Step up to 2017

While inspirational quotes and motivational sound bites seem to be endemic on social media, there are the odd occasions when one of these really strikes a chord. I recently had such an experience on seeing an image emblazoned with the words ‘surround yourself with people who get it’. After a really positive start to 2017 – a blissful New Year’s Eve gathering with wonderful friends, a yoga retreat with my sister-in-law, some lovely runs with my fabulous running pals, lots of luxurious time with my husband, and plenty of good books and inspiring podcasts – these words really resonated with me.

It’s amazing how the process of surrounding yourself with inspiring people and good influences can penetrate into your everyday ways of being and feeling. While there is so much going on in the world at the moment that is far from ideal, being around people who ‘get it’ can help to remind you that, even when it appears that your are at odds with the status quo, there are people close at hand who are on the same wavelength as you. That isn’t to say we should encase ourselves in an echo chamber of consensus that leaves our views unchallenged, but rather, by pulling together with similarly-minded people, we can create positive ripples across our spheres of influence, and the more we are, the bigger the initial splash and the greater and more impactful the waves that follow.

So what does this mean in practical terms? How can we reach out to, connect with and be inspired and lifted by those people who get it?

Start with an escape

After the amazing weekend away at The Orange Tree yoga retreat in January last year, my sister-in-law and I immediately booked in for another new year’s escape. Returning to The Orange Tree for the first weekend in January was the best possible way I could have started my year. The retreat reinforced many of the good habits that I had cultivated on my first trip – meditation and mindfulness, regular yoga practice, syncing my movement and by breath – as well providing the perfect opportunity to meet and spend quality time with the most wonderful people.

It was so enriching and nourishing spending quality time with interesting and inspiring people – enjoying rich conversations free from our mobile phones, TVs or other digital distractions – as well as devoting plenty of time to our own headspaces during meditation practices. When we weren’t practicing yoga or meditation we enjoyed lounging in the hot tub, which overlooked the Yorkshire countryside, reading our books by the fire, chatting over delicious vegan food, and enjoying massages and other indulgent treatments. Having the time and space to really engage with the inner workings of your mind is incredibly enlightening and while meditation isn’t the easiest of practices, it is certainly one of the most rewarding.

More details about visiting The Orange Tree are available on their website and to get inside your own head try out the Headspace meditation app.

Move away from materialism

If you have read my recent post on minimalism you will know how much this movement appeals to me. This week my devotion to living with less sunk a little deeper as I finally got round to watching two documentary films that had been on my radar for a while: Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things, which looks at a variety of takes on minimalism, from tiny houses to the stripped back 333 wardrobe, and The True Cost, which examines the fashion industry and its impact on the environment and the workers who make the clothes that we wear every day.

If you haven’t watched these films then you really must take the time to do so; they will change the way that you look at your possessions and, in particular, your clothes, for good. The way that garment makers in developing countries are treated is truly abominable and the impact that the now-52 season fashion industry has on the environment is devastating. Watching these two films in relatively quick succession really fed into my desire to move away from a consumerist way of being and forced me to look at the possessions I have (and where they were made).

One of the interesting takeaways from these films was that while in some ways we are more materialistic than ever, at the same time we have no interest or respect of material objects at all. We buy things to fill other voids in our lives and engage in a fast-fashion culture, which sees us wearing a piece of clothing one day and casting it aside the next.

My sister-in-law and I are toying with the idea of playing the minimalist game, but our biggest concern is, if we are disposing of our things, where will they go? I’ve signed up to free-cycling to pass on domestic appliances that we no longer use to those who need them and we are planning a clothes swap party to recycle fashion among friends. If you have more ideas, websites or companies that can help to recycle or re-use sustainably I’d be really interested to hear more and hope to have a post on sustainable living in the not too distant future.

For some more upcycling inspiration see the beautiful Upcyclist website and move away from fast fashion and be inspired to make your own clothes (or commission a friend to do so!) with Thumblenina.

Listen up for inspiration

I’ve been enjoyed a feast of inspirational podcasts lately and wanted to share a couple of the best with you here.

