How Will Instagram Hiding ‘Likes’ Impact Our Mental Health?

Instagram recently launched a test to hide the number of likes a post has received. This is currently being tested in seven countries including Australia, New Zealand and Canada, prior to potentially being expanded to a wider audience. The idea is that the number of likes will only be visible to the user who posted the photo, allowing one to focus on the content (side note – I cannot stand the word ‘content’) itself.  

Instagram have stated “We hope this test will remove the pressure of how many likes a post will receive, so you can focus on sharing the things you love”. Supposedly, the purpose of this new approach is to improve users’ mental health, and I really wish this was the case. These changes aren’t being implemented due to mental health concerns; it’s simply about money (it’s highly likely that Instagram’s ad revenue will increase).

Regardless of Instagram’s intentions, this feels like a step in the right direction. According to research carried out by The Royal Society for Public Health, Instagram is the worst social platform for mental health. ‘Worst’ in this context is subjective (plus I don’t want to neglect the positive impact that the platform can have) but ensuring that Instagram is a safe a place as possible is crucial.

By removing likes, users can seriously think about the type of content that they are creating. This could completely change the way that we interact with Instagram, removing the pressure to gain ‘likes’ on your posts.

Of course, it’s not that simple. There are numerous studies that highlight a link between the amount of time spent on social media and poor mental health, and simply removing the ‘like’ function is only a small piece of the puzzle. The Royal Society for Public Health has made some great recommendations, such as the introduction of a pop-up heavy usage warning. They also recommend that companies find a way of highlighting content that has been digitally manipulated, alongside asking for the government’s help in teaching safe social media use in schools.

Personally, I (speaking as a ‘normal’ person as opposed to an influencer with 86,275,380 followers) don’t feel any pressure to gain ‘likes’ on my posts; I genuinely post the content that I enjoy posting – much like my blog, where I no longer focus solely on running related posts because my interests branch out further than that. I want to talk about mental health and wellbeing, feminism, fitness, diet culture – all things which come under the health umbrella but ultimately, these are the things that I want to share with others. I would hope that a like-free Instagram encourages others to share a similar mindset.

Steps Towards A More Sustainable Lifestyle (I Failed Plastic Free July)

For the second year running, I am attempting plastic free July.

Plastic Free July is a global yearly campaign which promotes the refusal of single-use plastic during the month of July. Last year, I think I did a pretty good job. This year, I failed miserably. I’ve chewed gum daily, I’ve purchased food wrapped in plastic, I’ve forgotten my reusable coffee cup, I’ve smothered glitter on my face and 80% of my tea consumption has not come from loose leaf tea. These are just a few obvious examples; undoubtedly, I have also consumed single-use plastic unknowingly.

Rather than making excuses or stating that there’s ‘no such thing as failure’ (there is – I’ve failed plastic free July due to my own lack of planning), I thought this would be a good opportunity to focus on the positive changes I have made in reducing my carbon footprint since completing plastic free July last year.

  1. Eating more sustainably

I have drastically cut back on my meat consumption over the past year, and I reduced my dairy consumption about five years ago. We all know that eating a more plant-based diet is one of the best ways of supporting the planet; if we all made some minor adjustments to our diet (and they really are minor!), we could make a huge difference.

I also buy staple foods in bulk (e.g. pasta and oats) which wastes less packaging and requires less transportation.  

Whilst ideally I would purchase local food and support local businesses (I most definitely do not want to be supporting huge companies that already make millions of £££), the truth of the matter is that I don’t currently have the budget to consistently shop at my local farm shop, or to always buy organic and sustainable foods.

2. Consuming less

I simply buy a lot less STUFF. I rarely buy new clothes, and when I do, it is with the intention that it will last me at least a decade. This is not an exaggeration – my favourite coat is one which I purchased when I was seven years old.

Without trying to come across as a pretentious moron, I generally purchase from mid-tier brands (i.e. I buy fewer things of higher quality), charity or vintage shops.

