Tough Girl 100 – Challenge Completed!

Exactly 100 days ago, on the 3rd of June, I published a post about the 100 day challenge I was taking on. If you missed it, you can read that post here.

To support my inspiring friend and host of the Tough Girl Podcast, Sarah Williams, as she thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 100 days, I decided to take part in the challenge she set for her Tribe – to undertake a personal challenge that would help create a habit and add value to our lives over the 100 days. For me, this was the perfect opportunity to address one of my 7 goals for this year which had not yet had much attention: to commit to more yoga outside of my classes. The chance to work on creating a regular home practice was being handed to me, so my challenge was obvious – at least 10 minutes of yoga or mobility work every day.

I had planned to write about the challenge at various points throughout the 100 days, but that just didn’t happen. But today, on day 100, I want to reflect on my experience and consider what it means for me going forward.

As the challenge began, I was in the final weeks of a testing school year. My life felt chaotic and I knew I needed to be on holiday. Finding even 10 minutes to do some yoga seemed a step too far, especially since I wasn’t entirely sure what I should do, but my commitment to the challenge helped me to overcome this.

To begin with, I relied heavily on the sources I was already familiar with. I used some of the videos from Jasyoga, then gradually began to explore other avenues, starting with Adriene Mishler’s youtube channel Yoga with Adriene. I found that I really enjoyed the relaxing bedtime sequences that helped me to unwind before bed, as well as some of the post-run sequences to stretch out my body. Of course I was also going to 2 yoga classes (1 Ashtanga and 1 Hatha) per week, and some days I was more focused on mobility work, especially around my upper back and hips. I wanted to explore more, but knew this would have to wait until the school holidays.

Once in Florida, things were a little different. I had time. I tried some new YWA videos (I really liked the Travel Yoga energising flow when I was feeling a bit jet lagged and the Yoga for Digestion sequence after that amazing afternoon tea at the Grand Floridian) and often rolled out my mat by the pool to do some sun salutations or part of the Ashtanga sequence. When my right shoulder became problematic (probably from lying face down on a sun lounger and trying to read – there’s no comfortable way to do this!) I switched my focus to mobility work to improve this and Jasyoga videos to reset my shoulders.

UntitledAnd of course I did take advantage of the opportunity to inject some magic and fairy dust into my yoga!

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IMG_3019When I returned, I had the perfect opportunity to take things even further before the new term started. I began to try morning yoga sequences (these were lovely on days when I was in no rush to do anything else) and went to a midweek Hatha class which, on one memorable occasion, took place on a golf course in the evening sun!

IMG_3524For the final month I was back at school and bedtime yoga tended to feel right for me again for the most part. My favourite is a 7 minute sequence on YWA, but I did try one or two others and found a couple of channels I’d like to look at a bit more.

So what can I take away from all this?
Firstly, that finding a little time to incorporate some yoga into my day isn’t all that hard. During term time a morning sequence doesn’t really suit me, but I love to unwind with some yoga before bed as it helps tell my body that it’s time to sleep. It makes a difference for me both physically and mentally.

Secondly, I’m now finding that when something is “off”, yoga is where I turn. Just like when I had bother with my shoulder when I was in Florida, if any part of my body felt tight or in need of some love, I could easily find a yoga sequence to help. And just last week when I picked up a cold, I searched for some videos to do which would help me to feel better and focused on yoga to help boost my immune system, fight the bugs and help me to combat my symptoms. This is something I can definitely see myself continuing.

Thirdly, that I still want to do more. I constrained myself a little bit by saying I would do a minimum of 10 minutes each day, as some sequences are a bit shorter, but moving forward that constraint is gone. If I want to do yoga for 5 minutes, I can. If I want to investigate how I can build a bit more yoga into my work day, I can. If I want to work on just one pose, I can. One thing that did happen as a result of this challenge is that I finally managed to do wheel in my Ashtanga class rather than yoga bridge. I have a limitation in the movement of my left arm thanks to breaking it when I was younger, and this affects poses such as wheel. I couldn’t really do it at all before, but now can hold it for about 3 long breaths and I’d love to keep improving this. There are some other postures I’d like to work on too.

Will I carry on?
Yes. Absolutely yes. It may not be every day and it may not be 10 minutes, but thanks to this challenge yoga has become a big part of my life. Steve is even talking about creating more space in the smallest bedroom (he was using it as an office, but has now moved the desk to his studio) for me to roll out my mat and do some yoga there rather than in the middle of the living room. He has seen this habit develop and is keen to support me.

