Resolution: Join The Thursday Weekly Photo Challenge!

This week’s challenge, then, is resolution. Take a photo or find one that represents a resolution you are making… or one you’re not making! What does this resolution mean to you? How will it change your life?

The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now.

Chinese proverb

My resolution is to get out and run more. I started during lockdown and I want to take it forward into the coming year and keep trying to improve.

Here’s how to take part:

  1. Take a photo or search your files for one that represents the week’s theme.
  2. Write a post, including your photo, any words of explanation or inspiration you wish to share, and a link to this challenge page.
  3. Comment on this post with a link to your page so others can see your contribution.
  4. That’s it! Super easy.

This challenge will stay open for one week, then next Thursday, I will post the next challenge!

Lockdown running

At some point during the first lockdown, I think it was June, I took up running.

I’ve always been the worst at long-distance running. I have no stamina for it at all, and I get very breathless. This has been the case my whole life.

In February of this year, I was diagnosed with asthma. I’ve been diagnosed before, as a child, but I stopped taking inhalers and generally convinced myself I didn’t need them when I turned 18 and was no longer eligible for free prescriptions in England. It’s easier to tell yourself you’re not asthmatic than to face the truth that you are and you can’t afford your inhaler.

One of the good things about living in Northern Ireland is that ALL prescriptions are free, for everyone. So when I got rediagnosed with asthma, I got inhalers.

They were life changing.

For the first time in my life, I can run.

At first, it was hard going. I couldn’t even do 60 seconds of running without stopping, tired. I had my breathing right, but my ankles, my knees and my back had no idea how to do cross-country.

Not to be deterred, I signed up for my first of several run challenges. Some were better than others. Race At Your Pace and Run Challenges were both fairly decent, but for my first challenge, I signed up with another company and they didn’t send any sort of explanation about how to get a medal, so I missed their 3-day “evidence submission” window. I emailed them after to ask how it worked, and received a snotty reply that implied I ought to have known how to submit the evidence.

Their system used this idiotic and unnecessary online portal that they didn’t send you an emailed link to access.

I hate portals. My former psychiatrist now uses one and it’s hopeless. Good thing I don’t need to see a shrink anymore.

Actually, I can (partly) thank running for that, too.

After 1 month of running every second day, I didn’t need my antidepressants that I’d been taking for post-natal depression. Once that layer was peeled away, we were able to discover that my underlying mental illness wasn’t bipolar, as I’ve been misdiagnosed with for 5 years, or borderline, as was suggested in August, but PMDD – Pre Menstrual Dysphoria Disorder – and ADHD – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

PMDD isn’t really improved by running, but I find my ADHD is. When I run, I get the energy out that builds up and can turn in on itself during the afternoon. When I run, I take time to focus on my breathing, so it’s inadvertently a mindfulness exercise. And when I run, I am doing self-care. I am also increasing my confidence.

In February, I read in a leaflet about someone who had “beat Post Natal Depression” by running. I was extremely scornful of this idea. I don’t think mental illnesses are invaders that we should approach with a “fight” mentality, they’re part of us that we need to accept in a self compassionate way while ameliorating symptoms.

My opinion on self-acceptance hasn’t changed, but I do think there’s mileage (no pun intended) in running to help with mental health symptoms, and I can understand why other people feel that way.

It’s also given me confidence in my own body. After pregnancy, I felt weak and tired all the time, whereas now I feel strong and (dare I say it?) powerful in a way I never have felt in my entire life.

The hardest thing about running was the first month. About two weeks in, I hurt my knees due to not warming up enough and not taking enough rest days. I had to rest completely, but I still had several kilometres to go before completing my challenge. I made it, at a limp, but because I hadn’t rested fully or recovered entirely, I carried those knee problems into my second month.

Three months into running, in August, I was working with a very unethical self-styled psychotherapist who I later found out had faked her credentials.

She questioned why I was going running and denigrated it as inappropriate and boring. She told me I should do ice skating instead (she was utterly oblivious of Covid and she also contributed to me getting another borderline misdiagnosis so I’m a bit annoyed but because she has faked all her credentials, there’s no one to report her to).

I thought she was full of crap and yet somehow, it got into the back of my mind and I stopped running. For two months.

I also got too invested in my stats, and when I couldn’t beat my distances and speeds, I felt like a failure. My new (ethical, qualified, and registered) therapist encouraged me to try again, without timing myself or logging my runs.

It was great advice.

I started again in October and I’ve been going ever since.

I no longer have any idea how far I’m running in any given run, but I have been doing the same route since March (lockdown… there’s literally only one lane to run down here) and I know I can get further down the lane without stopping. And my knees are no longer struggling to keep up, nor are my ankles.

I’ve realized running is all about incremental progress, not trying to do everything at once, or perfectly first time. Sometimes you don’t meet a particular challenge, for whatever reason.

Who cares? Challenges are constructs, they’re not real, and they’re not a true measure of your running ability.

So to anyone else looking to start running, I suggest you try it! With an inhaler in your pocket, if you need it.

I hope the featured image inspires you that almost anyone can start running; it’s all about the mindset.

Monday Motivation: Everybody Dance Now

EVERYBODY DANCE NOW! SNAPE ALAN RICKMAN WWW.DELIGHTANDINSPIRE.COM
EVERYBODY DANCE NOW!

So I thought that the world needed a meme involving Professor Snape declaring that everybody should dance now.  I made the meme, but I do not own the original picture of Alan Rickman, or the saying.

