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6 month goal review

6 month goal review

So it’s July already, which means that half the year has gone… nooooo!

It always makes me panic how fast time goes, and the fact that it is now July has got me thinking about my goals I set back in January and where I’m up to with them.

I thought I’d write a quick post to sum up what I’ve achieved in the last 6 months, and what I’d like to achieve in the next 6 months. (It’s more to cheer myself up about what I have achieved and give myself some direction for the next 6 months, rather than to brag about everything I’ve done!) I generally like to have some goals to work towards, I find I work better that way and feel more motivated.


My goals for 2018 were as follows…

RUNNING

Complete a half marathon  – DONE woohooo! I completed the Great Manchester Run Half Marathon in May, in 2hr 8mins and it was one of the proudest moments of my life. I have also booked another Half Marathon for October… whoops!

Do at least 10 10K races / running events  – So far this year I have completed…

So I’m over half way with this one, on target! Unfortunately, I have had to pull out of a couple of other 10k races I had planned for June (Colshaw Hall 10K) and July (Tatton Park 10K again) because of a leg injury. This injury is completely unrelated to running but was caused by a freak accident I was in a few weeks ago. It’s annoying because it has set me back but I will not let this stop me believe you me!

Improve my running speed – target 25 mins 5K by end of the year (currently around 28mins)

Hmmm, this one is ongoing! The leg injury mentioned above has set me back which I’m annoyed at, but I plan on following a training plan for my next half marathon and trying to get quicker by mixing in intervals and hill repeats etc.

Join a running club – DONE! I’m so proud of myself for this. I joined a running club in January and it’s one of the best things I’ve done this year. Check out my blog post on Running and Mental Health to find out how much this has really helped me.

Complete  a Tough Mudder – This is booked for September… ha. We will see how I get on with this, but the next few months will see my training switching over to strength so that I have half a chance of completing this!!

Go to as many park runs as I can, including trying some different ones, with the aim of reaching 50 park runs – Well, I started the year of well but recently have been slacking on the Park Run front due to my injury. So far I have been to three different Park Runs (poor show) but I have completed 24 so almost half way to my target..!

Run 1000km in 2018 – Currently on 460km so almost half way, need to step it up in July!


FITNESS / other challenges

Focus on increasing my strength – more body pump / strength work at the gym – In progress, this will become more of a focus now my half marathon has been completed. As I now need to focus on training for Tough Mudder.

Start core classes at the gym – DONE

Start Pilates classes – finally – I have been to a few Pilates and Yoga classes this year so far but haven’t been going as regularly as I’d like.

3 peaks challenge – at least climb a few more mountains as I love Snowdon – 3 peaks challenge is booked for July… eeeek!

I have also climbed several mountains this year so far, including Hellvelyn in the Lake District and Glyder Fach and Tryfan in Wales.

I would love to do another massive personal challenge like Machu Picchu – watch this space!! Still planning something like this, although may be next year due to £££.


TRAVEL

Take at least a month off for travelling – yeah, not quite sure if this will happen yet but if it does it’s likely to be towards the end of the year / early next year.

I have been to Paris and Holland twice so far this year and I am planning a trip to Barcelona later in July.


PERSONAL

Get a tattoo – something related to scoliosis and my China Challenge would be good as a reminder of what I achieved.  Still needs to be done 🙂 But I have not forgotten…

I’d like to add another personal goal relating to growing and developing this blog further. I have lots of plans and ideas but it’s time to put these into action.

I’d like to add here that I feel like I personally have grown and changed a lot over the last 6 months. I had a tough time at the end of last year, as my long term relationship of 13 years ended.

In the past 6 months, I have moved forward physically and emotionally. I have now got my own place and am doing more fun things with my friends than I used to. I’m also now more comfortable doing things on my own, for example cooking a meal for myself, shopping for food, sorting out my car MOT or just being on my own in my flat. These things may not sound like much but for me, they are huge steps forward and I feel like I am now more comfortable with myself and more confident than I have ever been before.


So there we have it, half way through 2018. I am proud of what I have achieved so far this year and I’m excited for what’s to come in the next 6 months.

BRING IT ON! 😀

Your Scoliosis Stories - Rachel's Story

Your Scoliosis Stories: Rachel’s Story

In the spirit of scoliosis awareness month, I have another amazing inspirational scoliosis story to share from one of my lovely readers 🙂

The latest story comes from Rachel, who shares her brave journey with scoliosis below. If you’d like to share your scoliosis story to be featured on this blog, please do get in touch!


Your Scoliosis Stories… Rachel’s Story

I think anyone with scoliosis will agree with me when I say that it’s unforgettable the minute you have a diagnosis. It’s like in a few small seconds, your world completely changes. I know that was the case with myself. Despite only being aged seven, I will never forget the minute I was diagnosed. I had some sort of virus and my Mum noticed that my ribs were sticking out on one side of my back, and took me to the local GP, whereby I was diagnosed with scoliosis, with an initial 58 degree curvature.

Following this, we were referred on to a specialist spinal consultant in Belfast. The options we were given weren’t particularly great. One was to wear a Boston body brace, and try to stop the curve progressing. Second option was to go down the spinal fusion route. However, due to my young age at the time and the severity of my curve, I would be receiving surgery on a six-month basis, to expand the rods. Neither option appealed to myself, nor my family.

However, when researching my condition, a family friend came across a specialist clinic in Suffolk, England, named Scoliosis SOS, which provided exercises aimed at reducing the curvature. The course was extremely intense – 6 hours of intensive physiotherapy every day, 5 days a week. Upon completion of the course, I had to complete such exercises at home for forty-five minutes every day. Around this time, I was also wearing a Boston brace, to try and stabilise my curvature. The exercises seemed to work as my curve came down to 48 degrees.

It was at Scoliosis SOS that we were put in touch with a company in Germany which makes custom-made braces. The staff were more than helpful and worked to suit me best, making me feel at ease. If something didn’t feel comfortable, all I had to do was say and they would quickly adjust it. As I progressed through puberty, I was back and forth to Germany for adjustments to existing braces and new body braces, when I had outgrown the current one.

