It’s January. The weather is rubbish, the piggy bank is empty and we’re all feeling a little bit sluggish. It can also be the time of year where our mental health needs some TLC. Northern Soul’s Emma Yates-Badley has registered for RED January 2019, a community initiative that encourages people to support their mental health by doing something active every single day. Emma will be writing about her experience in a weekly blog. In partnership with independent mental health charity, Mind, RED January can provide a focus in a characteristically tough month, empowering you to start the year as you mean to go on.
Something strange has happened to me. I seem to have morphed into a runner, and I don’t mean someone who legs it from paying bills or flees awkward situations. No, I mean that I’m a fully-fledged member of the ‘I Love Running’ club.
I’ve always been envious of people who are dedicated to pounding the pavement. As such, I’ve attempted to build up my stamina – and levels of can-be-arsed-ness – over the last year or so, but it was always non-committal. This year, and I don’t know if it’s something to do with documenting my progress for Northern Soul or finally understanding that exercise does indeed equal endorphins, but I feel more inclined to get my backside off the sofa and out into the fresh air. I’ve even started running in the rain which astounds my mother. I am genuinely beginning to see why people enjoy this running lark and I’m starting to see exercise as less of a chore and more as part of a healthy routine, like drinking water or taking my make-up off before bed so my eyelashes don’t stick together.
Usually my go-to pick-me-up after a stressful day at work, or just because it’s Friday and it’s been a long week, would be a glass of wine and vaguely unhealthy meal. Now I can’t wait to stick on my running shoes and head out. Much like a Netflix true-crime series and caffeine, running is a bit addictive, isn’t it?
I can’t sit here and say I’m amazing. I am not a natural runner. My breath is ragged, I haven’t got a clue if I’m running ‘properly’ and I always appear a little dishevelled – even in my fancy new jacket – so my fantasy of looking like one of these ‘together’ women who don’t break a sweat is very much mistaken. But that’s the thing I love most about being part of RED January 2019, I don’t feel the need to compete. There’s no app to download where I must monitor kilometres or minutes. It doesn’t matter if I go home and inhale a pizza or can only manage a few laps of the park because my legs feel like I’ve been running a marathon. It’s simply about getting out and enjoying yourself. And that I can do.
As the weeks go on, I’m finding that exercise has helped to control my compulsions and ruminations (usually because I’m too knackered to worry about anything more than moving the dog’s backside from my pillow) and I’ve found that when I start to fret or feel disorganised – which then brings on the over-checking, distracted thoughts and anxiety – if I go for a run or a long walk, they tend to disappear. It’s almost like I can watch them snake from my brain and vanish in the air.
This last week I’ve become a little bit more adventurous with my locations (mostly because it’s so cold, I’ve had to leave the safety of the playing field and its crunchy, frozen grass). No, it’s not fell running (can you imagine?) or jogging alongside a motorway, I’ve just switched up my route and headed to another, slightly nicer, park where there’s a big body of water to run around, a lot of ducks and water birds and some extremely excitable dogs on leads. Since day nine, I’ve ran in the park most days, navigating the odd branch left by a dog or the slightly murderous-looking gaggle of Canadian geese that hang out near the cluster of benches. Day 11, however, was a bit of a write-off after a long day at work turned into a belated Christmas night on the tiles. Having a bit of a dance counts as exercise, right?
On day 15 I got home from work late, it was dark, and exercise was the last thing I wanted to do. But I knew I’d be disappointed and a bit stressed if I didn’t at least attempt something, so I embarked on my first ever street run. Usually I like to go somewhere a bit more secluded where I can sweat and huff and puff in peace, but I enjoyed the change of scenery and pace and ended up completing my best run to date. Who knew that the streets of Edgeley could be so inspirational? Nevertheless, I get ‘pavement fear’ when I think I’m going to be preoccupied, trip and hit the concrete face first.
I’ve never felt proud of any fitness endeavour before. When I was recovering from a particularly bad obsessive-compulsive phase (when I struggled to eat anything), I was pleased when I finally managed to get back to my normal fitness levels (walking, light jogging, yoga). But I’ve never pushed myself out of my comfort zone before. At school I was about as sporty as a baked potato and I think I’ve carried that belief into adulthood. Every time I run just that little bit further or for that extra minute or two, I’m chuffed.
So, if you see me out and about in Stockport, looking a bit dishevelled but happy, don’t distract me or I might give into my fear and go down like a sack of spuds.
For more information about what’s going on locally in Manchester, visit manchestermind.org