Being an ethical consumer simply comes down to wants vs. needs. It’s about making informed decisions every time we purchase something. It’s about treasuring and valuing our possessions. Marie Kondo sums this up perfectly; “I believe that owning only what we love and what we need is the most natural condition”.

3. Washing less

I know this sounds a little gross. However, there is simply no need to wash multiple times per day. In fact, if I didn’t run so frequently, I would probably view daily showering as being unnecessary.

Unless it’s hair wash day (which takes approximately 86 hours), I spend no longer than two minutes in the shower, usually less. An average shower uses about five gallons of water per minute; therefore, two minutes is more than enough!

4. Creating a sustainable home

As a first-time buyer, I still have a lot to learn about sustainability in the home. There are some elements that I have very little control over with it being a new build – for example, I may have opted for better quality doors, and I most definitely would have installed underfloor heating.

A few simple things that I have implemented are:

  • Limiting water waste and using cold water in the washing machine
  • Having the curtains open until the moment I go to bed. Sunlight is free!
  • Monitoring my electricity consumption (I am the Queen of this)
  • Using microfibre clothes instead of paper towels

5. Educating myself

This one is self-explanatory.

A couple of ethical and sustainable living podcasts that I would recommend are The Minimalists Podcast and Sustainababble. I would also recommend reading ‘On Eating Meat’ by Matthew Evans (although I wouldn’t bother with this one if you follow a vegan diet!)

Any other recommendations do let me know!

So, whilst I am fully aware that this year’s attempt at plastic free July was poor, overall, I’m happy with the positive changes that I have implemented over the past year. It is impossible not to end this post with a cliché, so I might as well just go for it; if we all make small changes, it will make a big difference. Don’t be lazy, don’t be complacent!

Is Cancer Research UK’s Obesity Campaign harmful or necessary?

I have had many interesting discussions about Cancer Research UK’s latest campaign with friends, family, mental health professionals, psychologists, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals.*

If you have not yet seen CRUK’s new campaign, it features a cigarette packet stating, “obesity is a cause of cancer…like smoking, obesity puts millions of adults at greater risk of cancer”.

CRUK’s 2018 campaign (which was very similar to the current campaign) was criticised by many academics, healthcare professionals and obesity organisations. It’s clear that CRUK have not taken this advice on board.

It’s very important to highlight that obesity is not necessarily a cause of cancer; we know that there is a link between being overweight and the risk of cancer but stating that obesity causes cancer is misleading and irresponsible. The links between obesity and an increased risk of cancer are not yet fully understood.

The campaign reinforces the ridiculous ‘fat is a choice caused by laziness and lack of willpower’ notion, which is something that we have been conditioned to believe. Weight gain can be caused by a huge variety of factors – genetic predisposition, poor mental health, hormones… I could go on.

There is an epidemic of obesity, and of course something needs to be done about it. This does not have to be done using language that fuels our society’s perception of obese people being lazy, unmotivated, ‘out of control’, amongst numerous other negative connotations. Culturally, this should be approached very differently – ideally in a way that does not cause as much potential psychological harm.

Multiple studies have been carried out to establish whether this form of campaign is effective i.e. does this type of advert encourage people to lose weight? The overwhelming response is no; feeling ashamed of our bodies encourages disordered eating and further encourages weight stigma.

To reiterate, I am not denying the potential negative health impacts of being overweight. However, I will never agree with any form of advertising that shames people.

A petition has been created to hold CRUK accountable for their weight stigmatising campaign. If you would like to sign the petition, click here. I would ask you to read the petition, alongside the open letter written by a variety of healthcare professionals, academics and activists, with an open mind and a little bit of compassion.

*I don’t feel that I should have to give a disclaimer each time I write a new blog, but I’m a worrier, therefore: I am not a healthcare professional, nutritionist or dietician. This is simply my opinion. However, I have received the guidance and opinions of a variety of healthcare professionals.