For a while, it seemed like the exercises and body braces were working. Of course, the spinal fusion was always playing on my mind. We were warned that when I hit puberty and the growth spurt, the curvature would basically have a mind of its own and to expect it to go back up. Which it did.

I will never forget the day I was told that the spinal fusion procedure should seriously be considered, back in 2014. In the lead-up to the surgery, my curvature had risen to 82 degrees. What also sticks in my head was the pain I was in. The braces and exercises just weren’t helping me at that time, I was in constant agony. I couldn’t sleep at night, it hurt me to breathe, I couldn’t deal with the pain. In my mind, I knew that the spinal fusion procedure was the right thing to do. But something wouldn’t click. For years, I’d worked hard to avoid this. If I’m being completely honest, it felt like I’d lost my scoliosis battle, and that I was taking the easy option. What was harder to accept was that I felt like I’d let friends, family, physiotherapists, a lot of people down, and for that reason, I was too ashamed to tell people I’d made the decision to have spinal fusion surgery.

Your Scoliosis Stories Rachel Xray
Rachel’s scoliosis X-ray before surgery

For this reason, I fell into a dark patch. I felt like I had nobody to talk to, and I felt like nobody understood what I was going through. People didn’t know what it was like, nor did they realise the pain. Don’t get me wrong, people try to understand, but it’s not the same. I kept my feelings hidden, and ploughed on through. I was still in a lot of pain, but I kept going. When I think back on that time, I wish I did speak up and explain how much I was struggling. A few people have recently said to me that they admire how I dealt with everything over the years. But they don’t know what I’ve gone through, nor do they recognise the struggle it was to paint a smile on my face and tell everyone I was fine when I was in agony.

I was offered the opportunity to go to London to have my spinal fusion over there, but didn’t take the offer. It just seemed too far-fetched at the time – I was still in school and in the middle of completing my A Levels, I wanted to be as close to home as possible, among many other reasons. Several agonising months of pain followed and we were offered the opportunity to go to London again. It was now something I couldn’t turn down.

I remember meeting the surgeon and anaesthetist and it was only after that appointment that things started to feel real. This was going to happen. My life was going to change and I was going through with the spinal fusion. I honestly could not have asked for a better surgeon or anaesthetist – I will be forever indebted to the two of them.

I will also never forget being told the date of my spinal fusion. The hospital had rang my Mum and from memory, it was just over two weeks before. As much as I was dreading it, I was also excited. I had a lot to do, but strangely a part of me was looking forward to it as well.

What I also remember is the journey over. I was like a different person, I was acting like I didn’t have a care in the world. But I remember that when I got to the hospital and was going through details with a Nurse, that I broke down and said I wanted to get a flight home, also saying I’d made the wrong decision. Pre-surgery nerves more than anything!

I know a lot of people say they can’t sleep the night before their surgery, but strangely enough, I didn’t have a problem sleeping right through. One thing I hated was the 6 am wake-up call for breakfast, before fasting. I remember just waiting around, there’s not much you can do on the day. I was scared out of my mind, but when you are in the moment, you have to trust that everything will work out okay. My procedure was going to be in two stages: Stage 1 would be where they removed a rib to fuse the spine and I believe they did some metal work and then Stage 2 would be the main surgery.

I got the first procedure on a Saturday. All seemed well, I was eating fine on the Sunday. A part of me was thinking ‘why was I so worried about this?!’ But of course that faze passed. They worked close to several major organs during the surgery and they said that they had to see some movement in my bowel, which didn’t happen. They tried absolutely everything in the coming days, however it seemed like my bowel had gone into shut down. At one point, there was talk of me moving hospital, which thankfully didn’t happen in the end. My stomach swelled so badly that the Doctors and Nurses repeatedly asked if I was pregnant. On top of everything else, it wasn’t ideal.

One thing that particularly stands out in my mind was the chest drain. It was put in as a precautionary measure during the first procedure, as they work close to the lung area. They took the chest drain out on the Thursday, and I remember as soon as it came out, I didn’t feel right. The only way I can describe it is that I felt like something inside me had given up. I didn’t want to voice my concerns, as I thought this was just normal. But on the Friday afternoon, I will never forget waking up in the High Dependency Unit, and seeing my surgeon and anaesthetist by my bedside, letting me know I was going to have emergency surgery. My lung had collapsed, and I remember crying, but I wasn’t sure if it was tears of relief or tears because I was scared. I felt like I’d given up and at the time, as traumatic as it sounds, I felt like I was dying. I was drifting in and out of consciousness, I was on an oxygen mask, my stomach was still completely swollen as my bowel still wasn’t working, it was hideous. I remember coming round from the surgery and feeling much better.

This of course delayed the second part of the procedure. My bowel was still not working by the time it came to the second procedure, but they had to go ahead with it anyways. Almost as soon as I woke up from the second procedure, the Occupational Health Therapists had me up walking. Anyone who has gone through spinal fusion surgery will know that anything you do after surgery is like starting over again. Even tiny things like going to the toilet, walking, going up stairs, it’s all different and it does take time to adjust to it. The feeling of achievement when you complete the tiny things is indescribable. For example, whenever I walked up and down the Ward, I was wrecked after, but my Dad filmed it, and if I’m ever having a bad day, I watch that video, because it shows me just how far I’ve come.

Your Scoliosis Stories Rachel Xray after
Rachel’s Scoliosis X-Ray after surgery

I was in hospital for nearly a week longer than anticipated, a total of almost three weeks. When you’re there, it feels like an absolute lifetime, but everyone made me feel at ease and if there was any issue or I was uncomfortable, I spoke with a member of staff. Because my lung had collapsed, we weren’t allowed to fly back to Ireland. It involved a painful seven-hour drive (not ideal after surgery), a three-hour ferry and then another two-hour drive.

