The Mother & Teenager C25K Challenge

One thing I never thought I would be taking up again at 50 is running!  I did all that and got the t-shirt way back in my 20's and 30's. Keeping fit and healthy is of course a priority, but over the last decade it has been of a more conservative nature than returning to pounding the streets and parks of South London.  So what happened?

Well with a a staycation planned for our summer and lazy days stretching ahead with just the youngest teen for company, it struck me that we could both benefit from something to focus on and as I wrote only a short while ago having a shared interest with your child or teens is so valuable.  It gives us a common purpose, keeps us talking and keeps our relationship alive and as any parent with teenagers will realise that is not a bad thing.

There are some seriously accomplished running mumbloggers out there, Sarah at Mum of Three World for one and some like the fabulous Prabs at Absolutely Prabulous who like me is pushing back against midlife in style.  There have also been many wonderful and inspirational pieces written by other bloggers about their own Couch to 5K (C25K) journey including Charlie over at Mess & Merlot, who not content with reaching the 5K milestone, pushed herself onto 10K.  Aspirational indeed but for now we like all newcomers are just focusing on the first steps to 5K.

The C25K programme is not new, it has actually been around since 1996 and ironically was actually devised by a young man called Josh Clark with his 50 year old mother in mind, to encourage her to address her health.

When I hit 50 earlier this year I reviewed my midlife exercise regime with its focus heavily towards Pilates and Barre work outs and booked sessions with personal trainer Clare at Live In Fitness Retreat.  A 56 year old whose mantra is that "50 doesn't define us anymore", Clare took me outside of my comfort zone and introduced me to HIIT, a way of exercising that can be done in just 12 minutes a day.  It was a real eye opener for me in terms of my cardio-vascular health, I managed the sessions and still do some at home, but it was evident that it was something I had neglected in recent years.

Following in the footsteps of Josh Clark's mother and all the other 50 year olds like her I hope that apart from binding me in a shared agony with my daughter, running again will address that area of weakness for me.  But this experience is not just about me, the other half of the "us" is my daughter who is keen to return to school in September fit and ready for the hockey season ahead, with its gruelling training schedule of early mornings and late afternoons.  For her it is all about improving her stamina and of course hanging out with me!

So how has it been so far?  Well we are almost at the end of the third week of the nine week programme and I think I can safely say we both feel quite smug.  Firstly, because we have proved to the doubting boys in the house that the girls in the house can do "sweaty, heart pumping" exercise if we put our minds to it and secondly because quite frankly not every day has been easy!

There have been days when we have been too hot, too cold or soaked to the skin by archetypal English downpours.  Some mornings we have just been dog tired.  We have also been embarrassed as we pass people we know with the dulcet tones of Michael Jordan booming from our phones encouraging us to start, to stop, to run, to walk but most importantly to keep a steady pace and just keep going.

This aside, however, we have enjoyed the warm up walk and the chance to chat about "stuff"; the way we feel at the end of each session; the fact we keep on doing it not because we have to but because we want to and that as each run passes we have ticked another box, plus we are getting close to noticing a real difference.  Of course we have exchanged a few cross words along the way but we don't pant now, we breathe and not just in time with our own footsteps but with each other. We are in sync on our runs, supporting and coaxing each other along the way.

Josh Clark said that he wanted the programme to be easy and rewarding, recognising that we are creatures of inertia and need carrots to get moving and to continue.  In that regard, it is working for us thus far.  As beginners the schedule is sustainable.  I don't know how far we will go with it and whether once we reach the end and tick off our first 5K we will then join the masses running several times a week.  I do, however, hope that we will both reap the rewards of improved fitness and at the very least we will get together once a week for some more "us" time.  Watch this space!

 

Have you embarked on the C25K challenge or something like it?  If so I would love to hear how you coped.

 

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Coping With Panic Attacks – A Modern Day Epidemic

"I think I am having a panic attack!  How can I stop it?"