Diet Culture in the Health and Fitness Industry

Having recently received yet another targeted ad inviting me to take part in an ‘eight week summer fat blast challenge’, I wanted to share my thoughts on why I will always say “no thanks” to diet culture.

Diet culture is all around us. It’s plastered over social media, at the gym, on food packaging, in conversations with friends… it is EVERYWHERE. This is an industry that needs you to doubt yourself, simply because there are billions of £££ to be made from our insecurities.

What is diet culture?

Diet culture describes a society that places value on being a certain size and weight. Essentially, it promotes the concept that health = thinness, and it oppresses people who don’t match up with this image. It displays itself in numerous ways, some more subtle and sneaky than others. A few examples include:

  • Food advertised as ‘guilt-free’
  • ‘Clean eating’ social media accounts, and the epidemic of ‘clean eating’ in general
  • Fit teas/ skinny teas/ detox teas
  • Our language around food, e.g. labelling foods as good or bad
  • Demonising food groups, e.g. ‘I’m not coeliac but I won’t eat gluten because it is THE DEVIL’

Why is diet culture problematic?

You may view a fat blast challenge or a ‘guilt free’ chocolate bar as being harmless, and I understand why; we’ve been conditioned to believe that health = thinness. That thinness = happiness, success, superiority. That our self-worth is directly linked to our physical appearance.

I used to have a very unhealthy relationship with exercise. Five years ago, my sole reason for exercising was to burn calories so that I could drink all the wine and eat all the pizza without feeling guilty. Essentially, I was exercising because I hated my body.  

80 – 90% of the time I now have a healthy relationship with fitness; I fully appreciate that there are so many health benefits that exercise can have that aren’t directly linked to aesthetics. My mindset has shifted from ‘having’ to exercise to choosing to exercise, but of course this took time – a LONG time. I don’t want to oversimplify it by using phrases such as ‘exercise because you love your body, not because you hate it!’ or ‘just practice radical self-love!’ – not only is this patronising, but learning to navigate the pressures of diet culture is a lot more complex than this.  

How can you remove yourself from toxic diet culture?

The diet industry’s focus is (almost always) appearance based. This industry does not care about your physical health, and it most definitely does not care about your mental health.

Here are a few things that have helped me:

1.          Have a social media clean up

Unfollow the accounts that focus on dieting, ‘toning up’, or anything else that makes you doubt your self-worth. Basically, try not to consume content that impacts you in a negative way.

2.      Stop engaging in diet jokes

This is probably not the best example, given the fact that it is the middle of summer. However, I get sent this every year without fail, and it makes my blood BOIL:

I have also been tagged in the below meme three times this week:

I simply refused to engage in these discussions, regardless of whether it is a light-hearted joke or not. I will either leave the conversation or change the subject, because quite frankly it makes me uncomfortable.

3. Educate yourself

Take the time to educate yourself about the true links between health and weight. If, like me, you are a thin, white, cisgender, able-bodied person, I would encourage you to learn about the experiences of those who do not fit into diet cultures ‘ideal’.

Here are a few of my book/podcast recommendations:

Happy Fat by Sofie Hagen

Fat is a Feminist Issue by Susie Orbach

Food Psych Podcast by Christy Harrison

(Please do let me know if you have any further recommendations!)

Acknowledging that diet culture exists and that it’s an issue is the first step. This is just a tiny part of a much wider discussion, but I hope that it provides a useful insight into a culture that is so entrenched within our society.

The Health Benefits of Journaling: A Mell Telka Guide

I was asked to write this post by a friend who struggles with anxiety. I hope they find it helpful, and I hope that others do too.

Earlier this year, I was encouraged to start journaling*. I made a half-hearted attempt at this a few months ago but, to put it bluntly, I didn’t really see the point. However, a few weeks ago I started journaling daily, and I must admit that I am a bit of a convert.

