When you need your support crew

I’ve written on here before about how when I first started running, I saw myself very much as a lone runner who had no interest in competition (AH HA HA!), but that all changed when I joined Ely Runners in 2015. Now I really don’t enjoy running on my own, and never have I missed my fellow runners as much as I do now.

I’ll be honest – I’ve really been struggling.

I was genuinely doing ok with lockdown to begin with. Not great obviously, because this SERIOUSLY sucks, but I got into an exercise routine thanks to the amazing array of online workouts available, I started running with the other half when he decided he wanted to take it up to stay fit while he could no longer play his beloved badminton, and I started picking up old hobbies again. But then I had to say goodbye to my darling cat and the wheels suddenly came off in spectacular fashion.

For those among you who aren’t really pet people, it might be hard for you to understand just how much my heart broke when the worst possible moment finally came. Without going into it too much, she was diagnosed with a rare, incurable cancer 6 months ago, so we knew our time with her was limited and we did our absolute best to make the most of the time we had with her, especially during lockdown. But to have to say goodbye to your companion for the last 12.5 years when you’re not even allowed to set foot inside the vets is agonising, and suddenly lockdown became this pressure cooker that threatened to suffocate me.

I couldn’t go for my solo, head-clearing runs because I couldn’t bear to be on my own (if I were to go for a run, I would have to be at home on my own when my husband went for his daily exercise). I wouldn’t even go upstairs to bed on my own so I would stay up until the early hours and skate by on 4 or 5 hours sleep a night (he’s a well-conditioned night owl). I cried every day because everything in the house reminded me of her. I felt like I was constantly on the verge of a panic attack (having had one once at University I recognised that jittery tightness in my chest and the shallow breathing) and I kept thinking how what I really needed was to go for one of those really long runs with one of my closest buddies and howl at the universe and what a crapstorm it could be sometimes.

And my word, the guilt. The guilt of not being able to go in to the vet. The guilt of making the decision in the first place. The guilt of my husband having to shoulder the job of getting me through this entirely on his own. The guilt of struggling with the loss of a pet when people are losing human loved ones by the hundreds in extreme conditions every single day. It was almost as consuming as the grief itself.

But thank goodness for the online world and for those who will be there in whatever ways they can despite the fact they are all currently dealing with all of their own new-world stresses. I had friends who let me ugly cry at them through a screen. Those who dropped off flowers, gin, chocolate and those who I don’t even know that well but who messaged me to check how I was doing and to assure me that in time, it would get better. And looking back I realised that almost all of these people are those who I’ve met through running or my gym.

I think that when you’ve beasted an epic run together that involved dodging cows, dodgy stomachs and bog-like conditions (Ely Runners Christmas run, I’m looking at you) or survived a fitness class together where you end it face-planted in a puddle of your own sweat, you can look at each other in a new light and feel able to open up to each other. You can let yourself be a little bit raw emotionally, having already done it physically.

And slowly but surely, thanks to my remote – but thankfully, still very much present – support crew, I’m starting to come out the other side. I’ve got friends to do online classes with, friends who send me stupid GIFs, friends who drop off a seemingly endless supply of cake and friends who I know I can call and who will answer straight away when I have a bad moment. I’ve picked up the yoga again after a 6-week hiatus, because for a while only cardio appealed as it forced me to only focus on the physical. Yoga felt like it would give my brain too much time to breathe and therefore too much time to think. I’ve started doing Headspace’s grief programme, am baking more and am occasionally able to think of Minnie with a smile instead of tears.

After reading all of this you might be wondering why I’m writing about this in a fitness blog, but to me, mental health and physical health are the same thing – health. And the mental aspect of my health picked up a serious injury and I had to work out how to deal with that. And quite honestly, I’d rather have plantar fasciitis. But thanks to my husband (who is nothing short of a hero for getting me through the last 4 weeks when he had his own grief to manage) and my amazing support crew, I feel like very slowly but definitely surely, I’m coming out of the other side. I would name them all but it would simply take too long. But you all know who you are, and when this is over I can’t wait to thank you all properly in person.

And bloody hell I can’t wait to go for a run with you.

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How I’m Staying Active in Lockdown

So I wasn’t originally planning on writing a post about how I’ve been trying to stay active (and sane!) during the Covid-19 lockdown, because let’s face it – every fitness blogger will be doing the same. But thanks to a stitch-up by (friend and radio host) Richard “Spanners” Ready, I’m compelled to share my fitness tricks and tips! Hopefully some of these will be useful to you or someone you know.

ONLINE CLASSES

There are frankly hundreds of available classes online at the moment, many of them for free, and others for a nominal fee to keep fitness instructors – who have found their income severely affected – financially afloat. To be honest, the amount of choice has been a little overwhelming at times (I’ll be on Instagram and suddenly get alert after alert of gyms and fitness influencers going live) but I’ve found a few that have really worked for me, especially in a small space.