Both my teenagers have asked me this question at some point during their young lives.  Panic occurs as a natural result of anxiety.  Yet anxiety is a term so readily bandied around nowadays that it is sometimes difficult to differentiate between that which is genuinely life changing and that which is a fleeting response to a stressful situation.

We all have moments in our lives which we find stressful but anxiety at its most serious is debilitating and can drastically affect the sufferer's day to day life and that of those around them.

In the case of my teens both were experiencing moments of heightened anxiety as a result of exams, a normal scenario for many.  However, as  a sufferer of panic attacks myself some years ago I am all too conscious of the need not to dismiss another's anxiety out of turn and find myself naturally sympathetic to those coming out as a fellow victim.

My own experience was unprecedented.  There was no logical reason for it and that is often the most frustrating aspect.  It doesn't make sense.  But then again it is not meant to.  I consider myself to be a relatively resilient person but found myself knocked sideaways for a good 6 months by recurrent panic attacks.

Surviving or Thriving, the report released earlier this year by the Mental Health Foundation revealed that over a quarter of people in the UK say that they have experienced panic attacks at some point during their lives.  That is not an insignificant number and justifies the need for an emphasis on treating and caring for our nation's mental health.

The challenge with anxiety lies in recognising when you have a problem that could benefit from expert help.

So starting with the basics, what is a panic attack and what does it feel like?

If you talk to anyone that has had a panic attack one of the first things they would say in describing one is that they thought they were having a heart attack or rather what they imagined a heart attack to feel like anyway.

A racing heart is a classic physical symptom of a panic attack, along with an inability to breathe which can lead to a period of hyperventilating, sweating, severe nausea and trembling.

The triggers, however, are less easy to identify and that is what can make treating them seem like an uphill struggle.  Whilst the fact you are experiencing panic attacks is due to a period of stress past or present and your body's physical reaction to it, the specific episodes themselves are not linked by a common situation.

My first attack occurred in a shopping centre discussing bed linen with a shop assistant.  My second walking to collect my children from school.  My third in a queue in the post office. One of my worst was in Athens on top of the Acropolis, marring what was an idyllic moment during a family holiday.

None of these situations were stressful and that is the difference between an isolated attack induced by a specifically stressful scenario like sitting an exam, standing up in front of hundreds to give a speech or fighting off an attacker and an actual disorder.

I had experienced some stressful situations in my life a divorce, a parent with cancer but at the time of the attacks themselves my only stress was the everyday kind, but it is possible after periods of intense stress for something small to trigger a physical reaction that can then spiral out of control if ignored.

Treating panic attacks requires the sufferer to recognise the onset of an attack and know how to control it.  That is easier said than done of course.  The feeling is overwhelming and the memory of how it renders you helpless so terrifying it can be a self-perpetuating problem as you become taken over by it.  The fear of having another attack also comes with its own problems including a reluctance to go out or put yourself in a social situation where you may not be able to control  an attack.

I am not an expert.  I only have my own experience and treatment to draw upon but that has been enough for me to encourage others not to dismiss panic attacks as a "passing phase".  This is particularly easy when dealing with young people as teenagers are notorious for behaviour which can easily be dismissed as "just a phase they are going through".

I have been reminded of the agony of panic attacks recently by the stories of two young teenagers known by our family and both the same age as my daughter, just 14.  The first is the daughter of a very dear friend and the second a school friend of my daughter's.

There was a time when I was reluctant to discuss my own experience, preferring to push it to the back of my mind as an unfortunate episode, but of course as with everything there shouldn't be a stigma associated with panic attacks and sometimes personal recommendations can make a difference in helping others to make sense of what is happening to them or someone they know and if that someone is a young person then that is a job well done.

