Self Esteem – Runnings hidden benefit

The physical benefits of exercise have long been known, some people choose to embrace them, others couldn’t think of anything worse, naturally it’s all down to personal choice but an additional benefit that might not readily come to mind is the self worth and positivity that can be gained from a pair of trainers and running, regardless of the pace or distance.

Speed isn’t a factor and all runners whether novices or experienced old hands will tell you that the physical benefits of running are only half the story, self esteem is probably the single biggest factor in my running these days. In short, the world looks a better place when I’m running.

As runners we probably take for granted the physical benefits of our hobby / passion. Cardiovascular fitness, maintaining or loosing weight, kick starting your metabolism, toned muscles, lower cholesterol, blood pressure reduction, falling asleep quicker and sleeping deeper, the list goes on and on !! In fact, I recently read a quote that said exercise can add years to your life and life to your years.

So with the physicality covered I wanted to write about why running is so important to me and maybe encourage others to try it for themselves. I stand that little bit taller when I talk about or go running.

A familiar comment that I hear is “do runners actually enjoy what they do because they always have a pained expression on their face” well I guess if it was easy then there wouldn’t be the same challenge but there’s definitely a second satisfaction to be had, long after you’ve showered and settled back into everyday life.

Having a sporty identity and been know as a runner implies to people that you are fit and healthy but one of my best kept secrets is that it positively influences the rest of the my day, week, month and year.

I’m not fast, I haven’t run a personal best for years but running gives me an inner feeling of self worth. In many ways I believe in myself, this doesn’t mean I’m overly confident it simply means I appreciate my achievements and if I hadn’t been running then I wouldn’t have set myself these goals and wouldn’t have enjoyed aspiring and ultimately reaching many of my target. Be proud of your running 😀

Having pride in your running isn’t being big headed because I can list numerous people that can run faster and further than I can but in many ways that’s the point, I am proud of what I do. Don’t compare yourself to others because what they are doing is out of your control. I do think that we can put too much pressure on ourselves, I must and I should have can be quite damaging instead I like to concentrate on what’s realistic.

Building on your previous training and races means you are learning from both your successes and mistakes. When I’m struggling I do like to draw on previous runs and say to myself, “come on Rog, you chose to do this, you’ve done it before you can do it again”.

The other great thing about self esteem is that it can have a cumulative effect and each positive run / experience builds on the last so that when you do have a bad day you have lots of good days to fall back on.

It’s probably inevitable that the one event which you consider as your best performance will give you your most self esteem. Race to the King was the one event that encapsulated everything that I’m trying to portray but running a double marathon across the South Downs Way implies the feeling is only achievable with an above average effort and this isn’t the case. Yes I completed 53 miles in twelve hours but the fact that I was on the move from 8am until 8pm isn’t necessarily the achievement it’s the fact that standing on the start line the previous seven months of training meant I believed I could run/walk eighteen miles further than I’d previously attempted.

I have other photos but I like this one because with my eyes closed it implies I was glad it was over when in actual fact it gave me the biggest buzz I’ve ever had, I was on top of the world, even if the winner had finished hours before I had I’d proved to myself that I could achieve my goal and that feeling never leaves you.

Standing on the train platform in Winchester once I’d finished, I had a massive smile on my face even though my legs ached but this inner sense of self worth and personal value is just as achievable after a run in the rain when staying indoors felt like a better bet or heading out on a chilly morning when staying in your warm bed would be most peoples choice.

I may have a preference for longer distance running but I firmly believe we all have more in us than we think and once you’ve experienced that then you realise you don’t need to be the best, just the best “you” that you can be and that’s more than enough.

The self esteem that’s gained from exercise means you believe in yourself and even though this might not solve all of your everyday problems it really does lift your spirits when you reflect on what you’ve achieved and on what you are planning to attempt because you approach your future goals with a “can do” mindset.

Exercise is known to help you process stress, anxiety and depression, the great outdoors is free to access and thankfully its benefits have been recognised even during lockdown. If you add self esteem then that’s a great place to look forwards from.

Running sets you free !!

