Mindfulness: Reading (a lot)

As I mentioned a week or so ago, I’ve been really struggling with increased depression and anxiety, thanks to my parent’s divorce and the breakdown of my relationship with my father. That, combined with an intense work life, has meant an increased need to recentre myself and practice mindfulness wherever possible.

This year I’ve found reading to be absolutely crucial to staying mindful despite in the chaos. Sometimes I find my mind racing at night and really struggle to get to sleep – and so I’ve turned to reading as a nightly ritual. I get all snug in my bed and allow myself at least half an hour to turn off my phone and get stuck into another world.

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It’s really hard to switch off entirely, and that’s precisely what reading requires you to do. You have to stop thinking about your own life, your own problems or even your own social media feed, and just concentrate on something entirely other. For me, it really helps, and sends me off to a nice, peaceful sleep.

Since I mentioned my 2017 Goal to average a book a week, I had plenty of requests to share my reading list. So here you have it – all my books for 2017 so far!

From the guys who wrote Freakonomics, this takes you through how to challenge the status quo and look for hidden connections in the seemingly meaningless.

The absolute pick-me-up I needed in January when I found myself jobless and on crutches – one of the standouts so far.

The autobiography of ultra runner Charlie Engle, from his adventure racing exploits to his wrongful imprisonment for tax fraud.

Hilarious, poignant and thought-provoking autobiography of Trevor Noah, on growing up in post-apartheid South Africa.

An inspiring work of fiction about the importance of finding your destiny in life. A bit sentimental, but beautifully written.

A fictional tale of love, betrayal and identity, set against Nigeria’s 1967-60 Civil War.

The story of love and identity, following Ifemelu; of a Nigerian student who emigrates to the US.

A good insight into the start-up way of doing business and getting quick results by learning to fail and fail again.

A great mix of self-help and memoir, this is a great guide to becoming more present in life, and letting go of perfectionism.

Comical memoir of a 30-something comedian who doesn’t have her shit together any more than the rest of us.

An account of 12 months of goal-driven happiness, including concrete, actionable ideas on how to cultivate happiness in your life.

A short Penguin guide to the Suffragette movement in Western countries, including the female-led anti-suffrage movement.

A lazy beach read- a story of love in adverse circumstances.

A hilarious and charming retelling of Norse myth and legend, brought to life in a wickedly clever way.

A genuinely terrifying profile of Donald Trump by one journalist who has keenly followed the demon’s rise to fame.

Fascinating insight into the Occupy movement, including the recent historical context of the 2008 Financial Crash.

An abridged version of the feminist classic, covering the way beauty standards are used to keep women “in their place”.

A modern sci-fi classic – an ancient civilisation is discovered on earth. The rest is a mystery…

The second Sleeping Giants book – it continues!

Another life-affirming classic from Paulo Coehlo; the premise is about a girl who wakes up from her suicide attempt, but discovers she only has a few days to live.

A collective memoir or the experience of Japanese women brought to the US as brides in the 1930s and 40s.

A collection of the authors favourite and most thought-provoking philosophic quotes, along with a brief essay on why they captured his imagination.

A collection of essays and short stories written by a talented young Harvard student, and published after her tragic death only a few years ago.

An autobiographical account of everything running can teach you about life.

A productivity guide that preaches doing the most difficult and most dreaded task first.

A poignant and gorgeously-written tale of an out of place teenage girl who yearns for a place to belong.

An imagined but entirely possible future in which genetic engineering has gotten out of control, and which there remain only a handful of “real” humans left.

A fascinating historical and anthropological look at humankind’s evolution through the ages, from the Stone Age to the modern day.

A memoir / non-fiction work on the issue of race, in the context (mainly) of 21st Century Britan. This work certainly highlights the lack of cultural education received in the UK – specifically to do with the injustices and atrocities committed by the British Empire, and the legacy this has left.

A no-bullshit guide to everything that’s wrong with clean eating, fasts, Gwyneth Paltrow, and the logical tricks that leave us buying into them.

The premise: one Ghanian sister sold into slavery, the other married off to a British slaver; we follow the atrocities and legacies of slavery as they trickle down through the generations.

A soothing, cosy book on the magic of getting your shit together, your house in order, and your life how you want it.

A tale of a married couple’s struggle to have children – beautifully told, and set against the background of political unrest in 1980’s Nigeria.

A heartbreaking work about a girl caught in a state of limbo after a life-threatening car accident – great if you need a good cry.

The true story of Olympic Legend, eccentric and all round gentleman Emil Zátopek, struggling with his role in post-war Czechoslovakia. A truly inspiring read.

