Tag Archives: divorce

It’s time to change your mindset and change your life (and your running of course!)

I’m just as bad as every other runner (and woman!) out there who doubts themselves and questions what they do. Will I be able to finish my long run? How will I ever run a PB again in my mid 40s? Does my bum look big in these shorts/capris/leggings?!

More so in the last five years or so as a difficult divorce knocked my confidence right out of me, heart and soul. For months, and then a few years I could run, then I couldn’t. I started training with my club again, then stopped. I entered races then never made it to the start-line (far too often). So I’ve had a good few years of being demoralised, physically and mentally. But there have been a few glimmers of hope; good days when I felt like I was flying and some good races that I was almost happy with. Running is a constant rollercoaster, and we all go up and down with it, just as we do with life. I’ve found that being able to accept my running for what it is now – regardless of the amount of training behind me, or the speed in my legs – means that I keep going when life wants me to stop, and I feel I’m managed to hold on to that wisdom we all know with running – consistency is key.

I get a lot of motivation from my three girls...what motivated you to keep going?

I get a lot of motivation from my three girls…what motivates you to keep going?

What’s one of the most important ways I do this? Talking to myself of course. More commonly known as Neuro Linguistic Programming, or NLP. NLP is the art of getting consistent results using the language of the mind to positively influence our attitude and therefore our behaviours. “I’m never going to be able to run that fast/far…” say this no more! “I’m too old to run a marathon…” Stop it right now! “I’m never going to be as good a runner as I want to be…” Oh yes you are!

I’m lucky as at a particularly low point post-separation I visited an Emotional Wellness Coach, Janet Smith. At this stage I was carrying around a lot of stress and anxiety after looking after my three girls on my own for two years. After a few sessions with Janet my whole approach to myself, and my divorce, would transform dramatically.

Anything is possible, if you believe in yourself

Anything is possible, if you believe in yourself

“NLP can improve your performance dramatically,” Janet told me at our first meeting. “How? It provides a series of techniques that assist in changing negative mindsets or removing blocks to performance that have been created through bad habits or as a result of negative past experiences.”

NLP techniques can be used to focus your mind. “Changing limiting self beliefs and negative self talk will increase personal success as a runner and also increase happiness as unresolved negativity is released,” Janet said. “Performance in any sport can be broken down into the components of knowledge, skill and attitude. With running, the attitude or mental approach is often paramount in achieving success. Think of the runners that you admire: what qualities do you notice? It is often attitude which allows that person to put in the dedication to achieve their goals; knowledge and skill become secondary.”

OK I hear you say, but how is NLP going to benefit me?
By working with NLP it is possible to challenge your long standing beliefs through ‘mental modelling’, a questioning paradigm, that helps you to get to the root of the problem that affects performance. “You may also wish to break down your running technique into components which can be looked at individually. Often what we believe about a problem is not where we end up finding the solution,” continues Janet. “We can begin by asking ourselves simple questions such as: What do I believe about my ability to reach my goal? Is there anything that will stop me? Do I commit 100 per cent or do I self sabotage?”

This is an image I hold in my mind when I am struggling with my running. It reminds me of The Dodo Trail I ran in Mauritius

This is an image I hold in my mind when I am struggling with my running. It reminds me of The Dodo Trail I ran in Mauritius

Your success begins with having the right attitude, but it’s important to look at your whole life, not just your running. “It is never just about the running; outside stresses influence our ability,” Janet believes. “Negative emotions and anxiety can drain our energy and cause under performance. Similarly being too relaxed and not focused will lose us ‘our edge’.” In my case, my traumatic divorce bought negativity into all areas of my life – financial, relationships, home, family. It dragged me down into a dark, dark place. Janet made me realise that if I wanted to, I could leave that place.

A really tough race, the Killarney Adventure Race in Ireland

A really tough race, the Killarney Adventure Race in Ireland

To do this, and to reignite my love for running, and reestablish it in my daily and weekly routine, Janet encouraged me to create the best attitude I could around my running. “Begin by thinking of a time when you were off your game and under-performed. What emotions were present? How were your behaviours influenced by those emotions? It is most likely that negative emotions of anger, fear and anxiety were present in some capacity or they even stopped you from going out running in the first place.”

My first marathon, Shakespeare

My first marathon, Shakespeare

Then I had to focus on the feelings surrounding my running that had given me the most joy and pleasure. This was easy. It was finishing my first marathon, and the feelings of sheer disbelief that I had finally achieved something I had dreamed my whole life of doing. The elation was so incredibly it took light years to make my way back down to earth.

