It’s time for a classic new year post.

I’ve been a bit absent from this recently; I got a bit discouraged (for a variety of reasons) and kind of stopped engaging with my , my social media channels and events. I have also been ridiculously busy, and found it all a bit too much. However, I really miss it – engaging with like minded people and the weird and wonderful experiences that come with it – and so I’m starting again in 2017.

To kick off, I’ve got a list of goals for 2017. I don’t really want to think of them as resolutions, as I’ve already been doing some of them, and I associate ‘resolutions’ with negativity and restrictions; it’s more that I like taking the new year as a chance to relax and re-focus, and make positive choices about how I can make my life better. So, here are my goals for 2017!

1. Less Screen Time 

I admit that I am absolutely addicted to my phone. It’s like a reflex to pick it up, or press the home button to see if I have any notifications, and it’s starting to drive me nuts. It also really affects my productivity, especially at work. I’m hoping less screen time = more productivity.

To help, I am going to be buying an actual alarm clock so that I don’t have to use my phone as an alarm, taking my phone out of the bedroom! Let me know if you can recommend a stylish one that won’t give me a heart attack every morning. I also really love the Forest app at work – you set the amount of time you don’t want to use your phone for, and the app then ‘grows a tree’ for that time; if you exit the app, it kills the tree (and gives you a guilt trip warning such as “Are you sure? This will kill your cute little tree.” which you can’t look past). It’s honestly great if, like me, you check your phone every 10 seconds.

2. More Local Shopping 

I want to spend more money with local businesses in my area, to help support business owners in my community. This is something I have already been trying to do, but I’ll admit that is mainly been local brunch spots I’ve been supporting (2016 – year of avocado toast) and so I’ll be stepping it up this year. Someone in my building is running a Tower Hamlets fruit and veg box delivery (called Tower Green Hamlets), delivering seasonal produce from a farm in Cambridge, so I’ll be starting with that (if you’re also in East London, they’re offering 20% off for the new year – check it out here).

3. More Training

2016 was not the year for me keeping on top of my training! I was disorganised and got overwhelmed with work, and didn’t manage to fit in as much training as I’d have liked. 2017 is shaping up to be pretty busy (with a wedding and a honeymoon!) so the aim of the game this year is making my workouts more manageable. I’m planning to run shorter distances (with an emphasis on getting my speed back over logging more miles) and spending less time in the gym, but using my time more effectively. To do this, I’m going to be planning my sessions on a monthly basis. Which is basically an excuse to buy more stationary.

4. Fewer Fucks Given 

I can be sensitive soul. I’ve realised that all this really does is hold me back, for fear of worrying what others will think of me, or how I will look. I have decided that life is too short for that, so 2017 is the year of giving far fewer fucks than ever before. I have bought myself ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck” and I am not afraid to use it. Not everyone is going to like you. Some of the stuff you create is going to suck. These things are inevitable, and I don’t want them to hold me back!

Last week I read about a thirteen year long study of over a million women, conducted in Denmark, looking at the link between the contraceptive pill and depression.

The fact that it’s news in itself is worrying and telling. Speak to any woman and she will have experience of depression being brought on by the pill, either as a personal experience or as something that has happened to another woman close to her. Based on these experiences, most women know that there is a clear link between being on the pill and poor mental health. The fact that it’s reported as big news shows how little attention mental health issues really receive. 

As it’s World Mental Health Day today, I thought I would write about my own experience of depression and the pill. Mainly because I started this to talk about mental health issues, because I truly believe that the more our stories are shared, the more they are normalised, and hope that it will help other people open up if they are suffering.

I started taking Microgynon when I was 19. I had never suffered from depression before, but within six months of taking it I was deeply depressed. I stopped eating, losing three stone in less than three months. My periods stopped. I lost interest in everything and couldn’t find joy in anything. My entire life felt pointless, and I felt paralysed most days by existential crisis. The worst thing was not knowing why it was happening to me. It seemingly came out of nowhere.

I was told by my GP that it was normal to feel “a bit down” and no alternative pill was offered, and I was told that I should “balance out” and feel better soon. Basically, because it was an “expected” side effect I was pretty much told not to worry. When I went to see a counsellor I explained the state of my mental health and their reaction was “what…all that from the pill?” as if I was lying. 

Eventually I made the decision to come off Microgynon myself, and took up the prescription for an anti-depressant. It did help. I was lucky and had a lot of support, mainly from Dayve, and I did start on the long road to getting better. When I left university I moved areas and so got a new doctor. I explained what had happened to my new doctor and they were great; they were willing to try me on different contraceptives and took my complaints seriously. I feel like I was lucky. Even with all of this, it took me three years to recover from my disordered eating. I still suffer from occasional bouts of depression. I don’t take anti-depressants any more, but I do need endorphins and they’re pretty much the same thing…! These things don’t go away overnight. 