A concise but thorough account of how Western foreign policy (specifically British and American) has screwed over the Middle East and created a breeding ground for extremism.

The continuation of Homo Sapiens, this work takes a look at humankind as we embark on our voyage into the world of amortality, artificial intelligence and genetic engineering.

In case you weren’t counting, I’m on 36 to date, which makes me approximately two weeks behind. But fear not, I’m catching up!

In the meantime, please send me your recommendations! I’m always looking for new reads to get my nose into! 

Lots of love,

 

Pippa

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The Comeback Chronicles: Episode 3

Well kittens. Another week, another update! After writing a whole post for last week’s update, it went entirely missing… and so we have a lot to catch up on from the past two weeks!

What’s been going on

Last week I was at Ecocamp Glenshee for some well-deserved relaxation in the form of running, cycling and fresh air. Then this week, I started my new job – it’s been intense! I’m writing this feeling pretty knackered after a combination of a new job, switching my workouts to the morning, and my first race back after the broken ankle. Exciting stuff, huh?

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Workouts & Fitness

I was very active in Scotland – when the scenery is that beautiful, you just have to get outside. But then this week, I took the fresh start of a new job as an opportunity to start a new habit – something I learned from Gretchen Rubin’s Happier podcast – and so I switched my workouts to first thing in the morning before work. It’s been tough and it’s still very much a work in progress, but I think I was pretty successful for the first week!

Last Week

  • Monday: 40k cycle, 2k swim
  • Tuesday: 4 mile run
  • Wednesday: Short 16k cycle (absolutely knackered)
  • Thursday: 40k cycle
  • Friday: Rest day
  • Saturday: 30 minute run, 10 min row, abs & circuits
  • Sunday: Rest day but a teeny circuit on the rooftop

This Week

  • Monday: Rest day – first day at the new job
  • Tuesday: Kettlebell circuits, 30 mins cardio + abs
  • Wednesday: Sandbag circuits, 30 mins cardio + abs
  • Thursday: Sandbag circuits, 30 mins cardio + abs
  • Friday: 30 mins cardio + abs
  • Saturday: The Comeback 10k!
  • Sunday: Rest. I need it.

 

Running

After one run at the start of last week, the ankle was feeling a bit sore, and so I decided to rest it up in preparation for The Comeback 10K, which was yesterday. I might actually write a full race report on that but TLDR; it hurt, and was actually a lot tougher than I expected on my body! A humbling experience for someone who used to treat a 10k as a short training run. How the mighty have fallen (literally)!  I’ll be taking it easy for now…

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Food & Nutrition

I have to say my food choices have been on point the past two weeks; highlights include a gorgeous hummus, beetroot falafel and roasted vegetable wrap from Nero of all places; and lunch with a new colleague at 26 Grains in Covent Garden. Avocado on rye with an oat milk cappuccino on the side. The stuff of dreams!

 

Everything else

I’ve been settling nicely into the new job, although the Family Drama keeps rearing its ugly head and making things difficult emotionally. Nonetheless I’m trying to take it easy on myself, with lots of treats and weekend naps. I was in quite a low place after The Comeback 10k, as I was feeling nauseous as well as achey and emotional – I think a lot of it turned out to be dehydration, but it’s forced me to acknowledge that my body needs to rest.

 

How’s your week been? 

Lots of love,

Pippa

 

 

Podcast of the Month: Happier

As long-time readers of this blog will know, I’m a big fan of podcasts (you can check out some previous posts here and here). Honestly, one of my favourite parts of the day is walking the half hour to work, coffee in hand and podcast in the earbuds. And recently I’ve been really enjoying a new podcast, which I wanted to share with you today.

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It’s called Happier, and it’s presented by Gretchen Rubin (author of The Happiness Project) and her sister Elizabeth Craft. It discusses “habits, happiness and human nature” and has been really adding value to my life recently. Although a podcast called Happier may sound slightly superficial (in line with all those well-intentioned people who tell you to just think positive), Gretchen and Elizabeth show a real understanding for the difficulties of the human condition- everything from the depression we often feel after a big goal or milestone, to the anxiety of changing gym.

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The podcast is broken up into sections:

  • Try This At Home
  • Happiness Hack
  • Listener Questions
  • Demerits and Gold Stars

Here are just a few pieces of wisdom  I’ve received from the podcast over the past few months:

  • Sometimes things just suck- for instance, a breakup, or a bereavement. It’s okay to acknowledge that and just allow it to be.
  • Limiting your news intake can be helpful when it comes to getting depressed over current affairs, and print is shown to be less anxiety-provoking than video.
  • Doing something every day is easier than doing it some days- this has been really useful for me when it comes to getting up at the same time every day, even when my schedule can vary. It’s just easier to not have to think about it.
  • When you lie about something, it’s often because your reality doesn’t live up to your values- like for instance if you tell people you run 5 times per week, but often only manage once. In these situations, lies can act as a signal that you either need to change your reality (ie. the thing you’re lying about) or just fess up and be honest.

