To run or not to run that is the question?
So how did we all end up finding this wonderful Happy Feet group? I found them by accident in November 2015 via a lovely friend and her daughter (Nicola and Alice) and I went along to C25K at the Lyppard Hub, on week 5 of C25K. I think this was the 2nd ever couch that they had run? But Marie can verify this. I turned up with my friend and said something like “Hi can I join the C25K?” I remember Marie asking how long I could run for as they were on week 5, but I said” its ok I go to the gym a lot and do classes and have used the tread mill a bit “. Okkkkkkk, we all know that joining at week 5 is quite a challenge, but I did it and enjoyed it from week 1 (well 5) as I just had a good feel about the group and loved the chatting and met some lovely people.
I went between the Wed group and the Sunday morning group at the Grange where we ran around this area around the changing rooms and had to run past men doing football training, which was quite embarrassing. I became known for running in my Gillet as it was the winter, and for lots of chatting.
The rest is history, I have had many niggles over the years, most from over running in the early days and from not listening to my body. I had to have 5 months off running as I continued to run and train for a 5km race with a team at work. This was my first official 5km race and it was part of the Para Triathlon event at Dorney Lake in Windsor, one team member is either in a wheelchair or uses a Prosthetic limb. As I am an Occupational therapist, this was a special day for me. I ended up with bursitis and having steroid injections in my hip (it was worth it though) so then I had to start couch again, this time from week 1! I went on to do the same event the following year, when I was healed and stronger.
The groups got bigger and I met more and more lovely people and I loved being able to go to any run and feel welcome and could always find someone to run at my pace, I learnt what mustering was and I soon became stronger and more confident and enjoyed the measured runs around the river and some park runs and entered the 2017 Worcs 10k, but had to pull out due to another injury ! but then went on to do the 2018 and 2019 10km runs and these were really high points for me.
I also enjoyed the monthly longer runs. I never set out to be a distance or an elite runner, but I did get a buzz from trying to improve my time on Strava and increasing my distance per month etc. The downside of Aps like Strava is it can sometimes take away the joy of just running, as we constantly compare ourselves to not just our last run, but to other runners. I look back at some of my faster runs now and think blimey I am miles off that pace and I will never get under 30 min for a 5km, but again that was never my motivation to start.
We can look at someone else and think that everyone around me is getting better and I am getting worse, this can therefore be demotivating and daunting. This isn’t true for everyone I realise but maybe some of you relate to this? so sometimes it would be good to have a tech free run and at the end just think, that was a great run, I really enjoyed that run…
So, lets go back in history a bit, this year I am 50, the big one some of us dread a bit, and I feel fitter and more important, I feel healthier in my mental health than I have been for many years. Happier with my body shape, let me explain why.
I used to really love running at high school and I was not a bad runner, I was in the school cross country team and at sports day I did the 1500m and 800m events and loved it .I loved running and training for the running with the school team until I felt too self-conscious to continue. I have been cursed (or blessed?) with rather ample boobs! this is not great for running, it is painful and sweaty and many other things. I remember running around the track at school and loads of lads shouting “jugsy jugsy, you don’t get many of them to the pound” etc . So, I stopped, and I never ran again at school.
I loved Cross country running as I lived in Wales by the sea and cross country running was across the fields, down to the beach and then we ran for miles along the sea front along the prom and onto the hard sand on the beach, it was an amazing feeling and It made me feel so great.
I didn’t want my body shape and the opinions of stupid hormonal teenage lads stop me from running, so I joined the surf life saving club. I haven’t mentioned that I was a very keen swimmer, I was in the swimming club and trained six times a week and competed in many swimming galas, I also felt self-conscious of my body shape in the pool , but I was very successful and won many medals and titles , so people soon stopped teasing me. I joined the lifesaving club and competed at lifesaving competitions across Wales and it was at one of these events I learnt about the open water lifesaving competitions, so that’s how I joined the surf life saving club.
