Fitness Reads: Jog On by Bella Mackie

I picked up this book on Sunday, the day of my flight back to South Africa after spending a glorious two weeks with my very yummy husband, look at him, he’s gorgeous.

No matter how many sleeping tablets I take (don’t take more than the recommended dosage), I never seem to fall asleep on the plane. My last journey, I read ‘The Beekeeper of Aleppo.’ A book so beautifully written and in many ways descriptive of the journey many immigrants face when they move to Europe/North Americas. One of my goals this year is to read at the very minimum two non-academic books each month. My partner and I were in WH Smith when my attention was captured by the bright blue cover and title of the book. There are a lot of things I love about my husband, one of them being his accent and classic British slang that I try to implement in my South African/Congolese life. One of those phrases is ‘jog on’ If we’re picking favourite slang phrases, this is mine.

jog on

1. Literally, to run along at a slow and deliberate place.
2. By extension, to make progress slowly, deliberately, or patiently.
3. Go away; get lost; beat it. Primarily heard in UK.

I initially picked this book up as I was looking for motivation to spur me on in my running routine. New year, new me, am I right? And aside from CrossFit, there is no other sport I love more than running. Mackie writes with ease in a comforting and, relatable way. If you think this is a book purely about running, you’re wrong. The book makes me think of one of my favourite phrases by Nike head coach, Chris Bennett ‘this is about running, this isn’t about running.’ Mackie doesn’t claim to be an expert in running or mental health. The fact that she writes from her own experience is what makes this all the more beautiful and is what drew me in as a reader. She gives enough detail on the different mental health illnesses for the reader to have a better understanding of what it means to have a mental illness, as well as tools on how to be more supportive and understanding if you do have a partner that suffers with mental health. As a budding researcher, I appreciated that where she presented findings related to running and mental health, she cites those papers. Minor thing that most won’t care about but definitely did not go unnoticed for me.

I still don’t know why running was the tool I opted for in the midst of misery. I’d never done strenuous exercise before. But I had spent a lifetime holding at bay the need to run away – from my mind, from my negative thoughts; from the worries that built up and calcified, layer upon layer, until they were too strong to chip away at. Maybe the sudden urge to run was a physical manifestation of this desire to escape my own brain. I guess I just wanted to do it for real.

Bella Mackie

At 289 pages, it’s a very light and easy read! Overall I found the book inspiring and it’s reminded me of why I initially fell in love with running. It has also reminded me that this year, whatever levels of toxicity that I don’t want present in my life can ‘jog on’.

Bella Mackie is a freelance journalist and author of ‘Jog On’, a book about running and mental health

So You Ran a Marathon, Now What?

The last four weeks of marathon training were hard…one might say non-existent 😂 My knee was behaving like a juvenile delinquent, the kind that needs to be locked up and never let out. I could barely walk without feeling pain in each step. I went to a few physio sessions, 1 week out mind you and had my physio recommend that I skip the race. To be honest I had every intention of not running, but I had a whole week of my handsome man gassing me up to the point where I started to believe that I could at least hobble to the finish line 😂 then I picked up my race pack and there is something about the adrenaline of the race that erased any doubts I had, and before I knew it, on Sunday I was getting up to run.

I told myself that the only way I’d get through the marathon was by loving it and keeping my pace slow and easy. Running is a mental game more than anything, I had to be present in every stride and not allow negativity to settle. The race kicks off on Granger Bay Boulevard alongside the beach which was absolutely stunning and nostalgic as my man proposed to me on the beach. It was mesmerising having the sea air fill your lungs up on a route that thankfully was flat with minimal elevation. I loved every second of the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon. At no point did I hit a slump and I plan to carry this feeling of elation in every marathon I do. Mentally I had the following phrase on repeat: ‘head up, eyes up, one foot in front of the other. Just keep moving.’ I had a stretch where I sped up a little bit to get away from a lady who was complaining about why she was running the marathon. My knee injury meant that I had to re-adjust my goals, at the start of my programme my estimation was a sub 5 hour marathon, I finished with a time of 5:59:15. For my debut marathon I could not be prouder, knowing how much I had to fight to get to the starting line made me appreciate the fact that I could run. The funniest part was that my knee didn’t act up, and even now it’s more muscle soreness that I feel and not the type of pain usually associated with an injury. It was an amazing race!!!!

My fuelling strategy that I had only tested twice on my longest run being a 22.5k, did not fail me and I am proud to say I escaped the wall. I ate at pretty regular intervals, spacing my re-fuels out every hour. Water is great BUT nothing tastes as good as ice cold Coca Cola and Powerade. I am pretty sure I guzzled a litre of that good stuff. This race was just what I needed as September through to the end of the year is usually tough for my family. October is the hardest as it’s a reminder of the glimmer of hope we had when my sister moved back home but also a reminder of the pain that still hasn’t gone away from her sudden death. On the 4th of November we laid her to rest, and a month later (3rd of December), her birthday reminds us that she is no longer here. This race was never about how fast I could go, but about running in honour of the most badass, resilient and beautiful person I had the privilege of calling my sister. I miss you so much baby girl.

Special thank you to all the kind humans who have donated. My fundraising page is still up. Thinking about the people who have supported me is what kept me going. It is how I knew I would be running this marathon as I thought of my sister and the wonderful people at Hillcrest AIDS Centre who provide hope to all those infected with HIV. I’ve heard people say that once you’ve done one marathon, the bug bites you and you start planning your next one and I think it’s true. I’m probably going to (properly) do this again…

Holding On To Heaven

Today was a bad day, in fact this week has been pretty difficult. It’s week 4 of half marathon training, the mileage has gone up, my body feels more tested and I’m plagued with the thought of why exactly am I doing this? The half marathon blues perhaps? In any case, I pushed through all feelings of lethargy (thanks to a really cool song by Foxes,) to get in today’s workout: Level 2 of Jillian Michaels Ripped In 30, an hour of Tae-bo II (get ripped) followed by Silje Norendal’s 15 minute workout on Nike Training Club. All in all, a very jam packed morning! I am a HUGE fan of  workout DVD’s. When I was in high school and I couldn’t afford a gym membership, Jane Fonda and Billy Blanks were instrumental in getting me in shape. When I moved to London in 2008, I avoided the dreaded weight gain that comes from starting university with these DVD’s. I don’t find it as challenging as before…on some days haha but I love the cardio burst that I get. I’ve also found that by increasing your weights, your muscles definitely work harder. Last year I was using 3kg weights and this year I jumped to 5kg. I must admit, rather ashamedly that my upper body strength is rather pitiful haha. I’m a work in progress, aren’t we all?

Did I mention that I still have to squeeze in a 6k run this afternoon?