If you want something to feed your soul listen to Rich Roll’s interview with Guru Singh. I enjoyed listening to this over a series of runs and came back from each feeling so enriched and warm inside. To boost your body confidence, Tina Muir’s interview with Lanni Marchant is amazing. Marchant is such an incredible athlete and inspiring spokesperson and really makes you think about how you connect with your body and appreciate what it can achieve. Similarly, Rich Roll’s interview with Kerri Walsh Jennings, Olympic beach volleyball champion, is so uplifting I found myself smiling all of the way through. If you need a boost then this ‘six feet of sunshine’ is exactly what you are looking for.

Finally, for training inspiration listen to Josh Trent on the Run to the Top podcast. One of the key takeaways from this episode for me was having an overarching reason ‘why’ behind your training programme. Are you aiming to get faster, go further, lose weight or improve your cardiovascular health? While each training session will have its own purpose, it is important to know what your overall objective is so that you feel motivated to stay on course. I was listening to this episode while running in the cold and rain and took a moment to pause for thought on this. I realised that I run to really connect with my body – it is one of the few times I feel like my mind and body are totally in sync and it forces me to listen to, engage with and respect my physical self. It was an enlightening process really examining the question of the why and I really think it is something worth taking the time to do.

Get on your mat

Starting on 1 January Adrienne (of Yoga with Adrienne fame) launched a new free online yoga series called Yoga Revolution. The series consists of 31 yoga session of approximately 30 minutes, which work to help you engage, gain balance, tone, relax, strengthen and sculpt. If you’ve not encountered Adrienne before you can jump straight in with this, or else start with her 30 Days of Yoga series, which I equally loved. The best thing about the series is it’s easy to fit in sessions before work or in the evening before bed and all you need is a yoga mat and something comfy to wear. I can’t tell you what a difference it makes having the opportunity to get onto my mat every day and just take the time to breath and engage. So join the revolution and check this out today!

Write about how happy you are

For Christmas I received a ‘Happiness Planner‘ from my sister-in-law. Each day there is a space to write down what you are excited about, what your main focus is, your to do list, what you are grateful for, the good things that have happened and what you hope for tomorrow. Each section only has space for couple of lines so it’s not a daunting task to complete, but it does really make you think about all of the little things that bring a smile each day. Whether it is meeting friends for a cup of tea and a chat, going on a run in the winter sun, lazing in a bubble bath, getting lost in a good book, or indulging in a glass of red wine after a busy week at work, just taking the time to reflect on these things makes you appreciate them all the more and definitely adds a bit of additional happiness and contentment to your day.

I hope that this all leaves you feeling inspired and ready to take on 2017.

Until my next,

Namaste

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‘Running is a solitary sport but the strength is in our numbers.’

This quote is taken from a recent interview with Chris Heuisler on the Run to the Top Podcast. I was listening to Heuisler’s interview on my (run) commute home last night when I realised how perfectly these sentiments chimed in with the blog post I’d been writing about a recent surge in running community love, experienced following a race last week.

Last Sunday I ran the Derby 10 with my lovely pals Katie and Ant. Having never run a 10 mile race before I didn’t have a target time in mind, and although I had a vague idea of what sort of splits I’d ideally like to do, knowing that I’ve not really been training properly post-holiday, the pressure to do a PB was totally off. While in the end it wasn’t the fastest 10 miles I’ve ever run, it wasn’t the slowest either, and it was certainly one of the most enjoyable.

It was a freezing but bright morning and despite multiple layers of jumpers before the race, by mile four I’d stripped down to my vest (albeit with my headband and gloves still firmly in place). I had initially been nervous about motivating myself as this was my first official no-headphones race, but I have to admit that I rather enjoyed running music- and podcast-free. Rather than switching my music on and my brain off (which I’m often guilty of doing) I used the time to really think about my posture and running technique, focusing on not dropping into my hips and on breathing down into my belly.

I also really enjoyed spending some of the time chatting with the other runners around me.

One of my absolute favourite things about races is being surrounded by so many like-minded people. I love hearing about the running achievements and goals of others, helping and being helped by strangers to pull through the tough miles together, or flying side-by-side through the easier stretches. Running with someone else is such a fantastic shared experience; even running with a stranger you find that you form a sort of bond as you enjoy those endorphin highs together. As Runner’s World writer Tish Hamilton observed, when you share a run with someone you are more likely to open up to them as you’re not looking them in the eye and you’re throwing it out into the wind; it is almost like entering a sacred space where you suddenly find yourself over-sharing with a total stranger!