We met weekly at the beach( the same beach I had enjoyed running along at school) and we practiced the reel and line rescue techniques and trained in the sea , the training included lots of running and so I was able to run again without feeling I would be teased. The life saving club was a very social place we had bonfires on the beach after training and enjoyed many happy times and I ran happily without feeling judged or body conscious.
I worked as a lifeguard on the beach for two summers while I was studying A levels and saved quite a few people in that time, usually just over ambitious people who thought they could swim better than they could. I also worked as a lifeguard when I was at Uni and even when I finished Uni, I worked at Sansome Walk pool as a lifeguard at weekends to pay off my student debts. (that’s one story I haven’t shared as we ran past the pool on our runs)
Fitting running into my hectic life and getting a good running bra.
The reason for the history bit is to just say that maybe I was a runner deep down, and I just had to find that inner runner again. I didn’t succeed in finding that runner again until I met Happy Feet and for that I will always be grateful. Whatever size, shape or speed you are at Happy Feet is irrelevant, that’s what I love like many other members.
I invested in a very good running bra and wear another crop top bra over the top of it. I have not let my body shape stop me from running now, but I had let it stop me for decades and the memories of the shouting as I ran past those boys, rested in a sad place in my school days memories. The running by the sea at school and the surf lifesaving club memories are important too as I love to run by the sea and if not by water, so my favourite run is round the river or along the canal. I so can’t want to get back to that run! One day maybe this year I want to do the Severn Bridge Park run in Bristol.
With my job I travel a lot, I have a global role (in normal times). I have been lucky enough this year to run in New Zealand and it was great to do that in my Happy feet top. I have run often in Sweden and Denmark too; I didn’t quite manage a run in Tokyo, but I did some long walks instead. My Strava history has some great locations rather than fast times. I remind myself that I never started running to be the fastest runner or to run marathons ( although I would like to do a half one day… maybe) The best thing with running is that you can do it anywhere, I always take my running shoes and some kit I can throw on and get out for a run, after a busy day of work and travel. I love running along the many rivers in Stockholm, a beautiful city. I travel in my running shoes as I often have to run to catch a connection across the massive Amsterdam airport.
Lockdown has taught me lots of things , as I am sure it has all of us, it has taught me that running is a slog on my own ; it has taught me that walking can be great too and I have walked almost every day with my daughter, or the dog, occasionally with Iain and often alone. It has made me appreciate sunsets, empty fields and that we live in a beautiful part of the country. The biggest thing it has taught me is that I miss people not things and that life is very fragile.
On May 16th I was due to do the Moon walk in London with my daughter for our 70th birthday( 20+50) this was a marathon walk through London at night in our bras to raise money for breast cancer. Sadly, it did not go ahead, like many other events. It was one of my big goals for my 50th year as I wanted to do a big challenge and to do it with my daughter too. It was also about letting go of that bad memory from school and just saying, yes this is me and I have big boobs. Hopefully it will happen later in year or in 2021.
I look forward to running around the river and chatting to Happy Feet runners again. I know it is important now more than ever to not take anything for granted as life can change so quickly.
Thanks for reading and don’t let your shape stop you from doing what you want to do, we have just one life, this is not the dress rehearsal.
Charlotte’s Guide to Relaxation, Running and Good Mental Health.
I work as a Relax Kids coach and adult meditation teacher. I help adults and
children to feel good! To help them learn strategies to feel calm and tame anxiety
monsters. A lot of these skills can easily be transferred over into running. We
often hear that running is great for our mental health and we all know that it gets
our endorphins flowing.
So how can this help YOU? Here are some practical ways to help you relax your
way to better running.
Mindfulness simply means being in the moment. Just for now putting worries of
the past or future to one side. Think of a dog. When a dog goes for a walk it
doesn’t worry about what is going to happen after the walk. It simply enjoys the
walk and takes in every single moment. As you run try to use your senses to be
mindful. What can you smell/see/hear on your run?
