Tag: Walking

Relaxing During Testing Times

Exams and GCSEs are what’s happening on this side of the pond and lots of end of the year tests are in progress  on the other — some decide whether one passes to the next grade or not! No wonder, so many of you are feeling stressed right about now. That’s intense, no matter how you look at it.

Something’s gotta give, right? I know the feeling, even though it’s been a while since I had to sit an exam for one reason or another, but not so long that I’ve forgotten the pressure. Reading, studying, and cramming incessantly often left me too exhausted to sleep. You too. The hours meant for sleeping, especially the night before, was often spent tossing and turning fitfully.

I can still just about remember the feeling of sweet relief that washed over me when the big day had come and gone. Even if I immediately began to worry about my scores, there was something liberating about having the exam behind me.

Upon reflection, however, I now know taking exams doesn’t have to be that intense. Of course, preparation is key and that is where planning comes in but planning, as helpful and necessary as it is, might not be enough to remove some of the stressors.

There are plenty of wonderful ways to de-stress, such as yoga, meditation and so on, but some techniques take time and money and often when in school, the two can be sparse. That’s why I tend to return to two failsafe ways of relaxing, both take very little time and don’t have to cost a penny.

First things first: learn how to breathe again. Yes, you read it right. Years ago, I tried a technique called transformational breathing and though it is not for everyone, for the two reasons I mention above and others, we could all learn from the basic premise, which amends the mind positively, helping the recipient to relearn to breathe deeply and slowly.

And you didn’t know you had forgotten, right. I didn’t either until suddenly I was asked to take deep breathes rather slowly. Only then did I realise that my breathing had become shallow and it was taking a toll on my overall existence.

And though I don’t practice transformational breathing anymore, I often re-train myself to breathe properly again, anywhere and anytime and it works, to slow the mind down, the body, too and offers respite from whatever pressure is in the air. Works a jewel at night when stress is looming large over sleep, slows the mind right down, making way for sleep, something that we all need plenty of and certainly when facing exams.

Read more about breathing deeply and slowly and transformational breathing in my HuffPost blog Breathing Through The Holidays.

Now about slowing down, why not go for a walk as another simple way to de-stress. I know, I know, you thought running was my thing. It is! Some of my best ideas have come out of a long run and often when I go out for a walk, I find myself revved to run. But lately, I have learned to slow it down and come to appreciate walking for what it is, a very natural way of eradicating the mind of chatter and worry and relaxing the body, too.

First on a retreat where walking was mentioned as a way to stimulate writing, I struggled to keep it slow, but then when my trainer mentioned that walking was less stressful on the body, I put it to the test, trading in a run for a walk at least once per week.

For me, walking is not so much about pulling ideas out of the subconscious mind, the R-mode, but more so about abiding in that right mind, if you will, for as long as I can. And in that mental state, I find myself automatically relaxed.

So much for testing times! Why not relax your way through them?


Listening Up and Running With Sense

My iPhone has been my running companion for the two years that I have taken up running rather seriously.  No wonder. It is the keeper of my running music, any kind of music, including gospel, and my trusted RunKeeper app.

The thought of running without it was inconceivable until this past Saturday. Case and point: last summer while running a 10K, I must have added at least five minutes to my time when the app suddenly stopped.  Though I tried to keep going without it, I couldn’t hack it, so I stopped long enough to recover the app and my running playlist.

Meanwhile my running mate, who couldn’t conceive of running with music and so on, had long left me in the blazing distance. Still I didn’t see her point and set out to prove her wrong or just different, perhaps. So while visiting Georgia, I’d hijack my niece’s phone, having installed the app there and a substitute playlist.  And off I went. No matter where I ran, I set off with somebody’s phone.

Still I struggled, perhaps lost in the music and the commands of Ms RunKeeper, blaming my pokiness on anything but the obvious. But those days are gone, at least I hope they are. After spending about three days in sabbatical without my phone, my iPad, a single device, I finally saw the device for what it was—a distraction, certainly while running.

But seeing is next week’s focus of running with sense. This week I want to talk about hearing.  Things went so well Saturday that Monday morning, I set out yet again without the phone. Okay so it was in my pocket, just in case. But the just in case never happened, giving me the opportunity to hear London running rather smoothly, to be honest.

