She’s back

Ok, so I am terrible at keeping my commitment to write regular blog posts. Here it is, 10 months since my last post. In all honesty I have started a few times to write something and never finished it, but I have also had periods of time where I felt like a fraud, as if my recovery journey was not valid. Well, you know what? Every recovery is real and 100% badass!

As I write this, I am sitting in appartment in Melbourne preparing myself for the Melbourne Marathon festival tomorrow where I will running in the half marathon. This is my first big race in nearly 2 years! And I may be freaking out just a little. But I am so excited and grateful that my body has allowed me to get back to this point.

Tomorrow will be another step forward, whatever the result. The months of training, re-building fitness, strength and endurance, and learning to fuel my body to perform. It’s been a long process. I’ve had to relearn everything I had been taught, the years of dieting, suppressing hunger signals and notions that thinner is better. Sometimes it has felt like 1 step forward, 3 steps back and there have definitely been times when I have wanted to go back to the old ways and the messages all around us tell me I am wrong. But I know better, and experience now tells me that to stay healthy and perform well my body needs food and rest, important aspects of a training program that I overlooked in the past.

I wanted to take this moment to look back on the last few months and appreciate the progress I have made. When I set myself the goal to run this half marathon back in January I expected to be back in PB form. And I may have been if things had gone perfectly, however life isn’t perfect and this recovery process isn’t linear. In April, an injury scare almost paralysed me and I barely ran a step in 6 weeks. I was so frightened of being injured again. It took several visits to my physio, an MRI scan, 2 different doctors, an exercise physiologist and my coach for me to believe that I didn’t have another stress fracture. In the end, I had to make the choice to accept the pain was there but that it was ok and commit to the rehab plan set by my physio. It wasn’t the experience I would have chosen but it was an important one.

The last few months I have made great progress, not just in training but also in my mindset. I have fostered a new belief and commitment to my goals, and a dedication to my training and keeping myself healthy. I have been truly amazed by some of the milestones I have hit recently, like a 100km+ training week, consistently training over 90km/week, a 30km long run and a sub 4min/km. And through all this my body has stayed healthy, I have cycled normally for nearly 18 months and I am stronger every week.

Even though I am not aiming for a PB tomorrow, as hard as it is to accept, I am still excited to see what I can do and to enjoy doing something I love. I really want to celebrate my body for all it is and all it does for me. I know that my amazing family and friends back home will be cheering me on and willing me across that finish line. It will be the start of another big chapter.

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Whoops…so much for making regular posts

So it’s been a while since I last posted. Not what I intended but hey, life happens sometimes. In truth, I have probably written several blogs in my head during this time but never actually managed to put pen to paper (or you know, keyboard to screen). Anyway, now it’s 2018 and everyone is writing about their reflections on the past year and how they are going to change this year.

Well, I spent a lot of the last 18 months reflecting and I’ve made a lot of changes along the way already. At this point I’m pretty happy to keep on the path I’m on. Not saying that I have my shit all together and my life is perfect, far from it, however I am happy with the changes and the progress I’m making. This year is all about building on the foundations built over the past 18 months.

You always finds inspirational quotes about how hard times make you stronger, the darkest hour is before the dawn, etc, etc. And as corny as it sounds, I have found it to be true. I can’t remember where I read it but someone talked about we often think making progress is just about moving forward, but in actuality, if you think about building any strong house you have to dig down first, build a strong foundation before you build up. I feel like that is where I am at. 

I thought I was falling apart, literally, after 2 stress fractures but actually it was helping me to really face issues I needed to, do the work and build a stronger body and mind. Now I have set that solid foundation I am ready. Ready to build up and up and up.

So stay tuned. There is so much more to come. 

Worth the weight?

Is it? Really? This past week especially I’ve been really questioning it.  The truth is, I have no idea how much exactly I have gained in my recovery – in February, I started Jessica Sepel’s 8-week program and banned the scales (and diets) from my life.  But the fact remains that I no longer fit into my old clothes and I have gone up a few sizes, and of course I can see it every time I look in a mirror.

As one of my wise friends put it: it’s a complete mind-f***.  How do you get your head around it? Once I was thin, running fast, and so fit I could run 20km and barely feel it, but I was unhealthy.  Now I weigh more than I have for a long time and just learning to run again, but I am much healthier than I have been for a long time.

Society and health scales say I’m overweight, unhealthy, unattractive.  How do you deal with that?  Well, it’s not easy.  It’s not easy to teach yourself a whole new way of thinking, to break away from disordered behaviours, especially when it is going against what nearly everyone else is telling you. But I am damn sure trying.

“The only constant in life is change”. My body is not the same as it was a week ago, a month ago, a year ago, and it will not be the same tomorrow as it is today.  Everything takes time.  Reminding myself of this helps me to accept where I am today and to keep being patient.

So is it worth it? Hell yes! Is it easy? Not at all.  But each day I feel myself becoming stronger, healthier and happier, and that is worth all the weight in the world.

Keys to recovery

I mentioned in my first blog post that as well as recovering from injuries (specifically my 2nd stress fracture in less than a year) I have also been on a journey of recovering from hypothalmic amenorrhea (HA).  I recently shared my story with Jill Puleo from A Case of the Jills and if you want to check it out head over to acaseofthejills.com and for anyone going through this I highly recommend connecting with this amazing women.

HA is a serious issue that is not widely recognised by doctors.  It is caused by a combination of physical stress (exercise and/or weight loss), emotional stress and under-fuelling.  The balance of which can be quite different for each individual and so recovery can be a difficult journey, often involving quite drastic lifestyle changes which are extremely daunting.  The tricky part is a major key to recovery is reducing stress while often the other changes you need to make (eating more, gaining weight and reducing exercise) can be quite emotionally stressful in themselves.