Imagine that your thoughts are like fluffy clouds, if you notice one pop into your
head, just keep on running and let it float on by!
Visualisation is just a posh word for imagining! Think of visualization in running
as a dress rehearsal. Many elite athletes use visualisation to help them succeed.
The more you mentally rehearse your run, the better your performance will be!
Visualise yourself crossing the finish line of your next race, really FEEL that
amazing feeling when you put the medal around your neck and get your T-shirt!
There is also research to show that just watching elite athletes can help us to
improve our own running technique.
To learn more about the brain/body response you could read Dr David
Hamilton’s book “How Your Mind Can Heal Your Body”.
Our bodies are always in one of two states. Fight or Flight mode or Rest and
When we are in fight or flight mode it has a negative impact on our bodies. Our
immune system drops, our muscles become tenser and we lose 60% of our
Capacity to process information. Have you ever been so stressed out you can’t
concentrate? That’s fight or flight.
When we are in Rest and Repair mode our bodies are less tense, our immune and
digestive systems will work better and we will be able to think clearly. All very
important for a great run.
So how can you get into rest and repair mode?
Meditation is a fantastic way to do this. Just allowing your brain to take a holiday
from our daily stresses will induce rest and repair mode. I have recorded some
guided meditations on Sound Cloud. Feel free to listen to mine (I’ll be updating
these regularly over the coming weeks!) or find one you like on YouTube.
Sound cloud link here: https://m.soundcloud.com/user-60260601/relax-mums-
All you need to do is get comfy and listen!
If you find yourself falling into negative thought patterns when you are on a run
use the “gratitude mile” to help you. I found during half marathon training miles
5 and 7 were always a sticky point for me. During these miles I would start to
mentally make a list of all the positives in my life. For example “I am so happy
and grateful the sun is shining on my run today. I am grateful for the lady who
just smiled as I ran past her. I am SO grateful that my legs are strong”. It really
helps to distract those negative thoughts and turn them around.
Look for the positives.
Every run might not be your best. You might not go as far/fast as you wanted to
that day or have done previously. It’s really easy to let negative thought patterns
Make a list of all the positives of your run either mentally or start a journal. It
will really help to focus your brain on the positives, which will in turn have an
effect on your muscles.
Dr Marasutu Emoto, a doctor in pseudo psychology, experimented on how our words and thoughts can affect the particles in water, why not look him up if you want to learn more.
Give these a go! See if they work for you. It’s like everything in life. Some of these
you will love, some not so much. Hopefully you will find one or more of these
If you would like to join me for meditation I am running a free mediation class on
Mondays from 8-9pm on Zoom. All you need is the
Meeting ID: 431 453 371
You can follow my page here:
Or for kids;
Happy running everyone- sending a big hug until we meet again!
Love from Charlotte xxx
I promised Marie and Rhi I would try to do a blog but I have never done anything like this before anddidn’t know what to say. In the end I seem to say a lot so bear with me!!
As many of you know I have been continuing to work during this lock down period and have had a lot of very long days. I fully appreciate that I am very lucky to still be working when many other people are not in that position. And while the work that I am doing feels pretty stressful at times, I also
know that there are people doing much harder work in the frontline than sitting at a computer for hours a day.
However, like everyone else, this lock down period has played with my emotions on a daily basis – I have been up and down like a yo-yo and have had good days and pretty bad days.
Last Friday morning I joined a webinar run by the Mental Health Movement in Australia about Resilience. I wanted to share some key things I took away from that session.
They talked about six keys to being resilient and some of them really resonated with me based on the last 6 weeks.
1. Vision – understating your vision and knowing your “why” is really important. It is essential to find meaning during tough times.
2. Self-Care – this is not necessarily about going to the gym or running miles but finding your own coping strategies and, most importantly, to have these as part of your daily routine. It is also about learning to engage in positive self-talk.
3. Problem-Solving – understanding that setbacks are normally temporary and getting the appropriate help and support – don’t be afraid to ask for help.