There is increasing evidence to support the idea that journaling has a positive impact on mental and physical well-being. 

I don’t want to provide too much information on how to begin journaling, as I’m still working this out myself. However, here are a few tips that I have discovered in my journaling journey (journaling journey?!) thus far:

1. Write quickly and freely; do not worry about spelling and grammar. I found this hard at first, given the fact that typos give me mild palpitations. Don’t strive for perfection; your journal is for your eyes only (unless you feel that sharing it with others might be of use).  

2. Pick a daily/weekly/monthly theme. Some of my initial attempts at journaling left me feeling negative, hence why I gave up. I now realise that this is because my writing had no structure, which led to me writing a variety of jumbled up, confused thoughts.

I now have dedicated days to write about specific topics, although I will deviate from this if there is something more pressing that I feel the urge to write about.

I also conclude each post by listing three things that I am grateful for. Daily gratitude is something that I have been practicing for years, and although it may sound a bit wishy-washy, the simple act of writing down the things/people/opportunities for which I’m grateful forces me to pay attention to the things that I sometimes take for granted.

3. There’s no wrong or right way to journal. I have been told by numerous people to use paper only; journaling on one’s laptop or phone is supposedly ineffective. This is complete and utter rubbish; do what works for you, not what works for a 42-year-old man from Preston (just a fictional example. Obviously).

How does journaling help me? It helps me to understand and manage my emotions. It helps me to feel empowered and in control. It helps me to identify my problems. It helps me to put things into perspective.

Journaling is something you need to get used to and comfortable with, and I’m not quite there yet. It’s a powerful tool, and one that I am keen to explore further.

If you journal, I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Why do you journal? How frequently do you journal? How do you structure your writing to ensure that you don’t go off on a tangent?

*Journaling, in my opinion, is whatever you want it to be. For me, it’s about exploring my emotions; both the uncomfortable emotions and incidents, and the overwhelmingly positive emotions and experiences.

Love Island, Body Image and Mental Health; Can Feminists Watch This Show?

With the new series of Love Island impending, I can’t deny that I’m looking forward to eight weeks of tacky reality tv at its finest. I am not being hyperbolic when I say I enjoy trash tv! The appeal of Love Island is clear; the drama, the incredibly attractive contestants, the potential romance, the unnecessary and (clearly often scripted) dramatic outbursts. 

Although I’m 99.9999% sure that I’ll be tuning into Love Island, I’m also very uncomfortable about the fact that I’m getting excited about such a vile show – and vile is an understatement. Matt Haig posted on Instagram a couple of days ago that Love Island is a public health risk, and I can’t disagree with this statement. 

The trolling of the contestants is vile. The body shaming is vile. The manipulated drama is vile (although of course, this is what keeps the ratings so high). The lack of diversity and representation is vile. The attitude towards women is vile.

The contestants represent a body type that, for many, is unattainable. This is stating the obvious. The bigger issue is that the women are immediately judged on what they look like; there is no mention of their career, their interests, their personality – and this can be damaging for both contestants and viewers.

According to recent research carried out by YouGov, one in five adults feel shame over their body image. The issue is even more prominent amongst teenagers; over a third of teenagers feel upset about their body image. It would be incredibly naïve to blame Love Island for this, but programmes of this nature certainly don’t help the matter…

It goes without saying that Love Island isn’t exactly intellectually stimulating material. People like trashy, superficial tv, therefore it’s unsurprising that Love Island is the most successful show on ITV2. I have read numerous articles exploring how Love Island is about more than superficial factors; it’s about friendship, love, loyalty, vulnerability etc., which to an extent I agree with. I’d still argue that the overarching theme is ‘trashy escapism’, but I’m starting to think that there could be slightly more to it than that.  

The underlying question here is ‘can feminists still enjoy Love Island’; clearly, I think they can, given the fact that I would identify myself as both a feminist and a person who watches Love Island.