Thanks for reading

Golden Hour sunsets give you hope

Lee puddle

Towards the end of 2020 and into 2021 I’ve been choosing to run or walk at sunset because it really inspires me. Winter is upon us but equally we’ve passed the shortest day of the year so each sunset will appear slightly later and the daylight will gradually increase. The phrase red sky at night shepherds delight has meant the promise of a better tomorrow for centuries, this has taken on a new dimension recently for me.

Exercise has always played a large part in my life but even more so in this pandemic. I haven’t blogged specifically about keeping running during the last nine months but I feel like it’s the right time to put down some words. Clearly we have a long way to go but at last there appears to be hope on the horizon.

I’m very lucky to live fifteen minutes away from both the coast and the countryside, this fact on its own has meant my exercise has remained achievable through these recent dark times. The main factor that has prompted me to write this blog has been the winter sunsets we’ve been experiencing recently. We had pretty good weather through Spring and Summer and the Autumnal colour’s were as inspirational as ever but there simply wasn’t a sense of the pandemic ending.

In photography the term “Golden Hour” describes the period shortly after sunset. Due to a few circumstances I’ve been out running later in the day and it’s these thoughts and photos that I’d like to share. While the golden, orange and red colours are best displayed at the coast, due to them reflecting off the sea, my first connection of hope and the passing of one day to the next was out in the countryside.

While out running I try to clear my head of all day to day events and simply soak up my surroundings but that hasn’t been as easy to do in these worrying times. However, I really have noticed that over the last few weeks I’ve been drawn to feeding off the energy that the golden hour gives us. I’ve reflected that my exercise is combining its health benefits along with the positive aspect of one day coming to an end and the next starting afresh.

Running alone through the fields in late November I have to say my outlook may have been glorious in terms of the countryside but what lay ahead in 2021 wasn’t looking very favorable and as it turned out it December got a whole lot worse. Generally running keeps me positive, it feeds my endorphins, it puts a smile on my face and to be honest it’s an escape from day to day pressures. However, the thought of a brighter tomorrow wasn’t at the forefront of my mind.

Running is a challenge, life is a challenge but your running is dictated by your own expectations and is largely shaped by what you’d like to achieve. The current pandemic is out of our regularly washed hands, that was until vaccines became available.

Our sunsets have been disappearing below the horizon, turning to twilight, moving on to dusk and then making way for the dark evenings ahead. Now, there’s the possibility of new beginnings and these thoughts really have developed with me since I’ve included more coastal exercise.

Running by the sea has always given me a sense of calm, the endless lapping of the waves and the timeless predictability of the rising and falling tide. The reflections of the golden hour sunset on what’s often been a glass like calm sea, of late, really adds to the experience that we are all going through. The sun disappears and reappears, it resets, it renews. The Summer sun makes us smile with it’s warmth, the Winter sun makes us smile with a warmth inside and helps us reflect that the cold days will once again become warmer.

Running has always given me satisfaction, achievements and personal worth, this recent sunset exercise has added an extra emotional layer to a pastime that has always been my passion. I’d say that if I hadn’t of laced up my trainers and got out for a run then I would have missed the beauty of nature and the self help that having time without distractions brings while you are simply putting one foot in front of the other.

Running is for today and tomorrow. Stay safe and hopefully 2021 will be the dawn of brighter days ahead.

Thanks for reading

Roger

Running Resources for everyone

Finding out more about running can seem like an uphill challenge at times. I’m keen to share a few great resources that have opened my eyes to so many possibilities.

Where to run ?

This website isn’t specifically for running but broadly speaking if you can walk it, you can run it. Tap the link http://www.gps-routes.co.uk/routes/home.nsf/contentnew/walking-in-england and page down to your county, then page down again for all the routes.

Discover endless options of where to run from a mile up to marathons and beyond, there’s something for everyone.

Building up your local knowledge is a great way to broaden your horizons, literally and metaphorically. Discovering new routes keeps your running new and exciting.

