No giraffes, no Charleston, but a good run.

2 weeks ago a group of friends and I headed to Werribee in Victoria for the My Physio Werribee Mansion Run. I hadn’t heard of it before, but I was grateful that someone shared the info with me. It seems that there is a fun run on any given weekend if you are keen enough. I am a bit picky with what events I enter, as sometimes it seems a bit silly to pay money to run somewhere, when I could do it around home for nix. But, in saying that, an organised run event is a great way to stay motivated, see different parts of the world, connect with other people, push yourself a little harder than you might on home turf and, if you’re a mum or a dad, score yourself a few kid-free hours away.

With running as my fitness go-to (albeit it a strange choice for me, check out this blog from the archives) I often get asked about the various runs I have done. So, in a bid to offer my thoughts concisely, and clear the writer’s block that has had me cursed for a few months now, I thought I might provide somewhat of a personal review on the runs I have participated in. (N.B: it’s pretty limited.). I’ll kick off with the aforementioned Werribee Fun Run.

Distances on offer: 21.1km, 10km, 5.5km, 3.5km, kids 1.2km

(I ran the 10km with a few friends and some other pals did the 5.5km).

This event offers a great range of distances and as such, there were varying degrees of fitness and abilities participating on the day.

Just coming into the starting area (car parking is ample) is pretty fascinating, as the majestic mansion sets a unique backdrop for the run and the gardens provide fantastic, curious surrounds (take the family; great place for a picnic post-run).

The running surface was probably my favourite aspect of this event, as it was so varied. One minute you feel like you are running through the English gardens of Downton Abbey, then you’re transported to the Australian bush (the surface is a little rocky and uneven - we did see a few fall prey to a rolled ankle). You come to a bridge which looks sturdy enough, but half way across when the thing starts to rock and bounce, you momentarily think this run could very well be your last. After a pretty nasty hairpin and a short-but-steep hill, you’re out in the open and trudging along a fairly lengthy (feels lengthy) and exposed stint on an unforgiving concrete path (my least favourite part of the course). The only thing exciting about this leg was that I had the feeling we were running along the back of the Werribee Zoo and I was anticipating a giraffe, zebra or elephant sighting. We didn’t see any exotic animals and now that I have my bearings I’m thinking there was never any chance of it.

You loop back around, covering much of the same track you headed out on, except for a set of stairs that is bound to set any PB-seeking runner back a bit of time. (NB: I’m not a PB seeker, but the stairs were still not a welcome sight). The finish chute was exciting, with plenty of space for family and friends to cheer you across the line. A band or some music wouldn't go astray here, just to add to the vibe. (Imagine how fitting a jazz band would be! Charleston anyone?). Your efforts of the morning are rewarded with a medal.

The run is only in its second year (I’m told; haven’t actually fact-founded that info) and like many other fun runs the organisers will have to work on balancing the books between maintaining viability and getting too many runners on the track. Because of the out and back nature of the course and the overlapping between the various distances, space on the track was pretty limited (back in my field anyway, I’ll never know how much space the front runners have in any event). But it made it friendly and intimate and I always like to check out people’s running apparel anyway.

There were a few sponsor tents there to stock up on gear, grab a massage or buy yourself a gym membership. There wasn’t much in way of food vans on offer (coffee van probably made a killing), but like I said, a picnic in the gardens afterwards would have been a very lush way to end the day. Otherwise head into Werribee - we had a highly-rated-by-all brunch at the Black Seed Café, just to clock up a few extra kid-free hours.

werribee groupflipped

I asked some of the girls for their feedback on the run – check it out

It was a fantastic event with beautiful surrounds. It was my first official run and it was a great experience to be a part of it and a great accomplishment to complete it. – Loretta 5.5km

Finishing an event like this makes all the mornings and training runs worth it. It motivates you to keep going and gives you confidence to better yourself each time. It was great meeting new people. I love the social aspect of running and the friendships I make because of it. Time with friends away from the kids makes it feel like it’s time for myself. – Liss 10km

I love that we experienced it as a group, the scenery was beautiful with perfect conditions! I struggled with the hills and stairs and even though I felt like I was dying I pushed through it and it felt like more of an accomplishment. I also loved that I found a burst of energy to sprint across the finish line. – Nicole 5km.

