When the panic rises

This morning I ran to and then did Mile End parkrun for the third week in a row. Habits don’t stick easily with me, but this is a good one and one I’m intending to keep up.

This is despite the fact that halfway around today’s second lap, I had a panic attack. Only a really little one – relatively short compared to most – but it happened all the same. I couldn’t mistake the building hyperventilation which rose in my chest, resulting in shallow, squeaky breath and tears forming in my eyes.

I’ve been asked in the past if I’m not just mistaking a panic attack for an asthma attack. Although the symptoms sound similar, they feel completely different. The best way I can describe it is that one is a result of the physical (usually cold, damp weather if I’m running) and one is absolutely the result of what’s going on in my mind.

I don’t know why today’s run would be worse than any other – I guess if I knew that it wouldn’t happen. Every so often, I just get all up in my head and the doubt swells and entirely consumes any other thoughts.

As soon as I was brought back out of the negativity and reminded why I was there, it was immediately okay.

You might think that if running makes me feel this way, maybe I shouldn’t do it. This has happened several times before. Times like the Great North Run training run along the canal in Nottingham which resulted in my then boyfriend having to come and collect me. Like the night run in Manchester last year with some of my favourite people. Like at kilometre eighteen of the Copenhagen half in 2013.

But for every run where this has happened, there are at least fifty others where I’ve enjoyed myself, run faster, run happy or – at the very least – not had a panic attack.

And really, it just makes me want to continue running even more. I know that I am stronger than an occasional overwhelming sense of panic. Just like building endurance, building knowledge or building confidence, building mental strength is just another part of the training process and another challenge to overcome. One run at a time.

Eight podcasts for your long run, short run or just for life

At the start line of the Battersea Park 10k last weekend, I found myself involved in a chat about podcasts. I’ve got a real thing with podcasts at the moment, mostly because my headphones keep my ears warm in the chilly, windy weather.

I feel like my podcast app is pretty well stocked (mostly thanks to Steph and Harry), so I thought I’d share what I’m currently listening to…

Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo’s Film Reviews

This is the first podcast I ever listened to and has been a constant feature in download charts for several years. If you don’t already listen to this, where have you been and what have you been doing? The first word on movies, I would recommend listening to this even if you’re not that fussed about movies. The conversations between Mark and Simon are always entertaining, I laugh out loud at least three times at every episode and after a while you get to know all the in jokes and recurring conversations like you’re listening to old friends. And if you do actually like to go and see a film every so often, there’s a load of accessible but insightful news, reviews and interviews. Just great. (Also good on the same subject is The Guardian Film Show – more just about film, less witty chatter around the edges.)

Dear Sugar Radio

At the time of writing this, there’s only a pilot and one episode of this podcast, which is the new radio format for the long standing and popular advice column Dear Sugar. It’s presented by Steve Almond and Cheryl Strayed – who just so happens to also be the author of Wild, which is about to be released as a movie adaptation. But listening to this you wouldn’t know (and don’t need to know) this backstory – it is essentially just two warm and compassionate people offering advice to their listeners. I found them both to be highly likeable almost instantly. Probably a little bit too hippie/American/flowery for some people, but I think the episodes are just short enough to stay enjoyable.

Londonist Out Loud

A fortnightly podcast about anything and everything London. Presented by someone (N Quentin Woolf) with the silliest name but the most listen-to-able voice, the bulk of the podcast is interviews with very interesting people, along with reviews, news and music. My favourite so far has been the ‘Discovering Vanished London‘ episode where writer Tom Bolton is interviewed about neighbourhoods that have completely disappeared from London’s map.

Call Your Girlfriend

This one was definitely brought to my attention by Steph & Harry. It’s tagline is ‘a podcast for long distance besties everywhere’. I don’t know why you need a long distance bestie to enjoy this – I still thoroughly enjoy listening in on their regular catch ups all on my own. Some of the conversation is very US-centric (I don’t get most of the politics chat), but they also talk a lot of lighter subjects – Beyoncé, listener questions and my absolute fave feature, the menstruation update. All the LOLs. (Not for the faint hearted.)

The Guardian Books Podcast

This is like the University Challenge of podcasts. I don’t understand a lot of the words they say in this one either and I haven’t heard of a lot of the books they discuss. Every so often I have read something they talk about and I feel cultured and clever and involved… before it quickly descends back into me feeling like I really have to concentrate. That being said, this week there was a really interesting discussion with the author of Stuffocation, James Wallman, on the value of doing things vs the value of owning things, and how ultimately everyone would be happier if they just had less stuff. One for fans of The Minimalists and the Chuck It Challenge.

And a couple of others…

Answer Me This! 

The guys who present this remind me of the dorky groups of friends you’d find down the local on a Friday night. Listeners write in with random general (or not so general) knowledge questions, Helen and Olly answer them, hilarity ensues.