If you are suffering, you’re not alone. You should absolutely go to your doctor to discuss it. To your friends and family to discuss it. You are not a burden. You are not an anomaly. Don’t stop pushing for a solution that’s right for you, or asking for support. Having mental health issues doesn’t make you weak. 

As for the pill – don’t be afraid to ask or push your doctor on possible solutions. There are so many different formulations of the pill (and non-hormonal contraceptives too!) that there is no need to settle with the first, second or tenth one you’re offered if it doesn’t work for you. I actually take a different pill now with pretty much zero side effects – the exact same pill made my close friend feel suicidal. We are all different! It isn’t your fault. You’re not making it up. Things can absolutely, definitely, 100% get better. Hang on in there, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Me, running away from all my problems.

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So, when does the wedding diet start then?

Shortly after I got engaged last summer, one of my colleagues asked me this question. It was definitely well intentioned and pretty topical (one of our other colleagues recently underwent an amazing health and fitness drive ahead of her wedding, and has continued well after it too), but something about it didn’t sit right with me. When I responded “Oh, I won’t be doing any of that” she looks surprised, before saying “Good for you!”.

Good for me?

I thought that our wedding day was about celebrating our love for one another; not about the size of the dress I wear. I’m pretty sure Dayve is marrying me because he loves me, regardless of the way I look. In any event, if he liked the way I looked enough to propose to me then I’m pretty sure it won’t be an issue on the big day.

I do understand that people getting married (brides and grooms!) want to look and feel their best on their wedding day, but since when did a wedding diet become a compulsory part of the preparations? I’ve been given/bought a few wedding magazines since we got engaged, and pretty much all of them have articles about losing weight and (old favourite) “toning up” for the big day. Because heaven forbid you turn up to your own wedding without bothering to “banish your bingo wings!” or “tone your tum!”. Your groom will surely just walk out, no?

It’s a no from me.

I’ll be honest, planning a wedding can be pretty stressful. It’s supposed to be one of the happiest times of your life, and it is pretty great, but there are loads of unwanted stresses along the way. All the cliches are true! Doing your guest list sucks. Doing your budget sucks. Sticking to your budget sucks even more. There are people at every corner who really want to rip you off, and will do their very best to emotionally blackmail you in to getting unnecessary things for “your special day”. You do not need the added bullshit of sculpting your arms or nipping in your waist or lengthening your limbs, or whatever it is the wedding industry thinks you should do.

My advice is this. Your wedding should be the happiest day of your life (or at least one of) because you are marrying the love of your life. You have found someone you really love, who really loves you back, and that is totally rad. Please don’t let anything dim that joy, especially not any notions that you should look a certain way. If you do want to shape up a bit, cool! Go for it! Just don’t get hung up on it. Your body fat percentage does not determine your happiness, your worth, or the value of the commitment you make on your wedding day. I’m pretty sure that the person lucky enough to be marrying you thinks you’re beautiful just the way you are. Try your best to think the same of yourself.

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Thank you to everyone for your kind messages this weekend about deferring my place in the Berlin Marathon. Anyone who knows me will know that I hate giving up on things and deferring definitely feels like a cop-out. The decision not to run is a considered one and I think definitely the right one, but that doesn’t really help when you’re stood on the side lines feeling like a failure.

So, how did I reach the decision not to run? Last year I ran the London Marathon and came down with a knee injury at Mile 15. I’ve never had issues with my knees before and the pain came on in an instant during the race. I did the less than sensible thing of finishing the race (walking, limping, crawling…!) and couldn’t walk properly for a month afterwards. A MONTH.

This rather traumatic episode taught me to respect the distance. I am not one of the amazing natural runners who can run a marathon at the drop of a hat – for me, achieving the distance takes a lot of time and effort. Leading up to the race I’d been busy with work and moving back to London from Dubai, and in the midst of all the madness I’d neglected my strengthen and flexibility training. I am 99.99999% sure that this is the reason for my injury.

Fast forward to Berlin Marathon 2015. I actually had a ballot place in the Berlin Marathon 2014, but after getting injured in London I was not in a position to race in the autumn. I was pretty gutted about losing my chance to run the marathon in Berlin, as you never know when your luck will come up in the ballot again. I’ll also admit to being stuck in injury gloom mode and burying my head in the sand about organising deferring my place, which I also heavily regretted. So, when adidas miCoach emailed and asked if I’d like to be involved in their Berlin Marathon project, it felt like a second chance to run this amazing race. Yippee!

