The School Days
I’ve been a ‘runner’ since school, where I used to favour the longer distances like the 800m, competing at Sport’s Day and representing the school in the Kent County Championships and various inter-school cross-country events. But fast forward 5 years and I had barely seen a pair of trainers, let alone felt the thrill of crossing a finish line.
I attempted to re-ignite the running bug back in 2012 by signing up to a 5km Race for Life with one of my closest chums, the idea being that we would improve our fitness and raise some cash for a great cause in the process. Being in my 3rd year of uni this gave me the motivation to get off the sofa and commit to weekly training sessions, but being a student also meant that my nutrition wasn’t quite in the right place. Although we finished the race in a respectable 28 mins, had I known then what I know now about how to fuel your body to the fullest, this could have been an even better result.
I’ve lived a vegetarian lifestyle for the last 10 years and have always preferred healthy meals packed with veggies over anything deep fried, but snacks were always my biggest downfall. This was especially exaggerated at uni, where I would stick to healthy meals like roasted veggies or baked sweet potato, but would find myself reaching for the bag of crisps or chocolate soon after. They say it takes 21 days to form a new habit, but try as I might I could never seem to break the snacking cycle.
It wasn’t until I moved to London in September 2012 that I really started to change my approach to nutrition: having a steady income and routine made it much easier to say no to the Cadburys and yes to the cashews and my approach to food steadily began to rely more on natural, wholesome ingredients rather than sugar-laden empty calories. Having always eaten fairly small portions at meal-times feeling full was definitely something which took some getting used to, but the effect it had on my sleep and energy levels was amazing, something which I’ll talk about more in a separate post.
I began incorporating more exercise into my days, making sure I was walking as much as possible, and even going for the occasional riverside run, but it wasn’t until early 2014 that I really caught the fitness bug. Having a multi-marathon-runner-triathlon-competitor boyfriend means two things: Firstly, you feel thoroughly inadequate and wonder how anyone can ever accomplish so many impressive things so often, and secondly, you feel the need to bloody well give it a go yourself. So that’s what I did. Within two months I’d signed up to a half-marathon, started spinning and was running +5km multiple times a week, all the while keeping up a relatively healthy diet, albeit with the occasional chocolate fuelled recovery session.
By October 2014 I had managed to complete my first half-marathon in 1:55:51 and was adamant I wasn’t going to let my new found fitness slip away. Around the same time I started following various fitness and nutrition blogs, which completely opened my eyes to the possibility of Gluten Free and Sugar Free diets, something which had seemed completely unachievable before.
Flick forward to today and I try to eat an unprocessed, unrefined, sugar-free diet as much as possible. That’s not to say I don’t eat the occasional ‘cheat’ meal or find it hard to resist the chocolates on a trip back home, but for me this lifestyle is all about balance; eating healthily for the majority of the time, but not restricting or denying yourself something your body is craving. The way I view food has completely changed: everything we eat is to help nourish our body, give it the energy it needs to help us achieve our goals and, most importantly, to help us be the happiest and healthiest we can possibly be!
The changes I’ve seen both physically and mentally since reducing processed foods have been incredible. I’ve always been relatively fit and healthy, but my body is stronger than ever before and I’m pushing myself to new limits on a weekly basis, all because I’ve learnt how to fuel my body to get the best out of it. For me, this means ever increasing goals, news PBs and, above all, a new found respect for what our bodies can do given the right nourishment. It isn’t always easy, but the feeling of crossing a finish line, completing a spin class or upping the weights makes every healthy decision completely worth it, and I can’t wait to see what I’m going to accomplish next!