IMG_1328I would really encourage you to try something like this. It doesn’t have to be yoga, heck it doesn’t even have to be something physical, but 100 days is a great challenge and by the end you will have developed a habit that adds value to your life every single day. Maybe you could read a set amount of a book every day; maybe you could watch a TED talk every day; maybe you could try a new podcast every day (check out my favourites here and here). The possibilities are endless,  and if you start now, you will reach day 100 around the 19th of December. A perfect way to round off the year and totally worth it.

 

Did you take part in #toughgirl100 ?
What challenge will you take on for the next 100 days?

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Week In Review – Are We There Yet?

The last full week of the school year (the final week is shorter as we finish on Thursday lunchtime) was a busy one with a day out of school on a course, a school show to see, and the initial preparations for a move of classroom. What with all that and my decision to ease off on running for a few days to help settle the issue in my right leg, I feel like I didn’t train as much even though realistically I only missed one midweek run! As usual, linking up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL for my weekly roundup.

Having already made the decision not to run midweek, my schedule looked like this:

Monday – swim
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym
Wednesday – rest
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 4-5 miles

The week began with me out of school for a one day course. Next session I’m going to be taking on the role of supporter/mentor for a probationer teacher and needed to attend a training course to learn more about the role and the various things that need to happen for that probationer to become a fully registered teacher at the end of the year. The course itself was really interesting, but I must admit that at this point in the year it was an awful lot of new information to take in and the room we were in was pretty warm. Still, I did have the additional advantage of being able to head straight home afterwards rather than get caught up in anything else so was in the pool by 5pm swimming my lengths. It did feel really refreshing after being so warm all day and I felt much better when I got home so decided to head out for a walk after dinner (it was a lovely evening and I still had some steps to get to reach my 10,000 target!). I’m so lucky to have this practically on my doorstep:

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On Tuesday I had 20 reps of my bike intervals to do. Regular readers may remember that each cycle goes up to 20 reps before changing, so this is the peak of the current cycle. I chose the same bike as last week and started out very interested to see how my leg would feel. Interestingly, this week’s 20 reps felt easier than last week’s 18, so clearly the extra rest made a difference, which I found encouraging. I then followed this up with some mobility work and stretching before squeezing in a quick sauna to finish off.

Wednesday’s rest day came at quite a fortuitous time as I decided this would be the day that would best suit me to go and see our school show, Billy Elliot. We have been very lucky to get the rights to stage the schools’ version of the show and are the only school in the country to have the honour. Two boys were cast as Billy and performed on alternate nights so each had two shows. I have to say, I knew we had some talented pupils but watching the cast sing, dance and act to highly professional standards was phenomenal. They were in turns funny, dramatic and emotive, with me almost in tears at one part. It was just amazing and I felt so proud of them all, but particularly the ones I knew from my recent senior classes who have grown into fine young people ready to move onto the next stage of their lives. Sob!

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I’m incredibly glad I had the chance to see the show, but my goodness I was tired on Thursday after the later night! Thankfully I had my Ashranga class that evening and it was just what I needed to stretch out and relax. I DEFINITELY drifted off during the relaxation this week!

Friday was another rest day. I was heading off for a post-school coffee with my colleagues and a former colleague who retired this time last year. It was a lovely sunny afternoon and we headed to the cafe at a nearby fruit farm. I really enjoyed my tea and peanut butter slice (yum) but couldn’t resist getting a punnet of strawberries to take home as well.

Having done lots of mobility work through the week to sort out the tightness in my right leg, things were feeling much improved. There was no longer any tightness at all in my calf and just a slight sensation of it around the back of my knee so I decided to go ahead with parkrun so I would have a comparison with last week. After a week off running my legs, of course, set off at a suicidal pace which I had to reign in, but there were no issues with my leg this time and I was pleased to finish in 24:15 – better than I expected and not too far off where my fitness has been recently. Very encouraging.

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Saturday Hatha yoga classes are finished for the summer, but I did devote some time throughout the remainder of the day to further mobility work so I can finally overcome this issue in my leg and get back to some longer runs. No yoga did mean I could join Steve for a post-parkrun coffee and bacon croissant though 🙂

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Since everything had felt ok on Saturday, a Sunday run was back on the agenda so long as I kept the distance down to between 4 and 5 miles. Steve set out early for his final big training session before Ironman 70.3 next weekend and I had a more leisurely start before heading out on a loop which I thought would be about the right distance. It turned out to be 4.8 miles which was perfect and my leg still felt ok when I was running so all the work I’ve been doing has clearly helped. It was a bit cloudy but I still felt warm so did all my post-run stretching in the garden – including legs up the wall, which this week was legs up the fence! I’ll not manage a run next Sunday, but hopefully things are getting back to normal for me now.

