Running and the benefits of being outdoors.

Sunday, and its all blue skies outside couldn’t be nicer weather to be honest. Of course still winter and cold (-10 this morning) but I cannot wait till I will be out running in a couple of hours. Till then I am trying my best to finish a psychology assignment involving SPSS and Anova. I really enjoyed SPSS to begin with, but now it is getting a bit more complicated and I must admit that I am a tad confused. Hopefully it will be crystal clear after this assignment. I often find that I tend to learn and develop the most during assignment weeks. I suppose it is because my brains had enough time process all the information and once sat down and re-reading everything fall into place. Anyway, for the time being I’m a bit stuck and waiting for my much needed ‘light bulb moment’ to appear, those of you that are students will know exactly what I mean!

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Anyway, in a couple of hours I will gear up warm and head off out in the sunshine for 40 minutes of rejuvenating running therapy. Since my last post I have only had to run at the gym once, and to be perfectly honest I hope that I wont have to go back and do it again! As I have stated before, I love the gym for strength training – just not for running. I need the fresh air, greenery and the immense sensation of complete freedom when I gaze across the Swabian alps. My psychology studies have recently been going over the concept of restorative environments – a place or situation where I as an individual am able to recover baseline levels of functional resources and capabilities that may have been lessened by stress or under-stimulation. Simply said; one way for me to restore those levels is to spend time outdoors in nature, and it is my reason for always running outdoors if it is possible.

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Psychological research suggest that some places indeed are better for ones well-being such as natural environments and natural aesthetics. Evidence for this have been provided by many including Roger Ulrich (1983) who investigated how hospital patients recovery was affected by whether or not they had a window which looked out on  a natural view. Results indicated that this was the case, showing faster recovery and increased ability to deal with pain when exposed to natural environments. Greenery matters folks, and nature truly matters to us as human beings. Our bodies does not only need to move to remain healthy our mind and body also reacts to our environment its shapes, colours, textures and sounds. If we constantly are surrounded by ‘non natural’ cold environments our bodies react accordingly and stress levels may increase.

To ease stress levels for people living in a city, public parks were constructed as a source of relaxation from the busy city life and an opportunity to reconnect with natural settings. To me, this is where ‘ecopsychology’ really gets my juices flowing, I am so fascinated by how our brain reacts to nature and how healing it can be to spend some time outdoors. This is yet another reason to why many medical doctors and psychiatrists ordinate rest and outdoors activities instead and/or in combination with anti depressants. Nature heals, nature is natural and of great importance for our mental health. All of this knowledge and understanding does serve as a great motivation to spend more time outdoors, to hike, run and enjoy the beautiful world we live in. Do you feel the same or do you prefer and find comfort in truly urban environments, and if so – why do you think that is the case?

Keen to learn more about restorative environments?

Roger Ulrich – Green is good for you  ←
Ulrich, R. S. (1983) ‘Aesthetic and affective response to natural environment‘, in Altman, I. and Wohlwill, J. F. (eds) Behaviour and the Natural Environment, New York, Plenum Publishing, pp. 85-126. You can buy the book here!
Mind.org.uk – A new green agenda for mental health  ←

Wednesday and a favourite breakfast!

This morning was somewhat magical, woke up fully rested and I love how the sunlight bounce against the white snow making it even brighter! Since I am a light fanatic, that is one of the best attributes of winter in my opinion. Anyway, started my morning with a favourite breakfast containing a lovely avocado (big health booster as we all know by now!) and lime, 80 g salmon (additional healthy fat!) and two eggs (protein source galore!) – an energy boosting breakfast for sure! And I will be needing it as I am heading off to the gym in a few minutes for an arms and back session. Looking forward to that immensely, in particular since the rest of the day will be spent sat in front of the computer writing up yet another essay. Student life at it’s best!

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When I have time during this week I am going to tell you about my latest obsession, or well, it is more of a motivational product which I have fallen head over heels in love with! Definitely not first on the ball, but better late than never eh! Wishing you all a lovely Wednesday, and I challenge you all to get some exercise done today. It doesn’t matter if its a walk or a heavy gym session – just do something that makes your pulse increase a tad and makes you feel truly alive.

The current situation.