Due to the timings of the project the training cycle was a little shorter than it would have normally been for me (14 weeks or so I think) but I was so keen to take the second chance that I decided I would just commit to the training and do my best in the time I had. I signed up for weekly yoga classes, to make sure I was doing at least one session a week, and chose a miCoach strength and flexibility plan to complement my marathon training plan to make sure I stayed strong enough to take the mileage.

Unfortunately, things didn’t really work out that way for me. The past few months have been some of the most stressful of my life and I’ll admit that in the last fortnight or so I’ve reached breaking point. In the past couple of months I’ve experienced some serious life events – Dayve and I bought our first home, we got engaged, my sister and best friend had her first baby (after a MONTH of false labour – she is my hero), and I’ve been busy at work and haven’t taken a break since February, which has left me feeling exhausted. While all these things are amazing and exciting (and I really don’t want this to come across as first world problems) I think it’s easy to underestimate how time consuming and emotionally exhausting they are.

Fitting in my runs became very difficult – I am constantly busy with something, travelling somewhere or doing something. Moving out of our shared flat in to our own place coincided with Dayve being on the other side of the world for work for a couple of months, and the loneliness of living alone along with Dayve being out of contact 80% of the time feels like the straw that broke the camel’s back. I started to feel quite low and finding the motivation to do anything (including go running) became increasingly difficult. I’ve been stuck in a bit of a downward spiral – feel sad and don’t feel like running > eventually force self to go running and run is terrible because I haven’t really been running > feel sad about terrible running > avoid going running because it makes me feel like a failure > get even worse at running. I couldn’t even bring myself to share my runs or talk about them on here – who would be interested in hearing about my mediocre training efforts? All the more ironic given how this started as a story all about how running lifted me out of depression.

Anyway, given this whole mess my training has not been on point. I’d done the miles, but they’d been bad quality runs without purpose (like me generally then). I’d not been able to do all of the strength training on my plan. I kept staying up late in to the night, pottering about, and missing my 7:30am yoga classes because I’d had two hours sleep. In the few weeks leading up to the marathon I’d noticed some twinges in my knee – no doubt symptoms of my lacklustre strength and flexibility regime – and started having flashbacks to London and how devastating a full blown injury is. The added complication is that less than a week after the marathon I am due to fly to Ethiopia for a fundraising trek with work (leaving this Friday!) – a once in a lifetime opportunity that has cost me a small fortune and has a large amount on sponsorship riding on it. If I were to injure myself in Berlin as I had in London then the whole trip would be blown out of the water and everything would go to waste.

I called adidas to explain my concerns about my injury and the proximity of race day to the trek. Luckily for me they were really kind and understanding, and totally agreed that health has to come above anything else. They also very kindly said that, even if I didn’t run the race, that I was still very welcome on the trip to Germany to soak up the experience and visit adidas HQ. I felt a bit awkward about this (if I wasn’t running I definitely didn’t deserve the same experience as the other girls) but I am so glad I went. Spending the weekend with Susie, Annie and Kelly and the miCoach team was just what I needed to lift my spirits and inspire my running again. A full post on our amazing trip will follow very shortly!

While I was in Germany I was still entertaining thoughts of running – I so desperately wanted to be part of the race with the others and didn’t want the training that I had done to go to waste, but the idea of injuring myself and jeopardising my trip to Ethiopia felt reckless. I decided to leave it in the hands of the marathon itself – at the expo, I would see if I could defer. If I couldn’t then I would run, but I’d run slowly and promise to pull out at the first signs of any funny business in my knee. If I could defer then I’d commit to being the best supporter at the Berlin Marathon 2015 and I’d return in 2016 to do the race justice. As you’ll have gathered, they let me defer. I was kind of relieved – the risk of injury was gone and I could come back to Berlin next year to run the race I want to run. I was also sad. Deferring felt like a failure and I felt like a fraud being part of the crew when I wasn’t even running. Everyone was very supportive and the ladies reassured me that I’d made the right choice. Sometimes you have to be sensible.

Watching all of the others do so well was so inspiring – Susie and Kelly both ran PBs and Annie ran her first marathon, battling an ankle injury and epilepsy! It made me feel even more determined to go back next year and make them as proud of me as I am of them.

I guess the point of this post is to show that deciding not to run is not a failure. Doing the sensible thing is usually the best thing you can do for your running, even if that means not running at all. I know it’s much sexier to risk it all on a wildcard race, but sometimes that will be more damaging in the long term. Also – do not underestimate the physical toll of your emotional burdens, and don’t push your body to achieve something that you’re not prepared for, whether that’s physically or emotionally (or both!).