Recovery doesn’t just stop the minute you walk out of the hospital doors. To be honest, I didn’t think my recovery would end! I had to wear a body brace for six months post-surgery. The little things exhausted me whenever I got home. Even in hospital as well, I slept for most of the time. However, when thinking back to that time, you truly have to celebrate all your achievements. Whenever you dress yourself for the first time (regardless of how long it takes), if you walk further than you did the day before, if you can get yourself there and back to the toilet, sitting down yourself. There is so much you have to celebrate.

Taking a day off school when you are completing the second year of A Levels seems a crazy idea. However, I took nearly three months off. I’ll be extremely honest when I say that I didn’t want to go back, as I felt too overwhelmed. I was trying to complete work at home, but because I’d been off for so long, I was up to midnight most nights trying to catch up, do homework and revise for the upcoming exams. I have never thought about dropping out as much as I did back then. The fear of failure was a big thing for me and I didn’t want to do my exams, fail them all and have that hanging over me for the rest of my life. However, on the flip side, a part of me was more determined than ever. I had to try these exams and I didn’t want a ‘what if?’ hanging over me. If I failed, I failed. Somehow, I passed all my exams – achieving an A*, B and C.

People have asked me the date whereby I knew I was recovered. I don’t think there ever was a set date. It was a gradual process. I look back and think ‘I could do that in February and I couldn’t do it in January.’ Scoliosis and spinal fusion surgery is not an easy thing to go through, regardless of whatever age you are. A lot of people still don’t understand what scoliosis is and the impact it has.

In the past, I’ve likened scoliosis to missing somebody. The pain of missing them is extreme and it never goes away. But over time, it becomes more tolerable, and that’s exactly what scoliosis is like. It’s always going to be there, you have good and bad days. I still have my bad days, whereby I get stiff and pain. But the bad days are few and far between, and that’s what I wanted to get out of the process.

I was recently on Pinterest and saw an article which talked about how scoliosis shouldn’t stop you from achieving your dreams in life. At the time, you think you’re never going to get better, but you do. If anyone reads this and is worried that they won’t achieve their dream because of scoliosis, please do not think that. I’m still in a state of shock at my A Level results, after taking such a long period of time off school.

One thing I’ve pursued in the past few years is journalism. It has always been a passion of mine. In all honesty, it’s only been in the past year whereby I’ve taken it really seriously. I work extremely hard at it and the opportunities I have received make me feel like the luckiest girl. Whenever I’m doing interviews or attending events in conjunction with my journalism, I often think back to the time where I was lying in hospital. Life doesn’t stop because of your scoliosis or spinal fusion. It’s actually made me more determined to be a success.

That’s my scoliosis/spinal fusion story. To all the other scoliosis fighters out there, keep fighting. Do not let scoliosis hold you back from following your dreams in life. If you are preparing to go through spinal fusion, I don’t want to say don’t worry because a lot of people said that to me and it made me more anxious, but I can assure you that everything will work out okay. It may not seem like it at the time, but you will look back and realise that this process has made you a stronger, more resilient person, ready to face any challenge head on, ultimately changing you as a person. You’ll see who is truly there for you, lasting friendships will be forged, you will make memories that you will look back on with fondness, and more. I know that’s been the case for me anyways. I now have 2 rods, 2 hooks and 18 screws in my back, I have spinal fusion scars that I am extremely proud of.

Scars are truly something of beauty. I can definitely call myself a scoliosis fighter.


Thank you so much Rachel for sharing your story 🙂 If you would like to share your own scoliosis story to help raise awareness please do contact me!

Louise X

Top 5 UK Scoliosis Blog Feedspot

Top 5 UK Scoliosis Blog

Top 5 UK Scoliosis Blog


Just a quick post to say thank you to Feedspot for selecting my blog as one of the top 5 UK Scoliosis Blogs on the web.

I work so hard on this blog but with working full time, I don’t always have the chance to dedicate the time to it that it needs.

I have a lot ideas and awards like this make it all worthwhile and help to keep me motivated (as well as my readers of course!)

So, thanks again Feedspot!

 

UK Scoliosis Blogs

Scoliosis Awareness month

Scoliosis Awareness Month: Interview with Roslyn-Rachel

As June is scoliosis awareness month, I wanted to share some positive scoliosis stories, which will hopefully help to inspire you if you suffer with scoliosis or have had, are waiting for or recovering from scoliosis surgery.

I first “met” Roslyn Rachel via Instagram and I have to say, I find her such an inspiration to follow. She is a personal trainer and also runs FlexFitDance.com. I think she is an incredible role model for those of us with scoliosis, and personally has inspired me to be more confident and motivated to strengthen my back through exercise.

Below she talks about how her scoliosis has affected her life, the importance of fitness if you have scoliosis and her career as a personal trainer.


Firstly, I’d love to hear a little bit about you. When were you diagnosed with Scoliosis and what motivated you to start FlexFitDance.com?

I was diagnosed with scoliosis when I was 16, and then had the surgery when I was 18. That’s actually pretty old for a diagnosis; I’ve been told that lots of people have the surgery when they are between 14-16, but with me it went unnoticed for a long time. I had good posture from years and years of ballet lessons, so the usual tell-tale signs weren’t there! My mum noticed on holiday one year that one shoulder blade was more prominent than the other (a very common thing with scoli because of the rotation of the rib cage and the muscular imbalances). We went to the GP, who was very quick to say that there was absolutely nothing wrong with me. Later that same day the GP called our home and said that she’d been googling it and that maybe I should come back in for a follow up appointment after all!

FlexFit Dance is something that I started whilst doing my qualifications to become a personal trainer. I “got into” the fitness industry after graduating from my dance degree and wanted a way to combine my love for dance, fitness and writing all in one! I talk a lot about scoliosis and the impact that it has had on my training.

 

 How did scoliosis impact your day-to-day life prior to any treatment?

 To be honest, it didn’t. Like I say, it went unnoticed for a very long time, and because I was dancing so often, I managed to correct my posture pretty much unconsciously. The body has this amazing way of adapting to any structural issues…although this often results in lots of muscular imbalances!