4. Perseverance – having a strong vision and purpose helps you through a tough time but you should still accept and acknowledge the tough times that you are facing and persevere through without adopting a victim mentality.
5. Composure – resilient people have emotions, but they try to avoid making poor judgements as a result of them. They also do not compare themselves to others.
6. Collaboration – you have to use people around you and also make sure that those people are people who, themselves, have good composure and are able to support you.
When our mental health cup fills up, we tend to move away from these behaviours. They then shared the things we can do to build mental health resilience. These included:
- Mindset – the importance of a growth mindset when wanting to better manage your mental health and trying to turn a negative into a positive. The two best ways to avoid negative self-talk is talking to someone else, and practices like mindfulness and gratitude.
- Coping Strategies – including nutrition, exercise, good sleep practices, social engagements, relaxation and laughter.
- Support networks – it is NOT a sign of weakness to seek support; just a sign you want to be doing better.
This is a very brief summary of the webinar but some things really did resonate with me. I know Ihave been guilty of comparing myself to others recently and feel I haven’t done enough if I’m not
running 10k daily, doing DIY around the house or participating in online chats each evening! That negative self-talk is not doing me any good. Everyone has their own coping strategies and if mine are falling asleep on a Saturday afternoon or reading a book then I should be happy that’s what
works for me.
I also loved the reminder of the importance of reaching out to others for help. What I love about our Happy Feet group is that we are there to support each other. We may not be able to see each other face to face right now but we have a great online community. In all honesty, this group has really kept me going over the past 7 weeks through its camaraderie, support and genuine friendliness – I feel so glad I am a part of such a great group.
One of the webinar presenters had apparently experienced some pretty significant mental health issues after being bitten by a shark!! I don’t think we have to worry too much about that in Worcester to be fair, but I am going to remember my P.E.A.R.L.S:
- Pleasure – doing things you find pleasure in or that bring pleasure into your life.
- Exercise – doing something is better than nothing.
- Achievement – working towards goals to achieve a sense of accomplishment
- Relaxation – calming the mind and the body
- Laughter – finding what brings you laughter
- Social Engagement – spending time and doing things with the people you love
Have a wonderful week everyone – can’t wait to the day we get to run with each other again.
Vicky's brilliant contribution to our V E Day Bingo..
Something starting with V, Something starting with E,
In Loving Memory of Geoffrey Griffin, Sharon's Dad, who sadly passed away on Friday 8th May 2020
Blog post by Sharon.....
I’ve always been a runner but a very different runner, at school I was a sprinter and a good one at that, not that that really bothered me. My PE teachers always got excited about my sprinting, my mum worked at my school too and I would often see her with my PE teachers in the school corridors discussing my sprinting, I always ducked down another corridor to avoid a ‘sprinting’ lecture from them.
100 meters was my forte, 200 at a push. I ran for my school, my district and my county. The teachers were very keen to push my running and wanted me to train and push hard because they really thought one day I would go to the Olympics.
I did love to sprint but I was also at an age where other things mattered more. Duran Duran, came into my life along with stilettos, big hair, black eyeliner and iced magenta lipstick and out went sprinting.
Never again would I be a sprinter. Would I have gone to the Olympics? I would never know because I threw it away to grow-up. What a shame. I should have listened to my teachers.
Over the years I dipped in and out of running, not quite understanding it, why could I not run distances, after all I was a sprinter. Of course, it’s because speed was in me and I always ran too fast, meaning I couldn’t maintain distance.
Fast forward to 1997, Princes Diana was killed, it was a devastating time. I decided I wanted to do London Marathon to raise money for Diana’s charity, I’ve always been fascinated and loved the LM. So I entered and started training, again I couldn’t do distances, why, what was wrong with me?