Derby also reminded me that running in an event doesn’t have to have the sole purpose of aiming for a PB. As Heuisler noted, we train for weeks and weeks on end for an event, but what is amazing is when you reach the start line and you are surrounded by hundreds, or even thousands of fellow runners, you suddenly realise how many people have all been through the same things that you have. When you are out running on your own it’s easy to think that you’re the only person training, but on race day you look beside you and realise there is a unique comradeship that makes the training worth while and which makes running so special.

Moreover, surrounding yourself with fellow exercisers certainly makes taking regular exercise easier. Listening to other people talk about their training regimes, or seeing them participate in various activities, normalises the act of exercising, making it easier to follow similar practises yourself.

I often find that the more time I spend with my running pals, the more I want to run; when I hear that one of them is entering a race or heading out for a long training run I am motivated to lace up and get out myself. I am one of the worst people for struggling with FOMO, but when it comes to exercise I find I can use this to my advantage; if one of my pals is training for a race you can bet your bottom dollar I am too!

img_8519I think it is no coincidence that my mum was a runner and it’s no accident that my nephew has started to run junior park runs. It’s unsurprising that my husband has as many trainers and as much running kit as me, or that weekends with some of my best friends often involve walking, yoga, swimming, or running a ten mile race on a freezing November Sunday morning.

So whether you’ve got an event coming up, or you are just trying to get yourself out of the door on a chilly November evening, remember that you are part of a bigger whole and that while running is ostensibly a solo act, you are part of a larger community and someone else is forcing themselves to lace-up and get out too!

Happy running.

November running

With the clocks going back last week and the cold, dark evenings drawing in it could be tempting to bed in for the winter months and let your running routine lapse. While I have been struggling to get back into training post-honeymoon, with a hectic social schedule combined with a case of the cold weather sniffles conspiring against me hitting my weekly mileage targets, I honestly think that early November is the best time to run and thus get back into the running groove.

In London the air has developed that sharp, crisp edge, reminding you that winter is on its way, and while it’s certainly chilly enough to warrant an extra layer on leaving the house, by the end of mile one you know you will be stripping down to a vest or t-shirt. A run in November leaves you with lovely rosy, pinched cheeks and a healthy glow, without the salty dryness that follows a run in the September sun. Early in the morning you can jog under cover of darkness, returning home to sunrise and a well-earned cup of tea. A midday jaunt gets you outside on those days too chilly to just sit in the park with a picnic and while it may be harder to get out on a dark evening, that only makes the return to the cosy warmth of home all the lovelier, and a hot post-run shower all the more indulgent.

What is more, the world just looks that bit more beautiful in the autumn sun. The trees are all in varying states of undress, some still clinging to green leaves, while others are in reds, yellows, oranges and browns. The air smells like a mixture of wet leaves, bark, smoked wood and fires, and as the sun sets every building you pass looks so warm and inviting.

So while you may have been writing off a run this weekend, just remember that post-run glow and how rewarded you will feel afterwards. I’m very much looking forward to the inaugural Derby 10 with my pals Katie and Ant this Sunday and I hope you have lovely Sundayrunday plans too.

Until my next, happy running.

Catching up: Mind, Body and Spirit

I realise that I haven’t written for a while; a combination of mood, work and wedmin, sunshine and social engagements have made me reluctant to sit in front of a screen when not absolutely necessary of late. I’ve even been eschewing my phone in favour of books and magazines in a bid to escape the dreaded pull of the blue light, which connects you to a million things that you could or should to be doing.

Still, lots has been going on so I wanted share a quick(ish) update with you here.

Mind

a life without limitsLast week I finally finished four-time World Ironman Champion Chrissie Wellington’s autobiography A Life Without Limits. I’d been listening to this as an audiobook following a recommendation from the Twins in Trainers and, as with finishing any good book, having reached the end I suddenly feel like I’ve lost a close friend.

I found Chrissie and her story beyond inspiring and it both entertained and spurred me on through countless long runs. This is an incredibly story of an athlete discovering her athletic capacity relatively late in life and trading a phenomenally successful career in international development for a brutal  training regime and killer races.

