As we head into winter and the weather becomes more predictably cold, wet and windy, it can get a little bit more difficult to motivate yourself to get outside to exercise. After all, when the roads and pavements seem to be permanently covered with fallen leaves, even a short venture out can feel like you have gone on a cross-country trek. Not to mention that you will likely return home far soggier than you expected and will then have to dig out copious amounts of foliage and twigs wedged into every tread of your shoes. Luckily, the physical and mental health benefits of exercising outdoors are so immensely rewarding that many people don’t just put up with the bad weather. They are willing to do it all again. And provided you have the right kit and can be comfortably weather-proofed, there is nothing to stop you from enjoying the great outdoors all winter.
However, there is another key factor that is often overlooked but it is actually an essential part of staying fit and healthy when the elements are testing your limits. Focusing on it can make the difference between being able to stay active outside this winter or having to nurse a cold while you wait indoors until the spring. One of the best ways to build up your strength and resilience is to prioritise your recovery days more.
Have you ever bitten off more than you can chew but knew there was no going back? If you are a runner then you may be more than familiar with this feeling of dread mixed with inevitability that can hit you even when you are doing something you actually enjoy. You might feel this way when a little bad weather is dialled up to biblical while you are still mid-run. Or maybe you face this whenever you step up to a new starting line for the first time. Even runners who appear fearless will experience this same feeling when they attempt to do something that is just a little outside their comfort zone. Fortunately, one of the universal truths of running also happens to be the well-known saying, that ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’. In other words, having the resilience to overcome whatever challenge is in front of you can be immensely rewarding.
With the forest fires raging in Greece and weeks of record-breaking heatwaves spreading across Europe and afar, no one can deny that the climate crisis hasn’t really ramped up the weather. Clearly, the extreme temperatures felt in July and August last summer in the UK were not just a blip. In fact, the Met Office has issued a statement to say that the extraordinary temperatures felt in the UK last year will be regarded as being a ‘cool’ year by the end of the century. It looks like this year we have once again swapped the once traditional mild and slightly disappointing British summer for something more dramatic. We started with an absolute deluge of rainstorms and high winds which brought some areas of the country more rainfall in a weekend than expected in an entire month. And as we finish July we seem to be starting a trend of having warmer days but with some still surprisingly persistent rain showers that seem to come from nowhere.
Although no one would want to trade any of our overcast days of recurring drizzle for the extreme heat experienced abroad, the unpredictable weather makes it difficult for anyone trying to make plans to exercise and enjoy the outdoors. Because even if you’ve woken up to a forecast of bright sunshine, you simply cannot count on the weather lasting the morning. For runners, the rising temperatures and flooded trails make it difficult to know exactly what you’ll face en route and how to prepare for it.
Like many other people, I never really take it seriously whenever I hear the expression ‘Be careful what you wish for’. Mostly because it sounds just too much like another way of telling someone else to stay in their lane. But also because I know that when it comes to runners and their aspirations, I’ve yet to meet one who doesn’t wish recklessly. What runner doesn’t like to think about and share their lofty ambitions about someday running a marathon, doing an ultra or taking part in some crazy competition? Of course, I am no different and wonder what it would be like to run in a countless number of changing events. But there’s no harm in imagining doing something really difficult that’s way outside your comfort zone when you are sitting at home, safe in the knowledge that you don’t actually have to do it. That is, unless you somehow foolishly manage to enter something ridiculous…Which is exactly what I did. Yes, I went slightly further than simply wishing when I put my name down to try to qualify for the England Athletics Masters.
With the cost of living crisis affecting virtually every household in the UK, Mental Health Awareness Week couldn’t come at a better time. Although not everyone recognises the importance of being mentally healthy. Especially those that already consider themselves to be in top form. Because we all know how important it is to keep ourselves physically healthy but how many of us give the same attention to our mental health? Which is really odd because most people will experience mental health issues at some point in their lives or at the very least know someone else who has. And although there is now far greater acceptance and awareness of mental health issues it doesn’t mean that we are any better at knowing how to safeguard our mental wellbeing. Fortunately, there are 3 key steps that you can take that will help build your resilience and will ensure your mental health continues to stay in top shape.