Episode 79 – the first mile always sucks

Episode 079 - Why the first mile always sucks (what running taught me about recovery)

Today I’m talking about what running taught me about recovery from a chronic illness.  

Basically, that the first mile always sucks.  Even before I got sick, the first mile, was always rubbish.  It didn’t matter if I was planning for a 3 mile run, or a half-marathon, that first mile was always a struggle between my mind and body.  And it didn’t stop just because the run for that day was over.  

Today’s episode is for anyone wanting to get better, but has trouble following through consistently.

 If you’d like to know more on how to shift your stories, reach out to me to see if my SHIFT to alignment coaching programme is a fit for you.
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Transcript of episode

Hello loves, today I’m talking about what running taught me about recovery from a chronic illness.

Basically, that the first mile always sucks. Even before I got sick, the first mile, was always rubbish. It didn’t matter if I was planning for a 3 mile run, or a half-marathon, that first mile was always a struggle between my mind and body. And it didn’t stop just because the run for that day was over.

Today’s episode is for anyone wanting to get better, but has trouble following through consistently.

I have been really struggling with this lately. I find it so much easier to want to get out the door when I want to distract myself from something. Earlier this year, it was to distract myself from the baby grief. In the past, my most successful running has come from being angry, or grieving, or both. At the moment, I’m not really either. I have nothing I really want to distract myself from. So only having those towards goals, the one where I want to head back to the New York marathon in 2 years, just isn’t doing it for me. Even with the breaking down of that goal and putting smaller goals in place that if I miss, I don’t get to go to New York. 

I have spent years fighting against something, 

Be it my health, my toxic marriage, and I don’t want to have to be fighting anymore. I just want to be. In a culture where we’re always being told to push, push, push, that’s not so easy to find how to flow.
Most of us want to get better so much that we spend a lot of time reading about our illness, listening to podcasts like this one, talking about how the “struggle is real” and creating those elaborate plans to eat better, sleep better, do better.

The excitement we feel in the short term is unbelievable, And why wouldn’t it be? You have a new plan, you’re ready with all this new info, it should all work, right? You shouldn’t have a problem at all sticking to it. This time the plan will work.

As an executive assistant for my day-job I am the queen of planning and organising. With all my qualifications in nutrition, fitness, coaching, healing, business, I can create the best of plans. Because when everything is perfect on paper, it should be easy to follow, right?

The thing is, many of us plan for what to do on the good days. 

We don’t plan for when it feels terrible. For when we make mistakes. When a colleague brings in cakes. When you’re tired. When your period is due. When your body lets you down again.

Passive is when we make all the plans and follow it along when it’s easy. Massive is when we do the things when it really, really, sucks.

Because here’s the deal. Sometimes life happens. And then it’s so easy to make it mean that you have failed. But, the fact is, the circumstance is, that you were doing things to get better and then you didn’t for a while, and now you’re starting again. Those are the facts, and you get to make them mean whatever you want them to mean.

Some people make it mean that they’ve fallen off the wagon, and say hello to feelings of disappointment or disempowerment. But you can also make it mean that you chose to take a rest for a variety of reasons and that you’re choosing to start again. This creates feelings of motivation and excitement and you are much more likely to stick with it and to feel like you’re making progress. I am now choosing to tell myself that it’s not starting again, because that feels demoralising at the moment for me because I have started again so many times, I’m telling myself I’m dusting off and carrying on.

I want you to know you’re not alone. 

There’s that quote that says it doesn’t matter how many times you start over as long as you do, and it’s so very true.

Okay so for now I’m going to go back to comparing with running. Let’s talk about that first mile. I always say the first mile, because it feels like a more finite thing. But really, maybe it’s the first 10 minutes or the first 20 minutes, or the first two miles. Some days it might be the first 30 minutes, it might be 40 minutes. It might be the whole flipping run. But it’s the one that always sucks, the one that feels like why am I doing this again, this is really, really, hard.

You have to wake up every morning and say I am going to do this. I am not going to let my illness win. Please feel free to add expletives, I do sometimes. Most times. Ok, all the time.

I had a look at my old Instagram page this morning, the running one. And a couple of my friends ran New York yesterday and one of them, as they say, never had the wheels on board for them to fall off. This guy is a 3.15 marathoner, and along with many in lockdown, suffered from the mental effects of races being cancelled etc, and his training went out the window. He has really struggled to get back to it this year. New York took him 6 hours to finish. My point here is that even those who seem super-incredible, who seem to have it so easy, also suffer with setbacks and have to find the thing to get them going again and it isn’t always easy to find. That’s why I share my story, so you know you’re not alone in this. We all struggle.

Thinking about it, I don’t think I know a single runner that just walks out the door, starts running, and says to themselves, “Oh wow, this is so easy I feel like a gazelle”.

The majority of runners say that running doesn’t start to feel good for at least a mile. Whether you’re a five-minute miler or a 25-minute miler. It’s just the way the human body works. And I think this is a great thing to know because it means your inner mean girl can take a rest now. Instead of beating yourself up for how a run feels in that first mile, she can just sit down and shut up because that’s exactly how it’s supposed to be.