I really can’t recommend this book enough and although my reaction to Chrissie’s story hasn’t been to sign up for an Ironman (as I know one of my Twin pals has been tempted to do) if you are looking for something to get you out on a run, swim or cycle, look no further.

Body

IMG_4497Talking of getting out to train, today I enjoyed my first swim in the Hampstead ponds. This has been on my ‘to do’ list for some time now and with the sun shining on London this weekend posed the perfect opportunity. It was just a quick dip today (as my friend Ariana and I were taking it in turns to guard the bags while the other swam) but it was utter bliss and I will certainly be making a return visit.

My favourite part was swimming alongside a duck and her little ducklings, all seen for the first time at water level. This was my first non-sea-based open water swimming experience and it was no where near as scary as I had feared.

I’ve also been enjoying (more traditional) weekly swim sessions in the St Pancras pool. Alongside my morning yoga ritual, these serve to stretch out my limbs and have proven good alternatives to running in the hotter weather. I have a back list of sets to share, which I promise I will do soon.

As for running, I’m back to a steady ebb and flow of weekly runs ranging from 3 to 13 miles. I really feel like I’m in a pretty positive place with running at the moment and despite a niggling pain in my lower right shin, I’ve been feeling good and, most importantly, really enjoying each run.

IMG_2875R and I enjoyed our first run in Epping Forest the other week and I can’t believe we’ve not ventured out there sooner. It was so beautiful and the trails are great, especially for practising hill running. It’s always nice to try a new route and to test the limbs on different terrain. Even better though, is its proximity to our friend Mark’s cafe Hucks, where we went afterwards for peanut-buttery crumpets, amazing coffee (with all of the non-milky milks) and live music. Basically the perfect day.

I’ve entered a few races in the autumn months but until then I’m just embracing running (and gossiping) with my pal Louise on our lunch runs, or avoiding the tube with my commuter jogs and just heading out on my long Sunday routes without any agenda.

Finally I also got down to the climbing wall for the first time in an age last week. My arm, chest and back muscles certainly benefited from an hour or so of bouldering (even if my feet didn’t thank me for being squished back into climbing shoes!) and although my climbing isn’t what it was, it was so nice to get out of my head and onto the wall for a while.

Spirit

IMG_4010Another new experience since my last post was my first trip to The Sunday Assembly in June.

With the tagline ‘Live Better, Help Often, Wonder More‘, The Sunday Assembly was started by two comedians who decided that they both wanted to start something that was like church but totally secular and inclusive of everyone, no matter what their beliefs. The resulting group offers inspirational speakers, moving talks, music (and singing by the ‘congregation’), cups of tea and the opportunity to chat with lots of like-minded people.

I hadn’t especially thought that I had a Sunday morning void in my life (in fact my Sunday’s are strictly dedicated to the Gods of the Long Run), but I admit that there was something so uplifting and enjoyable about belting out songs with like-minded folk, as well as listening to inspiring short talks and feeling like a part of something bigger than myself.

The Assembly gathers twice a month, on the first and third Sunday’s, with the next London group on 7 August and I intend to be there.

That’s all for now but more soon I promise. Until the next, go out and enjoy something new this week!

 

 

Tri, tri and tri again

Last weekend was an impressive one in terms of sporting achievements. You may have seen the Brownlee brothers swim, cycle and run to a one, two finish in the elite men’s race at the world triathlon series in Leeds on Sunday, or looked on as team GB triathlete Vicky Holland claimed a bronze in the elite women’s race (Holland and fellow triathlete Non Stanford are now definitely my new sporting girl crushes!), but I’m also incredibly proud to say that, earlier in the day, two of my close family friends – Matt and Chris – raced in the open entry men’s event. For both of them this was in their first Olympic distance triathlon and they both totally smashed it.

If that wasn’t impressive enough, I can’t tell you how proud I am of my friend and running pal Katie, who faced her first half Iron Man this Sunday, completing a 1.2 mile (1.9 km) swim, 56 mile (90 km) bike ride, and a 13.1 mile (21.1 km) run in and around the grounds of Shugborough Hall in Staffordshire. While I knew she would nail it (that girl’s got grit) that doesn’t detract from how incredibly in awe I am of her for doing it. (And I’d be fibbing if I didn’t admit that it’s started to sew seeds of a triathlon in my mind too…)

After all of that it seems rather anticlimactic to add that this weekend I also ran in the 2016 Potters ‘Arf Marathon.