After diagnosis, I was strongly advised to go ahead with the surgery because of the severity of my curves (I had S shaped scoliosis which meant I had two lateral curves in my spine – one at the top, one at the bottom). The surgeon said that it would probably get worse without intervention. Even though I didn’t experience any pain prior to treatment, after I found out about it I did suffer from a loss of confidence and lots of insecurities. I was an adolescent girl who was wearing a ballet leotard on a daily basis, and all I saw in the mirror was my wonky hips and shoulders. Body image is a huge thing for teenagers as it is, and this is amplified when something like scoliosis gets shoved in your face!

 

I can see you underwent scoliosis surgery to correct your scoliosis. How did you find recovery and are you happy with the results of your treatment?

 

Gosh. That’s a big and complicated question! The decision to undergo surgery was huge for me. My surgeon was exceptionally talented at his job, but bedside manner and patient communication was not his forte! Going in to the operation I had no real idea how this was going to affect my dancing or my mobility. That was a huge deal to me but not something that western medicine is really designed to take into account. I felt a bit like I was going into it blind, but it was a gut thing – I knew I’d regret not having the op.

Having said all that, the 14 hour operation was a huge success. The curves in my spine were corrected by over 90%. It is now pretty much “straight”.

Scoliosis Awareness Month - Roslyn Rachel Scoliosis Xray
Roslyn-Rachel’s Xray

Recovery didn’t take too long. The first few days are a bit of a blur from pain medication but everything improved rapidly once I started standing and walking about again. I took my first step three days after the operation..it was tough and I felt super heavy from all that metal that is now holding my vertebrae in place!

I remember being really affected by the cold. I’d go out for a walk with my mum every day after I returned home from hospital. Not far – just down the road or to the nearby shops – but it was November and the cold weather made all my muscles seize up in a way I’d never felt before. I felt so slow at first but I suppose I got a little more confident with each step. I was back to daily life after a couple of months and even went back to my dance classes after about three to four months.

 

How does scoliosis affect your life now, post surgery?

 It doesn’t dramatically affect my life at all, if I’m honest. I’m very glad I had the surgery.

Naturally are some minor things that I cannot do in terms of my spinal mobility. When you have scoliosis surgery, your vertebrae become fused wherever they attach to the Harrington (titanium) rods. This will differ depending on the severity of the Scoli. I’m fused from my second thoracic vertebra (T2) to my third lumbar vertebra (L3). Which is quite a lot! As the majority of my vertebrae don’t have the normal gliding motion that they should, I can’t flex, laterally flex or hyperextend my spine. No ab crunches for me at the gym! There are lots of little things like that that I notice, but there’s always a solution to any problem and nothing is life-changing.

 

I can see you work as a Personal Trainer. Many people facing the prospect of spinal fusion surgery may think they’d never be able to become a PT or get into fitness. Could you shed a little light on how you managed to get into exercise post surgery?

 I actually think that getting into fitness is one of the best, most important things that you can do after having surgery of any sort. If you really get into the fitness industry, learn from reliable resources and meet knowledgeable people, it helps you to get a proper understanding of your body. Which in turn helps you to learn about your strengths, your weaknesses, what you need to work on and how – in so much more than a “I want to get fit and have abs” kind of way.

Scoliosis Awareness Month - Roslyn Rachel_mini
Roslyn-Rachel

I wasn’t actually offered any physio or personal training at all after my operation. The NHS just can’t afford that sort of thing! For a few years I just got by on what I knew from my years of dancing. Then after I graduated I met my (now long term partner!) who was a PT at my gym. He taught me so much about how the body works in a way that doctors’ cant. I found it so interesting that I decided to get into it myself and a year later I was a qualified PT!

 

Many people are scared to exercise post surgery. Have you got any fitness tips for people who have had scoliosis surgery?

 Take your time, but also don’t be afraid. You won’t jump into it right away. Like I mentioned – for the first month or so, I was struggling to walk one hundred metres down the road. It’s taken me years and years to build up the strength that I have now, but I’m so proud of it I can’t even describe.

Regardless of your specific fitness goals, people with scoliosis often have lots of little muscle imbalances – even after having the surgery. When you’re fully recovered and functioning, it’s definitely worth spending some time to strengthen the smaller, stabiliser muscles in the back, around the shoulder girdle, and in the pelvis. Learn to activate your deeper core muscles so that you have a nice, stable foundation and take some time to check in with your body and make sure everything is in alignment.

Realistically, having scoliosis, or having the surgery for scoliosis, shouldn’t hold you back at all in the long run, and going through that process will actually make you mentally stronger too.

 

Finally, what advice would you give someone suffering from scoliosis at the moment?

You’re not alone. Not in a smushy, cheesy, way. I mean seriously. You’re not alone. So many people have scoliosis. I currently do some work in a physiotherapy clinic and so many of the patients there present with scoliosis. In fact, since my own surgery, everywhere I have gone in my life, university, college, different countries that I’ve lived in, I’ve always met at least two people with a very similar story to my own. When I go anywhere I automatically look out for either the curve in the spine or that tell-tale scar at the base of the neck! When you start looking for it, you realise how common it actually is.

Which in turn means that there are so many people to talk to about it. I’m always happy to talk to anyone who is going through what I went through because when I was facing my own surgery, I felt so alone. I felt like the only person in the world who’d ever had to go through that diagnosis and that surgery.

If you don’t want to have the surgery, I’d strongly advise finding a good physiotherapist or even a highly qualified personal trainer. Get to know how your body works and no matter what happens, it won’t let you down.

 


To find out more about Roslyn-Rachel, you can follow her on Instagram or check out her website – FlexFitDance.com.

If you’d like to share your story on my blog and help to raise awareness of scoliosis please feel free to contact me!

Louise X

Half marathon

My first half marathon: Great Manchester Run

A couple of weeks ago (Sunday 20th May), I took part in a massive personal challenge – my first half marathon (The Great Manchester Run). I wanted to share this on my blog just to show that with hard work, anything is possible.


