Letters to a Future Self #5: Run to the Beat

Monday 15th September, 2014

To my Future Self,

I had the most amazing life experience yesterday and so, I wanted to record how I felt in that moment. Yesterday, I ran my first ever ten kilometre race. This race is unique in its nature, given that it gives you opportunity to listen to different current music acts along the running route. More than the music though, I want to remember how happy I felt during the race.

My story starts six months ago, when my friend asked to me sign up for the event. Naturally, I was rather apprehensive (as I am about anything this big) but I agreed. Over the summer, I trained reasonably regularly, trying to increase my distance and pace. My favourite places to run were the canal in the early morning and in the park. Now, as I am sure you can recall, I am not the most athletically minded person; the training was a big challenge and I owe a lot to my mother for pushing me out the door. The week leading up to the race was especially busy, so I’m surprised I even m
anaged to fit in those last two practices!

So, then, race day arrived. I was number 6444 in the Red Wave, which started at 9.55 am. There were over 15,000 competitors and the entire place was buzzing. The route would take me round to Preston Road, Kingsbury, Fryent Country Park and quite a lot of Wembley. It was quite hilly (I had trained on relatively flat areas) but for each climb, there was a downhill section provided to relieve my tired legs. Three things that I realised, namely: kilometres are a lot longer on race day, it is possible to run through the pain, and the presence of the public can really uplift you. Overall, I did not walk at all. In training in the last two weeks, my feet had been cramping a lot (blame those flat feet) and walking it off had been my only option. By the time I had passed four kilometres, I realised that if I hadn’t stopped already, I was unlikely to in the remaining distance. I crossed the finish line in 1:33:50, a time that I am immensely proud of. The organisers hung a medal round my neck and I couldn’t stop beaming.

For my first race ever, I have to say I did pretty damn well. I was on my own for the entire race and not once did I feel lonely or tired or emotional. I was smiling and happy, revelling in the camaraderie of the running community. From this experience, I have learned that I can commit to something for a long period of time and succeed in my goal. I need to apply this lesson to other parts of my life and not let things hold me back. It’s been a really enlightening time.

Have you continued running? I can’t imagine ever doing a half marathon any time soon. I know that I’ll definitely do this race again next year!

– Srshti

Eight Ways To Feel Healthy Without Really Trying

1. Drink an unbelievably large volume of water per day. I’d suggest about 1.6 litres per day. It clears up your skin like nobody’s business, flushes out unwanted stuff from your system and has the added bonus of keeping you alive. Some people recommend sipping water constantly over the day, but I need a more direct approach. If I have a bottle of water on me in my bag, it can stay unopened for days. I have made it a habit to make sure that whenever I do feel thirsty, I drink two glasses in one go, just to make sure. It’s difficult enough to remember to do this, so work out the best way for you. Of course, other fluids do work like juice, tea and coffee. Concentrated fruit juices (which are usually also sweetened) can sometimes be bad for your teeth, so watch out for that.

2. Walk everywhere. Going to university in a city means that I am constantly on my feet. I have made it my goal during term time, to walk at least 10,000 steps a day. When I started doing this last year, it used to be the case that my feet would feel like falling off. However, I guarantee that it is a great way to build in movement and exercise into your day, when you’re already quite busy.

 

3. Take the stairs, wherever possible. I mean it. In my halls of residence last year, I lived in an annex building right on the fifth floor. There was no lift and I had to climb over a hundred steps to get anywhere. Add in a heavy bag and all that walking I just mentioned, you’ve got a free fitness routine without having to fork out a fortune.

4. Use sweetener instead of sugar. I can really go to town on the sugar, especially when it’s in ready supply. In my tea now, I add sweetener (maybe two or three…) and it tastes ten times better. Maybe it’s more satisfying because I’m not just swallowing empty calories.

5. Find whole foods that really, really fill you up. My mother got me started on this massive dried fruit and nuts kick. At the moment, I am absolutely in love with almonds, pumpkin seeds, sultanas and walnuts. All of these taste good with chopped soft fruit (like bananas) or just on their own. I like to add them to plain yoghurt and add a generous splodge of honey on top. Not only does the assembly of my snack feel artistic, but I end up being insanely full.

6. Incorporate as much fresh fruit as you can into your diet. They’re naturally sweet and go well with everything. A good helping from a punnet of blueberries goes well over oatmeal for at least three days. Vegetables, apart from maybe the salad kind, really require effort (AKA heat) to prepare. A lot of fruit can be stored outside and then it’s always there just as you’re heading out the door. Whenever I ran the out the door for lectures in halls last year, I grabbed either a banana or an apple. 

7. Avoid excessive snacking. I know it’s easier said than done, but anything can be enjoyed in moderation. I am guilty of doing this so much and it’s part of the reason why my weight fluctuates so goddamn much. To be honest, I can devour a pack of Jaffa cakes in as much time as it takes you to blink. And let’s not even start considering my Doritos comsuption rate. I’ve been working hard this summer to really shed some of this junk food weight and I am only now feeling confident about myself. At any rate, convert to snacking on healthy stuff that’s just seasoned well. 

8. Do not sit in bed all day with your laptop five inches from your face. I have learned this the hard way. My core and lower back have been suffering lately from the Netflix marathons I’ve subjected myself to this summer. I am guilty of this particular crime even today, but I’ve realised the value of a good chair and a supporting cushion. You feel less sluggish, more productive and actually don’t get distracted by having your laptop in front of you. 

