Monthly Archives: August 2015

Enough is enough

I have never run to lose weight. Some – possibly many ­– do. But I don’t. I run for lots of other reasons, and weight loss is (sometimes) a side effect of this running. But it’s not a motivation to run.

And with this, there is an enormous sense of liberation.

Because it’s about miles covered, not calories burned; it’s about running and eating (whatever the hell you want), not running to justify eating; it’s about strength, not size or shape or a number on the scales (I don’t own a scales); it’s about achieving a certain distance, not a certain dress size.

In short, it’s about what your body can do, not what it looks like.

There is an awful lot of freedom in this mindset, which is probably why I love running so much; why, even on my slow days (and trust me, there are a fair few of these), running offers a sense of escapism that’s otherwise gone AWOL in my life right now.

And yet…

That’s not to say I’m immune to a spot of negative body scrutiny now and then. I mean, who is? I don’t like to admit it, but there probably isn’t a week that goes by that a body-hating comment doesn’t pass my lips: I don’t like my legs; my stomach is wobbly; my jeans are a bit tight. And all this even though, actually, I know I’m a healthy weight.

I’ve honestly never given these throwaway comments a whole heap of thought before. I mean, we all do it, don’t we? I’d mutter the words while staring at the offending body part in the mirror, before turning, forgetting about it and getting on with my day.

But recently I realised something.

A few years ago when these musings took place, no one was listening.

These days, people are listening.

My little boy is listening.

My baby girl is listening.

They are lying on the bed or sitting on the floor as I berate my legs or stomach or bum in the mirror. And they are listening to every word.

So what, exactly, am I telling them?

Am I telling my funny, inquisitive, non-judgemental little boy that, actually, appearance does matter and it’s OK to judge a girl on this? That it’s OK to judge himself on this?

Am I telling my perfect, happy, healthy baby girl that in the future her self-worth can be measured by her dress size, or the inches around her waist, or the circumference of a thigh?

This is the absolute last thing I want to teach them. But if I keep on with my own occasional negative body talk, this message is ever so slowly going to seep into their subconscious.

And so, enough.

I am starting a one-woman revolution in my own home: enough of the body-shaming, body-hating comments. Enough of the thigh-pinching, stomach-squishing prods and pokes.

I for one will no longer be adding to the notion that body shape and size is everything – my children will be bombarded enough with that from magazines, TV, the internet and advertising everywhere as it is.

Instead, I am going to arm them against it.

I am proud of my body: it has helped me climb mountains and swim in oceans; it has hiked up glaciers and run marathons; it has grown and given birth to two of the most important people in my world.

So, here’s to a lot less body negativity. And instead, a lot more strength and positivity.

Me and her

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10 relationship pitfalls of having young children

A friend and I were recently debating the advice we’d give expectant mothers, if asked. You know: the stuff the books don’t tell you (because let’s face it, despite the fact we may want to ignore it, we all know about the lack of sleep and leaky nappy potential).

My friend’s Number One piece of advice?

If you’ve reached the point where you want to divorce your husband, don’t panic. This is normal.

And I realised, yes, this is what every new parent should be told, so they are prepared. So they can take a deep breath, think, ‘It’s OK, I knew this was coming’ and focus on making things work again. Because the sudden addition of a small, angry, screaming-for-no-apparent-reason infant to your previously blissful state of ‘just us two’ can be enough to make even the strongest partnership wobble. Funny that. Here’s why bringing up children can put a fair amount of pressure on a relationship…

1 Lack of sleep might make you both a tiny bit irritable
When the amount of sleep you get decreases by 75 per cent, your ability to piss each other off increases by 75 per cent. OK, I’ve made that up, but I fear it to be true. Little habits that you once viewed as minor irritants will suddenly become make-or-break issues. I mean, seriously, JUST PUT YOUR DIRTY SOCKS IN THE F*CKING LAUNDRY BASKET. Or something.

2 You have to find increasingly innovative ways to argue. This is not cathartic
Of course, you might feel like shouting expletives at each other in loud, angry voices to let off a little steam, but you can’t, because it will create stress and everyone knows this is Bad For Baby. Instead, you will either whisper your arguments (if the baby is asleep) or sing them along to the tunes of various nursery rhymes (if the baby is awake). This is irritating as hell.

3 You will lose your sense of identity
There will come a time when you will call your partner “Daddy”… before realising that your children have already gone to bed. There’s a passion killer, right there.

4 You will gain attractive new ‘accessories’ to every outfit
Are you sporting a slug-like trail of dribble on your shoulder, a splattering of baby sick down your top and the remnants of some mashed up Play Doh on your jeans? Thought so.
If your partner is worth his weight in gold, this will not matter to him. But let’s face it, it hardly makes you feel brimming with confidence and sex appeal, does it?

5 You have to wave farewell to spontaneity
“Shall we pop out for a quick drink/meal out/trip to the cinema?”

“Sounds great! Wait a second [calls the grandparents]. OK, we can go out in three weeks on Tuesday.”

You get the idea.