CBT played a big role in my recovery.  As someone who had always historically shunned therapy I surprised myself with how quickly I embraced it in this instance.  It helped me to make sense of what was happening which I couldn't do on my own.   Once I grasped that I could train my mind to take back control of my body I became less anxious about the attacks and more willing to explore contolling mechanisms that worked for me.  Ultimately the objective was to remove the fear and get my mind to a point where it would forget what panic attacks were.

Nutrition was also important.  My body was being swamped by adrenaline during these attacks and I was encouraged to remove any other stimulants to my nervous system.  Caffeine and sugar were the obvious ones.

Exercise and an emphasis on controlling my breathing were addressed with regular Pilates sessions.

Aside from these lifestyle changes, I also had what I fondly refer to as my panic attack first aid kit which comprised a few things that gave me the confidence to continue as normal, safe in the knowledge that if something did happen in public I could manage it.  A bottle of water to splash on my face, a brown paper bag to manage my breathing and a barley sugar to remove the nausea became permanent accessories in my handbag for when the attacks came knocking.

Collectively all this helped get me to a point where the attacks not only no longer scared me, but became shorter in length as a I learnt how to manage them and then eventually they occurred less frequently, until such a time as I wasn't experiencing them at all anymore. There is no real danger to someone from a panic attack other than the one that their mind may create and that is why it is one of the most treatable anxiety issues and where the phrase mind over matter has never been more pertinent.  My key piece of advice for what it is worth, is don't dismiss panic attacks as a phase, seek help early and take control before they control you.

 

Have you suffered from a panic disorder or know someone who has?  Do you have any experiences or tips to share?

 

 

 

 

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Educating Out Prejudice – Just How Tolerant Are We?

"Why on earth would I want to end my week by going to see a play about a man having sex with a goat?"   This was the question asked by a very dear friend as we set off to the theatre last week.

The play in question was Edward Albee's The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? with Damian Lewis and Sophie Okonedo.  Avid theatre goers, we have all enjoyed many a memorable night together, but none quite like last week.

It divided and united us in equal measure which to me at least is an indication of a good play.  Theatre is not about pure entertainment it is about provoking a reaction, encouraging the audience to ask questions of themselves and society and The Goat Play as it is fondly known did just that.

I would be lying if I said the actors weren't largely responsible for getting me through the door, but so too was my natural curiosity.  I was not familiar with the play before attending last week so went albeit with some doubts simmering beneath the surface, a relatively open mind.

Enjoying drinks in the Oscar Wilde bar before the performance, we listened as the waitress regaled everyone with stories on audience reactions since opening, including those about some finding it all too much and leaving mid-performance.  In all honesty as we settled into our seats we were expecting our dear friend to join them.

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The play is a quasi Greek tragedy.  It is the story of Martin, a married, middle-aged man and successful architect and his tragic fall from grace and the consequences upon his family, when he falls in love spiritually and physically with a goat.  Not only is this an unquestionably absurd story line it is evidently repugnant.

Bestiality is not an easy subject matter.  Shock is the predominant reaction of both the other characters in the play and the audience, as simultaneously you find yourselves experiencing the full emotional gamut of disgust, horror and anger, recoiling with every moral fibre in your body.

However, the play is not about bestiality, it is merely a means to an end.  By using a subject matter so unnatural and divisive, what the play does brilliantly is highlight how intolerant as a society we are and question how far we have really come in our seemingly progressive thinking.

The play is not asking us to accept bestiality but it forces us to hold up a mirror and look at our own prejudicial weaknesses.  Who is to say what is tolerable and what is not?  This is accentuated superbly by Martin's own incongruous response to his gay teenage son's sexual preferences, which he finds difficult to comprehend.

Albee said in an interview at the play's New York premiere "I want everybody to be able to think about what they can’t imagine and what they have buried deep as being intolerable and insufferable."

By shining the spotlight on those living outside the conventional, it is a play about the limits of our tolerance and who we really are.

Our tweens and teenagers are growing up in an increasingly more tolerant and progressive society than the one we inhabited at their age, yet still Albee's message is pertinent.