My first half marathon – training

I love to push myself and completing a half marathon was one of my goals for this year. So back in January, I signed up to the Manchester half marathon, which gave me 5 months to train. I’m the sort of person that when I set a goal, nothing stops me from achieving it. So I downloaded a half marathon training app (I used Asics, thought it was really good) and started my training. To be honest, I was already doing quite a lot of running anyway. In January I joined a run club, so I was running a couple of times a week with them and doing quite a few 10k races and Park Run to keep my fitness up. Over the next few months I was running several times a week, as well as mixing in some strength training and classes at the gym.

When it got towards April, I started trying to build the distance up a bit. I’m fine with running 6-7 miles but I’m not really used to doing any further than this. Hence why this half marathon was such a challenge for me. Over the couple of months leading up the race I used my Sunday’s as a practice for longer runs. I started with 8 miles and built up to a 10 mile run a few weeks before the race. To be honest, I really, really struggled with the 10 mile run I did in training. I felt ok in terms of my fitness, but it was my legs. They just hurt so much and I struggled to physically keep running. I now know that this was due to me not fuelling properly during the run or taking any water with me (schoolgirl error!). I’m not used to long runs so I didn’t realise I’d need some sweets or energy gels during the run.

The longer training runs knocked my confidence a bit. I had to slow right down to keep going for 10 miles and I really struggled. I also ran out of time leading up to the race so only managed to do one 10 mile run before race day – I would have liked to fit a few more in to be honest or get a bit closer to the half marathon distance. Basically, I did not feel ready for it! But I read somewhere that if you can run 8 miles, you should be able to safely complete a half marathon. So this reassured me a bit.


My first half marathon – preparing for race day

The days before the race I tried to prepare as best I could. It was going to be a hot day (typical!) for the race, so I made sure I drank lots of water in the days leading up to it and avoided alcohol. I also made sure I ate as much as I could, especially carbs like pasta.  I also toned down the running and exercise about 4 days before so that I wouldn’t be tired and have sore legs on the day of the race. The night before, I got all my kit ready and packed my back pack that I was taking. I made sure I took plenty of water, some sweets (jelly babies and Haribo) to have while I was running, some spare clothes, suncream as it was a hot day and some post race snacks. I then got an early night as I had to get up at about 5am for the journey to Manchester! But could I sleep? No way!

On the morning of the race I kept hydrated on the journey to Manchester. I was so nervous I felt sick. I have done plenty of 10k races before but I was worrying that I wouldn’t be able to finish the 13.1 mile distance, as it’s something I’d never done. I was also worrying about when to eat my sweets during the run to keep my energy up, and about how hot it was as I’m not used to running in the heat.

Luckily we arrived in Manchester with plenty of time to spare and I had time to go to the toilet (twice) as I had drank so much water! I have taken part in this event before – last year I did the 10k – and I just love it. It’s so well organised and the atmosphere is amazing. So as soon as I saw all the crowds and headed to the start area I started to feel more excited than nervous and like I could actually, maybe, do this.


During the race…

My strategy for this race was just to complete it, without stopping. I didn’t care what time I got. I just wanted to complete it, as it was my first one, to prove I could do it.  As I normally run around 9 – 9.30 min miles during races, I thought I’d be best going slower (for me) and aiming for 10 minute miles, which is what I did during training. The last thing I wanted to do was start off too fast and then burn out. I also decided I would have some sweets after about 40 minutes of running and then after about 60 minutes and so on, to avoid what happened in my training where I felt like I couldn’t physically go on after 10 miles. I had worked out that I would probably finish in around 2hr 20 mins if I went steady and this factored in possibly having to stop and/or walk a bit.

I started steady and luckily, as I was in the group that were expected to finish in over 2 hours, everyone was running at a similar, steady pace to me. This helped as I felt I was in the right group and  it meant I didn’t get caught up trying to run too fast.

My first half marathon 2

In all honesty, because I was running slower than I usually would for a shorter race – I found it quite enjoyable mostly. I just took it steady, had my sweets for energy and took all the water that was offered. It was very hot though with limited shade and I found that side of it pretty tough. I kept going and felt fine until I got to mile 10 – yep, the milestone! After mile 10 I really started to struggle, my legs hurt so much and it was a struggle to keep going. I didn’t stop though and pushed through the pain.

By mile 11/12 so many people had started to walk and some had actually collapsed at the side of the road and were receiving medical attention, which shows just how tough going it is really. I carried on pushing through the pain and when I got to mile 12 and realised I only had 1 mile left, I think adrenaline or something must have taken over! My legs were still hurting but I started to speed up again and did the final mile almost a minute quicker than the previous 2. As soon as I saw the finish line I went for it – I really don’t know how I had the energy but I just sprinted as fast as I could towards the finish line! Once over it though I could hardly walk and sort of hobbled towards where they were handing out the medals and finishers packs.


After the race…

As I was hobbling towards the meeting point I checked my watch and I just couldn’t quite believe it. I’d completed the half marathon in 2 hours 8 minutes, which I was over the moon at. I had been expecting about 2 hours 20 minutes as I thought I’d have to walk at some point. If I had been able to hold my pace between miles 10-12 then I would have probably finished around 2 hours 5 minutes. Plus if it was cooler maybe even quicker. I’m so pleased with myself it’s unbelievable. I still cannot believe that I’ve been able to train and run a half marathon, after having scoliosis surgery. It took me about a week to recover from it – my legs hurt pretty bad for at least 4 days  – but I’m so proud of myself. In fact, I have even signed up to another one at the end of the year 🙂

My first half marathon

 

 

Half marathon training – 3 weeks to go

So, at the start of this year I (stupidly) signed up to run a half marathon in May – The Great Manchester Run. I wanted to push myself and see how far I could take my running, and after running several 10k races, a half marathon seemed the next logical step. I must admit, I didn’t expect May to roll around quite so fast!

