Walking Mindfully makes my heart sing. What makes your heart sing?

It has been over 6 months since Mark Pattenden inspired me to #MoveMoreInMarch so I thought it was time to update you.  I pledged to walk 100 miles in March – a goal which I achieved – and I have to say that I haven’t stopped walking since! It has become my favourite Saturday pastime. I walk with my friend Pauline Roberts, who is an amateur photographer, and we walk ‘mindfully’ – often in companionable silence – as we immerse ourselves in the beauty of our surroundings.

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Walking the beautiful Cotswold Canals

When I started walking in March, I ensured I ‘made time’ to walk every day, regardless of the weather and I have to confess that I haven’t done that for a while.  I much prefer to walk at the weekend, where we have slowly increased the distance we walk to a maximum of around 10 miles.  As I mentioned before we do walk ‘mindfully’ so we do not walk with the sole intent of reaching our destination in good time, nor do we engage in non-stop conversation which might absorb our consciousness to the point that we ignore our surroundings… instead we take our time, noticing beautiful things around us such as the shy robins who momentarily flash their red-breasts at us, confirming we are on the right path just as we are beginning to doubt ourselves, flirtatious butterflies who tease us with their colourful wings before folding them in as we try to photograph them, preening swans who sometimes pluck out a feather for us to take home, busy bees who play hide and seek amongst scented flowers blissfully unaware of us observing them, darting dragonflies with wondrous neon colours, ancient trees which reveal their hidden faces to us, babbling brooks which gently polish sparkling stones, blue skies brimming with glorious cloud formations…  and so much more.

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Pauline and I have both chosen to book time off work – a day here and there – to enable us to walk twice a week and we have been blessed with beautiful weather… at least on most of the days we have walked. There have been occasions when we have walked in rain, wind and hail and as the winter approaches, I am sure we will have many more wet-weather walks.  Will this stop us walking? No… but we might need to invest in some waterproof clothing!

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15 minutes after the heavens opened on us, the visibility started to clear

I was curious to find out how many miles I had walked over the last six months.  I felt it would fall far short of the 100 miles which I managed in March.  I am fortunate in that I have a Fit-bit which helpfully produces a weekly summary, so I transferred this information onto a spreadsheet and was surprised and delighted to discover that in 6 months (1st March to 31st August) I had walked 580 miles, which is not far short of 100 miles a month. Whilst that may not sound like much to the ‘more active’ readers of this blog post, it is a huge improvement on the amount of walking I had achieved previously.  My fitness level has definitely improved – I am actually able to walk and talk now, if I choose to – and although I have not lost any weight, my shape has definitely changed.

I have a lot to thank Mark Pattenden for.  We have been friends on social media for some years now and as I mentioned previously, it was Mark’s inspirational Facebook posts which motivated me to move more and I have seen many beautiful things over the last six months which have made my heart sing. 

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Spot the angel and the sniper…

In fact, I have started uploading some of the film clips I have taken during my walks to YouTube so that I can replay them and embrace the feel-good factor that they induce.   Mark and I are both volunteer fundraisers and in the past we have both (independently) created fundraising initiatives for several charities. Mark inspires people of all abilities and a few months ago I nominated him for the Prime Minister’s Points of Light Award, for his voluntary work.  I was delighted when he was recently presented with the 754th Points of Light Award by the CEO of Archery GB – oh, have I mentioned that Mark is aiming to represent GB in Archery, at the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo? As with all volunteer fundraisers, Mark has dedicated a huge chunk of his life to helping charities – now Mark is looking for support himself.  His goal is to raise enough funding to ensure he can continue training 6 days a week to fulfill his Paralympic dream.  I have donated to his crowdfunding page – I hope you might be inspired enough to do the same.

In the meantime I will continue with my weekend walks and brace myself for the colder weather.  I might just have to invest in a waterproof camera, unless someone knows how to take photos/videos with an iPhone in the rain WITHOUT ruining the phone?  Please comment below if you have any top tips.  

I believe it’s really important to do something in life which makes your heart sing.  It’s a key factor in self-care, which has been found to decrease stress, increase energy, improve well-being and evoke feelings of happiness.  

What do you do that makes your heart sing?

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No time to exercise? Dispelling the myths

On 1st March, I wrote a blog post about why a man with one leg had inspired me to #MoveMoreInMarch and I pledged to walk 100 miles in March.  I have a fairly sedentary lifestyle – my work involves sitting down all day – so for me, this would involve a big lifestyle change and some careful planning.  Like many people, I work long hours and when I’m not with, or completing work for, clients, I am usually filling my time with things I am passionate about e.g. fundraising initiatives, which also involves sitting down!  I wear a Fitbit and on a ‘normal’ day I usually walk approx 0.5 to 1.5 miles (1192 to 3651 steps) which really isn’t good for my health or well-being, but I’ve always said that I don’t have time in my busy day to exercise.  I’ve also been known to say that if I had a dog, then I would have a reason to walk… and that I wasn’t motivated to go for a walk on my own – that wouldn’t be any fun at all, would it?