We can all raise our awareness of our own peak performance by recognising when we are on our game and things are going well. If we can just stay out of our own way then we will perform to the peak of our capacity! Increasing our self awareness provides us with the motivation to achieve our aims.

“It is believed by numerous coaches that the next big steps in human performance will come from how we harness the mind and this is where NLP will come into its own as we step into the future of sport and competition,” adds Janet.

Whatever it may be that you hope to achieve in your running, or whatever your dreams are, once you start believing you can do this, you will.

So, what is Emotional Wellness Coaching?
“As an Emotional Wellness Coach, I use NLP techniques alongside hypnosis and Spectrum Therapy when working with clients,” says Janet. “By working with a client’s own individual programming it is possible to increase performance by using visualisation and hypnosis. Furthermore, I use Spectrum Therapy to release negative emotions, help people heal from previous past experiences and become more positive in all areas of their life. This can be extremely beneficial not only in bringing about optimum performance but in providing a happier more enjoyable experience whilst running.”

Some NLP strategies we can all do at home
Janet suggests you:

Listen to the stories you tell yourself and others about your running. Do you constantly discuss your fears over a previous injury? Do you play down your ability? Are you frightened of achieving success or failure? Change the stories – change the results!

Focus on what you do want and not what you don’t want.

Ask yourself what do you believe about your ability to achieve your goal? If you believe it is impossible or that it will take a long time, you will be right.

Imagine yourself having the best run of your life, what would need to be happening? How would it feel, look and sound? Use this as a visualisation exercise.

Take time to focus your mind by using visualisation. Relax, breathe slowly, close your eyes and imagine yourself achieving your goal, is there a colour or sensation connected to it? Now make that colour or sensation more vibrant and more compelling. Do this everday to install new behaviours.

Ask yourself are you literally running away from your problems? How happy are you with your life? Are there negative situations that you should be addressing?

Listen to your inner voice, do not allow your ego to push you towards an injury.

To find out more about how NLP and how Emotional Wellness Coaching can benefit you, visit www.emotionalwellnesscoaching.co.uk.

 

Saying goodbye

noo noo girl running for David

As the London Marathon approaches, I am reminded of an anniversary…..

Can you, during a one and a half hour run, encapsulate a life? Yesterday I cried until my body reached drought levels. Why? I’ve known for months that my oldest friend, Caroline, would be heading off to live, with her family, in New York. We said our farewells, full of hope and excitement. However, when I saw her ‘last’ picture in England, posted on Facebook, I was totally overwhelmed. What I had been avoiding for months suddenly bubbled over, inside and out. My great friend would now be an ocean apart, flying a new trajectory into her future.

For a day I felt stunned. I thought about our 30 years of life; similar yet completely different journeys marked by a spiritual quest, creativity and adventure. When we were kids we toed the line in the school athletics team, Caroline achieving first, second and thirds at the 800m effortlessly, me throwing the javelin, or filling in the spaces where someone was needed. We were the netball and hockey teams – always there, always believing we were going to win! When we were 15 we went running together, then in our late teens and early 20s we hit step classes and aerobics along with every other woman in the 80s. We had a common love of exercise; Caroline excelled in anything requiring rhythm and flexibility whereas I relied on fiery energy.

Today, a new week began and I knew I needed to go for a run, however slow and hard; going out was better than not. And so I steadily warmed-up as I ran past our old school. Madonna’s Immaculate Conception clicked in on my iPod and memories began jumping out of nowhere. I felt suddenly present, jogging past our secondary school, which had been its own warm-up for our lives; we had sat next to each other at the age of 11, 30 years ago. Relaxation set in, I lost the sense of having to run, and my head rose. Get into the groove, the music told me. Caroline and I had ritually humiliated ourselves in the village disco to this song, as well as Bananarama’s ‘Venus’; our endless bobbing up and down on the stage wearing our Port Maid stretchy skirts, dog-toothed tops and white stilettos – we must have been a sight.

As I continued to run I decided to step off the path onto a local trail; how many times had we both stepped off our paths in the last 30 years? We had wanted to move away from our home village, live in London, act, write… unconventional for village girls. And the more I followed the trail, the wetter, muddier and boggier the ground beneath my feet became. Separation and divorce has muddied both our lives, and diverted us down rough roads until we too found our way back to our own paths. Who else, but your oldest friend, would drop everything to listen to your sobs of pain as you sit in your car, on the side of a road, facing the brutal reality of divorce; just listen, reassure and not judge.