Running Advice / deals

There’s a multitude of advice on the internet but one website combines great deals with great advice. The combination of running, training and trail hubs, plus lots more articles, means the Sports Shoe site is well worth a visit. I’ve bought numerous items from this site and incase you are wondering, no, I’m not sponsored by them !! https://www.sportsshoes.com/trail/trail-running/

Videos

The running channel covers a huge amount of running related topics to watch and learn from. The guys are knowledgeable and engaging. https://therunningchannel.com/

Parkruns

This 5K phenonium has become a Saturday morning ritual for many. This interactive map allows you to find which is nearest to you, when we are allowed to return, or maybe try some parkrun tourism by running one out of your local area. https://www.parkrun.org.uk/events/events/#geo=3.87/55.05/-2.95

Social Media – Running Community

I discovered ukrunchat within a day of joining twitter. Their website is full of useful information but were they excel is the interactive nature of both their weekly hour long twitter chats on Wednesday and Sunday from 8pm to 9pm. With different topics every time it’s great to share in everything the running community is talking about https://www.ukrunchat.co.uk/

So in summary, go explore, learn more and get outdoor.

Thanks for reading and stay safe – Roger

What does the “i” in irunoffroad stand for ?

When I first contemplated writing a blog the two central themes that I had in mind were to try and express the joy that I feel when running through the countryside and how best to share those experiences with like minded people from our off road running community, both locally and further afield.

Yes the “i” relates to me in that it’s my words, photos and thoughts but at the same time I’m really keen that whoever is reading recognises the “i” as being themselves because they can identify with the locations, training and enjoyment that these trail running endeavors have to offer.

Running through nature makes me happy, it’s who I am, it’s a part of me and I know this applies to thousands of others. Sharing this common bond whether when running with friends or chatting across social media means the “i” is an all inclusive term for everyone that laces up their trainers.

Naturally the “i” prefix also stands for the internet and social media. The foundation of my blog is my twitter and instagram accounts, I chose not to use my actual name for those but to keep the consistent theme of what I set out to do. These accounts both feed off and feed into my blog.

I’m proud to say that I have virtually the same amount of followers and following on both twitter and instagram because again this community based relationship is at the heart of what I want to achieve.

The most famous “i” prefix belonged to Apple , I believe Steve Jobs started out with an intention that the internet was to inform and inspire, that’s a great place for us all start.

I haven’t blogged that much through lockdown but running has remained my constant source of hope and normality. I aim to start blogging more and I thought I’d press the restart button by going back to the basics of why I started.

Hopefully the “i” in irunoffroad doesn’t just come across as me writing, it also relates to you the reader because “we” love to run off road.

Thanks for taking the time to read this.

Roger

Trail Running Mag – Social Media

Blogging and social media clearly go hand in hand so naturally it’s rewarding when someone who’s established in the area that you have a passion for recognises the contribution that you are making to your shared interest.

This post isn’t a display of bragging rights it’s simply to celebrate a small but very meaningful event that happened at the weekend.

What event ? Well, trail running magazine followed my irunoffroad twitter account. “Big Deal” I hear you cry ha ha, well in my little trail running world it is a big deal and the rest of this blog is me attempting to explain why.

Firstly, the trail running magazine has 57.3K followers on twitter and it only follows 2,069 people, one of whom is now me, irunoffroad.

My account has always had a similar amount of followers and following because I am a firm believer that as a running community we all feed off each other and I see no point in being elitist.

With twitter, instagram and my blog I’ve always set out to share the experiences I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy as a trail runner. What’s always rewarding is when a small amount of recognition comes your way.

The running philosophy that I adapt is quite simple, I’m out in the fresh air having a great time. Trail running gives you the freedom to explore beautiful locations that change every three months with the seasons. Natures never ending cycle of new beginnings, growth, maturity and then hibernation means there’s always something wonderful to take photos of and talk about.

I’m always keen to retweet, share and like interesting posts from other runners from up and down the country as well as far and wide around the world.

I believe we all have so much to share and if any of my content inspires others then that’s a real joy. I am inspired on a daily basis by the runners I engage with across social media.

The magazine is the only UK publication dedicated to off road running and everything that that entails. As you might have guessed I’m chuffed to have been followed by the guys. The features, photographs and regular columns of the actual mag are complemented by their great twitter content.

Enjoy your running and keep up the great work of spreading the trail running word. The social media running community is both supportive and encouraging. Lets lace up our trainers, run and then share the experience.

Thanks for reading …. Roger

Running blows away the clouds in your head

Image (20)Trail running offers you views and scenery but what it also offers you is time, time to reflect and time to look forwards. During these uncertain times your day to day space can confine you both physically and mentally so it’s important to break free !!