It seemed ages away when I first signed up back in December. I thought I’d have ages to train and build up my distance, but the reality is I haven’t done nearly as many longer runs as I’d like to have done by this stage and I’m starting to panic that I won’t be able to do it.

I thought I’d do a quick post to show what training I have been doing, using this last week as an example. I have been loosely following an Asics training plan for the past 12 weeks, but I must admit that I haven’t managed to do every run due to life getting in the way.

The plan generally consists of 4 runs a week, including a longer run on a Sunday. I have adapted it slightly by mixing in some intervals as well as strength training in between runs such as body pump, yoga or some weights in the gym.


Half Marathon Training – 4 weeks to go

Saturday – Park Run (3.1 miles fast)

Sunday  – 9 miles  (steady pace)

Monday – BODY PUMP (strength training)

Tuesday – REST DAY

Wednesday – Intervals (Treadmill – 3.7 miles) + strength training

Thursday – Run Club Run (5 miles – steady pace)

Friday – Gym – Strength training


Half Marathon Training – 3 weeks to go

So the plan for next week is as follows..

Saturday – Park Run (3.1 miles fast pace) – DONE!

Sunday – 9/10 mile run (steady pace)

Monday –  Body Pump / strength training

Tuesday – REST DAY

Wednesday –  3 mile jog (slow pace)

Thursday – Run club (7.5 miles – steady pace)

Friday – GYM – Strength training

Saturday – Park Run (3.1 miles – fast pace)

Sunday – 11 mile run


So that’s what I’ve been doing pretty much over the last 12 weeks, although I’ve only just started to up the distance from a couple of weeks ago.

I just hope I can do this!! If I do manage to complete this half marathon, it will be a huge achievement for me. I never thought anything like this would be possible after my scoliosis surgery. I’m so nervous about it right now.

Oh and just in case you are interested, when I do strength training at the gym this includes the below. I tend to do this in between running days or if I can’t get onto body pump. Currently aiming for twice a week.


Half Marathon Training – Strength Training

Chest Press – 3 x sets of 12

Leg Press – 3 x sets of 12

Lat Pull Down – 3 x sets of 12

Shoulder Press – 3 x sets of 12

Low Row Pulley – 3 x sets of 12

Squat Thrusts – 3 x sets of 12

Squats – 3 x sets of 12

Plank – 3 x 1 minute


I’ll update how I get on after the event.. eeeek!!! Never give up on your dreams! 🙂

Louise X

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Half Marathon Training Plan

Running and mental health

Running and Mental Health

Running and Mental Health


It’s Mental Health Awareness week 14th – 20th May 2018, so to raise awareness I thought I’d write a post on the effect running has had on my own mental health. It’s well documented that running can be good for mental health, and everyone has reasons why they run.

For some it’s to lose weight, keep fit or socialise. For others, it’s escapism from a stressful job or the strains of everyday life. Personally, I run for a mix of reasons, yes I do it to keep fit but also because I enjoy it, running makes me happy and when I’m running I forget about everything else.


How I discovered running…

I have suffered with anxiety, depression and low self esteem over the years, as a direct result of having scoliosis. I first discovered running about 3 years ago, 5 years after my scoliosis surgery, which I had to fuse my spine straighter in 2010.

My friend was taking part in a Race for Life 10k event and asked me to join her. At the time, I was a bit dubious as I had never done any running before and the event was only 5 weeks away. However, me being me, I agreed to take part to support her and started training.

In the past, I had always avoided running. With having scoliosis, I knew that it probably wasn’t the best for me due the impact on the joints and spine. I didn’t want to let my back stop me though! After training for just 5 weeks, I completed my first ever 10k in 1 hour 17 minutes, which I was incredibly proud of at the time.

After this, I was addicted. I guess I couldn’t believe what my body had achieved, despite my scoliosis.

Since then, I have completed many 10k races in under an hour and I have a wall full of medals. I regularly take part in Park Run, I’m a member of a running club and I’m training for a half marathon in May.

Running has helped me to overcome so many obstacles and has gotten me through some incredibly tough times.

Running and mental health
Night Trail Running!

 


How running saved me…

Last year, I had a particularly tough time following the break down of my 13 year relationship. At the time, I was feeling so alone and pretty depressed. I hit rock bottom, started binge drinking and I was hardly eating. I would say that running helped to save me from a downward spiral and possible break down.

Luckily, in December, I started pulling myself together and signed up to Run up to Christmas, which I spotted by chance on Instagram. This is a virtual running event where you had to run a certain amount of kms between 1st – 25th December. I chose 50km. The cost of entering went towards supporting Mind, the charity for mental health, and you got a cool medal if you completed it.

For me, this was brilliant as it kept me distracted during a difficult festive period and forced me out in the cold and snow. I suddenly had something to aim for again. There was also an online community, which made me feel less alone and I started connecting and chatting with others taking part. It also motivated me to attend my local Park Run on Christmas Day to get those final kms in,  instead of moping around feeling depressed.

Run up to Christmas
Run up to Christmas medal

A Fresh Start…

In January this year, I also forced myself to join a run club and have met lots of other like-minded people.

I was terrified the first time I went, but it has helped my well-being immensely. I now feel part of a community and less alone. When I attend races and Park Run I actually recognise people and people say hi to me, rather than just going and running on my own like I used to. This has all worked wonders for my mental health and I’m in a much better place than I was last year as a result.

Running and mental health
Air Products 10K with my run club

I now run about four times a week, a couple of times a week with the run club. Running gives me something to focus on and seeing myself improve over time makes me feel so good about myself. It also reminds me that I am capable of so much more than I ever thought possible, despite my scoliosis and anything going on in my personal life.

If I’m feeling anxious, low or having a bad day, I’ll go for a run. It’s my way of managing stress and anxiety and it works for me. After going out for a run or completing a race, I feel on a high all day and those endorphins are highly addictive.