The Offside Rule (We Get It!)

A football podcast, presented by THREE WOMEN. Novel, I know.

The High Tea Cast

Back (and weekly!) after a six month break, podcast queens Sam and Leah do chat, cocktails and cake.

Good for her, not for me

Today’s run was a long time coming.

I lolled around all morning, toyed with running and then not running, worried about the back pain, the chesty cold and the shin pain that have graced me with their presence over the last couple of months. I procrastinated, felt sad about boys both past and present and wasted time chain-drinking tea and tweeting about being nervous whilst watching Sunday Brunch.

Then at 1pm, I finally went for a run.

It was a really good run.

And I’m putting it down to Amy Poehler.

I confess I’m not a fan of SNL or Parks and Recreation and I haven’t seen (or just can’t remember her in) any of the films she’s been in. But this morning, after reading this article on the Guardian, I downloaded her audiobook on a whim and hit the Thames path.

Today I spent nearly two hours in the company of Amy, and I love her already. Hadley Freeman’s article is spot on when it describes her as being insecure but having self-respect. It’s a great combination.

In one of the chapters I listened to on today’s run, she speaks about how the phrase ‘Good for her, not for me‘ should be every woman’s mantra. How God damn true. I love being supportive and encouraging and proud of other people’s achievements, but they are not mine and they don’t need to be.

I thought a lot about my current training (or lack thereof) during those eight and a bit miles, along with the pledge I made after my New Year’s Day run TO ALWAYS RUN HAPPY. I haven’t come to any conclusions so far, but I feel like some changes – to goals, priorities, attitudes… I’m not sure yet! – may be afoot.

Spare time: my one resolution

I was on the Kindle app, I promise

I don’t really do new year’s resolutions and this year I certainly won’t be setting any running ones (I know what I need to do, I just need to get on and do it). But I am setting myself just one, completely fitness unrelated task for 2015 – to finish every book that I start.

As embarrassing as this is to admit, reading the Fifty Shades trilogy a couple of years ago reminded me how great reading is. Before that, I don’t think I had properly read a book cover to cover since studying for my A-Levels, and even then I scraped through English Lit without actually reading everything I was supposed to. Yes, those FSoG books are really quite bad and really quite cringe (not to mention completely unrealistic – no one can have that much sex and not get a UTI), but I devoured them in days and rediscovered the joy of being completely immersed in a story.

Not long after, I bought a Kindle, which has remained one of my favourite possessions ever since.

The problem I have is that I have no time to read. This is obviously complete rubbish – I just think I have no time to read. I walk to work (and I am not being that person) so have lost the hour and a half tube journey I used to have each day in which I would do most of my reading. This of course doesn’t mean I have no time – I have all the time I watch junk on TV (read this and you’ll never want to watch telly again), all the time I arse around on the internet, reading absolutely everything on The Debrief (okay, I’m not actually ashamed of that one). I also love a good faff.

I get distracted whilst reading, don’t get into books, find something else that looks more interesting, start reading something else instead. I am a digital age cliché, flitting between one thing and the next, in a world where “a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention”. Through reading I am going to try and reverse this. My Kindle is filled with half read books, which if I’m honest will probably never be completed. But from now on, every book that I choose to start will get my full attention and will get finished. At current count, I have 47 books on my Amazon wish list. I can’t think of a single TV show I want to watch more than I want to make a dent in that list.

Well played, December

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/d6e/18782832/files/2014/12/img_2416.jpgI always knew December was going to be a toughie. It has been noted that I can occasionally act more like a fifty-something than a twenty-something, but the prospect of a little less sleep and a little more socialising than normal was exciting. But what transpired was exhausting. This month saw way, way too many hangovers, most of which were earned on a school night. I’ve eaten a LOT of burritos and cried in front of a few too many of my colleagues. I’ve only run once. I’ve worked a lot. I’ve seen the inside of trains, planes, my GP surgery and a hospital. I’ve had an infection and a nasty chesty cough. I’ve made just one visit to the gym, at 2pm on a Thursday – and that was just because it was the only opportunity I had to shower between having been out the night before and going out again later that day. Gross.

I got to Christmas Day feeling decidedly more sluggish, podgy and generally unwell than I would have liked. I know that this is the very time for merriment (which was in abundance), but as usual, my boom or bust attitude to most things has left me feeling the opposite of relaxed. More than ever, I feel like a Christmas cliché, waiting for January to come along and sweep away all my missed workout and ‘one more glass of red’ guilt.

Most of all I feel panicked. I don’t think I possibly could have got marathon training off to a worse start. Barcelona marathon is eleven weeks away and I feel like I am literally at square zero. Time to practice what I’ve preached and try and do this running happy thing. There’s nothing else for it.