I was keen to write this blog to try and describe how countryside running can open your mind and clear the fog in your head.

The clouds, in many ways, represent how I was feeling as I drove out towards the South Downs National Park. I aimed to change my outlook from fuzzy to focused.

As I set off from Meonstoke village hall I had a general idea of where I was going to run but more importantly I had not time restrictions. The concept of urgency almost immediately puts you on high alert, what I wanted to achieve was completely the opposite.

When I think about urgency I also think about multi tasking (ok, I appreciate I’m a bloke but we can do it sometimes) but running gives you the simple activity of placing one foot infront of the other. So, as I joined the Meon Valley trail I could feel myself unwinding.

After a mile or so I approached the signpost that pointed me towards Old Winchester Hill. I was eagerly anticipating seeing the work that had been carried out on the lower slopes to improve the trail. I was impressed to see a smooth surface that continued probably half way up and took away the stress of the rutted previous path.

Once I’d tackled the last steep section then I was rewarded with the 360 degree views. With my day having already improved I was reminded of the phrase “see the bigger picture”. I certainly think we can get wrapped up in our thoughts and not see any further than what’s directly affecting us. The rolling fields give you a sense of perspective and the fact that you’ve reached the top adds to your self esteem.

Image (22)I chose a different route to descend down the hill and as I was drawing the parallels with life and running it struck me that we all choose different paths and it’s a case of finding the right one for you. Your surroundings can definitely effect you in a positive way.

It’s well known that physical activity improves your mood and being rewarded with endorphins shows that when your body feels better so does your mind.

Heading towards Beacon Hill I chose the trail route which has a number of styles, gates and steps. On this particular run these felt like “clutter”, almost distractions from my running flow so once I’d reached this hills trig point I came back via the quiet, straight forward, country lane alternative. Ahh ….. and relax.

I’d worked through my previous tension and cloudy head while swopping the “noise” of my thoughts for the peace of running free with a smile on my face. You could say I’d gone from overthinking to not thinking at all 🙂

Image (19)This third photo from my run shows the local vineyard. The daunting black clouds were starting to give way to the sun perring through. A clear head gives your a positive outlook with new possibilities on the horizon.

If you need to destress and would like to improve your mood, I would personally recommend a run to clear away those metaphorical clouds if you’re having an overcast kind of day.

Thanks for reading

Roger

 

 

 

Green Exercise – a run in the countryside

Image (13)Now, I’ve only recently come across the phrase “Green Exercise” but it completely sums up my whole running experience. A perfect run for me includes scenery to look at, birds to listen to, the occasional style to climb over and a never ending trail to follow.

After parking in an industrial estate my surroundings had truly changed from grey to lush green and coupled with the late afternoon sunshine I was looking forward to connecting with nature. I run all year round but the warmth of the sun on your bones and the added Vitamin D boost are a welcome treat after the Winter months.

There’s no doubt that this form of green therapy will give you a physical buzz as well as clear your head at the same time.

As I approached Nine Elms Lane it was so quiet I could hear the Wallington River flowing by, just the other side of the trees. Next I ran uphill and branched off onto Whitedell Lane with the intention of following the footpaths that have the river on one side and the crops on the other.

As the first photo of my blog shows there was also a wind blowing but it added a different dimension to the crops that I was passing ….. movement !!

Ahh, the wind blowing through your lockdown hair …. ha ha.

Image (15)I’ve often thought that when these crops sway in the wind they look like a green sea. You could almost say instead of a landscape it’s a seascape. I couldn’t resist stopping and watching the ebb and flow effect that the crops were mimicking from the sea. I almost found myself swaying just as if I’d been on a boat or a ferry.

Climbing a style took me into the cow fields that follow the river. I noted the electric fence wire that keeps the cows out of danger, as this wasn’t a sensation I was keen to experience !! Navigating the old cow pats is always a challenge to apply concentration on.

Footpaths have been used by people for hundreds of years and I feel privileged to follow in their steps. I thought to myself I’m taking in the blue sky and green fields just as they would have.

I had looked at my Ordnance Survey map before coming out so I had a birds eye view of the fields that I would run through. My next focus was to find a bridge over the river. It’s great exploring areas you haven’t run before because it adds an element of the unknown as well as the surprises that can be around the next corner.