Running and mental health
Running and mental health – Tatton Park 10K

 


Miles for Mind

To raise awareness of mental health and to give myself something to aim for in May, I have signed up to Miles for Mind. This is another virtual running event and I’ll be aiming to run at least 75 miles throughout May. With 50% of profits going to Mind, who provide advice and support to those with mental health problems, it’s definitely a worthy cause.


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Running and Mental Health

China Trek Day 2 - Gubeikou

Trekking the Great Wall of China: What to wear

This post contains affiliate links

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you may know that last year I took part in a trek across the Great Wall of China to raise some much needed money for the Scoliosis Campaign Fund. Since then, I have been asked on several occasions about what to take and wear whilst trekking the Great Wall, so I thought I’d put a bit of a post together based on my own experiences.


Trekking the Great Wall of China: What to wear

What to wear when trekking the Great Wall of China will depend on what time of year you go, I did my trek in October, and the weather was pretty good. However, the weather can be changeable and so layers are a must. The following advice is based on my own experiences trekking the Great Wall in Autumn, for other times of year you would need to adjust accordingly (i.e. shorts for summer, thermals for winter). For my trek in October, I took the following items:


Trekking trousers

You will need a couple of decent pairs of trekking / hiking trousers ideally with pockets. I found pockets important for easy access to my phone (for taking pics!)  I bought some where the legs zipped off, so that if I got too warm they doubled as three quarter length trousers. The main thing is that after hours of walking, you need to be comfortable. So either trekking trousers or sports leggings that you’d wear for running or going to the gym are ideal. You should also take some waterproof trousers just in case. Luckily, I didn’t need mine but they are useful to carry in your day pack in case of heavy rain, which can and does happen in October.


Thermal base layers

I took a few thermal base layers to wear under my T-shirts. I usually wore a thermal base layer, a t-shirt and a light fleece to start with and then de-layered pretty quickly as we started walking up hill. Most days I just wore a t-shirt and then put a fleece on when we stopped for lunch and it got a bit chilly. Layers are a must because you really don’t know what the weather will be doing. When we were there it was in the high teens and sunny most of the time but we were really lucky as the week before they had torrential rain. I bought my thermal base layers from the Mountain Warehouse off Amazon but you can get them in lots of sports shops. They come in handy for running too and I still use mine when running or hiking in the winter.

 


Wicking T-shirts

As above, you’ll need several wicking t-shirts to wear over your base layer. I had some running t-shirts which I took but make sure they are the wicking material which helps you stay dry when you start sweating.

 


Day sack (30L)

You need a decent ruck sack for carrying your layers,  lunch/snacks any first aid equipment and your water. You’ll probably need around 1-2 litres of water but more if you’re trekking in the summer. I bought a Karrimor back pack from Sports Direct which had a section for a  water bladder.

I would recommend taking a water bladder as it’s so much easier but you don’t need more than 2 litres if you are going in October. Although mine leaked a few times so I’d recommend putting it in a plastic bag just in case. I would also recommend a back pack that has loops for tying your walking poles and also straps for fastening around your waist and chest for support.

If possible, try to get some advice about your backpack and how to wear/pack it to avoid injuries and strains, I didn’t do this and ended up straining my shoulder muscles, so it’s important trust me! It’s also worth taking a waterproof cover for your ruck sack just in case.


Walking Boots

Walking boots with ankle support and a decent grip are ESSENTIAL. Some parts of the Great Wall are very uneven and the steep parts can be very slippy, especially if it’s wet. I’d recommend going to an outdoors shop such as Mountain Warehouse, Go Outdoors, or Sports Direct and trying them on before purchasing. You should also wear them in before your trek to avoid blisters.

 


Walking Socks

As above, you’ll need at least 4/5 pairs of decent walking socks. You can’t wear normal socks as they will rub and give you blisters. I bought my walking socks from Sports Direct and they were fab. I was surprised actually as I had no blisters at all the whole time!


Walking Poles

Walking poles are essential if you are trekking the Great Wall of China, they really help to take the strain off your knees and I really think they saved my life on some of the really steep bits!! I would recommend lightweight foldable ones that you can attach to your back pack when you are not using them. Again, I bought mine from Sports Direct (Karrimor ones) and they were a good price but you can get them from Amazon or most outdoor shops if you don’t have any already.


Fleeces

I took a few lightweight fleeces as well as one really thick one that I travelled in/wore in the evenings. When trekking, thinner layers are better so lightweight fleeces are preferable – they are easier to whip off and carry in your back pack too. I didn’t wear my fleeces much when trekking, it was mostly when we stopped for lunch as it usually felt cooler when we stopped. Also, some parts of the wall are high up in the mountains and so it naturally gets cooler the higher you go.


Waterproof

I took a lightweight waterproof jacket – you don’t need anything too big / heavy. just something which will keep you dry and that you can easily roll up and stuff in your back pack. Mine is a Karrimor one from Sports Direct and is quite thin but you can layer up with fleeces underneath. If you were going in the winter you may need something warmer but for spring/Autumn a thin waterproof with layers should suffice.


Running/walking belt

I didn’t actually take one of these but it’s something I wish I had taken and I’ve since bought one for my running / walking. Other members of the group had them and they are just useful for putting your phone/camera etc in so you don’t have to keep stopping to get them out of your bag. If you have trousers with pockets it’s less of an issue but having things in your pockets when you’re walking for miles can be uncomfortable. I’ve found some examples of what I mean on Amazon here – running / walking belts but I recently bought one from Sports Direct similar to the one below and I think it is brilliant.

 

 


Hat/Scarf or neckwarmer/Gloves

It can get cold higher up on the wall so it’s worth taking some warm gloves, a warm hat/bandana to cover your ears and a neckwarmer or scarf. To be honest, in October I didn’t need these items much but they are worth taking in your back pack as the weather can change quickly and it can get cold if the fog rolls in. Depending on the time of year, you may also want to take a sunhat and sunglasses as the sun can be quite strong. It was sunny/bright most of the time we were there and so I wore my sunglasses most days.