Next post – the Bellarine Sunset Run.

 

 

A comment about Wellness Coaching that's too big for the comments section.

A good friend and colleague of mine posted an article on Facebook recently about how exercise can help to treat chronic disease. (You can check it out here).  I took an apprehensive step up onto my soap box to highlight the important role that Wellness Coaching can play in that process too. My buddy wanted to know my thoughts on the issue but I decided my response would be far too lengthy to write in the comments section (not to mention the frustrating grammatical limitations of not being able to put in paragraph breaks. Here’s hoping one day Mr Zuckerberg creates an “essay” button to neighbour “like”, “comment” and “share”).

Hence, I have taken it upon myself to respond by way of a blog post.

To begin with, let’s start with what Wellness Coach actually is.

The godfather of the current coaching movement, W Timothy Gallwey (who authored a number of books about improving sports and business performance) concisely defines coaching as “the art of creating an environment, through conversation and a way of being, that facilitates the process by which a person can move toward desired goals in a fulfilling manner.” (M. Moore et al. Coaching Psychology Manual 2010, p3).

In Wellness Coaching the clients’ visions and goals, obstacles and apprehensions are listened to, without judgement. The definition of their ideal personal wellbeing is constructed, and plans, completely created by the client themselves, are put into place.

girl looking into wilderness

If we consider the article that my friend posted, let’s presume “Sue” is told by her doctor she is overweight and at risk of developing diabetes, a chronic illness. Appreciating the benefits that exercise can have on that condition the doctor refers Sue to an exercise facility to work with a trainer to get her more active. The trainer writes up a program for Sue that involves some light resistance work, some light cardio work and suggests that Sue attends the gym three times a week and tries to do a 30 minute walk around home on the other days of the week.

 

The doctor has done a great job in trying to reduce Sue’s likelihood of developing diabetes through physical activity. The trainer has done a great job in prescribing exercises suitable for Sue’s presentation.

But has anyone really asked Sue?

Sue works 5 days a week. She has a sick husband at home. Sue also has a small hobby farm that she needs to attend to and she has grandchildren that she babysits on the weekend. She knows her health needs attention, but she can’t possibly do what the experts have told her to do.

Enter the Wellness Coach.

If Sue was my client I’d be asking her how important her health is to her and why it is important to her. What areas of her life would change if her health was better? What wouldn’t change if she stayed the same? What does she imagine life to be like as a healthier version of herself; how would she feel; what would she do; how would she behave; how would she walk, talk, work? What can she do to create that life? I’d be asking her how confident she is about making lifestyle changes that can improve her health. I’d ask her to tell me what she wants her results to look like in 12 months’ time and 12 weeks’ time. I’d ask her to tell me what she could so this week that might work towards that 12 week goal.

As a result of “creating the environment, through conversation and way of being” Sue may tell me that as a healthier version of herself she has more patience and understanding when caring for her husband. She might tell me that with less weight, she feels confident enough to attend some of the local community events and that means she feels more connected to people and has more support around her. She might tell me that with more patience, less weight, more self-confidence and more community support she has the time and energy to play with the grandkids on the weekend and can take them to special outings because she isn’t worried that she is embarrassing them. She might tell me that this week she can take the long walk around the paddock to feed the sheep.

The numbers that the doctor sees are intangible to Sue. The imminent risk of diabetes doesn’t actually mean that much to Sue. The plan to go to the gym and start walking regularly is unrealistic and unattractive to Sue at the moment. She has no connection to this prescription.