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So that’s another week over. Listening to my body and taking the extra rest has made a difference and hopefully I won’t need to miss any more runs. Fingers crossed that by the time I return from my holiday later in July my body will be ready to ramp up the training again as I get ready for the Loch Ness marathon.

How has your training been recently?
What sessions make you feel strong?

PS Did you see my posts for Tough Girl Challenges this week? I wrote a piece for National Writing Day to encourage more women to have a go at blogging and make their voices heard (you can read that here) and a piece encouraging others to take up running as part of Women’s Sport Week (which you can read here).

Tough Girl

Back in the summer of 2015 I spotted a tweet from double Olympian and Commonwealth Games medallist Liz Yelling sharing a link to a new podcast she had been interviewed for. Thinking it sounded interesting, I downloaded the podcast and loved it. I immediately subscribed and downloaded the handful of previous episodes so I could catch up. I was hooked and have remained a huge fan ever since. What was that podcast? The Tough Girl Podcast hosted by Sarah Williams (I wrote a bit about this in my Podcast Picks post last summer).

Everything Sarah wants to achieve through her podcast, website and social media channels really speaks to me. Her core aim is to motivate and inspire women and girls, to provide positive role models of women pushing boundaries and taking on challenges. Whether that’s running, cycling, swimming or something completely different like climbing, rowing or powerlifting, the chances are there’s a podcast episode to suit you. Nor does it matter how old you are – Sarah has interviewed guests from 17 to 70 – and age should never be a barrier to trying something new. These are the very things I feel passionate about. So many women are put off participating in sport or taking on challenges for a variety of reasons, and I want to try and help break down those barriers, perhaps even be a positive role model, and show that we can all do ANYTHING we put our minds to. For me, this podcast was perfect and listening to all the incredible women on it made me feel part of something special.

Such was my passion for Sarah’s mission, I found myself getting more and more involved. First, I became part of a team of volunteers helping her with some of her social media commitments (you can follow her Facebook page here and female listeners can become part of the Tough Girl Tribe, a closed group of supportive and like-minded women). More recently, I decided to financially help support the podcast by making a monthly contribution through Patreon. For me, this was important as Sarah puts so much time and effort into everything she does and produces some fantastic free content. Support on Patreon is really the only way she can earn an income from that work right now, and while the content is free there are all sorts of costs involved in producing a quality podcast, maintaining a website and so on. I get value from the podcast and wanted to do my bit to help out.

A week ago I was lying on the floor of my Paris hotel room with my legs up the wall to start my post-marathon recovery. I’ve done this after every long run this year and like to use the time to catch up on social media posts. On marathon days there are always loads, but one in particular caught my eye. One of the awesome members of the Tough Girl Tribe had put up a post inviting other members to write positive, inspiring messages for me to read after the race. As I scrolled through the comments, I noticed one from Sarah asking me if I would like to be a guest on her daily podcast, a short daily update she has been producing to help keep her accountable during the preparations for her next challenge. I have been listening to these podcasts and been struck by how honest and real Sarah has been – not every day can be completely positive, regardless of what social media might have us believe, and sometimes we have to acknowledge our struggles and be honest about how we are feeling. It was listening to these episodes that motivated me to become a patron of the show.

I’ve never been on a podcast, nor have I vlogged or shared video/audio content of myself on any social media platform, but I agreed to the podcast interview as I thought it was a great opportunity to discuss my running and perhaps inspire someone else to give it a go. I feel like I know Sarah having listened to all her podcasts and having a previous conversation with her, so I knew it would feel like a chat between friends. The interview took place via Skype on Wednesday and the episode went live on Friday morning (I got a bit over-excited and shared it just about everywhere!). It’s not long, only around 15 minutes, but I’d love for you to have a listen. If you don’t already subscribe to the Tough Girl Podcast (or Daily Podcast) then I highly recommend it. I listened to the latest instalment of 7 Women 7 Challenges during the Paris Marathon as I wanted to be inspired by the awesome women involved and their words will forever be linked in my mind with different parts of that day.

I was delighted to be interviewed and so wanted to share it with you today. You can access the show notes for the episode and listen via Libsyn here (or if you prefer to use your favourite podcast directory, search for Tough Girl Daily Podcast). Alternatively, you can listen via the YouTube link below. I hope you enjoy it.

If you’d like to find out more about Sarah Williams, check out this interview she did for another blogger or visit her website.

And remember: If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.