Once over the wooden bridge my senses were taking in the smells, sights and sounds. Further ahead of me I could see a collection of farmhouses. Once there I ran a short section of road before coming across this posh signpost.

Image (14)This signpost pointed me in a Westerly direction which would eventually lead towards Forest Lane and Wickham Common. With the evening sun now lower in the sky I gradually left the farmhouses behind me and that’s when it dawned on me how few distractions I had.

With every stride I was quite simply looking ahead, to the left and to the right just absorbing my surroundings. It’s difficult to describe how physical activity can be relaxing but when you’ve taken away, traffic, people and buildings and replaced them with woods and a trail to follow, you really are living in the moment.

Mindfulness is often described as taking the time to notice how you feel in a given moment. I’d describe my Green Exercise as mindful movement along a centuries old path with woods in the distance and nature surrounding me on all sides.

I’d also recommend green exercise because you never really get into a constant rhythm like you would with miles on a flat road. The ever changing landscape gives an all round workout.

The lack of noise really is noticeable and a welcome change. You can feel your stress levels drop  as you wind your way through the rural Summer meadows.

 

Image (12)Running on your own might not be as social as running with others but I find you take in so much more. Connecting with nature is something I’d recommend to anyone, you’ll never get bored of taking in what’s on every horizon. I’d hardly looked at my gps watch because pace simply wasn’t why I was out this evening, it was purely for the joy of it.

I decided to save running further for another day so I turned around and retraced my steps. By the time I reached the bridge I’d crossed earlier I was slightly concerned with the sign that I saw but luckily there weren’t even cows in the field never mind a bull ha ha !!!

Image (16)As I headed back towards civilisation I had a smile on my face and I knew these miles would contribute to both my physical health and mental wealth. Oh, and of course it cost me nothing !! There are no membership fees for running off road 🙂

Exploring the countryside might not be everyone’s idea of fun but I find it so rewarding.

Thanks for reading, stay active and stay safe.

Two 6 mile runs over the weekend : My running lockdown thoughts

Image (9)Coping with lockdown has meant a whole new approach to life. I’ve been lucky enough to work from home and while the whole food buying situation appears to have calmed down, keeping active has been my salvation 🙂

While being vigelent regarding mine and my familys health there’s one aspect of this situation which has become even more important than normal. I often quote “running sets you free” and now, even more so, this is a vital aspect of keeping me sane.

Being fit and healthy has such a positive effect on both my mental and physical wellbeing. Maintaining that smile on your face and giving you an extra boost to take on whatever is around the corner are so important.

It’s noticeable just how many people have embrassed fitness and exercise in this lockdown. Not only are we seeing all the gym guys getting out to run and cycle rather then using treadmills and static bikes but it’s great to see “Jo Public” seems to be embracing it too

Long may it remain that the “new to fitness people” keep their exercise up when this current situation is over.

Both of my runs this weekend have been heading out towards Wallington, a quieter suburb of Fareham, so this blog combines both of my runs and thoughts.

I haven’t run two days consecutively for a while so I made full use of ultra marathon star Tom Evans recently released “Pre Run Activation” video, just follow this underlined link Pre Run Activation

On Saturday I was keen to try and follow the River Wallington that ultimately flows out into the still waters of Fareham creek and then the Solent, pictured below.

Image (7)Within a mile of my run starting I was passing through Bath Lane recreation ground with it’s freshly cut grass and the cricket square marked out. The Spring sunshine was on my back and even though the prospect of cricket might be some time off it was good to see the groundsmen are still thinking positively 🙂

Safety wise I’d taken my running bum bag so I was armed with handgel, wipes and kitchen roll for any gate opening or whatever might need any attention. Everyone I met was keen to keep their distance and we all exchanged greetings while enjoying our “outside” allowance.

Heading through the outskirts of town the roads were still eerily quiet as I ran over the main road bridge. It was almost if England were in the football world cup final and everyone was at home watching it, except me !!

Image (6)Almost immediately after this bridge is the contrasting Wallington river bridge that’s been there for centuries. With a large Sanisburys near by, crossing the old bridge almost takes you back in time with small cottages and narrow roads.

The cyclist is Dave Whitting (Gosport Road runners) that I know and I bumped into him on Sunday. This keeps up an almost unblemished record of me seeing someone I know from our local running community every time I go out.