This may be a controversial opinion, but I think that Love Island highlights certain areas that I, as a feminist, find interesting; the importance of female friendships, an exploration of relationships (albeit forged relationships), perceived expectations in a relationship. It portrays both men and women embracing their sexuality with confidence and having open and honest discussions about their feelings.

I’m aware that this is a contradictory post. I don’t know what the answer is, and I’m happy to admit this. I’m also aware that I’m speaking from a place of privilege; I am a 28-year-old, thin, white, cis-gendered female, and I’m at a point in my life where I’m fully aware that there are far more important things than my body fat percentage. However, if I had watched the show 10 years ago, I think it would have sparked all sorts of insecurities.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this (to clarify, I’m not interested on hearing whether you think the show is trash or not – we’ve already established that ultimately, it’s garbage).

Can you be both a feminist and a fan of Love Island? How dangerous are programmes such as Love Island when it comes to body image and mental health?

My First Triathlon and An Ankle Update

I don’t like to say I told you so, but… following on from my appointment at the fracture clinic, it turns out that I WAS RIGHT about my ankle and thankfully it’s not seriously fractured. I have an ATFL sprain (anterior talofibular ligament) which explains why my ankle is so swollen. I also have a very small hairline fracture on my fibula.

This is not fantastic news, but it’s certainly good news; it could have been a lot worse, and this is probably the best-case scenario.

So, what next? Well, I will be taking it easy over the next couple of months. DISCLAIMER: this is my version of taking it easy. Take from that what you will. Do as I say, not as I do etc.

However, this tranquil bliss will be over when July approaches, as I begin training for something very un-Mell like… (obviously this is dependent on how quickly my ankle heals, please pray to the ankle gods).

I’m keen for a new challenge, and to tick off another point from my 30 before 30 list, therefore I’ve decided to take part in my first ever triathlon at the end of September. I will be raising money for Macmillan Cancer, and any donations would be much appreciated! If you would like to donate, please click here. 

I have opted for a super sprint triathlon; although I was far more inclined to go for the ‘fun’ beginner’s triathlon, I was convinced otherwise by the power of peer pressure.

To many (and I’m sure there are some seasoned triathletes reading this), I know that this does not sound like a particularly daunting event. However, for me it’s quite a big deal.

I haven’t swum in over 15 years and I’m a nervous cyclist, therefore (as people keep quite understandably asking me), why did I sign up for a triathlon in the first place?

1. To face my fear of cycling downhill/round sharp bends/round any bends (I have no idea where this fear has come from – as a child, I loved going out on my bike and was a fearless lion).

2. To take a step outside of my comfort zone and learn something completely new.

3. It’s on my 30 before 30 list, therefore it’s a commitment that I’ve already made to myself. Plus, I now have sub 2 years to complete this list…

4. I loathe cold water, and being cold in general, therefore throwing myself into a nippy open water swim seems like a sensible thing to do!

5. I can’t really run right now, and probably won’t be able to run much further than 3 / 4 miles comfortably for a while. Therefore, I have two options – to sulk about it, or to make the most out of a frustrating situation. I will always opt for the latter.

I’m both excited and incredibly nervous. This is all very new to me, therefore any hints and tips for first time triathletes would be much appreciated!

My Mental Health Journey (Chapter One)

Inspired by mental health awareness week, I wanted to share an insight into my mental health journey. The reason I have titled this post (Chapter One) is because this is very much a journey that I am still on; it’s not something that has an end date, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

I have spoken about my anxiety, panic attacks and other mental health struggles in a previous post, and after many years (almost a decade) of being too ashamed to talk about this, I am finally at a stage where I feel comfortable having open and honest conversations about my mental health. In fact, I actively try and talk about it as much as I possibly can, because I find this so helpful. As mentioned in my post about anxiety and running – shame has no place in your life!