No-one likes to think of themselves as being prejudiced but we all have our own individual views on what is acceptable and what is not and and thereby unless we all share the same views, prejudice in some shape or form will exist and nowhere is this more prevalent than in relation to our sexual preferences.

"How would you feel if one of your friends came out as a Lesbian?" "Who knows what it means to be Gender Neutral?" "How accepting do you think you would be of a transgender woman at school?" were among the many questions asked of my daughter's class during lessons and debates marking LGBT History Month.

Homophobia in our schools is described as being at epidemic levels and it is commendable that there is a concerted effort at breaking down these barriers early, educating out prejudice and encouraging a more open-minded society, yet how easy is it to influence a change in opinion later in life?  Only last week Caitlyn Jenner was subject to transphobic abuse whilst leaving the British LGBT awards, demonstrating that even in an environment where tolerance should be high, there is still a way to go in our seemingly liberal society to being more inclusive.

There is no doubt though that there is a commitment to challenging the limits of our tolerance and even the big consumer brands are getting in on the act.  Heineken's new Worlds Apart campaign partners groups of strangers with a variety of opposing views including a transgender woman and a right-wing guy who thinks it's "wrong," and in doing so attempts to overcome barriers in our polarized world.

In the meantime, plays like The Goat, will continue to entertain and shock in equal measure and force us to question our own moral judgment of a variety of social taboos, not just sexual ones.  As for us, well we left the play agreeing to disagree on whether that is possible, but the mere fact we debated it went some way to achieving Albee's purpose of forcing us to stand back and consider a different stance to the black and white version.

 

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Sleepless Nights – Tackling Insomnia in Menopause

"How did you sleep darling?" is the habitual morning question from my husband. How "well" and particularly how "badly" we sleep is not only a subject of marital discussion but is also a national and international obsession.

Obviously, sleep requirements vary by individual but most healthy adults need between 7 and 9 hours per night.  Sleeping well is vital for looking and feeling good, regardless of our age. It doesn't matter if we lead a healthy lifestyle or are as fit as a fiddle, we are only as good as the amount of sleep we get and a bad night's sleep will almost certainly leave us feeling lethargic, unable to concentrate, bad-tempered and in some cases depressed.

There are a multitude of reasons why people don't sleep, worry and stress of course being the most common.   Personally, I have suffered a range of sleep issues in my lifetime each with their own set of challenges, including being married to a prolific snorer .

According to the Great British Bedtime Report, however, I am not alone and "partner disturbance" as it is aptly called is the UK's second most common cause of disrupted sleep with women more likely to be affected than men (31% compared to 19%).

Partner disturbances like child disturbances are similar in that over time your body and mind develop their own coping mechanisms. The same cannot be said, however, of the shift in sleeping patterns that accompanies the transition to menopause - which is when women start to commonly experience really significant changes in the quality of their sleep and I am no exception.

Going to sleep is not a problem for me, the issue is that I wake up during the night often at 3am and then have difficulty returning to sleep again, if at all.  This inability to stay asleep is known as "maintenance insomnia".

A Fitbit devotee for some time now, I became obsessed with checking my sleep stats and was horrified to see that on average I was clocking up just 5 hours sleep a night and that I was restless or fully awake anywhere between 16 and 20 times a night.

According to the Sleep Council  "A ‘very poor’ night’s sleep can be defined as less than five hours: and a third of those who suffer from insomnia routinely sleep for less than five hours".  To deepen my misery I completed the Council's Great British Sleep Survey and was not surprised to learn that my sleep score was 3.75/Low.