From birdsong to the cawing of the lone black crow perched on the lamppost, I heard London wake up. To one side of me, though I kept my head away from sooty, low waters of the Thames, I focused on the sounds of the water crashing against the gravelly shore.  For a moment, I fancied myself miles away on a remote island.

But the idea of running with sense is to stay in the moment and so I returned and further up the riverbank heard the splashing sounds of the river bus speeding along. At Battersea Bridge, I stopped and closed my eyes, listening to the thudding sounds of buses crossing, motorcycles vrooming and car engines purring and droning.

And to the other side of me, I heard the whooshing of wind passing through the trees and the rustling of leaves blowing about on the ground. All the while I sensed a calm flowing through me, even when I heard the odd sound of a banging and buzzing. The construction work was underway. Still I knew London was running smoothly. How refreshing!

Near and far I heard the striking of feet against the pavement, some running and others walking and dogs lightly trotting along, if you will. At one time, I heard my own rhythm so acutely that I was sure it must have been the sounds of another but it was mine, so I basked in it.

Then it dawned on me that scarcely a sound of the human voice was to be heard and there was something sobering about that, if only for a moment, though I heard one commuter whispering into her phone—the others going about quietly and purposefully, particularly cyclists. Speaking of cycling, did you know the turning of the wheels of a bicycle makes a lyrical sound, much like mosquitoes singing in the night? Me either.

And then they came, a class of school children running without sense if you will. They giggled, they chattered, they panted, and they shushed one another. But still it was a lovely sight to see.  They were running, really exercising! But that’s another story. Righty ho. Next week – Looking Out: Running with Sense.

Order on the Capital’s Footpaths, please

Exploring London by foot is a not only a great way to get to know the capital, but also a good way to get around from A to Z, especially when there is a Tube strike on.

Even when there isn’t, more and more people are taking to the capital’s varied and intriguing paths, unless it is really raining. A little rain doesn’t stop the show here. Anyhow, that’s a good thing (using the footpaths, that is). Right?  So it is until the path becomes popular.

On the Thames Path, for instance, I’ve noticed negligence during peak times and now and again, a similar carelessness, off peak, too.

On one occasion, a group of people, out for a morning walk with two dogs, spread out over a wide area in a park and remained oblivious to runners, walkers, and cyclists alike. Many of us had to cut through the grass to dodge them.

Another time, a little girl played a game at a public gate, opening and closing it repeatedly, though there was a regular stream of people needing to go through. Meanwhile, her mom looked on as if others were causing problems, not her child.

And if that wasn’t discourteous enough, I’ve seen cyclists go straight in the path of a runner, albeit one time stragglers were causing hiccups. Surely still, there could have been a better way, unless, of course, this cyclist was dodging dog dirt—the epitome of carelessness.

Now, if road users acted so inconsiderate as to block the road just because they were having a leisurely drive, allow their children to close public gates to keep others from coming through, set their dogs free on the highway to do whatever they jolly well pleased, and drive right into oncoming traffic, we’d not only have countless minor incidents, but also numerous major accidents. Imagine!

Sounds farcical, doesn’t it. But when it’s happening on a footpath, it somehow becomes less ludicrous and more acceptable. That’s not a good thing at all. Our footpaths ought be enjoyable for everyone, not just a few.

Perhaps, a few rules are in order, even if they are unspoken, sort of like the ones in a supermarket. For instance, you wouldn’t ram your trolley into someone else’s, unless you were trying to get their attention and you certainly wouldn’t hop the queue at the checkout unless you wanted attention. But be warned, you might not like it when you get it!

Anyhow, I came up with a few rules, tips if you will, for keeping footpaths fun for everyone.

1)   Do move aside for others, an obvious one.

2)   Don’t allow your children to close public gates. Obvious, too!

3)   Do keep dogs on a leash. Maybe not so obvious.

4)   Don’t run or ride into oncoming walkers, runners or cyclists. Quite obvious!

5)   Do please, please, please clean up after your dog. Obviously if you don’t, no one will.

6)   And don’t laugh at others when a huge bird descends upon them.

No kidding. One Sunday afternoon, I went out for a run and noticed a woman, grab her child and run off from a squawking bird. I broke my run, perhaps to assist, but she shot by me, and when I saw the speed of the unhappy bird, I took off again, too.  Still, I couldn’t help noticing several people pointing and laughing. Not funny!

No pecking in order, full stop. But minding your manners and regarding others while meandering along a footpath is certainly in order. Do have your say here.