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Exercise

Cold Weather Running

It is seemingly a contradiction, since most runners seem to dread the approach of winter, but I seem to find a strange pleasure in it. I am now in my second season of winter running and I take much more pleasure in it than at any other time of the year. If you are a runner, do you feel the same?

Continue reading “Cold Weather Running”

One Year On : Blog

Running is a sport for the loner. Getting out there all on your own can be cathartic, but for some it is hard to understand. To me it is normally a chance for meditation and solitude, exercise for the mind as well as the body.

Continue reading “One Year On : Blog”

Running 10k – How I Feel

Kilometre Number 1

Starting out with some optimism, but a fair share of trepidation, I take it easy. I need to conserve my energy, I don’t normally run this far. I know I can do it but it is a once a month affair and it takes me a long, long time.

Number 2

My legs are starting to move now, I am getting into my stride. The mental game is the one to avoid, questions arise regarding my sanity. It is too early for that nonsense now I tell myself.

Number 3

It is important to have some distraction, I cannot allow my thoughts to overtake me. A good podcast or audiobook, something inspirational. I need to just keep moving, one foot in front of the other.

Number 4

Now things are starting to get serious, between 5 & 6 kilometres is my usual distance. My mind begins to ask me, “Do you really want to do this? Wouldn’t 5k be enough?”

Number 5

This is it, quite often the end of my run would be approaching but today it will be the halfway mark. I try to tell myself that it is all downhill from here.

Number 6

Things are starting to hurt now, especially on a hot day. Keep checking that watch or I could be running backwards before I know it. It’s too easy to step off the gas and take it too easy.

Number 7

Do people really do this for fun? I need to keep reminding myself that yes they do and I am one of them. I’m in the forest, almost alone, stretching my legs and my lungs. Now I am pushing myself beyond what is my comfort zone.

Number 8

OK, just keep going, you can do it. You’ve come so far, if you stop running now you will still have to walk the rest of the way home anyway. All these things keep going through my mind, podcasts can only be so interesting after all.

Number 9

I am going to do it, there is no doubt now, but my legs are feeling heavy and these knees are feeling like they have another 20 years on them all of a sudden. What do I look like to others? Who cares? I’m doing this not them.

Number 10

Oh, thank god, I’m almost there. I keep imagining how good it will feel to stop in the shade, get my breath back and have a good stretch. Also how the glow of satisfaction will spread throughout my body, even if the grimace will take a while to leave my face.

I did it! The end. When can I go again?

.

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© Neil Hayes and neilsworldofenglish

Changes

I haven’t posted anything in quite some time and now I have decided to get back to it. There are various reasons why but the main one was certainly time. It was just taking too much of my time to post and promote my blog and I found that there was less time for the actual writing. So I decided to take a break and with a step back came a new perspective. I haven’t stopped writing, it’s just all in my notebooks and for my eyes only, up until now anyway.

I also decided that major changes needed to happen in my life, for my own wellbeing as well as for those closest to me. It became apparent to me that I needed to repurpose and reprioritise my days and my life as a whole. I have done this through various means, some have been successful and are still a part of my life and some have fallen by the wayside. But all have been valuable experiences which I may return to one day, who knows?

It all started with running, that was over a year ago now and I am still going. Slowly getting faster, going further, feeling better and stronger. That was to be the start of my physical improvement and help mentally too, it feels good to be out there in nature getting plenty of fresh air and even better to be able to chase my kids around. But I was still stressed and anxious, some days were worse than others but something just wasn’t right. So I decided to make changes, do some of the things that I had read about and listened to people discussing. Once you hear several people recommending the same ideas it is perhaps time to listen.

Before I go into it all I would like to thank two people who I would credit with inspiring me on this journey. First of all Dr. Rangan Chatterjee, who is a British doctor and television personality, and I can’t recommend his books and podcast enough. You should read The 4 Pillar Plan and The Stress Solution, they both contain so much wisdom and I still find them enjoyable just to look at, leave alone read. I have taken several ideas from both books and included them in my daily routine. If you have a bad back do the exercises in the first book, if I wasn’t an atheist I would believe in miracles. Seriously I have had a bad back for 20 years and it disappeared after 2 weeks! The second person is Mr. Rich Roll, an American athlete and wellness influencer, whose personal story in the book Finding Ultra and even more importantly his podcasts have proved incredibly inspiring and influential to me. It is so easy to find inspiration in the modern world we live in, you just have to open your eyes and look.