No off-road run would be complete without some form of hill; big, small, medium… Today was a slippery, short hill that burnt quickly and brightly. But what of the mountains we’ve had to climb; geographical isolation, unemployment, miscarriages… the toughest of challenges, yet climb we always have, sharing that same innate drive to carry on, succeed, be counted and recognised. The short climb finished me off quickly. It was time to make my way back. As I ran along the promenade a thick, stubborn mist sat heavily on still water. And in times through our shared lives we have both felt stranded in such mist, yet, growing up by the sea, we’ve always known that however long the grey weather lasts, eventually the sun burns through.

Ironically, I even got the proverbial fly in my eye. By then, my fingers were sticky from my gel, and I was incredibly aware of how messy, at times, our lives had been. Yet, whatever happens during a run, when you finish, you have a small achievement, regardless of how hard the run felt.

Caroline and I have many things in common and many things that set us apart. We’ve had to climb many hard hills, and make our way back to our own starts. We’ve gone from giggling together in History lessons to living as far apart on the planet as possible. When Caroline first told me that New York was going to be her new home there was a pause before we both said: “We can run the New York Marathon…”

It is a goal we can work towards from opposing continents. Our lives will continue onwards until we can, hopefully, collide in the biggest marathon on the planet.

A fit woman is a powerful woman

noo noo girl running for David

I know a woman. She’s had a tough few years. Life hasn’t been that kind to her. She’s had quite a few issues to face, and she will be the first to admit she hasn’t always coped with her problems all that well. Don’t get me wrong; she is one feisty individual, and if you were ever (heaven forbid) in some kind of fight, you would want her on your side. Once, years ago now, there was an incident where I live. Someone threatened me, and when you’ve never been threatened before it can feel very scary. This woman said to me: ‘If you are ever threatened again I am going to punch that person.’ I don’t advocate violence, of any type, even if the perpetrator feels justified in solving a problem in this particular way. But I felt protected, knowing that someone was willing to stand up for me, even defend me if they had to. Up until that point in my life, no-one had ever done that for me (and perhaps a few people really should have).

We all know her type; one minute they are up and you are there with them, tagging along like the tail of a kite bobbing in the sky. Before you know it, they have plummeted into the doldrums, and are crashing about, like a grumpy child who cannot get their way. For years I thought, no, I knew that the one way this woman could control her moods and her angst would be to go for a run. I mentioned it a few times, and even tried to arrange for us to go out for a run together. It just didn’t happen; life was always busy and the weeks would disappear before we got round to going. Yet that thought, that maybe some form of intense, energy-fuelled exercise could be cathartic to her, remained, kicking around in my mind.

For this woman the struggles of life are buried deep within her. Her father left when she was only a little girl, and decided to live as far away as you can on the planet, before you start travelling back to where you started from. I don’t think she has ever come to terms with this feeling of abandonment.

Then the time came – and it always does, doesn’t it? The right time to do something to really try and help someone help themselves. However much we, or others, think we know when it’s best to try something, stop doing something, or even wait for the ‘something’ in question to come along, you just can’t force life.

I admit, looking back, that I myself was too busy for years to really help this woman as much as I could have. Half-hearted tries don’t really stand up to the brutal filter of reflective hindsight. She was experiencing some degree of conflict in life; with her family and her friends. Really, she needed someone to step into her life and help her sort out the problems she found too big to contemplate, let alone solve. I can even remember her saying to me once: ‘It’s so hard being in the middle all the time.’ That was when I came up with a plan.

I waited until a weekend then pounced on her. ‘Let’s go out for a run,’ I suggested in as casual a manner as I could conjure up. ‘I don’t want to, and my trainers are rubbish. I’ll be useless,’ she replied.

‘Come on,’ I insisted. ‘It will be fun!’ (I felt a little unsure about saying this knowing how fiery she can be if she has to do ANYTHING she doesn’t like.)

We almost ended up having a bit of an argument, me saying it will be fine, her saying, I’m just not sure. She didn’t have any running kit, just a pair of old leggings and a t-shirt. ‘You don’t need anything,’ I insisted, ‘just your trainers.’ And then we were off, jogging along the pavement, taking it slow, seeing if she enjoyed it, not really talking or thinking about anything. It was a very simple achievement and lasted for less than 10 minutes. We both liked it, and, more importantly, we both gave it another go together. The second, third and fourth times there weren’t any huffing under her breath. ‘You know,’ I thought to myself, ‘I think she is liking this running thing.’

That was last Easter, nearly a year ago, and this woman now runs twice a week. She joined a club. She’s even done a few races. We still try and run together, when time allows. She still says she’s rubbish, but really she’s not. She’s now in control of her life just a little bit more than she was before. She knows that when she’s having a bad day she can lace up her trainers, go for a run, and after, she says, she feels so much better.

This woman is my daughter. She is 11-years-old. She is a little woman. Put a pair of trainers in her hand and she has become a powerful woman.