However, I understand how difficult it can be to reach out for help, or to even acknowledge that you might need help, because I’ve been there. I thought it might be useful to explain the steps that I took, and the steps that I am currently taking. (Disclaimer – of course, this is relevant to my mental health journey and I am by no means suggesting that these are the steps that anyone else should follow).

Just over a year ago, I reached a point where quite simply I could no longer ignore the fact that I needed help. I can pinpoint the exact moment – it was Thursday 31st May at 6:15pm and I was at East Croydon station. I was on my way to a 10k race, organised by my running club, and for some reason I decided to get off the train two stops too early. I stood there on the platform feeling completely lost, full of dread; a kind of foggy, overpowering, out of control feeling which was both horrendous and liberating all at once. It was liberating because it was the poignant sign that I needed to seek help.

That evening I emailed the Samaritans, and I can’t thank them enough for their support. They convinced me to book an appointment with my GP, and for me, this felt like a big step because up until that moment I had simply refused to acknowledge that there was an issue. I needed somebody to TELL me to visit my GP, even though I already knew that it was an appropriate first step.

Over the past year I have tried CBT, talking therapy, mindfulness classes and most recently medication. Of course, there are plenty of other ways that I look after my mental health. This includes leading an active lifestyle, eating well, moderating my alcohol intake, and all the other things that 21-year-old me would have mocked, but 28-year-old me wouldn’t have it any other way #adulting

At this stage, I don’t want to go into detail about what’s worked for me and what hasn’t as of course this is different for everyone, plus I’m still working this out for myself. One piece of advice I would give is to try and be open minded. For example, up until recently, I was SO against medication; the thought of it terrified me. I know others who assume that mindfulness is a load of rubbish, or that CBT is a pointless exercise – assumptions that cannot be made prior to trying out said method. There are many ways to take care of your mental health and being open minded has definitely helped me. 

Another piece of advice I would give (this is advice that I have given previously, and advice that I will continue to repeat until I’m blue in the face) – talk about your feelings. Talk, talk, talk and keep the lines of communication open. Ensure that talking about your feelings is something that you prioritise. Having honest conversations with friends and family is probably the thing that has helped me the most; the little reminder that you are going to be okay and that the panic (or whatever it is that you are experiencing) is only temporary.   

REMEMBER: Mental health is so important, and you are never alone.

Post-Marathon Plans and A Fractured Fibula

This is most definitely not the blog I thought I would be posting this week; in fact it was quite the opposite, as I had written a blog all about my next challenge (which I will explain in a later post, when I am no longer on crutches!)

This is most definitely not the blog I thought I would be posting this week; in fact it was quite the opposite, as I had written a blog all about my next challenge (which I will explain in a later post, when I am no longer on crutches!)

So, here is a recap of the sad tale… I went out for my first proper post-marathon run on bank holiday Monday and within a couple of minutes I tripped over the kerb, twisted my ankle and fell into the middle of the road, landing in a rather awkward angle. As I sat on the road wailing like a wild banshee, people walked past with dogs and drivers swerved around me – THANK YOU helpful Londoners!

A few minutes passed, and the pain subsided. Perhaps it was the adrenaline, or perhaps it was the fact that I’m incredibly stubborn, but for some unknown reason I then got up and completed my run which was 4 miles around Finsbury Park (never, ever do this. Ever).

I didn’t think much of the pain in my ankle, until a couple of hours later I looked down and saw this monstrosity…

A trip to A&E and many ‘ahhh was that a drunken bank holiday accident?’ comments later, I hobbled home on crutches and a big black moon boot (I did ask the lovely doctor whether the boot came in any other colours. I don’t think I need to tell you what his answer was).

At present, the diagnosis is that I have fractured my fibula (this is the bone that starts below the knee joint on the outside of the leg, extending down to the ankle joint). However, as my ankle was so swollen when I had the x-Ray, this diagnosis could not be 100% confirmed. I will be heading back to the fracture clinic in a couple of weeks, where I am hoping for some good news and fingers crossed a relatively short recovery time.