6 You no longer have time for conversation
Picture the scene: it’s the end of the day and you’re trying to run a bath, find the towels and tidy up a day’s worth of toys while simultaneously attempting to stop the toddler (who is running around with no pants on) passing teeny tiny pieces of Lego to the baby (who is in the process of rolling under the bed). You hear the front door click open. Thank Christ for that: back-up has arrived. Clearly there is no time for niceties; this is a ‘barking orders’ situation.
Knowing what he has in store for him as he steps inside our house each weeknight, sometimes I’m genuinely amazed my husband comes home at all.

7 Your living space resembles a pre-school
You will finally get the chance to curl up together on the sofa in the evening… and then remember your front room looks like this:

Front room

This is not relaxing.

8 Your nights out may not be your own
You might find you have an extra guest turn up on date nights.

Date night

This will generally mean you have to take it in turns to wolf down your meal while one of you stands rocking the baby, wondering what has happened to your lives.
There will be an explosive nappy, obviously.

9 Your bed may not be your own
It will be hers:

Baby in bed

In fact, sometimes there will hardly be room for you at all:

All in bed

But that won’t matter because…

10 An ‘early night’ means exactly that
If you ever do get the opportunity to fall into bed together by yourselves, there will be just one thing on your minds: sleep. Unsure of exactly what time you will hear that first cry of, “Mummy!” or cooing from a wide-awake baby, you probably don’t even waste time saying goodnight to each other any more.


Despite all this, sometimes you will look up and catch a moment like this:


And you will realise that, despite the fact there is not a whole lot of romance in your life right now, there is an enormous amount of love and laughter and joy.

And you will wonder how you ever managed to get this lucky.

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All by myself

Last weekend, my husband suggested he take the kids for a walk in the same woods where I was heading for a run, so they could see me.


Don’t get me wrong, I adore spending time with my children. But I’ve got to be honest, I think they see quite enough of me as it is. In fact, I figured out the last time I’d had ten minutes completely to myself had been 61 hours ago.

My children are with me from the moment I wake up. The baby watches me from the comfort of her bouncy chair while I shower; the toddler ‘reads’ stories to me while I get dressed; I have constant company throughout the day as I attempt to feed, clean, entertain, cuddle, console and rescue (the baby recently got stuck under the play kitchen after one roll too many) my little people. My youngest falls asleep in my arms every evening and then, when I’m just about ready for a little space at night, she often ends up snoring beside me in bed, too (apparently, being gently lowered into a warm, cosy cot is akin to being dropped into a cold, damp cave: not pleasant).

And I’m not complaining about any of this. All I ask is that, a few times a week, I get to be alone. All. By. Myself. Just me and an empty trail to run along, with maybe the odd dog walker to nod hello to (I don’t mind seeing a dog walker during my alone time, because while they may interrupt my solitude, they are not reliant on me and are unlikely to require me to provide sustenance/sing a nursery rhyme/wipe their bum as I pass them by).


An empty trail = heaven

The need for a little ‘me’ time is just one reason why I’d like my running to remain family-free. There is also the practical aspect.

I’m just not sure how easily I’d get into my stride with a little voice shouting, “Mummy, look at me! Look at me Mummy! Look! Look Mummy!” every three seconds.

Then there’s the baby.

I’m pretty sure she chooses the most inconvenient moments to glance my way and think, “Lunch” (I recently had to whip a boob out in church while attending a christening. It’s all very subtle, but still…). So, in the middle of a run? Yes, this would be pretty inconvenient. I’m not sure if you’ve tried to get out of a Shock Absorber Run bra recently? If not, the design is a Godsend to female runners the world over, but it’s not exactly easy access when it comes to feeding a baby. (Obviously. I mean, this is not what it’s designed to do.) I swear, if Houdini had been set the task of getting out of one of these bad boys, he’d have spent so long grappling with the various clasps he’d have died suspended upside down in that tank of water.

So, with all the above taken into consideration, my inner voice screamed, ‘Nooooooo!’ at my husband’s suggestion.

But I hate hurting people’s feelings. So instead I said:

‘Great idea! Let’s go!’

I am such a tit sometimes.

Anyway, one baby, one child, one buggy, one scooter, one spare nappy, one pack of wipes, one portable potty, two changes of clothes and one pot of snacks later, off we went.

I ran on ahead, to shouts of “Mummy? Where you going Mummy? I’ll run too Mummy!” Oh bless him.

I didn’t look back.

And you know what? It was fine. I pretty much managed to complete my intended interval session before I heard shouts through the trees of, “Mummy! Where are you?” (This was inevitable. I run through a small patch of woodland that’s about a 4K loop. It’s not exactly the New Forest: they were always going to see me).

I ignored that little voice for a few minutes, although it was getting ominously louder.

And then I saw them. My little family. And rather unexpectedly, despite the fact they had muscled in on my alone time, my heart soared with joy at the sight of them. And when my little boy yelled excitedly, “Keep running Mummy!” I nearly cried. He looked so proud of me.

Unfortunately, at this particular moment, they were stood at the top of a bloody great big hill and I was at the bottom.

“Keep running Mummy!”

How do you explain to your excitable son that, actually, you’ve just finished a 6 x 5-minute tempo session, and you’re actually pretty knackered and have earned the right to stop?

Answer: you don’t.

So I kept running. I kept running back to him.

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