Wellness Coaching however, has unlocked that the relationship with her husband is important to Sue; that feeling confident is important; that feeling connected to and supported by her community is important; that being more present with her grandchildren is important. Changing Sue’s health is now anchored by her values and a vision of herself – that is far more relevant than “numbers” or “risks”.

Sue’s plan to walk the long way around the paddock is her plan towards better health. It fits in with her lifestyle, her time, her interests and her priorities. Not the Doctor’s. Not that trainer’s. It may not produce results as quickly, but it is more likely to be something that she can do indefinitely.

With regular coaching (until Sue reaches a state of "self-efficacy" - where she can manage her wellbeing independently) we’d layer more actions on top of the ones she has already established and feels confident about continuing.  And ta-dah! Sue has made changes to her health so the Doctor is happy. Sue may eventually even feel enthused enough about joining the gym, so the trainer is happy. But most importantly, Sue is happy.

So in summary, of course I support the article that suggests exercise  is a great prescription for chronic illness.

But it doesn’t matter what I think.  The person with the chronic illness needs to think it’s a good idea too. And Wellness Coaching can help initiate that thinking and nurture the change that comes from it.

Yeh, there’s no way that was going to fit in the comments section.

PS: If you're a visual kind of person, this clip is a great way to summarize coaching.

Set-backs, psychology and surety. So long 2015.

2016 calendars are now in the 50% off bins; a sure sign that 2015 is so last week. Poor old twenty-fifteen has been tossed out quicker than a toddler’s pair of underwear on an unsuccessful toilet training day. Black pudding has busted out of the stalls as the superfood for the coming year, Miley Cyrus looks set to become our adopted Aussie after being seen ON. OUR. SOIL. with one of the Hemsworth brothers (I knew I should have learnt how to twerk) and the world can’t decide if flirting with a sports reporter is hot or not.

I however am still reflectively stuck in ’15. It was a pretty good year all-in-all. Here’s what came my way.

In twenty-fifteen I refined my definition of fitness. Having been in and around the fitness industry for 15 years or so, I feel like I’ve experienced a lot. I’ve been the gym junkie, the group-fitness groupie, the hard core workouterer, the event-addict, the yogi and even a bit of the lazy. Fitness means different things to different people. I’m pretty settled that my interpretation of fitness is:  to feel well. Physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually and socially – feel well. Feel balanced. Feel at peace with yourself. I’ll be bringing a whole lot of that attitude to 2016 with me.

In twenty-fifteen I found out that chronic pain sucks. I’ve been fortunate enough to skim through my 36 years of life without a broken bone or any major physical setbacks. But in 2015, I got a taste of what it feels like to have chronic pain. It’s depressing. It’s annoying. It’s encompassing. It has the capacity to suck out all of your enthusiasm and zest for life. But at the same time it has taught me to slow on down. Take a breath. Realign goals. It’s going to be ok. My own personal goal for the coming year includes a hell of a lot of stretching, gentle strengthening and back-to-basics movement.

In twenty-fifteen I learnt a whole lot about headspace and change and wellness and psychology and communication and people. Rewind about 19 years and I was in my last year of secondary school aiming to get a reasonably decent score. Psychology was one of my strongest and most favourite subjects. If I could have somehow time travelled my now adult head onto those naïve shoulders, I just may have gone on to study it further. The universe maybe had other plans and through a few uninteresting twists and turns I ended up in fitness. Not a bad route though, because this year I have combined my love of the two. Stacks of reading on nutrition psychology, change psychology and some enthralling studies in wellness coaching has made my world go BOOM! In 2016 I am going to bung on a whole lot more about the mental and emotional side of making health-related changes. planned

In twenty-fifteen I found out that I am right where I am meant to be. Professionally, I was tested a few times last year. I found myself at a couple of cross-roads where I really had to evaluate my career. However, every option I considered, every thought I had, brought me back to the health and fitness space. It really cemented that this is what I love doing. I am exactly where I am meant to be.