I had a big incentive when I was down in London and walking through Kensington Gardens looking at Diana’s flowers when I bumped into her butler Paul Burrell. We got talking about running and me wanting to do the LM for Diana’s charity, he told me how Diana would sneak out of Kensington and go for a run totally unnoticed, she loved running round Kensington, she loved running . He then told me he would like to run with me in the marathon, wow!
Many people have their own views about Paul but to me he really was a nice chap. Unfortunately, I didn’t get in to the LM, in those days you were called a reject!
Paul no longer worked for Diana’s charity, but we exchanged letters for a while and he encouraged me to run and raise money for charities close to Diana’s heart. So I ran Pershore HM and raised money for the Special Care Baby Unit at our local hospital. BUT still I couldn’t do distances, I walked most of it and continued to be frustrated.
Over the years I never gave up on the LM, but trying to get in is like trying to get blood out of a stone. It’s virtually impossible but someone has to get in, right… I never gave up on that dream.
In 2015 my dad had a massive stroke, so much so he wasn’t expected to survive, however he did, but the stroke left him totally debilitated and in need of nursing and care, he never went home again and has lived in a nursing home since.
We have many scary moments with dad’s health, it’s made a huge impact on my family, it’s very traumatic. Again, I decided I wanted to raise money, this time for the Stroke Association who helped enormously and always answered my questions. I also wanted to get dad the medal to help him feel proud again. I entered the LM again, no chance was I going to get in but this time I did! In 2017 I did the LM, again not understanding distance running and dad was so poorly during my training that my concentration went on helping dad.
I did the LM, walked a lot of it and had the most amazing day! I was part if the fantastic “Team Stroke”.
I met so many amazing people, I hand fed jelly babies to the Rhino, they really can’t see much out of their costume, ran with a lady who was running for the new charity Heads Together who had been on TV with the Mind over Marathon documentary. I listened to a guide runner explain to her visually impaired runner what the route was like, it’s amazing what you see through someone else’s eyes.
London is at its best on marathon day, everyone comes together to celebrate it, it’s got to be the best charity event in the world! I finished the marathon got dad the medal and raised nearly £2800 for the Stroke Association, I still didn’t “get” distances but my dad was so proud when I gave him that medal!
After the marathon I was giving up on running again when I decided I needed to join a running group. I found Happy Feet and apprehensively called the number on their web page. A lady called Marie answered, who happened to be shopping in Sainsbury’s and she still took time for my phone call. We chatted and decided I would join the group on the Thursday night. When Thursday came, I was so nervous and doubted myself with running and joining a group. We ran round the river and it was a great route, I didn’t need to feel nervous, it was fab. So my Happy Feet journey began.
Gradually and at last I began to understand distance and my running, it only took me 30ish years! Even though speed is still in me I didn’t need to be that sprinter. During my journey with Happy Feet I’ve had many ups and downs with running and life. From dad’s awful stroke, I’ve also lost many close and much loved people in my life which has totally knocked me back.
2 people I’ve lost have been my closest friends Lyn and Tanya, both to cancer, Lyn Breast Cancer and Tanya Pancreatic. Losing them totally took the wind out of my sails, they were amazing ladies, and both taught me that you can live and laugh even in the most terrible of times. We had this awesome foursome friendship going on, myself, my amazing inspiring Sam who now lives in Leeds and who I’m so thankful for, the crazy irresistible Lyn and my beautiful Tanya.
Tanya was my mirror image, we were different, yet we were just the same. The summer she was diagnosed I had been helping her train C25K, Sharon, she would say, I don’t get this running, I don’t want to do it, ‘trust me’ I would say. She even managed a run with HF, eventually she said Sharon ‘I get it, I feel fantastic’.
She would have joined HF if it wasn’t for her sneaky cancer, it hit without any warning. We lost her in September 2017, just a week short of her year diagnosis. Losing Tanya was like losing myself, she was everything to me, I felt I would never make friends again, I didn’t want to make friends. She was amazing, she had a knowledge like no other, she was pragmatic, funny, mischievous, dignified, determined, she was so unique, she was my best mate, I loved her.