I truly believe that if I had not had the injuries I would not have been in a state to be able to make the changes needed to heal my body and get my period back, so for that I am extremely thankful.  It took me 3.5 years from when I discovered my periods were missing to be able to find the solution to resolve it and to then commit to the process.

I have now had 4 natural cycles so I am a good way into recovery however it is still a matter of slowly, slowly making changes to make sure that my recovery continues and I can get back to being a stronger, better, faster runner with a healthy body and a balanced life.  There have been several key elements that I believe have been key to my recovery that I want to share.

#1 Learning to love my body

Not as easy as it sounds.  For a long time, even when I was running I was already trying to change my body and I was never happy with how it looked.  I was never skinny enough, muscly enough, pretty enough.  Sound familiar?  This body that was doing amazing, amazing things like running marathons and completing super hard training sessions and all I could see was what I didn’t like about it.  At first my injuries caused me to aim a lot of anger and feelings of betrayal at my body, until I finally recognised that I was the one who had betrayed my body.   Jessica Sepel‘s books “The Healthy Life” and “Living the Healthy Life” have been the biggest help in this area.

#2 Changing my language

The mind and the way you speak is so powerful.  When I changed the way I felt about my body, I changed the way I thought and spoke about it.  The word “fat” was banned from my vocabulary.

#3 Let go of guilt around food

You know the cycle – demonising junk food, slip up and eat that cake or burger, then feel awful and ashamed.  Let it go!!  Enjoy that chocolate or cake in moderation, you’re body can handle it much better when you are ok with it.

#4 Trust your body

Our bodies are so smart – they know what they are doing, you just have to trust them.

#5 Have an amazing support team

I am so so grateful for all the amazing people in my inner circle, and I would not have got through it without them.  My coach, my best friend, my family and most of all my partner who has copped a lot of my crazy, cranky moments and meltdowns and still stuck by me.  Of course they may not always tell me what I want to hear, they also give me a good kick up the bum when I need it as well.

#6 Find help and information

For years I didn’t look for it because I didn’t really want to know, I was happy to go along and pretend to myself that it wasn’t a big deal.  When I was ready to commit I found so many amazing resources and support groups and women sharing their stories.  There is an amazing book by Nicola Rinaldi called No Period, Now What? and I definitely recommend that the first place to start.  Also some blogs and podcasts by Tina Muir on her Running for Real website, and of course acaseofthejills.com

#7 Be determined and decisive

This is your journey.  Take control, decide what you want, use what you have and go for it.  There is so much conflicting information and sometimes its hard to know what is right.  Go with your gut and be focused on your goal.

 

You are strong.  You are brave. You are not alone.

Much love. xo

It’s a mind game

I’ve been thinking a lot about how much of a mental challenge recovery is – from both injury and hypothalamic ammenorhea (HA).   This last week I have been feeling pain around my old (supposedly healed) fractures and it’s really got me down.  I’ve been questioning everything – have I done too much, too soon?  No, I haven’t even run more than 6 minutes at a time, does that mean it’s not really healed? will I be broken forever?  and what if I can never run again? maybe my body just won’t let me.

Honestly, I am pretty sure most athletes who have had injuries can probably relate to this.   As hard as it is if you can’t train at all, in some ways it’s almost easier than when you finally do get to start returning to your sport.  You want to pick up right back where you left off, be as fit and as fast as you were.

A few weeks ago my boyfriend took me on a walk along a disused railway track.  We walked through an old tunnel which was 800m long.  Standing at the entrance looking through you could see the light at the other end, it didn’t look that far.  Once we entered the tunnel though, it was a different story.  The further we went, the longer the tunnel seemed to become.  It was so dark we could barely see around us apart from a small amount of light from Trent’s head torch.  I knew we were moving forward and getting closer to the tunnel, but it felt like the end was getting further and further away. Sometimes this is how recovery feels.  If you look back you can see where you came from and see how far you’ve come, but if you only look ahead it can feel like you are getting no where.

It’s fair to say that I am very goal-orientated, which is great and it has helped me to a lot of successes in my life.  However, it’s important to have a look back every now and then, and see how far you have already come.

So now, while I working to make my body healthy and strong, it is important for my mind that I remind myself to be kind, be patient and positive, and be mindful of where I am at this moment.  I cannot get to where I want to go without being where I am right now.

Healthy, strong body with a healthy, strong mind.

Who is the girl?

So, I’m not really sure where to start.  My name is Ruth and I’m an aspiring elite marathon runner.  But really I’m just an ordinary girl…(or well, I’m nearly 30 so maybe I can’t say girl anymore).  At the moment I’m on a recovery journey – recovering from my 2nd stress fracture in less than 12 months, recovering from hypothalamic amenorrhea and recovering from years of disordered eating.

I’m still very much on my recovery journey so I really don’t have all the answers yet, but I wanted some way to share my story so when I’m running that marathon in my Aussie uniform one day I can look back and see how hard I fought to get there and how much I have grown as a person.  But I also wanted to find a way to share it with others who might be going through something similar or struggling with something completely different.  I know that a huge, huge part of my recovery has been reading other peoples stories and finding inspiration and guidance from them.  And I want to thank all those ladies who have been amazing and so brave in putting themselves out there so that people like me can know that they are not alone in this and we can be brave as well.

Hopefully, I will get better at this blog thing as we go and maybe telling my story will help just one person and make it worth it.

Much love. xoxo