My top ten self-care strategies for days when you don’t feel like running
I usually find that running itself is a great form of self-care, but it’s important to listen to your body and allow yourself to rest, recover and relax as an integral part of a healthy lifestyle. These simple strategies are a great way to take some time to treat your body and mind away from the treadmill or the trails.
1. Get a good night’s sleep – Sleep is something we all do every day, but I am only recently realising just how much of an improved effect it has on my physical and mental wellbeing if I actually get enough of it. I am an early riser so I’ve been working on getting into my pyjamas and avoiding screen time a little bit earlier in the evening so that by ‘bedtime’ I’m actually ready to go to sleep. Eight hours is the magic number, but I’ve also noticed how my mood improves when I go to bed and get up at a similar time each day. So I may be having less weekend lie -ins but that just leaves more time for #sundayrunday, right?
2. Have a cup of tea – So simple, so effective. It may be stereotypical to say it but I truly believe that tea makes everything better. It could be an invigorating mug of English breakfast, a refreshing mug of green tea with lemon, or a soothing honey and ginger infusion – they are all a brilliant starting point for carving out a moment of calmness in a busy day. To aid recovery from running in particular, I have recently started drinking turmeric tea, as this spice is praised for its anti-inflammatory properties. Delicious!
3. Light a candle – Burning a candle is a sure-fire way to create a relaxing atmosphere to help you wind down for the evening. You can even use the flame as a focus point for a few minutes of meditation, where the aim is to free your mind from everything except that gentle glow. It’s also a delight for the nose – my favourite scent at the moment is Lemon Poppy Seed from Anthropologie’s Boulangerie range. It smells divine and lasts ages too.
4. Listen to music – I know I’m usually a podcast advocate but I find singing along to my favourite songs a wonderful way to lift my spirits after a long and tiring day of work. Show tunes are my go-to genre, whether they’re songs from musicals I’ve previously taken part in with Ringwood Music and Dramatic Society or productions I’ve seen in the West End. Recently I’ve been listening to the soundtrack to 'Waitress' on repeat – such a fantastic and feel-good show with songs written by Sara Bareilles. If you get a chance to see it I would thoroughly recommend you go!
5. Read a book – A great friend of mine and founder of Jiggle Fitness, Lydia Shaw, inspired me to re-introduce reading as part of my daily self-care routine earlier this year. We were talking about what we were planning to give up for Lent, and she suggested that instead of giving something up, why not add something valuable to each day? Since then I have made time almost every evening to read a few pages, whether that’s a chick lit novel to laugh along with, a non-fiction guide to help me improve my running or a magazine such as Women’s Health. It’s great to learn something new and understand other people’s experiences and perspectives as well as getting some time away from those brightly lit screens. Thank you, Lydi!
6. Stretch it out – I am happy to confess that I’m not an accomplished yogi but I have been along to a few classes with my sister and enjoyed taking time to slow down and stretch out. And although the class is worth it even if you’re just there for the Savasana, you don’t have to leave your living room to practice this self-care ritual. Child’s Pose is one of my favourite to relax into, as well as Happy Baby. If you don’t know where to start, why not take a few minutes sitting cross legged on the floor and focus on breathing deeply?
7. Put on a face mask – It may seem indulgent to give yourself a weekly facial, but putting on a face mask has become a key part of my self-care routine. The whole experience is completely invigorating, from applying the smooth and gloopy liquid over my forehead, cheeks and chin, to gently removing it with a soft flannel to reveal my rejuvenated-looking skin beneath. My favourite at the moment is Origins Active Charcoal Mask – it really does the trick and one tube goes a very long way.
8. Paint your nails – I don’t tend to wear much makeup or jewellery, but I love having freshly painted nails. If my nails are bare, I feel a little bit like the rest of me is bare too! It’s another simple technique that can so easily make me feel better and like I am taking care of myself properly. Also, if you’ve got wet nails, it’s the perfect excuse to pause and reflect, which we often find difficult to incorporate into busy schedules – you don’t want to risk smudging your new manicure by rushing onto the next item on your to-do list.
9. Do the dishes – Now this might sound like a chore, but I once read somewhere (I wish I could remember where!) that if that long to-do list is looming over you and you feel overwhelmed about where to start, doing a simple and mindless task like the washing up can help get you in a positive mind-set to do more complicated tasks later. And it’s always a great feeling when everything is washed, dried and put away where it belongs. I still think I’d like a dishwasher one day though!
10. Go for a walk – If running is a step too far for you to cope with today, why not trade your run for a walk? Many of the benefits remain the same, especially if you are getting outside and getting exposure to vitamin D and the calming benefits of some time in nature. Walking alone can give you dedicated time to think about issues that are weighing you down, but walking with a friend can also help you get worries off your chest, especially as walking side by side you aren’t under pressure to make eye contact.
You don’t have to do all ten of these ideas at once, but give a few a go the next time life starts to get a bit chaotic. I strongly believe it will be worth taking those few extra self-indulgent moments in the long run and you are guaranteed to find something that will boost your mood, even if it’s just momentarily. The more you incorporate self-care routines into your daily habits, the more beneficial they will become.
Let me know your favourite self-care strategy in the comments below – how do you unwind after a busy week or perk yourself up when things aren’t going right?
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