Although I am currently unable to run, I can swim and work on core/upper body exercises – something which I am very grateful for. I know that it could have been a lot worse, particularly if I had twisted my ankle whilst a car was turning into the road!

Once I have further news on my injury, I will write a little update and potentially may be able to post a blog about my next challenge in September (trying not to get over-excited at this stage!)

I would also like to take this opportunity to say a massive thank you to the NHS; the hospital staff were so helpful and patient, and it reminded me of how lucky I am to have access to this fantastic health care system. I cannot stand it when people moan about the NHS, or when I see people being rude to hospital staff. Don’t be that person…or I’ll jab you with my crutch.

So, thank you NHS and thank you to everyone who has wished me a speedy recovery! Any tips on recovery from a (potentially) fractured fibula would be much appreciated.

London Marathon 2019

It’s hard to put into words how much I enjoyed the VMLM (even though those who saw me in the latter stages of the marathon might think otherwise, so perhaps I will rephrase that and say that I enjoyed approx. 86% of VMLM).

I don’t think I stopped smiling for the first 22 miles. I felt much stronger than my previous two marathons, and it was exciting to experience all my hard work paying off. I also think there’s something magical about running a marathon in your own city. I’m obviously biased when I say that London is the greatest city on earth – but for me, it is. The nostalgia of running past key places from my childhood definitely enhanced my VMLM experience; school trips to the Cutty Sark, summer walks over Tower Bridge etc.

Of course, it wasn’t all sunshine and unicorns. Miles 23 – 26.2 were vile. Just…horrendously VILE. There was a small vomit incident, tears, severe anxiety and a trip to St John’s Ambulance (who were incredible) after almost fainting at the finish line. The final few miles proved to be a tough mental battle, but a mental battle that I powered though due to my amazing supporters, random strangers, and my own willpower. 

I don’t really remember crossing through the finish line, as I temporarily lost consciousness and it’s all a bit of a blur. I wasn’t even aware of my new PB until messages from my friends and family started pouring in…in fact, I had just told my group pacer that I had finished in what turned out to be six minutes slower than my chip time!

Just to clarify, I’m aware that losing consciousness after (or during) a marathon is BAD – I’m certainly not proud of this and watching the footage of my wobbly post-finish episode is quite terrifying. One positive aspect to come of this is that after chatting with some medical experts, I understand why I fainted and can therefore work on this aspect of my training next year.

Something else VMLM taught me is to not underestimate the sheer power of my own brain. A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog about my anxiety and panic attacks; four days before VMLM, I genuinely considered not running as I wasn’t sure if at that point in time, I would be mentally strong enough. One of my best friends gave me a good talking to, and I am so glad that I listened to her!

There were certainly parts of the marathon that were mentally challenging, particularly those final few miles where I could feel myself growing increasingly panic stricken. However, as mentioned previously, I powered through this mental battle and proved to myself that I am so much stronger than I give myself credit for. Yes, getting a PB was fantastic, but recognising my own inner strength was even more fantastic.

Sorry to end this post on a super cheesy note, but I just wanted to say a big old thank you to my friends, family, South London Harriers, and to everyone else who supported me in the lead up to VMLM. I am beyond grateful.

Thoughts on turning 28

Originally, this post was titled 28 thoughts on turning 28. Just before posting it, I realised that my list of 28 insights on turning 28 was cliché, dull, and probably not 100% honest. Therefore, here are my honest thoughts on turning the big 2-8 in a few days…

When I was a young and foolish whippersnapper, I thought that as I approached my late twenties I’d be:

  • Rich
  • Married
  • An extremely successful author (I spent ridiculous amounts of time writing novels as a child)
  • Able to cook more extravagant dishes than pasta & cheese
  • A homeowner þ

How times have changed! All of the above, bar the one point that I have ticked off, are now of little importance to me.

What is important to me now?