See, I told you these ladies were insightful!

Want to give it a listen? I would recommend one particularly insightful episode all about how to deal with depressing current affairs (spoiler alert: taking action helps). It’s just what we need in a Brexit and Trump-filled world.

Any podcast recommendations for me?

Lots of love,

 

Pippa

Five Minute Review: Running Man

One of my aims for the year is to average a book a week, making that 52 in total. I want to capture at least some of them here, as I believe reading and learning is a key facet to mindfulness and living in a fulfilled way. But hey, we’ve all got busy lives. So in that vein, here’s your five-minute book review!

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If I had to describe Running Man in five words, it would be:

Interesting adventures, somewhat weak narrative.

If you’re a runner, you’ll probably have exhausted all the obvious choices when it comes to running literature- Born to Run, Eat & Run, Running with the Kenyans…etc. etc. I turned to Running Man for a dose of running-based inspiration, and whilst it delivered that in spades: charting the author’s journey from drug and alcohol addiction, to ultra marathon adventure racing, to prison and then to rehabilitation; the narrative structure was sometimes lacking. It was very much a chronological telling of the events in the author’s life, but lacked cohesiveness and an overarching message. Don’t get me wrong, there was still a wealth of insights to be learned from such an adventurous and often troubled spirit; it’s just that perhaps the autobiography wasn’t the best vessel to convey them.

Would I recommend it to a friend? If they were a runner, maybe.

Marks out of 10: 5
This concludes the review.

Tell me, have you read Running Man?

What books would you recommend I read?

Lots of love,

Pippa

The Crutch Chronicles: Christmas

Christmas was somewhat difficult this year. I love Christmas spent with my family, but at the same time it can be quite intense. Running is usually my way to cope- physically removing myself from potentially overwhelming situations and substituting them for fresh air and endorphins. Sadly this year that was not the case. Add to that the fact that I’m somewhat incapacitated, and can’t actually do a lot for myself (even make a cup of coffee!) and you can see why this year was a Christmas I’d rather forget.

You know how it’s easy and often tempting to regress into old family dynamics when returning to your family home? Well it’s quite tricky not to do that when you’re physically incapacitated and have to rely on those around you. I felt childlike and like a sad, Bridget Jones type at the same time. It’s been difficult!

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Here’s The Good, The Bad and The Ugly:

The Good

  • I got to eat great food and have my family bring me cups of coffee
  • Crutches are great for upper body strength- I’m gonna have Michelle Obama arms by the time I’m done
  • I got to get outside most days, even just for a hobble down the road with Shadow
  • The Matriarchs (Mum and both my Grandmothers) taught me how to knit. I have a scarf in the making! It’s fugly, and I don’t care.
  • finally got to binge watch Parks and Rec, which had been on my must-watch list for ages!
  • I worked on (and reevaluated) my goals for 2017
  • My pup Shadow was by my side to give me hugs and slobbery kisses…yum.
  • I got to bust out my sparkly Christmas leggings because I can’t fit anything else over my swollen ankle!

 

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The Bad

  • I couldn’t run, walk or really do anything for myself all Christmas
  • Lack of running = grouchiness
  • Everyone’s Christmas gifts were kind of crap because I was unable to go do my last-minute shopping!
  • I can already feel my whole body getting a bit softer. As much as I’m not overindulging, I’m also being conscious not to restrict, so that my body can use all that energy for healing!
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Trying to focus on nutrition right now!

The Ugly

  • My foot. I mean, really. It’s disgusting. The swelling has now mostly gone down, but it’s a multitude of colours thanks to the bruising. It’s been too painful to shave, and wearing a cast all day makes your foot smell kinda nasty. TMI?
  • My mood has not been the greatest. I’ve been trying my hardest not to take it out on the people around me, but I worry that I’ve failed. I’m overwhelmed by the prospect of jobhunting without being able to walk, especially when the alternative is festering all day in my can’t-work-can’t-walk stupor. I’m trying to give myself a kick up the backside, but it’s a case of baby steps right now

 

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An Update

I’m off for an MRI on the ankle in a few hours. Following that, I have an appointment in the New Year to evaluate if I’ll need surgery, or just immobilization and a ton of physiotherapy. I’m trying to remain positive and have faith that this will all work out in the end.

 

How was your Christmas?

Lots of love,

 

Pippa

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