Soph x

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I’ve been meaning to write a post about Instagram and #fitspiration for a while now, and getting featured in The Telegraph yesterday as one of their top inspiring runners on instagram gave me the kick to finally get some thoughts down.

Firstly – I was pretty stoked to be featured. I am really inconsistent with instagram and never have time to take nice photos, so I thought it was pretty cool that I got included. I am by far the smallest ger on there too, so I thought it was cool that I was still deemed worthy of inclusion. Thanks Jess Salter!

Secondly – some thoughts on instagram in the fitness world. If I am completely honest, I find the world of instagram #fitspiration pretty demoralising and disheartening. So many shiny professional photos, honed abs, perfect dinners, beautiful yoga poses and people who ostensibly live in shiny white houses. I’ve found myself posting on instagram less and less because I just feel like I can’t keep up. My life is terrible in comparison! Obviously each to their own; I know that a lot of people find these images aspirational, rather than demoralising. However, I have decided that enough if enough. I’ve unfollowed the ‘big’ instagram accounts that I used to follow and the ones that only post professional photos (or, even worse, random photos they’ve found on pinterest – why would I care about a nice beach you haven’t even been to…?) so that I’m back to just following people I find inspiring, interesting or funny. If you’re also sick of instagram #fitspiration, I would recommend you do the same.

With this in mind, I thought I’d concoct my own list of accounts to follow on instagram. Let me know if you have any other recommendations!

1. Charlie Watson, aka The Runnerbeans (@therunnerbeans)

I love following Charlie because she works really hard at her running and I find watching her progress really inspiring. She’s currently training for the Chicago marathon and has been really putting in the time with her training. She has set out to improve her running and reading about her sessions makes me want to do the same

2. Susie Chan (@susie_chan_)

I love following Susie because, not only is she a phenomenal runner, but she absolutely loves running. Her enthusiasm for running (and joy while running) permeate all of her posts and you can’t help but feel her happiness too. Susie is also an amazing runner but really humble about her achievements, which makes her all the more inspiring!

3. Sarah aka Squatbot (@squatbot)

I love Sarah’s posts because they’re fun. She trains hard, eats well and always seems to have fun doing it. I love the way she is clearly serious about her training but never takes herself too seriously – my kind of girl.

4. Sophie Kay aka Fitology (@fitology_uk)

Sophie is all about body confidence. I love her honesty about her body and her appreciation for its abilities, not just its aesthetics. She’s a personal trainer who practises what she preaches and encourages everyone to love their bodies, which is a message I can definitely get on board with. She’s also called Sophie and everyone knows Sophies are ace.

5. Hot Dudes Reading (@hotdudesreading)

It won’t inspire you to get any fitter but it’s still excellent. No explanation needed. You’re probably already following it.

6. Zoe Meskell aka Miles Fitter (@milesfitter)

Zoe is lovely and is always up to something fun and fitnessy. She always seems to fit things in around her life – I particularly admire her ability to make it to early morning classes, something I fail at nine times out of ten. She has just moved to New York and I am really enjoying following her adventures there.

7. Volt Women (@voltwomen)

A bunch of amazing ladies from the Bridge the Gap community, Volt Women are always featuring inspiring women from all over the world. I love the way this account tells stories along with the pictures, and I love that they’re always told openly and honestly.

8. Pink Helmet Posse (@pinkhelmetposse)

Little babes skateboarding. These little girls are fearless and awesome and I wish someone had thought of it when I was little. They’re amazing as well as adorable! JUST LOOK AT HER!

9. Juliet Elliott (@julietelliott)

When I grow up I want to be Juliet. Ex pro-snowboarder and now bike babe extraordinaire, I love following her amazing adventures (from mountain biking to competing in the Red Hook Crit to training in a velodrome). Juliet does everything I am too scared to do and I am in awe of her talent and fearless attitude. She also has rad tats that I wish I could have and a beautiful relationship with her husband.

10. Amanda Bisk (@amandabisk)

The only big account I still follow. Amanda Bisk has an incredible body, but it’s hard earned. I love following Amanda because she is an incredible athlete. She used to compete as a pole vaulter for Australia is now an elite athletics coach, an exercise physiologist and a qualified yoga teacher. She is a ball of energy and is always posting videos with cool ideas for workouts. I feel that she genuinely takes pride in the community she has created and I find her attitude really inspiring.

Who are your top instagram accounts to follow? What inspires you?

You can follow me on instagram at @sophiechristabel!

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