I have braced myself several times these past weeks and headed out for a run despite roads being covered by snow and ice. Today though, I called it quits when it comes to outdoor running for a while. Not because it is impossible, mainly because I really don’t want to injure myself somehow. So, until the roads are free from snow again I will have to do my runs indoors, on the treadmill at the gym. I cannot lie, and truly it is a bit of a downer to have to go back to running indoors. However, I hope that I will get back into it quite quick and maybe even start to even like it a bit again. Not too sure about that last part though, but one can hope eh? I don’t know about you guys, but once the outdoors running sort of got into your system for real, it is rather difficult to shake that need and desire to just get out there and get to breathe in fresh air and be surrounded by fantastic nature and wildlife. Treadmills just can’t compare no matter how nice the gym may be. Anyway, I will venture indoors unless the weather changes soon and it will be okay.

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I have had yet another break from 365evermore, mainly because my studies have taken a steep curve upwards in the amount of work required and time spent on weekly assignments. I treated myself to a few days off anything and everything related to psychology and studying over Christmas and New Year but other than that I have been studying nonstop. It is pretty intense to say the least! Additionally, I realise that I left my blog on somewhat of a cliffhanger when it comes to my personal health and I am sorry about that. I did get my lab results back in November and everything was fine, which is fantastic of course – if it wasn’t for the fact that I still suffer from the same problems i.e weight gain (despite training and eating healthy) and occasional horrendous headaches. All signs of Hashimotos still keeping a tight grip of my body, unfortunately. I am going back to my doctor again at the end of January to see where my levels are at and go from there. Fingers crossed that an increased dosage will do the trick!

Other than that my plan is to try to update here a bit more again because I really miss writing about my life, training, food and being a bit creative with photography and such. We will see how it goes, I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas and let’s get goooo 2017!

The fear of running during dark autumn evenings.

Currently preparing for my evening run, warming up cold and tired ligaments, tendons and body. Not to mention my mind, it is rather mushy after a whole day in front of the computer stuffing my head with numerous theories and methods. The upcoming examination next year is haunting me day and night despite the fact that it is a long way off yet. However, I find that there is no better thing to clear my mind, shake off any lingering anxiety or stress, than heading off out for a run. It is my mind palace, my favourite place to be, body and mind. To once again become one with my own breathing, fully reconnecting with my body and everything that I am. To thrive in the feeling of ‘nothing else matters here and now’, unstoppable and empowered by the strength in my legs, the stubbornness in my forever going forward feet and uttermost love for draining myself of energy to regain, energy. To fill up my emptied out levels of complete peace of mind. That is what running means to me, that is why I love it so much. The other benefits? Well, they are the icing on the cake. That is all.

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One thing that I do not like about running during autumn and winter times is the darkness. And yes I know, it is easy to mend by heading off out during daytime but its not always an option no matter if you are your own boss (student!) or not. I used to be very confident when it came to these things, not only because I was pretty good at martial arts and an excellent – fast and strong – runner, but also because I believed the world to be kind. However, I did learn the hard way that the world is not always kind, and it does not take much for you to end up in a very bad situation that will impact your life for a long time.

Ten years ago I was physically attacked and abused, scars that will never fully heal but that I today carry with a much lighter heart and mind than I did a couple of years ago. It did however take a long time to get back to where I am today, training became something extremely negative to me. Running was a complete no for years and I lost my ability to trust people, strangers in particular. The idea to head off out on a run on my own in the darkness is still a rather daunting task. It is a concern that I carry with me when I enter a seemingly empty and remote forest and areas that I do not always know. Will I be alone? And perhaps more important, will I be left alone? Most of the time I follow the rule to only run in areas that I know very well, I suppose it is a way to control any potential outcome. I know all the shortcuts and I know every single path in the forest where I run. But yet, that knowledge may not be enough if I would encounter the wrong kind of person or persons. And it is a tragedy that I and many with me, in particular women, have to worry about things like this. That my body is not my own to own.

Statistics of violent attacks and abuse suggest that it is often made by people that we already know and trust. Perhaps it is the ”nice” runner you always wave to on your way out or someone living along the route where you live who spend his/her evening keeping tack of your routine, learning everything. I certainly do not want to scare anyone off by writing this post, my goals are instead to voice a loud but gentle, be careful out there. Be mindful of your surroundings and if possible team up with a running partner if you run in very remote places! During autumn and winter evenings my fiancé always cycle with me as he (naturally) does not want me to feel uneasy about practising a sport that I love. It helps, but I wish that our world was kind that every encounter could be brilliant or at least neutral. So dear readers, my fellow runners, be careful, be mindful and look after each other!

Back to nordic walking.

Started this morning with some nordic walking in the nearby areas, it is a really nice way to wake up mind and body before breakfast. Ideally I would have loved to go for a proper hike in the national park but since it is gym day today it had to be a shorter walk instead. Went out for a run yesterday which was a lot more enjoyable than the former one so I am feeling great about my training at the moment. Though I had a bit of a break, I am slowly and finally able to ease my way back into a more active life again. Thumbs up for that!

