Modified Run Streak

I’m excited to have finished my first month of daily workouts!

Each January Run Ottawa launches their running streak challenge, to help keep us motivated through those long winter days. Last year I’d just gotten a new treadmill and was excited to see how many days I could keep up. Unfortunately, I did hit a bad spot in my depression which caused me to stop running altogether before it ended. (I made it to day 18, missed two days, got four more consecutive days in, then I was DONE.)

This January I decided to attempt my own modified version of the challenge – where each day I would choose from either running, biking, or skating (which a Twitter friend amusingly referred to as the “Canadian Triathlon”, haha!). I allowed myself a minimum of 2k for running, 5k for biking, and 5k for skating. It was the perfect solution for someone like me as I was able to choose my activity depending on how my day unfolded, allowing me a bit more flexibility.

This is the first time I have exercised on a daily basis and completed an actual month-long streak, so I couldn’t be more pleased with myself!

I’m definitely liking being able to add cross-training to my training schedule! As I found out in my figure skating lessons – where you have to be able to perform the same moves on both your left and right sides – my left side is weaker/lazier, and so I will need to work on fixing this imbalance. This should hopefully help make me stronger as a runner as well as prevent injuries.

I have also learned the benefit of rest days. My speedwork training has actually worsened with each passing week, which I attribute to not getting a day off. I came in after long runs and lifting weights and my legs would have absolutely nothing left in them. No power whatsoever.

As I move forward, I will still have long run Sunday’s at Run Club and Speedwork Monday’s at the dome, but I’m hoping my legs will manage to (a) adjust, and (b) benefit from rest days earlier in the week. One can only hope!

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Mental Health Minute: My Story

As I move forward with this blog, I’ve decided to incorporate a little bit more discussion on mental health here too. For me I have found that the two share a common thread.

Over the years I’ve grown to feel quite passionate about raising awareness and support for those struggling to make it through life with mental health issues. Having been limited so much in own life by depression and anxiety, I have found it such an amazing experience to open up, share and realize that you are not the only one!

Take myself, for example. I am an only child with all of my extended family overseas. I have lived a very sheltered life, under my parents care right up until I began married life. So I do feel that this has had a huge influence in shaping the person I am today. I’ve never been on my own, in a position where I was under my own care and not relying on anyone else. So I’ve not a lot of personal experiences to draw from, and in fact have always tended to just follow the advice given to me from those I deemed wiser and more experienced, to help keep me on the right path.

Flash forward to present day and I do not differ much from my childhood self. I am still anxious about the world and my place in it; lacking in self-confidence. Over time these insecurities transformed into a diagnosis of social phobia, where I feel extremely self-conscious and inept in comparison to all those around me, and fumble to function normally in the presence of others.

These kinds of ongoing issues tend to have the added effect of bringing down one’s general mood, and so I have been diagnosed with dysthymia – which is a sort of permanent low mood. It basically means that I don’t know what it’s like not to feel depressed to some degree, because this has been my baseline (normal) mood, and all I’ve ever known. Events that cause me added panic or anxiety will often trigger a case of major depression – in my case rendering me in a state of what they refer to as ‘double depression’. At my lowest points I have had to make emergency visits to the hospital to help dig me out. I am incredibly grateful that this expert care exists and is available when I’ve needed help the most.

My mental health issues have impacted my life in a huge way because I’ve spent much of my life quite home-bound, with very infrequent in-person contact with other people. In fact, I often questioned whether I really even had any friends anymore, as I had become such a recluse. I have also been unable to settle into a career, and previous job experiences gave me so much anxiety that nervous breakdowns caused me to leave. (Though I was always complemented by managers on what a great employee I was, due to my anxiety-driven people-pleasing skills!)

I was amazed that it was running which finally brought me out of my darkness. Growing stronger as a runner in turn helped me build up a confidence in myself that was never there before. At the age of 36, I am now able to leave my home, get out there and do things on my own.

I have made so many amazing new friends in the running community too, who have been so warm and welcoming that they really do feel like family to me. My friends at run club have supported me and helped me grow in immeasurable ways – both as a person and as a runner.

For the first time now I feel a sense of curiosity and enthusiasm about what’s out there in the world for me to explore. With just enough confidence to get out there and risk pursuing my newfound dreams. So far my aspirations are still very centred around running and various other athletic endeavours, but it is my hope that I can develop that into finding a career path well suited for me too.

The sense of accomplishment I have built up over these past two and a half years I’ve taken up running has been incredibly instrumental in helping me grow into the type of person I want to be. I am learning more about myself, my capabilities and my interests. I am slowly developing a sense of identity, which I know will help me feel like more of an actual person and less like a ghost passing through this world.

As I continue to write about mental health and my experiences, I hope to inspire others who struggle as I have, and help them see that there is always still hope. I want people to realize that they are not alone, and that so many people out there can relate and do care deeply.