Time to dispel the myths! During March, I have discovered:-

  1. It is possible to fit exercise into my life – albeit not every day, but certainly most.
  2. I don’t need a dog to enable me to walk.
  3. Walking on my own IS fun – walking with a friend is fun too.

Other things I have discovered:-

  1. Having started to walk every day, on the days when I literally can’t fit it in I miss it.
  2. The blossom on the trees and bushes smells wonderful.
  3. How much ‘wildlife’ there is to see, even in the suburbs.
  4. Gloucestershire is even more beautiful than I thought it was.
  5. Just how far I am capable of walking.
  6. Meeting a friend for a walk is much more fun than meeting a friend for lunch!

I am delighted to share with you that I walked 112.66 miles in March.  As part of my pledge, I promised to donate £31 (£1 for every day of the month) to Mark Pattenden, Kelly Jackson and Hannah Moore’s #TogetherWeCan fundraising initiative  to fund a running blade for Hannah.  The blade will cost £9,000, so if you’re reading this and you’re in a position to make a donation (small or large) please do.  Mark has pledged to run #10kADay from 1st March to the end of December (or until the £9,000 target has been reached) and whilst I am proud that I have WALKED over 100 miles in March, in comparison to the 310k (192 miles) Mark has RUN in the same period… on one leg and a running blade… well, there is NO comparison!

And there is more… I can’t tell you how lovely it is when friends say “Your #MoveMoreInMarch pledge has encouraged ME to move more too.”  Several have told me that they had been about to get into their car to go to the local shop, thought of me and WALKED instead. 

Finally, I would like to share with you something that happened on the 30th March.  It was my birthday and my friend Pauline (a local amateur photographer) had booked a day off work to help me celebrate.  Pauline has joined me on some of my walks, so I suggested that we drive to Wales to do the Four Falls Trail, in the Brecon Beacons.  We parked in the Gwaun Hepste car-park and set off on the trail in glorious sunshine.  There had been quite a lot of rainfall in March, so the waterfalls were magnificent.  The trail was described as ‘energetic’ which we found quite an amusing term, until about half-way through! Our fitness levels were severely tested, particularly by the ascent after visiting the final fall on the trail ‘Sgwd yr Eira’ which was described as ‘strenuous’, having 170 steps which descended (and of course ‘ascended on the way back up) 330ft (100m).  This wasn’t helped by the fact that I insisted on walking along the track behind the waterfall and got soaked through to the skin by doing so! What an experience! We had also forgotten that the trail from the car-park to the falls was downhill, so walking back up was very challenging. (Understatement of the year.)  But I do believe the amount of walking Pauline and I had achieved in March had really improved our fitness levels, making the day far more pleasurable than it might have been in February!!  I have to say that it was one of the best birthdays I have ever had.

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Photo courtesy of Pauline Roberts 

And in case you’re wondering… I intend to continue walking.  It’s part of my life now and I love it.

 

#MoveMoreInMarch Is this pledge changing my mentality? Already?

Since starting my pledge to #MoveMoreInMarch, I had managed to walk 35.11 miles by the end of Thursday 9th March – an average of 3.9 miles a day – so I was well on track to achieving my pledged 100 miles (an average of 3.23 miles a day).

However, I woke up on Friday feeling overwhelmingly tired. It happens sometimes.  I saw clients in the morning, but by lunchtime my energy hadn’t returned.  I worked through the afternoon, hoping that the exhaustion would pass – it didn’t.  By the time I went to bed, I had managed a paltry 1.12miles or 2,639 steps.  I felt very frustrated, but interestingly – looking at my ‘Step history’ – I walked less than this distance on 10 separate days in February and didn’t feel frustrated about it then. Is this pledge changing my mentality? Already? When I went to bed last night I decided not to set my alarm and to sleep as long as my body needed, which was just over eight and a half hours and I woke far less tired than the previous day.

I texted my friend Pauline (a local amateur photographer) who had planned to go to Gloucester Docks today, to take some photos.  I decided I would walk to meet her and we arranged to walk to the Docks together.  As I left the house, I checked my Fitbit… only to notice the flat-battery symbol! How frustrating.  I grabbed the charger from the car, thinking I could charge it at Pauline’s prior to walking to the Docks.  I was about half-way into my journey when I realised I had picked up the phone charger instead of the Fitbit charger!

Thankfully, my Fitbit didn’t die before I arrived at Pauline’s.  She photographed the ‘miles’ and the ‘steps’ displayed, and from that point we were dependent on her tracker.  After a quick visit to the pharmacy for some blister plasters (I had made the mistake of wearing new trainers and very thin socks) we popped into the closest sports shop for some ‘padded’ socks, which I duly put on, before we continued to the Docks. 