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Warm oatmeal porridge and gorgeous American blueberries after the walk and now I have the fuel for a few hours of studying before heading off the gym. Really enjoying these two psychology modules at the moment, investigating the ‘theory of mind’ and animal minds. Incredibly to develop a better understanding of the similarities as well as differences between humans and non human animals minds. So far it has actually made me even more steady in my belief of staying away from eating meat even though that is not at all the aim of the course. However, wider knowledge  of animals emotional lives and ability to interpret their surroundings does make me even more humble towards all the beautiful creatures that we share our world with.

Saturday evening, study books and running plans!

Spending my Saturday evening in front of the computer, creating various mind maps with the fantastic ‘Simple mind‘ app. If you are a student and do not use it already, go and download it pronto! You will not be disappointed, it is that good! This study year is rather packed with information and I spend most of my days studying either theory or numbers (currently learning SPSS). I really don’t mind spending most part of my weekend studying, I love my subject and when you love what you do everything seem rather easy and enjoyable. Though I don’t mind studying, I also believe that it is important to have breaks and live life a little. Yesterday evening was one of those times when I took the evening off to go out for some yummy sushi with my fiancé and a couple of his colleagues. Celebrating that they had published some work in a research journal a while back. We all had a fabulous time eating plenty of food, drinking a bit of sake while chatting and laughing the evening away. Enjoying life, simple as that!

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Anyway, tomorrow I will have yet another date with my books and computer. However I do have a run planned so it is going to be interesting to see how my body will react to that since the last run was a bit of a drag. I do think it was due to the ‘pre virus outbreak’ drowsiness in my body though, since I did come down with a cold and a sore throat two days after the run. I don’t know if that was the true reason for my low energy at that time, I do however know that I am so very psyched to go out for a run tomorrow! Garmin is charged, my running clothes are folded and ready, shoes are cleaned and my spirit is high! I hope you all are enjoying your Saturday evening whatever you may be up to!

Autumn is here and I am…well, tired.

We returned back home from our engagement trip to Greece the other week and since then I have truly struggled to get myself back into my former training routine. Not due to a holiday blues or anything along those lines, instead I think it has to do with autumn all of a sudden being here and all the stress related to the upcoming study year. I suppose the darker evenings is another contributing factor to a bit lower energy levels. Not quite sure how to break this rather sluggish uninspired feeling. I did however head out for a run yesterday but I didn’t enjoy it and even ended up walking (!) for about 500 meters because I was just bored and had no motivation. I did manage to pick myself up though and keep on going to finish my session. But it was a drag, a real drag.

Anyway, tomorrow is a new day and I will head off to the gym, hopefully it will be a bit more enjoyable than yesterday run. If nothing else I have to keep my fingers crossed that the training mojo will return in a couple of weeks due to keeping at it and not giving up. Not much else to do right now, I cannot not train so I don’t have much of a choice really. Hopefully my doctors appointment on Thursday will bring good news and the they will be able to sort out my thyroid problems properly. That would be truly brilliant!

Sunday Confession | To push yourself or not.

This has been one crazy week, training wise I have been fine – better than fine actually as I had my best run to date on Thursday. Legs were in perfect symbiosis with the heart and lungs and I felt as if I could have gone on forever, and I almost did. Until I remembered that I have very little to gain from that, and the importance of keeping to my original plan and as such hopefully stay away from unesessary injuries. My boyfriend and I often speak of this as he has much more of an ‘all in’ kind of personality, whereas I prefer to plan, research and I much rather take baby steps than jump in at the deep end. Though I realise that sometimes a gentle push into the deep end before you feel fully prepared is the right way to go, I do find it quite difficult to push myself at times. Or rather, to know when exactly it is the right moment to do so and when its time to hold back. I often think about how I as a former equestrian had to prepare both myself and the horse for the jump, how absolutely everything had to be carefully calculated. Every step approaching the obstacle was counted for, the pace and intensity was controlled and the intention of what was about to happen was introduced to the horse with the help of my own body, how I distributed my weight and movements. It is that very knowledge I am looking for in my current training, to simply know when to hold back and sit steady in the boat and when to bring up the sails and go full speed ahead. I suppose that it is as with everything else in life, with extended experience – deeper knowledge and understanding is also gained.