Because the world needs to hear this again. C+C Music Factory with the awesome track “Gonna Make You Sweat” (but you probably know it as “everybody dance now”). Have a dance, if you can, apparently it’s good for you:

Happy Monday. 🙂

Tomorrow, be sure to check out my Youtube video – I’m testing Setting Spray vs Hairspray in a variety of hilarious tests!

Monday Motivation: Blogilates

Cassey Ho, from Blogilates: "Train Insane or Remain The Same."
Cassey Ho, from Blogilates: “Train Insane or Remain The Same.”

Trying to get back into good habits and I find myself coming back to Cassey Ho’s Youtube Channel Blogilates! She’s just phenomenal at fitness and really energetic and motivating which is what I need on this gloomy, overcast April day, when two of my bunnies are critically ill.  Check Cassey out if you love to exercise in your living room! Today I did this fun leg workout video:

What’s motivating you today?

4 Exercises for the Eyes to Avoid Wrinkles

This is a set of 4 exercises to help avoid eye wrinkles.

I found these exercises in a book from 1972 called “Secrets of Natural Beauty” by Virginia Castleton Thomas. I think it’s a classic amongst my parents’ generation (my parents would have been 11 when this was published, so maybe a classic amongst people a bit older), because when I cleared their houses after their deaths last year, both my mother and my father had a copy of this book on their bookshelf. I have, however, re-written the description of these exercises so that this post is more readable as the phrasing was a bit old-fashioned.

1. To remove eye tension and strengthen the eye muscles: Sit upright and extend your right arm directly in front of you. Point forward with your index finger and focus on it with your eyes, then move the finger very slowly to the right, until your arm has moved so far that you can hardly focus on it any more, then bring the arm back to centre, slowly, still focusing on the finger. Repeat the exercise using your left arm, but this time, move the arm to the left instead of the right.

2. Keeping your head still, raise your arm upwards to the limit of your vision. Hold this position for a few seconds, then slowly drop your arm until it’s at the lower end of your vision range. Start by doing this once per day, but after you have done them for a few days, start building repetitions until you are doing a few reps each time.

3. Open your eyes wide and visualize a large-faced clock with the numbers painted just at the edge of your vision. Start at twelve o’clock and very slowly, without moving your head, move your eyes to one o’clock and on around in a clockwise direction, pausing briefly at each (visualized) number before moving onto the next one. After returning to twelve o’clock, repeat the exercise anticlockwise, moving the eyes from twelve to eleven, and so on.

4. Rolling the head without moving the shoulders is a good exercise for improved vision. This movement relaxes the eyes and reduces deepening wrinkles due to eye strain. Learning to do a loose head roll not only improves the vision by increasing circulation to the optic nerves, but can also relax the entire upper body. Personally I find the head roll very comforting and relaxing – it reminds me of yoga and gymnastics lessons at primary school. Do be aware that it’s best to avoid rolling your head backwards as this has been said to be dangerous (I’m not sure if this is a myth but I avoid it just in case, as I was told it during warm-ups by instructors of five or six different physical activities).

I tried these exercises out last night, and I don’t think I look any younger but the head roll was, as I predicted, very relaxing. The eye exercises made both my eyes ache slightly when I moved my eyes from 1 to 2 and from 11 to 10, so I think that might be an area of muscle weakness that I need to work on.

Virginia also writes:
“In addition to exercises for toning eye muscles, there are additional helps to control the marring of skin tissue by wrinkles, dark circles and frown lines. Learn to express your thought without grimacing. Many people are inclined to punctuate, describe or apologize for the contents of their speech by clown-like expressions.
The face should not be used to explain verbal expression. Well-chosen words will convey your meaning and be more appreciated without distracting facial expressions. Frowns, narrowing of the eyes and other manifestations of uncertainty do not present either a pretty or helpful picture. Use adequate speech and save your face.
That is not to say one should not have any expression at all. But these expressions should be relaxed, and show the more pleasant aspects of one’s personality. Laugh lines seldom seem to distress their owners as much as frown lines or wrinkles caused by squinting or habitually downturned lips. Laugh lines add animation to the face. However, the quick to laugh personality often pays for charm with crinkle lines around the lips.” (Secrets of Natural Beauty, 1972, page 133)

It sort of reads like she’s a slightly bossy teacher at a finishing-school trying to impress upon her charges the importance of understated expressions. I’m not sure I agree with the way she’s written it but the fact still remains that OTT expressions will age your face too soon, and apparently this has been known since at least the early 1970s. One thing I will point out is the women who were in their twenties in the 1960s and 1970s seem to have all stopped ageing around their late forties and early fifties, so they probably know what they’re talking about when it comes to beauty. While I couldn’t find any information on the internet about Virginia Castleton Thomas (and the book sadly appears to be out of print), it does say on the back cover that she was a beauty editor, and the introductory chapter shows that she has done a lot of research to find the beauty formulas she presents in this book, so I think she knows what she’s talking about. I will be writing more about this book, and the recipes for home-made cosmetics, as I try them out.

katie sun bathes
Katie had this natural beauty thing down so well that we didn’t know she was 7, we thought she was 2! Imma do what she did for my beauty routine – only use my paws to clean my face, eat everything in sight, especially if it is a plant, and spend lots of time in the sun with my Dearest.

What do you think of these facial exercises?  Would you do them?  Let me know in the comments!