@DanceFitnessWithLily – my friend Becky put me on to Lily, and I’m so grateful that she did! Lily is a professional dancer and choreographer based in London and she has the most infectious energy. She is offering 5 classes a week using Instagram Live, and she saves them to her story afterwards so you’ve got 24 hours to give them a go. They usually last 30-40 minutes, and they’re easy to do in a small space. Lily clearly loves what she does, and when she talks along to the songs with perfection pronunciation you can’t help but smile. An absolute tonic during these tough times. You can also follow Lily’s main account at @lilymaemcgregor.

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Runderwear – Underwear company Runderwear are doing a #60DayChallenge at 10am every day, which you can either do live with them on Facebook or do at your leisure by watching the video back. It’s usually no more than a 15 minute workout, based around bodyweight exercises such as lunges, squats etc. You can sign up to get a daily email reminder and a breakdown of the exercises here.

Magda Dawczak – Magda is an Ely resident and friend of mine who I met when she taught me Zumba. She usually teaches classes at the Hive in Ely, but that has obviously temporarily closed. Despite not having her regular income, Magda has decided to ask anyone who would like to attend her online Zoom* classes to donate money to the NHS using the 70085 number. Magda is one of the strongest women I know, but don’t be scared – her classes are based around cardio, core work and Zumba, which are accessible to everyone. You can find her on Instagram as @happy_fit_uk.

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Jo Hopkins – Jo is another local instructor who I know from the classes she teaches for Sweaty Betty Cambridge. She is an absolute human whirlwind, and not even a pandemic can change that. Jo is running – get this – 4 or 5 classes A DAY, including stretch and mobility classes, daily 30-minute lunchtime family exercise sessions and Saturday night dance parties! You can get involved for £5 a class (paid via bank transfer) or for £15 a week you can do as many classes as you like! Jo is also using Zoom for this, and you can find her on Instagram at @johopkins.moveit. She also has an incredible plant-based food company, so you can follow that at @josvivakitchen for foodie inspo!

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Helena Everdell – Helena is one of my yoga instructors and owner of one of the most soothing voices known to humankind. She’s sharing great little 5 minute videos on Instagram focusing on different body parts such as neck and shoulders, abs and a full body burner, so you can slot these into your WFH days whilst the kettle is boiling. Plus if you’re lucky, her dog Pablo makes a cameo, and we all know that cute dogs make everything better. You can follow her at @helena.everdell.

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Elyte Fitness – it’s not too late to join a gym! My amazing gym, Elyte, has moved to online classes for all of its members, so for me it’s just brilliant to be able to check in with all of my workout buddies and still get my sweat on with them. Elyte even offered for members to borrow equipment so that they could use them in their own homes, including the spin bikes. This goes above and beyond, and reminds me why I’m a member at the best gym round here.

LEARN A NEW SKILL

Ever wanted to be able to do a headstand? Learn to hula hoop? Do the splits? Try couch to 5k? Do a press up? This is your chance. Don’t waste it.

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MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR ALLOTTED OUTDOOR TIME

Whether it’s walking the dog, getting out for a run or jumping on the bike, please make the most of your chance to get outdoors while all of this is going on. We all know how much good vitamin D and fresh air does for us all, and although it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by everything that’s happening, changing your scenery (in a socially distant way of course) will make such a huge difference to your day.

TRY MY WORKOUTS!

If this isn’t enough for you, I even wrote a couple of challenges for my running buddies that you can try at home! Fancy giving either of these a go?

1000 Rep Challenge

You can do this either as it’s written, or by breaking it down into 5 rounds:

50 x mountain climbers
50 x press ups
50 x burpees
50 x jump lunge (per leg)
50 x sit ups
50 x tuck jumps
50 x plank up downs
50 x plyo star jumps (hands to the floor)
50 x squat jumps
500 x skips (or high knees if you don’t have a rope

7 Minute EMOM

And EMOM means you start each exercise every minute on the minute. When you’ve finished the exercise, you can rest for the remainder of the minute. Repeat 4 times (28 minutes total).

10 burpees
40 flutter kicks
20 squat jumps
20 leg raises
10 surfer burpees
40 russian twists
20 squat thrusts

Let me know if you try either of these, and if you’ve discovered any other online gems I’d love to hear about them!

*Zoom is a video conferencing programme that has become INVALUABLE during this time. You can get the app and sign up for an account for free, and then people like Magda and Jo send out the link to the meeting (class) to attendees who have signed up and you’re good to go! Just remember that if you turn your camera on all of the attendees can see you, so think twice before doing a class in your underwear.