of the elevated cardiovascular risk among patients with mental illness. She explains that the drugs can trigger weight gain, as well as interfere with the body’s breakdown of fats and sugars. This may lead to obesity, diabetes and high cholesterol.

However, help is at hand! A recent study suggested that simply walking could be highly beneficial to improving mood and boosting general wellbeing. From my own experience, this is where my training started and I believe there’s a very famous saying that goes something like ‘don’t run before you can walk,’ but if that isn’t enough to set your own SMART target, consider this…Researchers found that the participants felt more content, more awake and calmer after being physically active compared to after periods of inactivity. 

Interestingly, inactivity has also been linked to Alzheimer’s which some could argue is also a mental health condition. Effectively just getting out for 30 mins a day could lead to a much longer and happier life which is another reason I’m more than happy to support this wonderful cause.  Mental Health UK argue that ‘physical activity has been identified as a protective factor in studies that examined risk factors for dementia. For people who have already developed the disease, physical activity can help to delay further decline in functioning,’. So effectively I should be running for the Great British Heart Foundation as well as Mind- but hey ho- Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is a half marathon runner. But that made me wonder….is there such as thing as over training? And what if I didn’t set a SMART target?

Well, a recent study suggests that it is possible to over train and that could mimic similar signs of depression- so watch out runners! Rest is important too but I’ll get to that later. For now, I’ve been throuughly inspired by the running community . Personally, my illnesses are no hindrance but much rather a temporary roadblock that is easily removed when I’m out and about putting one foot in front of the other at an ever increasing pace.  Some days, the thought of getting out is crippling and I can get really tired even if I’ve just got up- maybe it’s my medication or maybe its my ‘hinderance’ as I like to call it that is bi-polar. But I urge anyone reading this to never let an illess hold you back- you are truly brilliant and a stupid label should never stop you from achieving something truly awesome. Be the star you are. After all running is one of the best natural medications around. As well as triggering the release of endorphins – the body’s own natural antidepressant, running can alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety in many other ways. For me, it’s the ultimate form of mediation. Whether it’s 6am or 6pm rain or shine, I love the wind in my hair and a good beat powering my way through an awesome few miles. However, lately I have been wondering what the best approach to being the best runner is and I thought I’d share a little of my research…. 

Be Realistic 

So firstly, I looked into training programmes specifically for half marathons. Sifting through 3 million odd results proved to be an interesting endevour. However, it was unanimously agreed among the running community that it’s highly unrealsitic to start a training programme running 4 miles if you can’t even run half a mile so make sure to find something achievable and realistic. Typical programmes should be about 12 weeks (although I’ve been advised to look for something with 14 to factor in injury time). I also found a good trainer but I’ve also found listening to my body helps too- after all if you’re crippled with cramp in your legs or belly after 5 mins and can’t speak a word, I’ve found that’s a major red light to STOP!

Similarly, I’ve also set realistic goals for myself outside of running time. This enables me to keep focused and remain inherently positive whether it’s work related or learning to keep up the relaxation techniques.

Something like a bad tune

Next it’s good to know the difference between a tempo run, a base run and fartleks. But don’t worry if it looks like the title of a bad tune. I’m still learning too. Essentially, though there’s different paces to train your body to adapt to different situations.

When I’m not running, I’ve learnt that some days I’m working mentally at 9 minute miles while other days I’m only working at a much more achiveable 12 minute miles. But in both situations, my awesome tunes have always been there whatever the occasion. A special shout out to Ed Sheeran and Meghan Trainor for kindly calming me down and teaching me how to be a Galaway girl on my lower days.

These shoes are made for running

If running has turned into more of a 4-5 times a week thing your feet will be eternally greatful for some top-notch trainers. Personally, I prefer my new balance trainers as the guys in the shops there really know their stuff.

But when I’m not running…well there’s no such thing as ‘too many shoes’ really 😛

Hot cross runs

But what happens when you’ve ran all the local routes you can think of? Grab a bike! Essentially, cross training is highly relevant to being a top performer as it works the same major muscles but in a slightly different way.

Off the track, despite being on medication, my thoughts can vary. Thankfully, they;re a lot more level now than they used to be and I firmly believe it’s largely down to more exercise.

Hills, hills and more hills! 

Once you’ve mastered all of these the next obstacle in this fun packed course is hills, hills and more hills! Essentially my route looks like this: 

so in my eyes the more practice the better. It’s also great though for increasing speed and stamina so here’s to my next challenge of finding the steepest hill in the city. Any ideas?

Some days, mentally I run and walk up quite a few hills but ultimately it’s a marathon not a sprint and both my family, friends and my gratitude journal keeps me grounded on the worst days. This is essentially a diary with 3 positive things I achieved in the day and then 1 constructive criticism.

Use them eyes to visualise!

Ok, so you’ve got a plan, you know where you;re going and you have a realistic and measured goal- what’s next? well they say 80% of the battle is in your mind so this is where the visualisation technique comes in super handy! For some, this is means cutting and sticking pictures of the finish line or the route but for me I run the route every night in my head until I know it inside out. The finish line is the most important part as to me that’s mission complete.

Here Tom explains why this method is so effective

Bitch Peas- Change Your Apple-tite

Finally diet is one of the most important things both on and off the track. For a runner, carbs and protein are your best friends. Basically, carb up before and refuel after. I’m not gonna bore you with the ins and outs today though as that’s something I’ll write about in the next couple of weeks.

REST

So, you’ve got an excellent training plan, have set a SMART goal and have one of the healthiest diets around and you’re running every other day of the week…surely there’s nothing more to do? Well you’re wrong. While some people may find it counter-productive, rest is one of the most important aspects to being a top performer. Just think, you wouldn’t go to work 7 days a week as ultimately you end up in the state I was so why go running 7 days a week?

My progress so far….

check out this post 

Happy Beautiful day everyone 😀

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