The 13.1 miles around the towns of Stoke-on-Trent are possibly some of the hilliest I’ve run under race conditions. Still, being a natural born Potter and having never previously run the race I decided that this year was the year to face ‘heartbreak hill’ (the killer climb between miles 11 and 12) alongside my brother-in-law and Potters ‘Arf veteran, Georg.

Knowing the reputation of the course with it’s multiple hills I had no expectations of a PB and as such went in to the run with a relaxed attitude. My parents, sister and two nephews came along to watch, which was so nice, and they all waited with us at the start despite the torrential downpour that arrived just before the race began.

Despite the rain, supporters had turned up in their masses and the atmosphere wasn’t dampened at all (although we were all pretty soggy by the time we were called to line up on the start line). Luckily by the time we began to run the rain has stopped and it held off pretty much the whole way round.

I don’t think I’ve ever run in such a well-supported race. Every mile of the course had people on the sidelines cheering us on and many of the supporters were offering water, jelly babies, orange segments and cold sponges to us as we went. It made me so proud to be from Stoke and I found myself grinning like a loon most of the way round as a result.

I ran the first couple of miles with Georg but lost him in the crowds (surprising as he is a 6ft something barefoot giant with an enormous red beard any Viking would be proud of!). Still I soon settled into my own pace and the initial miles ticked over quite quickly. I had been warned about the hill between miles 4 and 5 and kept my head down as I ploughed up it.

I was flagging slightly at mile 8 but hearing our friends and neighbours Andy, Lisa, Morgan and Spencer on the sideline cheering me on gave me the extra push I needed.

The other notable hills came at around miles 9 and 10 and on the second I heard a runner behind me say ‘is this “the one”‘ to which someone else answered ‘no, that’s still to come’. It was lucky that I heard this exchange as I knew the worst was still waiting for me!

Heartbreak hill was signposted, although the signage wasn’t necessary. Usually when running up hills I look at the ground to protect myself from the sight of the gradient, but even looking down couldn’t conceal how steep the drag was. I was determined to keep my legs turning over but did have to walk a few steps before pushing on. Still, once at the top it was all down hill to the finish and I ran into Hanley with the biggest smile on my face. Mum, dad, Jo and the boys were all cheering at the finish and I was surprised to see that I’d comfortably come in under the two hour mark, which, given the hills, I hadn’t expected.

I saw an old friend at the finish line too, and despite having never run a half before he crossed the line not far behind me, impressive stuff! It was lovely enjoy the end of race euphoria together. I soon found Georg too and we celebrated together.

So a successful weekend all round and another ‘run not race’ under my belt.

Happy running.

IMG_3455

The path of true love never did run smooth

After a brief hiatus following a stint of over-training and a series of injuries, my love affair with running has resumed with a vengeance. Having dropped my weekly average mileage to around 25 miles, I am finding that when I do run I have more strength and energy, that my times are gradually improving and, perhaps most importantly, I am enjoying every run.

Last week I ran my first Park Run in months and although I had misplaced my barcode and didn’t get an official time (something which actually helped remove the unnecessary and nonsensical pressure I put on myself every time I run anything even resembling a race), unofficially I was pretty close to my 5km PB, and that was with something left in reserve as I crossed the finish line.

In fact, now I’m focusing on enjoying each run and ‘running not racing’ I am finding that I’m performing better and this showed again this weekend at the Bedgebury Forest 10km trail run, part of the Runner’s World Festival of Trail series.

IMG_2844I had decided to approach Bedgebury as a social run with friends rather than as a ‘race’ per se. Four of us had signed up to run and we’d planned to drive down together and then follow the run with lunch and drinks.

The thing I love most about trail running is that the terrain precludes any hope of a PB over the distance – with muddy tracks and hills, the run is more about enjoying the scenery and atmosphere that hitting split times, which takes the pressure off from the outset.