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But in all honesty, are we not all searching for the perfect balance in our lives? I certainly am, and for most part I must say that I have found it. Or rather, I have come to the conclusion that perhaps there isn’t a balance that is ongoing forever-ever, but instead a deeper, inner balance that is apparent in a more subtle way such as how we choose to handle mundane everyday situations. With this in mind, I suppose that it at times may be a-ok to keep on running some of those days when my body whispers ‘its ok, we can handle it‘. To allow myself to trust my body, though I am battling it (the Hashimoto bit) at the moment – I should still allow myself to believe that though my body may be troublesome it is also capable of creating those marvellous moments of magical ‘runners high’. And for that I am tremendously grateful.

How do You approach the concept of pushing yourself? Do you trust your body to hold it together just because your mind says so? Do you jump in with both feet first at the deep end or do you prefer a slow start with the ever so helpful inflatables? If you have the time, feel free to leave me a comment with your thoughts on this subject.

If you cannot eat the rainbow, at least eat your veggies.

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Simply cannot get enough of this dish at the moment. So ridiculously simple, so tremendously good. You have seen it all before, cherry tomatoes, yellow pepper, leek, courgette, aubergine, sun-dried tomatoes and once finished topped with some low-fat feta cheese. Heavenly good.

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I have spent a good amount of time at the gym today, focusing on legs mainly. It was very busy, which is rather unusual during the summer but it was a ‘nice kind of busy’ if you know what I mean. People were focusing on their training and simply channeling that kind of ‘good’ workout energy. Normally I prefer to train alone, unless its with a Personal Trainer, but I love the company of other gym members. I love to learn from watching the super-fit people, the talented lifters and the splendid runners. They all serve as fabulous inspiration and motivation in my own fitness journey. But I also adore the beginners, the sometimes careful and insecure ones that seem to want to disappear into the walls when the machines make odd noises or when they cannot figure something out. And I love the many seniors, sometimes strong as oxes and more often than not they outrun me on the treadmill without breaking a sweat. I love the gym-family, when it is a good one. And I happen to be a member of a gym that has a lovely down to earth attitude, professional staff that also take the time to get to know you as well as carefully looked after machines and training areas. After all, the gym does serve as my second home, and it is important to me that it is a place where I as well as everyone else who spend time there, feel equally welcome.

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Anyway, post gym, I always want to eat something quick and healthy. As I have mentioned in previous posts, I tend to eat lighter during the day so a vegetable-based lunch is all I need really. I don’t feel the need to add another protein source, except for the feta cheese, as I hit my protein goals just fine every day. However, please note that I cannot be used as a general example of how you should eat, my diet is carefully controlled by my general practitioner due to my Hashimoto. If you struggle with weight loss or if you simply want to know what diet would suit you best, I recommend you to contact a professional (dietician, nutritionist or your GP) for adequate advice.

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It has been a lovely break to write this entry, but time flies and I have to get back to my psychology books for a bit. August is here and my next study year will ‘unofficially’ open up in September so it’s about time to get properly started now. This summer has disappeared in a heartbeat really, but somehow I still feel quite energised and happy and ready to take on another year. My second last one, kind of mind boggling to be honest, halfway there and through plenty of hard work and determination I have managed to get distinctions only up to this point. Hopefully it will be a lasting trend, I would love to finish with a first!

Early morning run.

Woke up at 6 am this morning and could not go back to sleep for some reason, so naturally I went out for a morning run. As you do. Was quite tired in my legs since Sundays run when I pushed both pace and distance further than normal and on top of that I had a rather tough gym and cycle session yesterday. But it is all good, sometimes that ‘drowsy’ feeling in the body is the best start because I believe that I can actually feel how every inch of my body wakes up during the warm up. How the muscles realise that ‘oh right time for that again’ and how the heart and lungs recognise the breathing pattern, adjusting themselves accordingly and pushing me into ‘awake’-mode. There is a beauty in early mornings and slowly waking up your body with a gentle jog, plodding on leaving any worries behind enjoying the moment. I also love early mornings due to the silence of the world, the empty streets and the beauty of the botanical gardens which I have the pleasure to run past. Though today did not turn out to be my fastest run, it actually became my longest one as it was that enjoyable and I didn’t feel like stopping.

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Once back home, I fed the cat (we are taking him to the veterinary today as he’s had a cold for a bit despite being vaccinated so we are very worried about him as he’s getting quite old and also suffers from Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy) and decided to cook myself a warm breakfast containing mushrooms and sundried tomatoes (obsessed!) so incredibly good and simple. I love anything and everything quick when it comes to food, though I wish that I had more of my fathers skills and patience in the kitchen as I really do not. In my opinion, as long as I have ate my greens, kept within my calculated calories for the day, well then I am one happy little bean really.