  • Taking good care of myself. Taking good care of my brain. Not drinking 86 glasses of wine every Friday night. Running, running, running. My Babcia (Grandmother) always told me that there is nothing more important than your health, and I think this has finally clicked. This is now my priority over everything.  
  • Spending my £ on experiences, not things. When I think back to some of the things I purchased in my early 20s, I feel slightly nauseous! My original 30 before 30 list, created around 10 years ago, consisted of things such as ‘own a Chanel 2.55 handbag’, because I thought this was the ultimate symbol of having a successful, fulfilling career. I’m not saying that one shouldn’t aspire towards material possessions – but it just doesn’t do it for me anymore. I have no interest in spending my limited funds on an overpriced handbag. I would rather visit new places, learn new perspectives and consume experiences.
  • Stability and security; two things that make the teenage me want to cry with boredom. Being sensible with my £ and saving up for the important things…sorry to be so dull, but it’s true!
  • Spending my time with people who truly make me happy. It’s not about the number of people around you; having a strong support network of people you can rely on in difficult times is so important. Be kind to these people. Be kind to everyone, unless they’re a moron, in which case you don’t need to be kind to them all the time.

Reading back on this post, it still sounds a little cliché. I also feel weird about the fact that I’m not writing in complete sentences; this post has no structure (THE HORROR). However, these are my honest thoughts at this present moment in time. Perhaps this time next year I will have some sort of epiphany and be able to come up with some mind-blowing life lessons…but until then, I shall embrace my late 20’s in all its gloriousness and boringness and sensibleness.

Five Worst Pieces of Marathon Advice I’ve Received

With less than two weeks to go until London (WHATTT), I have rounded up the worst pieces of marathon advice I’ve received over the past couple of years. Whilst I am by no means an expert on this matter, quite frankly, sometimes the experts are also no experts on the matter (absolutely terrible use of the English language, my apologies).

So, here are the top five worst pieces of marathon advice I’ve received:

  1. Don’t drink until you’re thirsty

I understand that I shouldn’t drink an excessive amount of water in a short period of time. However, if I followed the rule ‘don’t drink until you’re thirsty’ then I genuinely wouldn’t drink once throughout the marathon! I rarely feel thirsty when I run, no matter what the distance. I definitely experience signs of dehydration (headache, dizziness etc.) but I don’t actually have the urge to drink – therefore, I will definitely be discounting this piece of advice and taking on the recommended 400-800ml of fluid per hour.

2. Don’t do strength training, just run more

It goes without saying that running will be the primary focus of my marathon training. However, I find it bizarre that there are still people who ‘don’t believe’ in strength training for runners.

I must admit that my strength training is currently verging on non-existent, and I’m feeling the impact of this. I’ve had a few injuries since decreasing my strength training, and whilst I can’t claim that it is solely the lack of strength training that has caused these injuries, I would be surprised if there wasn’t a link between the two.

3. Don’t run, just do strength training

A slight contradiction to point number two; I was advised by a Personal Trainer to solely focus on strength training throughout the duration of my marathon training. NO RUNNING. I genuinely almost fell for it (he was very persuasive), before realising that he was probably trying to con me into purchasing additional PT sessions…

4. Lose weight to run faster

I’ve mentioned this one in a previous post; not too long ago, someone attributed my (alleged) weight loss to my increase in running speed. I’m not denying this as a concept; there’s certainly evidence that weight effects speed!

However, I don’t think a fixation on weight loss is healthy, and I have no interest in getting wrapped up in body image. I also don’t find it a particularly helpful comment, thank you very much Hortencia.

5. Don’t run a marathon, it will ruin your knees (bore off)

I’ve saved the most popular piece of ‘advice’ for last – I’ve been passed this bit of wisdom at least 186 times. I know there is quite a bit of controversy around this, but I am yet to find any compelling evidence that running long distance will damage my knees.

Therefore, I shall continue to run run run until I’m 86 years old. Or 96 years old. Who knows…?