 

So, there you have it. 2015. Done. Dusted. Time to hang that 2016 calendar on the toilet wall, cook up some black-pudding (is there a vegetarian option?), pop on some “Blurred lines” and practice my twerking.

Retreat from the post-Christmas war zone. I repeat. Retreat.

It’s post-Christmas. And at this time of year, both from other people and in my own mind, I hear a lot of “Oh I have eaten so much”, “I feel disgusting,” “I haven’t done any exercise.” Overindulgence of alcohol, gifted chocolates that absolutely must be eaten, little bowls of sweets on the tables and countertops, dual servings of every meal and a variety of desserts to tempt even the most astute dieter, has left many of us feeling a little worse for wear.

Yep we’ve all got the I-feel-like-crap-sure-my-clothes-have-shrunk-don’t-know-if-I-can-ever-run-again thang going on.

We’re suddenly very down on ourselves; firing guilt bullets into our souls more efficiently than a household of boys with Nerf guns on Christmas morning. We’re vulnerable. And there’s an army of warriors coming our way to help the battle.

banana anger

For me, the fasters are at the front line. The fasting warriors tell me that I have eaten enough food to last me at least a week. I can absolutely survive safely and happily on green tea and water for the next the next seven days. That will induce homeostasis.

Marching not far behind is the juice cleanse brigade. Ready for battle, roaring “Juice for breakfast, lunch and tea! Carrot juice, celery juice, kale juice! Juice! Juice! Juice!” The more liquid goodness I can pour into my body the more un-liquid goodness I can eliminate. Juice me back to normality.

Hot on the tail of the juice brigade is the old faithful calorie counters. Download that app. Stat. It’s worked before, it will work again. Simple equation of calories in versus calories out right? Can’t be that hard, annoying or time consuming.

This war zone is also littered with guerrilla fighters. I’m getting Morse-code messages from undisclosed locations persuading me to quit sugar, dairy, grains and all manner of things I love. But I’ll feel amazing and my skin will glow and I’ll have so much energy. All things I’m not really basking in right now.

Whether it is through our own conditioned responses, adverts breaking up the non-rating period television shows, newspaper articles disguised as health sections, women’s magazines touting the latest celebrity diet, social media posts or even our local gym: they are all coming at us. Ready to help us fight the post-Christmas self-hate.

But I’m retreating. Christmas is as Christmas is. A time of year when many of us eat and drink more than what we need. And yes, we may immerge feeling a little out of kilter. But I am not rolling out any armies. I am not in any fight. I’m not going to war with myself.

This is what I am going to do.

I am going to breathe, walk, jog, stretch, catch up on sleep, read some books, eat fresh foods, drink plenty of water, listen to hunger queues (rather than the pop of a champagne bottle) and ignore the onslaught of sponsored ads that promise all manner of feeling better-ness.

Post-Christmas should not be a warzone. There should be no attacks, no interrogations, no prisoners.

It was Christmas. It was ace. Move on.

Why I run (when I'm not particularly good at it).

I’ve just come home from a 23 km run jog plod. I got up at 4:50am to start, in a bid to beat the horrendous Victorian weather expected this weekend and so I would be finished in time to do regular family stuff. The 23kms took me 2 hours and 34 mins. Anyone familiar with long distance running would probably, and rightfully so, regard that as a pretty slow pace.

I’m no superstar runner. And I’m not new to it either. I have been running since my mid-twenties (I’m now mid-thirties) and have trudged my way through 6 marathons.

I haven’t gotten any faster. I haven’t lost any weight. It’s stupidly cold at this time of year. My toenails feel like they’ve been trodden on by a Clydesdale. There's a good chance I’ll become incontinent before I’m 50 and (if I listen to my mother), I’ll be lame by 60.

AND running actually feels like an incredibly unnatural thing for me to do.