Hear that again and I’m telling myself this as much as you this. The first mile is supposed to be hard pretty much every single time. Which means that living with a chronic illness, when you first get up every morning, or after taking a rest in the day, getting going again is supposed to be pretty hard every single time. If you’re honest with yourself, how many times did you used to spring out of bed and feel wonderful and raring to go every morning before you got sick?

There are a couple of reasons for this. Both apply for running, and life with a chronic illness.

The first one is basic human physiology. It takes some time for your body to adapt to the change from being at rest to doing something. Your heart needs to start beating faster to circulate your blood. Your blood needs to circulate faster to supply your muscles with oxygen so that you can move, and your lungs need to start pulling in more oxygen to give to the blood. Heart, and lungs. Both muscles.

We don’t notice this happening when we’re healthy. 

We definitely notice it when we’re sick. The system takes time. Until you get your heart rate up high enough to provide enough oxygen supply to support that new level of effort, it is going to feel rubbish because your body doesn’t have enough oxygen yet and will scream at you “what are you doing to me?!”

Like with running, that’s why it’s so important to warm up first. Don’t ask your body to do more than it’s ready to do. Ease out of bed slowly. Allow your body to adjust. Pushing too hard too soon just makes it take longer to get to the part where it doesn’t suck as much.

When I’m having an off day I sit up onto my elbows, then I push up so I’m resting against my hands, then I’ll swing my legs out and then I’ll slowly stand up. I don’t just swing round, stand up, and hope for the best.

The second is because our brain is forgetful. Even if we take chronic illness brain fog out of the equation. You know how they say that women only remember how painful childbirth was when they’re in the middle of it again? Same with our body every single day. Every time we start moving and it feels uncomfy or hard work, our brain wants to know what we’re doing. Those gremlins sneak in telling you to stop this nonsense immediately. We don’t do things like this anymore.

This is where you need to step in and make a choice. This is where you get to choose to tell your brain that it will all be ok, or agree with it and sit back down. Our brain is always playing tricks on us in an attempt to keep us safe. Mine currently likes to tell me that I’m not safe if I go outside. So let’s play it at its own game.

I am choosing to come at my training from a place of love. 

Love for myself. Love for a sport I once loved (most days). My love for running in nature. My love for running with dogs. I’m going to spend some time finding trails that I can make James and Noble join me on, and this will help with the day-to-day because I won’t be able to run these trails if I don’t do the weekly miles. I’m going to sign up to fun events, if I can find any, or just find silly things to make James and Noble wear…

This in turn, will make me want to eat better, it will make me feel better, it will help me sleep better. As the HRT kicks in, and the mood starts to lift, I find more joy in things and I want to laugh. I want to listen to silly podcasts when I run, and Christmas music… When I came back to running in early 2012, I had a journal where I printed a photo of where I ran to encourage me to go to new places. For safety purposes, there’s no going off-road early morning when I’m on my own, and that’s quite symbolic too of the day-to-day same-old as we move through our illness to recovery. Some days are just the same as another, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a win in there.

If you take anything from this podcast I want it to be that every single day you find a win. Even if it’s a little win. Even if it’s that you did the dishwasher today. Or you cleaned the worktops. Anything. It doesn’t matter. Something you thought you wouldn’t be able to do and you did it anyway.

Okay, so this week I am also sharing that I am creating a free mini course, a mini SHIFT. 

It is a taster of my SHIFT to Alignment 8-week experience designed to take you from drained to sustained, chaos to calm, uncertain to confident, to become the most aligned, powerful and magical version of yourself.

My SHIFT to Alignment programme is more than just coaching. It’s nurturing, expansive, guidance, and strategy rolled into one, and you will literally have me at the other end of the phone cheerleading you as you progress, grow, and SHIFT.

We work through your mindset blocks, and how to take massive action on any area you want to realign.

We work through ways to work best with your body, and how to love your body, flaws and all, and see them for the powerhouse that they truly are, and much stronger than you think, as you find balance with the transition of menopause with a chronic illness.

And now you can have a taster of that in this free mini SHIFT.

Five little units that you can complete at your own pace. Doing this work has such a profound impact on my life. Not by giving me all the answers, but because as life changes, new things come up, as we heal one thing it makes us stronger to take on the next. The work I put into SHIFT gave me the potential for massive, focused action that I had inside me to create change. And that potential, of course, resides in you, too.

You can get on to the waitlist at lifeinalign.com/minishift. I hope you check it out because everything on there is something that I have personally tested and love using, and have seen great results with clients.

And that is it for this week. Everything I mentioned in this episode can be found in the show notes at lifeinalign.com/episode-79.

Thanks for listening to this episode of the Life in Align podcast. If you liked what you heard and want to hear or read more, head over to lifeinalign.com. Please also subscribe and share, so that we can get this out to others who are in the same boat.

And remember – you are worth it, and you get to choose.

Have a lovely day.