Honestly, these are things that have taken me a long time to learn. I do not claim to be a healthy lifestyle expert, but as an acne prone adult / teenager, I know what clears up my skin and makes me feel more lively and productive. I don’t follow all of this all of the time, because I have the willpower of a sloth and the attention span of a fruit fly. But I know that acting in a healthy manner really boosts my body confidence and makes me feel more mental clarity. 

I’ve been trying to train for a 10km race that will be taking place in less than two weeks. I do not move very fast (again, I look to the sloths for inspiration), I have to get my mum to motivate to get me out of the door since I love my bed too much (see above), and the results have been slow. My race t-shirt arrived the other day though and there’s a number and everything! I’m so freaking pumped and can’t wait. My time should be under two hours hopefully and I will probably be dead for days afterwards. Running bloody hurts and my knee and sides have not been very grateful, but I literally do it for my pride and the endorphin rush (so good). I don’t want to walk too much, but so what if I stop occasionally or slow down? It’s the trying that really counts. Completing this race will be the best achievement ever. 

– Srshti 

 

What does happiness mean to you? (a borderline teenager / adult perspective)

My university friend is doing an interesting research project and she asked me these questions. Since I typed out these responses, and since I sounded really deep while answering them, I decided to put up an impromptu post here!

1. What does happiness mean to you?

Happiness is a temporary but amazing feeling – it’s impossible to feel happy all the time, otherwise you wouldn’t know what it actually was. To me, happiness means a good view in the countryside, an amazing novel to get lost in, eating cake and the satisfaction of helping someone else.

2. Do you think this generation of teenagers are happy?

I think that teenagers can be very happy. But, there are immense pressures facing us too – there’s a lot of self criticism, peer pressure and doubt. Social media definitely doesn’t help this – we see other people’s digital lives and compare ourselves to them. without even knowing. 

3. In the future do you think the world will be a happier place?

It’s hard to say. There’s always lot of conflict, but there’s still a lot to be grateful for.

4. What one thing would you do to make the world happier? 

Make the world peaceful and remove inequality. I don’t know how realistic this is though. Just, maybe working towards making the world a better place. Just knowing that there can be progress, would maybe be enough to feel happiness.

Letter to a Future Self #4: Why I No Longer Want To Go Clubbing

Tuesday 19th August, 2014

 

 

Dear Future Self,

I had a minor epiphany today, one that should have maybe come a long time ago. I realised that I don’t really ever want to go clubbing in the future. There are several aspects to this. and that’s what I will proceed to explain in this letter.

Firstly, I don’t really subscribe to the drinking culture that exists in society. My family practices teetotalism. The kind of philosophy we try and stick to revolves around recreationally avoiding any substance that could affect your senses. So, naturally we avoid alcohol. For about ten months, I had a phase of occasionally having alcohol in social situations (very rarely even then, mind you), simply because of curiosity. Maybe I didn’t really consume enough, but I didn’t ever see the appeal that alcohol holds for others (also, the smell still doesn’t agree with me), so I jumped back on the teetotal bandwagon. Even though it is a popular tradition among my university friends, I don’t particularly enjoy spending hours in a pub in a corner with a coke. I feel uncomfortable and bored whenever alcohol is thrown into the mix in a big way. It makes clubbing, especially, an exhausting time. I’ve had people fall on top of me in clubs, push me into walls, spill their drink on me and talk far too loudly in my ear. Please bear in mind, I am not criticising anyone who goes clubbing or has a drink, I just don’t think it’s for me.

Secondly, I really don’t like the lateness of it all. I’m much more of a daytime socialising person and I value my sleep. If you ever want to go to dinner, lunch or a museum, I’m your girl. I can even tolerate shopping in short doses! Before big club events, people in my halls of residence would spend a long time pre-drinking in our common room. Inevitably, we would never arrive at the venue before 10,30 pm. I assure you, at that time, after a full day, I’m already knackered – why would I want to stand up for the next four to five hours? Usually, even if I paid a good £10 or more for a ticket, I would leave at maybe 1 am, and cut my losses. Equally, at that kind of time, I don’t feel comfortable in London. It’s all very good being an independent adult, but I still won’t just walk around in London for ages – night buses can be unreliable (true experience), you can get lost (again, true experience, even though I wasn’t alone), the tube doesn’t run that late, and taxis are ridiculously expensive. Got to say, the 2 am McDonald’s food was always worth it though. 

Thirdly, I don’t particularly like the entire dressing up and applying make-up aspect of things. I like comfortable shoes, clothing and surroundings. Heels make my feet hurt like hell and I don’t think I’ll ever be good at wearing them. It feels like a big show, I don’t own much ‘club appropriate’ attire (I wear jeans and t-shirts for a living) and it’s not me at all. For heaven’s sake, I didn’t even know there was a difference in day and evening attire! Obviously, at important events, I have been known to turn out reasonably well. The difference now is that I don’t really see clubbing as all that important in my life.

Just because I want to live a more daytime public existence, which I have every right to, does not mean that I want to sacrifice having a social life. I have friends who do meet me for coffee, lunch or to go walk around London for endless hours. For that, I am so grateful. The things I take joy in range from good theatre, books, walks anywhere and everywhere to food. Taking myself out of these kinds of social situations may result in some criticism from people. That’s fine though, I resolve to not let their opinions bother me. 

I wonder, how exactly do you socialise now? Please don’t become a loner by the age of thirty. That would be really sad. 

Thanks for lending me your ear (not literally speaking, of course), 

– Srshti