The biggest change I made was firstly to give myself the time to do some of the things I wanted. I was always guilty of thinking there just weren’t enough hours in the day. How could I possibly find more time? I did it in a very simple way, I started getting up earlier. This concept was always slightly scary to me, I already got up at 6am every day. But I started getting up at 5 am to allow myself more me time before the rest of my household awoke. Once I realised that this was achievable by simply going to bed earlier and not wasting time in the evening watching television or YouTube then it wasn’t that difficult. I would say though that you need the agreement of your partner, he or she needs to be going to bed early too or you won’t sleep properly.

So what is my morning routine? It consists of stretching and light exercise, glute exercises for my back, journalling, meditation, pranameyic breathing, an affirmation and away I go. Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? But all in all it takes around 75 minutes, then I am in the shower, have breakfast and after 2 hours I am awake, alert and ready to start the working day.

There are many parts to this routine and they all work together but the most important, and the one I never miss, is my journalling or Morning Pages. That last phrase comes from the author Julia Cameron and her book The Artist’s Way. This is not a diary, it is free form writing where you just let your thoughts flow onto the page. You can also have particular ideas which you would like to explore but you think about them on the page. I find it a wonderful way to start my day, it slows the mind and allows you to really think things through, you can only write so quickly after all. As I said, this is the one morning practice which I never miss. Normally I would write 3 A4 pages but if there is some reason where time is a problem, when I am on holiday for instance, I will shorten my writing. But I will always do at least a page. I have been doing this every day for more than 150 days now and I have only had to change my routine on a handful of occasions.

All of these things add up to making a calm and purposeful start to the day and they have improved my levels of stress and anxiety immensely. Some people might still claim that I am a grumpy bugger, and they would be right, but I certainly feel better and that has to transfer to others too. I am a work in progress, it hasn’t even been a year and there were 47 years before that of totally different behaviour and routines to make up for!

Then that brings me to the latest change, I have stopped drinking alcohol. It started with a 28 day challenge and when that finished I felt good and not especially like starting to drink again, so I haven’t. I am not saying I have given up forever but I have done these types of challenges before and I was dying for a drink by the end of them. But this time it felt different, I finished the challenge with a shrug of the shoulders and haven’t really been tempted. Again there was a book involved, The 28 Day Alcohol-Free Challenge by Andy Ramage and Ruari Fairbairns. Reading this book whilst doing the challenge seemed to help convert a short term change into a long term lifestyle decision. I never drank that much, just Fridays and Saturdays, a few beers and maybe a whiskey, but I feel so much better with none in my life. No more fuzzy head on the weekend mornings, less grumpiness, more energy and I am ready to get up and get out there with my family.

Perhaps there will be more changes to come, I am sure I will read more books, listen to more podcasts and try new things. Some of them may work and replace things that do not but I will certainly be keeping the things that still work for me. As I said, I am still a work in progress, as are we all.

© Neil Hayes and neilsworldofenglish

First 5K Run, Against Cancer

I still can’t believe I did it. I really have to cast my mind back to this time last year, and get inside my head back then. The sheer idea of me running in an organised 5K run would have filled me with, I don’t know. Disbelief, laughter, incredulity, bemusement. Take your pick, it would not have seemed to be remotely on my horizon.

But now I have done it and, actually, that first sentence was a lie. Because I can believe I did it, now. But that is because I am a different person now. Now, it doesn’t seem too far-fetched for my next run to be 10K. Well, maybe next year anyway. Because one thing I have learnt from my running experience is that small steps are the way to go. Small steps building slowly to more. If you go from not running at all, to trying to run a 5K, you will probably fail. Similarly with the next step up, don’t try for giant leaps.

As for the run itself, it was a great day. Running for a cause, against cancer, and being part of a large organised event for the first time. Running with my lovely wife, who has been very supportive throughout. But I have to admit to suffering with a bit of a nervous belly in the morning, but once I was in the starting area I was fine. It was a different feeling, running with a large group. People of all different fitness levels were present, but my race was a fun run so there wasn’t too much pressure there.

I was familiar with where we were running but, as I said, running in a pack was different. Before the race, a wise man told me, ‘Don’t run too fast in the first kilometre, everyone does!’ And what did I do? What everyone does, of course. Then I settled into my own pace and started to feel a bit more in control. Slow and steady wins the day, well I won my own race anyway. My own personal race, which is, of course, the most important.

What a great feeling it was to cross that line, get my bottle of water and have ran my personal best 5K. And then to take off the sweatiest headband I have ever seen!

© Neil Hayes and neilsworldofenglish

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