Despite promise of rain it remained dry and the weather was actually perfect for the race – a little chilly at first, but with bursts of sunshine and, once we were running, the ideal temperature. We arrived in good time to get our numbers, drop off our bags and do a quick pre-race warm-up. Due to a busy week at work I hadn’t run in a couple of days (which even on my reduced mileage is pretty unusual) and I was a little nervous about how my limbs would feel, especially as I knew the first kilometre or so was up hill. However, once I started running my body embraced the familiar movement and I felt surprisingly strong and light.

The first three kilometres passed pretty quickly and although I turned some music on briefly for kilometres three to six, I actually found that, for the first time in a long while, I preferred running without my headphones, listening to the birds instead and focusing on my breath. In regard to the latter, I am working on improving my breathing technique (as odd as that may sound!), attempting to fill my lungs properly by dropping my diaphragm and expanding my belly. This is not a breathing style I find easy or natural, but I have been promised it will revolutionise my running so I’m persevering, even though I find myself slowing down considerably as I concentrate on tilting my hips forward and allowing my stomach to inflate as I take long, deep breaths, rather than the chest-heaving, shallower ones that I’m used to.

Throughout the route I loved running on the uneven and muddy terrain, jumping puddles and skipping between pathways to avoid the squishiest of the mud. Focusing on where I was stepping rather than on the effort of running was a fun and welcome distraction, and something which kept me ever-present throughout. I actually found, having run a few cross-country races last year, that I was less afraid of the irregular pathways than I would have been previously, and discovered that I was able to ‘let my legs’ out on the down hills, passing people who were pulling up, holding back to avoid the mud and puddles.

IMG_2840I had mentally prepared for the final kilometre, which I knew was uphill, with a killer final few hundred metres of really steep incline to the finish. However, I found that by keeping my head down and my steps short, I was able to run the whole way, and although I felt a little nauseous at the top I didn’t stop until I crossed the finish line.

When the results came out I discovered that I’d knocked over three and a half minutes off my time from last year and had gone from 56th to 17th in my category. More importantly however was that I enjoyed the experience from start to finish. I loved going to the run with the girls, warming up together and having people to share the experience with. I loved being present and engaged during the run, getting out of the city and into the fresh air, listening to the birds and embracing the environment. And I loved having the girls there at the end of the race, collecting our medals and goodie bags together and relaxing post-run with Aperol and nibbles in the garden.

What this run has taught me is that I can just let go and enjoy ‘races’ without worrying about my times or putting unnecessary pressure on myself to perform. I’m never going to be a super-speedy runner and my times will never matter to anyone but me so there is no sense in piling on the pressure to do anything but the best I can on the day.

IMG_2857 (1)I’m so pleased that I’m in love with running again and that even with the pressure on our relationship can stand up to the strain. Despite slightly achy limbs from the hills, I couldn’t wait to get out again today and allowed myself a gentle 11km to stretch out.

I’ve got plenty of fun running to come and my next ‘race’ is my home-town of Stoke-on-Trent, and the Potters ‘Arf, which I’m running with my brother-in-law in June. I know it is a hilly course so again I’m writing off any hope of a PB, but I’m really exciting about running with Georg again and to having my sister and nephews there to cheer us on!

Until the next, happy running.

A good influence?

Like many health and wellness bloggers I try to surround myself with positive and inspirational people and media, not only to stay abreast of the latest fitness and diet trends to report back on here, but also to keep me motivated, optimistic and to try to help mould me into the best version of myself (or a slightly better version at least!).

Occasionally I find that something I read, hear in a podcast, or glimpse on social media resonates with me in a much more profound way than the usual interesting, but less effecting, information. While so often the latter type of nuggets will have an instant impact, their effects are, more often than not, only short-lived – a magazine article that pushes me out of the door do a workout, or an Instagram picture that drives me to make a healthier meal choice. However, on the occasions that I read or hear something which has a deeper influence, I find it seeps into my subconscious in a way that goes on to shape the way I think, behave and interact with others well beyond the initial point of impact.

This was of course the case when I switched from a vegetarian to a vegan lifestyle some ten years ago now after learning more about the dairy industry and realising the effects that dairy products had on my body. Once I was equipped with this knowledge the fact of veganism seemed an obvious conclusion.