Friends are so important to me. Tanya had a lust for life and learning, so I will continue that through my life for her, I owe her that for she taught me so much.
Then along came COVID and as I sit here I know my dad’s home is struggling with the virus, they have lost a number of residents yet they are fighting to make those that remain poorly well again. Dad is very poorly, we haven’t been able to see him properly for 2 months. I’m not sure of the outcome with dad but I’m so grateful to his nursing home. With that In mind on Tuesday 5th May I ran a Half Marathon to raise money for the residents fund at dads home, so far we’ve raised over £400 and that is still rising.
For the first time in my running journey I was able to run a long distance. It shows that commitment and determination does win through.
I thank God for Happy Feet and the day I found them. All of them have helped me through such hard times. I’m even beginning to make lovely new friends, there’s this lady called Karen in HF, she has become my new running partner, we go for running day trips, we’ve ran Silverstone, Cardiff, Race for Life and Worcester together and have so many running adventures to fulfil , we always enjoyed coffee and cake after our runs and I think she likes me, we now even call each other friend. Even though I can never replace my amazing unique Tanya and why would I, she will always be my one, but I think I’m going to be ok with Happy Feet in my life.
My reason to run, my dad.
My reason to live life to the full, my amazing Tanya.
My saviour, Happy Feet Fitness.
Oh, and a shout out to my wonderful husband and sons who have been constantly subjected to my challenges. My husband always supports and follows me around the country on my crazy quests. Thank you.
Thank you everyone and stay safe…
EVERY RUN I DO WILL BE FOR MY DAD
EVERY MEDAL I RECEIVE WILL BE FOR DAD.
HE IS MY HERO, MY INSPIRATION, MY STRENGTH, MY WORLD, MY EVERYTHING.
THANKS FOR EVERYTHING YOU GAVE US DAD, WE LOVE YOU.
I am sat here on the sofa with my 2 lovely children, it’s Sunday although I only know that because its roast dinner day, lockdown life is getting hard BUT I think we (I) have turned a little corner.
Over the past 6 weeks I’ve been through a roller coaster of emotions as we all have, We had lots of things planned as a family and I had a few challenges of mine own planned.
I was really geared up to complete the Birmingham Velo again this year (100 mile bike ride), after last years race I vowed I’d never do it again BUT I had an itch I had to scratch and entered on a whim. I usually have one big sporting event to look forward to in the year and it gives me massive focus, helps me planning my training and gives me a good purpose.
The day the email landed saying my ride was cancelled, I was gutted. Suddenly there was nothing to focus on apart from hear the words ‘the restrictions have been lifted’ and we just don’t know when that will happen. Exercise really is my life; I just love the feeling at the end and I’d honestly be insane without fitness.
Luckily, my life is surrounded by motivational, amazing people who have just blown me away since the start of lockdown.
I sat back the other week and thought, why am I getting in a tizz about not doing a race when I can crack on and do it anyway!
So I dusted off my bike, contacted my cycling buddy and got back out there, I plan to do the 100 miles around the same time as we’d have done the race which gives us 8 weeks, over the past 3 weeks we’ve got up to 50 miles.
What a difference having a focus makes, my training has fallen back into place and I’m really enjoying having a purpose to my workouts.
On my ride yesterday, I did question my choices. It was tough, 50 miles is a long way and the end was hilly. I had to use all the mind games in order to get me home, counting, shouting at my inner self and visualising the finish line. In this case it was my house that is at the top of a long uphill drag, with every revolution of my pedals I had to shout at the inner voice in my head to keep going.
Its going to be hard getting to that big 100 BUT my wonderful crew, my mental strength and determination WILL GET ME TO THE END.
Anyway, this has turned into a bit of a rambling blog about not a lot other than make sure you do what works for you!
I like a focus, something to get my teeth into. It helps keep me sane, give me focus and a sense of achievement.
Happy Feet Fitness