It seems to have come around quickly but as soon as the cold breeze hit me, I knew it was true. Summer has ended. But with a final panicked shopping trip to buy the last pieces of missing school kit, we were ready for the new term. That is, at least, in theory. Because it is not easy adjusting to the long-forgotten routine of simply trying to get your child to school in the morning. Especially after enjoying a summer of being able to do several hours of work first thing in the morning without interruption. During the sunny mornings, I could get through mountains of work in utter silence, bar the load purrs of an attention-seeking cat. My noisy teenage children used to only emerge from their lairs when hunger finally forced them out of bed. But now with the clattering of dishes and blast of BBC Breakfast everybody is up early and our kitchen has become a feeding hub of activity in the early hours. And where I once prepared the coffee peacefully and slowly started the day, the daily breakfast battles for space are in full swing.
Of course, the return to school also means a return to school lunches and the controversial topic of whether your child packs a sarnie or buys their lunch from their school canteen. Many families have strong views on whichever option is better for their children and cost can also play a factor. Others may not have a choice as their child’s school provides meals and does not allow packed lunches. But no matter how your child is catered for at lunchtime there is one thing that all families have in common. Everything changes when your child enters the beginning of the last two years of secondary school, aka Sixth Form in the UK. Once your child hits Sixth Form, parents will have to contend with a much bigger problem: the temptation of the lunchtime takeaway.
You couldn’t help but notice the tabloid headlines last
week featuring the juicy news. No, it wasn’t a press release announcing the launch
of a new Tory edition of the Deal or No Deal boardgame to the public. Nor
was it the news that Labour had solved their conundrum of how to climb down two
sides of the Brexit fence simultaneously without doing themselves an injury. It
wasn’t even speculation about whether Love Island couple Maura and Curtis would
really last on the outside. All the same, the juicy feature spread
across the newsstands involved an unhealthier re-coupling of sorts. The story
broke with the newsflash that fruit juice has fallen from its healthy pedestal
and joined the ranks of fizzy sweetened drinks. 100% fruit juice has been
exposed as not being the health elixir it once was. New evidence has shown that
the consumption of 100% fruit juices is associated with a higher risk of developing
While on an enforced a two-week break from running to recover from the Milton Keynes Marathon, I had the chance to catch up on some work. Or so I thought, because like all parents, the moment you have a little morsel of time is when it is magically taken away by some other priority. Usually involving children or animals. The other day, my work was interrupted by one of our cats who proudly announced herself to me by depositing an enormous pigeon by my desk which she had brought into the house. How she managed to fit it through the cat flap whilst still clenched in her locked jaws was beyond comprehension but it was very much alive and furious. I spent the next while trying to herald the pigeon outside the house while wrestling my cat away from it as she persistently pounced like a lion. Unfortunately, my frantic calls for some help from my children were only answered by our second cat who eagerly joined in with the chase.
I cannot actually believe it but I am now only days away from running my first ever marathon. Up until now, I have mostly avoided thinking about the big day and just focused on following the training plan one week at a time without peeking ahead at what was coming up. But there was no avoiding getting caught up with watching the coverage of the London Marathon and some exceptional running by the winners, Brigid Kosgei and Eliud Kipchoge, who were simply flawless. They both looked completely relaxed as they powered over 26.2 miles, making it look incredibly easy. Of course, my eyes were also glued to the tens of thousands of other runners who were trying to make it to the end, including an exceptionally tall Big Ben on legs.
While the days tick off, I am officially ‘tapering’ which is said to be one of the most important parts of a marathon training plan. It seems counterintuitive to cut down on the training but reducing the mileage is supposed to allow your body to fully recover before the race so that you can reach your peak performance for the actual marathon. However, I am finding out that tapering means different things to different people.
For example, to my husband, tapering means ‘resting’ whilst continuing to run as usual but for shorter and easier, more relaxing runs. But to my children, it means that without the long runs to occupy me, I am suddenly now more available to do things for them. Which makes the resting a bit of a challenge. To me, it means I am still fully experiencing the same cumulative fatigue of training and thanks to my children, feel just as busy. Admittedly, I’m also getting a bit anxious as I wait for the promised recovery to kick in. As my mind keeps drifting to disastrous marathon scenarios where I end up crawling the course or getting lost running en route, I pray that I will be awarded with springy legs in time for the start…In the meantime, I am distracting myself from these thoughts by dreaming up new carb-loaded recipes to fuel a marathon.
Many people will have started the New Year with the best of intentions by making a change in their diet or taking on a new challenge. Whether it’s Dry January, Tri-January, or Veganuary, if you’d made this far it is about to become even trickier. Almost 3 weeks in, you will be about to meet a fork in the road right when the shiny appeal of your commitment is beginning to wear off. At this crossroads, most are hit by the sudden stark realisation that what you signed up is difficult and must face the mother of all confidence wobbles.
The temptation to take the easy route and give up can be almost overwhelming. It is always going to be more comfortable going back to the familiar territory of your old habits. There will be many others alongside you doing the same. But if you are still up to the challenge of your New Year’s resolution, how do you find the motivation to take the more difficult road, especially when it’s an unknown route?
At times like this, I could easily point you towards any one of the hundreds of cringeworthy inspirational quotes for success that you could buy printed on a t-shirt, coffee mug or mouse mat. Or I could say something about focusing on the larger goal ahead and playing the long game. I could even point out that simply having the choice and ability to ‘Do something today that your future self will thank you for’ is a very privileged position to be in. However, none of that will help you wrestle with the immediate task of just making it through until the end of the day without cracking.