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We detoured to Gloucester Quays Shopping Outlet, where we both bought proper ‘walking shoes’ (I confess that my heels were so sore that I wore my new walking shoes out of the shop!) before moving on to the Docks to take photos. 

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Arriving back at Pauline’s we noted how far we had walked.  To my surprise, despite the flat battery, my Fitbit was able to display my miles and I already knew how many miles my walk home would be, from walking to Pauline’s from my house in the morning.  To my delight, when I arrived home, my Fitbit managed to display the total miles I had walked today and sync with my iPad!  To say I’m impressed with the performance of my Fitbit is an understatement.

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It’s surprising how much you notice when you walk.  I spotted my first honey bee and my first bumble bee, both feasting on fragrant mahonia. In fact, walking through Barnwood Arboretum on the way home, my senses were seduced by the scent of the blossom.  It really is a beautiful time of year and it makes me think just how much I would be missing, if I hadn’t pledged to #MoveMoreInMarch. If you live a sedentary lifestyle, why not try it?

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I give… because it feeds my soul

“You give but little when you give of your possessions.  It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.”
The Prophet – Kahlil Gibran

 

I follow @michaelchatman on Twitter. Michael is a ‘Global Ambassador of Giving’ and “one of America’s most listened to voices in philanthropy”.  He hosts #WHYiGive, every Tuesday on Twitter, where he encourages his followers to say – in 141 characters, including the hashtag #WHYiGive – why THEY give.  The reasons given are inspirational  – and varied. 

Reading through the tweets made me reflect on why I give and there is only one answer – because it feeds my soul.

I have met a lot of people in life who haven’t quite got the hang of ‘giving’.  Take volunteering, for example.  Someone I thought I knew really well once said to me “I don’t understand why anyone would ever choose to volunteer.  Why would anyone do something for nothing?” The comment made me look at that person in a whole different light.  I realised I really didn’t know them at all.  I tried to explain, but it was futile and that made me very sad.  Why? Because that person will never know the joy that volunteering brings… the warm cosy feeling you get when you know you have helped someone… if you have ever volunteered, you will know what I mean.

‘Giving’ means different things to different people.  For some people it simply means buying gifts for their friends and family, especially on birthdays and other special occasions.  Sometimes they then tell the people who they had so much fun buying presents for, ‘not’ to buy a gift in return.  They can be quite adamant about it.  They may take this stance for a variety of reasons, but the bottom line is that they are depriving their friends and family of the joy of giving, which could be perceived as being a little selfish.  Ben Carson famously stated “Happiness doesn’t result from what we get, but from what we give.” Have you ever had great pleasure in buying, wrapping, giving a gift to someone and then instructed them not to buy for you? Perhaps you don’t really ‘need’ anything, or you may think that they can’t afford to buy you a gift? There can be many reasons for making such a request, but perhaps a kinder approach would be to explain that you don’t really need anything, but you do have a fondness for….. and suggest something that they could make/easily afford, e.g. fruit cake, chocolate truffles, breakfast tea….. Or after explaining that you don’t really need anything, you could add “unless you happen to see any (suggest something unusual and inexpensive) because I can’t buy it anywhere.” This not only relaxes the ‘no giving’ rule, but with most things being available via the internet it will enable them to do a quick search, hopefully find the item and experience the joy of buying, wrapping, giving…. knowing that they have bought the perfect gift for you!

Another form of ‘giving’ is the increasingly popular Random Acts of Kindness (RAK).  In fact, I am a RAKtivist. Social Media is full of tales of RAKs, for example people paying for the groceries which the person behind them in the queue had planned to buy, food and drink being given to homeless people, special messages being written on restaurant bills for the waiting staff and indeed, the waiting staff writing messages on the receipts for special customers.  Acts of kindness towards strangers is not a new phenomenon and many of us grew up with ‘helping others’ as a core value, which was reinforced at Brownies, Cubs, Girl Guides, Scouts, The Girls Brigade and within many other groups to which we may have belonged.  Other core values were to respect your elders, to speak when you’re spoken to, to give up your seat on public transport for a lady, or a mother & child, or an elderly person… the list was endless and sadly many of those values seem to have been diluted with the passing of time.  Perhaps, in the future, all of the old traditional values will become de rigueur, but for the time being let’s concentrate on giving.

My favourite type of giving, is when I give my time and energy to someone who needs help with something, which they would have struggled to have done on their own.  I don’t like to see anyone struggle, so if I have the capacity to help them, I will.  We all have different skills and abilities; sharing them with each other, and giving a little of ourselves, can make a huge difference both to us and to those around us.  I am convinced that everyone has something to give, if they choose to.  Sadly not everyone chooses to, although people like Michael Chatman and organisations such as Kindness UK may encourage them to change.  A banner on the Kindness UK website quotes Princes Diana “Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.”  November 13th is both World Kindness Day & Kindness Day UK – the perfect day for Giving and the perfect day to feed your soul.