Other useful items

So I think the above are the main things, some other things you may need are as follows:

  • First aid kit including plasters and blister pads, just in case
  • Your usual toiletries/medications
  • Suncream
  • Insect Repellent with DEET
  • Deepheat – I used this ALOT it was a lifesaver
  • Antiseptic hand gel
  • Water bottles if you are not using a water bladder
  • Camera, or you can just use your phone
  • If you are using your phone a lot, consider taking a powerbank to keep your phone nicely charged so you don’t miss out on any photos!

Well that’s the majority of it and you obviously need all your travel documents and a Chinese Visa. If you have any questions about my trip drop me an email or put a comment below and I’ll get back to you 🙂

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Trekking the Great Wall of China - What to Wear

Chester 10K medal

Chester 10K

So, this year I have set my sights on completing at least 10 10K races/running events as part of my 2018 goals and Chester 10K was race number four. So far the others include Tatton Park 10K  (which I’ve done twice this year) and a night trail run at Lyme Park.

I was nervous but excited to take part in the Chester 10k, mainly because it was quite a big event and it’s also the first one they’ve held in Chester.


Chester 10K: Before the race

The race started at 9.30am and the weather was actually terrible. It was so, so cold with a biting wind and torrential rain/sleet. I did think about pulling out at one point but I’m the type of person that, once I’ve committed to something, I’ll stick to it. So I wasn’t going to let a bit of rain put me off!

Chester 10K bib
Chester 10K bib

The starting point was at Northgate Arena in the centre of Chester. I arrived with plenty of time to spare, warm up, go to the loo, take a selfie (obviously) and head to the start line for 9.30am. When I arrived I was shocked at how many people were there and the nerves hit me again! Luckily we were able to wait inside before the race because it was pretty cold!

Chester 10K - pre race selfie
Chester 10K – Pre race selfie!

 

I didn’t have a particular time in mind for this race. I’ve (unfortunately? stupidly?) signed up to a half marathon in May and so I thought I’d just use this race as part of my training and take it easy. I didn’t know what to expect in terms of course difficulty and hills etc so thought I’d just go with the flow. 🙂

Chester 10K at the start
Chester 10K: at the start

Overall though, despite tough conditions, I really enjoyed the race. There were a few, short, sharp hills but it was mostly flat with some amazing downhill parts (they are always the best!) It started at Northgate Arena and we then ran out of the city down some country lanes and it finished back in the city centre near the town hall.

I seriously did not set out to run quicker than normal but I was surprised to see my pace was much quicker than usual as I checked my watch throughout.

I found it (relatively!) easy to keep a quicker pace and I do think it’s because I have done Tatton 10K twice this year now in horrific weather and for me this is a much harder course with longer, gradual inclines.

Chester 10k also had the amazing crowd support, which always keeps you going when you want to stop!

The final mile did feel tough though and I was so glad when I saw the finish line. I was soaked through from the freezing rain and my hands were so numb even though I was wearing gloves. As I approached the finish, I gave it everything I could, sprinting over the line even though I felt sick.

I was so shocked that I managed to get a final time of 55.44!!! This is my quickest EVER 10k time, the fastest before this that I’d done was around 57-58 minutes. I really did surprise myself and it just goes to show what you can do if you work hard enough.

Chester 10K finishing time
Chester 10K finishing time

I didn’t set out for a PB but I’ve been training hard over the last few months in my new running club, despite the horrible weather. Over the last few months I’ve forced myself out in the dark, rain, snow and wind to do interval training and took part in several 10K races which all help to improve speed and stamina. Sometimes though, I find when I don’t put too much pressure on myself to get a “good time” and just go with the flow and enjoy the run I end up performing better. I really enjoyed taking part and the medal and finishers pack were awesome too!

Chester 10K finishers pack

Chester 10K me with medal


What’s next?

I now need to step up the distance for my half marathon at the end of May. I’ll be sharing some posts on my training soon but this will involve longer runs and also strength training.

When I ran my first 10K race a few years ago I completed it in 1hr 17 minutes. I’m incredibly proud of what I’ve managed to achieve in the last few months with my running and in the years following scoliosis surgery. I never, ever thought I would get this far with my running/fitness and I’m so excited to see how much further I can go. 😀

I wanted to share my results from the Chester 10K to show that anything is possible if you work hard enough.

Never give up on your dreams and don’t let anyone tell you you can’t.

Louise X

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Goals 2018

January Round-Up: Goals and achievements

Well I can’t believe that January is over, in some ways, it’s felt like the longest month ever… in other ways, it’s gone super fast. I thought I’d do a quick post to round up January and summarise what I have achieved this month, as part of my overall goals for 2018.


January Round-Up: Goals and achievements

In some ways, January has been a difficult month for me. At the back end of last year, my long term relationship of 13 years ended rather suddenly and I’ve been finding it all really difficult to deal with. January was therefore somewhat of a fresh start for me. I’ve moved into my own flat and I’m now living by myself for the first time ever which was kind of scary at first, but also kind of liberating.

I’m now getting used to living alone, looking after myself and focusing on what I want to achieve. I’ve always given myself multiple goals to achieve throughout the year. I find that this helps to keeps me motivated and keeps me going, which at the moment, is more important than ever.

Anywho, I wanted to list what I have achieved in January, partly to make myself feel better that I haven’t completely wasted the month moping around…!


So what goals did I achieve in January?

I have basically thrown myself into running and achieved the following…

  • Ran a 10K race (in under an hour) – Tatton Park 10k
  • Ran a 4 mile night trail run (which was VERY challenging!)
  • Joined a running club and I’ve been 3 times so far
  • Signed up to a half marathon in May
  • Signed up to loads of 10k races and running events throughout the year
  • Ran a “virtual” 10k and got a medal for that

What’s next for February?

Well, I really need to get my ass in gear and start training properly for the half marathon, as it will likely come around fast. I also need to make sure I do more strengthening exercises at the gym, such as core classes, body pump etc to support my running. I also need to start looking after myself more, eating better to support my training and cutting down on wine… boo!

What goals did you achieve in January? Let me know in the comments below!

Louise X

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