Image (8)On the Saturday I followed the river via a wooden bridge that took me out into an unexpected area of parkland. This hidden gem then lead onto an unexpected motorway underpass that I didn’t know existed and was only a matter of a few hundred metres from the underpass that I’ve run through with our Fareham Crusaders running club.

Passing through a few fields and another foot bridge over the river this right of way then joined a county lane and I had my bearings back. Approaching the aptly named Nine Elms lane I ran through a farmyard with the river still in sight and I was out into the countryside after only 2.5 miles.

On both Saturday and Sunday I’d noticed a track heading up the hill that would run parallel to the Nine Elms lane. I can’t resist a hill but I saved it for Sunday morning as I wanted to follow the river. Unfortunately some fifty or so cows meant my river exploring can to an abrupt end.

Saturdays run was a lunchtime attempt to avoid too many other walkers, cyclists and runners and Sundays early outing also achieved my goal but to be fair with this area being a little off track then it meant for a pleasant and relaxing run.

Pictured at the beginning on my blog, Sundays hill was only 400 metres or so but quite a challenge as with the travel restrictions I haven’t been able to get to my beloved South Downs Way. I have now come to the conclusion that my hill legs aren’t what they were ha ha !! But that’s something to work on 🙂

On my return I bumped into Ray Gunner from Stubbington Green runners which was a pleasant surprise because I haven’t seen him in ages.

I ran through the second motorway subway which has graffiti from end to end. I laughed to myself when it crossed my mind they could be compared with an ancient cave dwelling and the drawings on the walls done by cavemen etc. The colours combine to create an explosion of paint.

Image (10)The heat on both days has meant sun cream lotion with temperatures of 24 and 22 degrees and not a cloud in sight !! As I ran back towards town I stopped at one more bridge and I have to say the water looked very inviting. Naturally I wouldn’t have dreamed about jumping in but I was quite jealous of the ducks.

Image (11)All in all my two six mile runs gave me time to switch off, time to listen to the birds and time to soak up the green fields and the blue sky. Even with the lockdown restrictions you can still explore your local area. I have kept my outings down to an hour but there’s more on your doorstep than you think !!

Getting outdoors releases you from the four walls that we are currently confined to. Keep your head up, stay safe, look after each other and if at all possible go for a walk, run or cycle.

Roger

 

Running helps you to Stay Positive

Image[1]In these uncertain times it would be easy to let everything overwhelm you. Our normal routines are being challenged and the unfamiliar is now becoming the norm rather than the exception. We all need something to cling onto that keeps us sane. Running is my sanity.

I’ve been running for over thirty years so if there’s one activity that can normalise these abnormal times then lacing up my trainers will keep me grounded. I’ve read of so many people in our running community making similar statements. Running isn’t just a form of exercise it’s a way of life that you come to rely on.

My last few runs have either been three or five milers. It’s really noticeable how many people are out and about walking, running and cycling. Now, that’s admirable but at the same time I seem to be crossing the road or even running in the middle of the road but it’s all worth it.

In an ideal world I’d be driving out into the countryside but again running from home is a small price to pay.

Mapping out your route so that you have a plan and a purpose seems to be the key. I’ve chosen the riverbank and the rapeseed fields which are luckily fairly close by.

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Another noticeable impact of the additional people out exercising is the extra “hellos” “well done” and “mornings” that you receive and offer out 🙂 This community feeling of we’re all in it together will again help us to cope.

I’ve seen numerous people that I know when I’ve been out on my runs and this really does add to the sense of normality. The races may well be a long way off but when we spend all day indoors its great to get that fresh air in your lungs.

So, in summary, stay safe, look after each other and keep running. One further impact of the current situation is really silly but I could defiantly do with a haircut ha ha !!

Image[3]On a slightly different note I was contacted by Winchester Radio to see if I’d like to talk for five minutes about the positive impact of running on your mental and physical health, especially in the trying times.

Finally, no blog post would be complete without a shout out to the NHS. On my morning run I saw two nurses getting into their car. My immediate thought was to shout out “well done” and even though they looked a little embarrassed I felt it was the right thing to do.

Stay safe, keep on clapping the NHS on Thursdays at 8pm and keep on running !!

Cheers Roger