Unpacking my lost Mojo...
In the summer of 2016 I was running three times a week and swimming twice, all before work, I was working full-time and starting to set up I Can Run club. Pretty much the best fitness I have ever had in my whole life.
Roll on (nearly) a couple of years and I run (and walk) when I have to with the groups I lead and am lucky if I make my once a week yoga class. My regular routine is out the window. Women I introduced to running that September have gone on to run marathons and create a fantastic new healthy habit, inspiring others along the way - so why can’t I?
I find it hard to talk about because of the old school of thought that I ought to be a great runner - after all - I set up a running group didn’t I? Why aren’t I running and improving?
My mojo has got up and left the building. I’ve been thinking about this for many many months now and I’ve narrowed it down to three possible reasons:
1) Being Busy
The incredible journey of creating a space and letting women fill it began to take over my life! In a great way of course! I have dropped 2 days at work to keep myself sane and have an epic group of run leaders and behind the scenes helpers that lift me up and help me with the phenomenal amount of admin and organisation that has been created by running groups sometimes six times a week in three locations. I’m regularly at the computer at 6am before work and have meetings and planning on the two days I’m not at my day job. It takes up all my thoughts and I love nothing more than seeing others run and supporting as much as I can. I wouldn’t change it for a moment.
I have time, I can definitely make time, but I’m not making time, this is not a reason.
2. Cambridge Half marathon
The other thing that happened was Cambridge Half marathon. An epic run, a pleasure to run it with one of my oldest and best friends Lulu Horsfield. But I hadn’t trained adequately for it and it left me psychologically broken. Physically I was fine, mentally not so. I still can’t quite put my finger on it. I think it was such an incredible life achievement I felt like I’d done it, I’d run a half marathon - whats the point of running any more?
Of course, thats not really how I think now but all my life, exercise has been something I do to lose weight or get thinner, never something I do because I want to. Why would I? It’s hard work!
Because i’ve always had these thoughts about exercise, I think it will take time to retrain myself to make it what I do, because I want to. Interestingly, I find myself seeking the exercise thrill in other ways - yoga, swimming, classes, my boxing bag in the garden. Nothing regular, just doing what I can, when I can.
But, If I’m perfectly honest, my mojo was disappearing before this event, this is not a reason.
Flat feet and dodgy knees. When you start running or exercise you begin to learn a phenomenal amount about how your amazing body works. I know that I can be pain-free and strong and that any pain is down to my body not being aligned and therefore not working efficiently. I’ve been to physios, soft tissue therapists, got new trainers and been given all the stretches and exercises under the sun - most of which i haven’t done. Therefore, I still hurt - not while running but afterwards.
I’ve recently seen another professional and I now know what needs to be done (or am I just more accepting?) and have started doing my stretches and taking the advice given to me.
This is when the lightbulb went on…
I’ve had love/hate (mostly hate) relationship with my body my whole life, easily over 30 years of saying not very nice things about myself and torturing myself with stupid diets that have helped me put more weight on over the years instead of losing it. Bamboozling myself with milkshakes, calories, clean eating, points and syns looking for the quick fix I desperately needed and could see in all the transformation pictures in magazines and on social media. Being critical when I look in the mirror.
Thankfully, I have ditched the diets and the scales and have begun an amazing journey of loving my body. I’m not 100% there just yet, but I’m definitely well on the way. Learning about the ‘Health At Every Size’ movement and following *larger athletes and models on social media have made a tremendous difference to me mentally. We all just want to relate to someone like us don’t we? I find it really inspiring to see larger women wearing crop tops and being fit and fabulous. But thats just me!
When you’ve spent 30+ years being disappointed in your body, it doesn’t change overnight. Not even with a new pair of trainers! Or with exercises to help your feet. Self love isn’t found in things like that unless you’re ready. Why would I stretch and do exercises for my body when it’s disappointed me for so long?
Not everyone is like me and some people can just ‘get on with it’ quite easily. Others who have got a great exercise routine genuinely don’t get what stops someone from exercising or getting out the front door. Nike has a lot to answer for with their slogan ‘Just Do It’!!
The truth is, we’re all different. We’ve all had different experiences and are motivated by different things. For one person, signing up for a running event will be enough motivation to get out and train - for others this will cause too much pressure and will make them feel like a failure if they don’t do the training. That’s why we’re not all fit things - if it was easy - we’d all be doing it wouldn’t we?
For me, I’ve learnt I need to be kind and gentle, gradually building up belief in myself and not have a ‘Right, thats it, enough is enough’ attitude because it doesn’t work for me. Instead I need to ‘do what I can, when I can’ for now. It’ll be no good if I set my expectations too high, I’ll fall off and feel crap again - which I believe is a throw back to my dieting days. It’s a difficult mentality to change.
Exercise is more in the head than in the body and we just need to work really really hard to fully understand what we need to make it happen. That’s the hardest bit - learning to understand what we want - the running bit is easy, we know we’ll feel epic! Losing our mojo from time to time gives us thinking time. Admittedly, for me, over a year is a seriously long think but it’s not that I haven’t been exercising at all - I’ve been doing what I can, when I can. Slowly, slowly - which for me - is ok.
During this thinking time, first of all I wanted help, a professional, I wanted a personal trainer, someone who looks a little like me to help me on my way - to tell me what to do and when. Someone who truly truly understands my issues and someone who will have my back. I’ve had lots of suggestions of personal trainers out there who are excellent but I know what I need. But, a Big Fit Woman, is sadly not available around here. I think i’ve been a little broken if truth be told by past experiences and I find it difficult to trust new fitness trainers. It’s given me a little fire in my belly to think very seriously about doing my own personal training qualifications, just like ICRc I bet I’m not the only one who needs that kind of woman in her life. But, first I need to train me!
My fitness levels are much lower than they have been and I know that when I do get back to it, regularly, it’s going to be really tough going. I’ll compare to how I was before - and to others - and it’s likely I’ll have those worries about getting out the front door too.
These tactics will help:
Arrange to meet a friend
Post in the ICRc facebook group and arrange a get together
Trick myself into running by getting in my running gear and going for a walk.
Start from the very beginning with the beginners programme
Lay out my clothes the night before
Go to new places and run somewhere lovely
Do ‘out and backs’ so I run for a certain amount of time in minutes before turning around
Sign up for a virtual run
Talk to others
Keep doing other exercise that I enjoy
It’s a psychological rollercoaster for many of us. Many of you will read this blog and really not get why I’m whining and not just getting on with it. But many, I hope, will realise that it’s not just them that struggle with a lost mojo. Many people who I have met in the running world who run suffer with a lost mojo from time to time and usually because of one of these three issues - 1) time/tiredness 2) burnt out or 3) pain/injury. Its good to know I fall into those categories.
The beauty of losing your mojo is not just having a really good think, it’s also realising that you will never ever be right back to the beginning again - even if it feels like it. I know I CAN run, I genuinely also know what I need to do get started again, I’ve got the gear, the support in my friends and the desire to do it. It will never be like the first time again. I’ll enjoy the sweat, the time to myself, my lungs wanting to burst, the feeling of flying going downhill and of course that smug, smug feeling of feeling strong and capable….
Now, where's my trainers…
* These will keep you going for a little while in the world of larger athletes and models