In recent weeks I had my eyes opened again in this regard as I listened to an interview with Kip Anderson and Keegan Kuhn, makers of the documentary film Cowspiracy. While this documentary had been on my radar, I hadn’t prioritised watching it as I had thought it would just be a case of preaching to the converted. However, what the interview revealed was how little I actually knew about the detrimental effects of animal agriculture on the environment and why grass-fed meat is not the often vaunted ‘sustainable’ solution that many meat eaters claim. Again, equipped with the knowledge that the animal agriculture industry is responsible for more of the ‘human-produced’ greenhouse gasses than all means of transport combined, or that whole ecosystems are disrupted by the land requirements for grazing cattle, and that this is the leading cause of species extinction, habitat destruction and wildlife culling, reaffirmed in my mind my lifestyle choices and made me want to share the message with others (with almost evangelical zeal!).

My attitude to exercise has also taken a positive turn in recent months and this was further solidified by a excerpt in Adharanand Finn’s new book,The Way of the Runner, which I read this week.

After a series of hip issues and my decision not to run the marathon this year I had felt my relationship with running sour somewhat. However, once the pressure of training for an event was removed, and I was able to let my body recover without the anxiety of missed training sessions, I found that I was able to reconnect with the real reason I go out running: just because.

Finn voiced these sentiments perfectly in his book:

I know some people run to loose weight, to get fit, or maybe they’re running to raise money for a charity. But for me…these are just by-products. Running itself has its own raison d’être…[W]e run to connect with something in ourselves, something buried deep down beneath all the worldly layers of identity and responsibility. Running, in its simplicity, its pure brutality, peels away these layers, revealing the raw human underneath…[I]f we push on, running harder, further deeper into the wildness of it all, away from the world and the structure of our lives…we begin to float…Our minds begin to clear and we begin to feel strangely detached, and yet at the same time connected, connected to ourselves…

In this modern world we need excuses…The world is set up to cater for the rational, logical mind, which needs to see tangible reasons and benefits behind any effort. We need to dangle the carrot of marathons and best times in front of ourselves to justify this strange habit of getting up, running around outside, coming back having not actually gone anywhere…And this, on some superficial level motivates me to run. But really, deep down, I know it’s just a front. What I really want to do is get away from all of the structure, the complexity and chaos of my constructed life, and to connect with the simple human that lies buried under everything else.

I don’t doubt that this is a message that will resonate with many other runners.

Finally, with my daily practice of yoga and discovery of the wider mindfulness and meditation movement, I can feel another shift taking place. Partly responsible for this greater sense of connectedness and peace with myself is my recent discovery of Rich Roll. Roll’s podcast is full of interviews with inspirational ‘paradigm breakers’ in different fields from business, music, fitness, meditation, sleep and nutrition, and his unapologetic approach to health, wellness and veganism (the tagline to his bio is ‘a life transformed by plants’), have all served to motivate me to feel more at peace and proud of my lifestyle choices, while also compelling me to strive for more in work, exercise, wellness and diet.

You need only to listen to his interviews with Ariana Huffington, John Joseph, Light Watkins, Jedidiah Jenkins, Mishka Shubaly, or indeed any of the other motivational interviewees he has had on the show to realise what an incredible resource this is.

There are some really powerful lessons to be learned: Roll is a recovering alcoholic turned ultra-athlete and he is pretty frank that to make a change in any element of your life you already know what to do:

There is no secret bullet or life-hack that is going to help you to accomplish what you want to do, it’s simply a case of stopping what you doing and switching to take the actions that will move you closer to your goal. It’s tough to hear because people want to hear that there is an easier, softer way. The short-cut is to make that goal your absolute one priority and do anything you can to achieve it.

The podcast makes me think about life in a holistic sense: in an interview with Jason Garner, Garner highlighted the problem of compartmentalising different aspects of our lives and how ‘we talk about work life balance as if work isn’t part of our life’, something which really struck a chord with me. In another episode our engagement with social media was brought into question and the focus was placed on the importance of ‘being’ rather than ‘appearing to be’, a shift that would serve many of us.

At it’s essence is the message that life, success and happiness is all about perspective – two people can have the same experience and perceive it totally differently, so what you have to ask is how much responsibility are you prepared to take for your mindset and approach to life?

I will finish with a Viktor Frankl quote that I particularly like, which Roll cited in an episode I was listening to this week:

Between stillness and response there is a space and in that space is our power to choose our response and in our response lies our growth and our freedom.

Happy inspiring.