For women like me on the journey from peri-menopause through menopause, the hormonal fluctuations occurring in our bodies at this time throw our body's chemistry completely out of kilter.  This can wreak havoc with our emotional and physical state and disrupt sleep enough to induce insomnia and because the shift to menopause can last a number of years insomnia symptoms can go from transient and temporary to chronic and severe during this time.  It is also a vicious circle because the more sleep you lose the worse everything else is.  Fun it most certainly isn't and it can have a significant impact upon your family.  This was my husband's white flag email:

"Darling, been reading a lot of websites and articles. This one seemed to make the most sense to me.  Let's talk when you want to.  Supporting Your Partner During Menopause  https://www.verywell.com/supporting-your-partner-during-menopause-2322673"

I have written previously about my quest to attempt to address various lifestyle issues arising from my menopause and this email was probably an incentive to get on with it.  Along with increased irritability, insomnia was one of the primary reasons I sought expert advice earlier this year.  Yes as a parent I have known debilitating tiredness, but the exhaustion from insomnia in menopause is totally unforgiving.

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During my consultation, the results of my hormone tests,  showed I was lacking in progesterone, the happy hormone, whose primary function is to relax us and keep us calm, all of those qualities we need to not only keep us balanced, but also to ensure restful sleep.

Declining estrogen at this time also has a role to play and whilst my tests showed my decline in estrogen wasn't as marked as my progesterone, estrogen does help to deepen our sleep and therefore could be the reason I couldn't stay asleep.

It is now 3 months since I was first prescribed a course of bio-identical hormone therapy and during this time I have returned for a follow-up consultation.  The initial prescription went some way to addressing my symptoms, with my husband in particular noting an improvement in my moodiness or as he fondly calls it a reduction in my flash to bang and I was also managing to stay asleep at night more than I had previously.

Everything that happens on the course to menopause is down to your hormones and you quite simply can 't control your hormones without medication, but equally hormone therapy is not for everyone, so hormones aside, what are the best ways of combating insomnia in menopause and getting a good night's sleep?

  • Invest in a decent bed.  Given that we spend a third of our lives in bed, a comfortable bed is vital regardless of whether you are menopausal or not.  Obviously the quality of the mattress has a big part to play in this and the Sleep Council recommends that we replace our mattress at least once every seven years.  The choice is extensive now and is no longer just about soft or hard either, new to the market foam mattresses adapt to all body shapes, sizes and sleeping styles.
  • Use natural bedding.  Avoid synthetic fabrics to ensure you keep cool whilst you sleep, which if you suffer from night time sweats during the menopause is a great help.  Good ventilation in the bedroom is also advised.
  • Sleep schedule. Make sure to only go to bed when you feel sleepy, and get up if you find yourself awake for longer than quarter of an hour. By reducing the time in bed you spend awake you can improve your ‘sleep efficiency’, and as a result your sleep quality.
  • Sleep hygiene.  Keep all electronic devices from the bedroom.  It is really tempting to just check your "instagram" or your "twitter" before nodding off but it all acts as unnecessary stimulation. The best advice for a restful night's sleep is universally to go to bed at a set time, avoid caffeine before bed and opt instead for a calming drink (my personal favourite is Pukka night-time tea) and do something to help you relax whether that be relaxation techniques or simply reading.
  • Keep moving.  Whatever your life-stage, exercise is important full stop to combat a range of physical and mental health issues but a sedentary lifestyle in menopausal women is strongly associated with insomnia.  Regular exercise will improve it.  Find something you enjoy, try new things and keep it varied.
  • Mindfulness.  A bad night’s sleep often makes you feel irritable the next day, but it also works the other way around - feeling low can increase your risk of future sleep problems. Being aware of what is going on inside us and around us can help to lift our spirits when we are feeling low.  Mindfulness can help as can meditation with developing awareness of your breathing.
  • Supplements.  Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can also contribute to a poor night's sleep.  It is known that magnesium deficiency can cause insomnia and a lack of potassium can lead to difficulty staying asleep throughout the night.  In addition Vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to excessive daytime sleepiness, so if menopausal insomnia is an issue it is worth investigating including these supplements in your diet.  The other fail safe one I would add to this is Evening Primrose Oil.

 

Sleep and physical health have a two-way relationship. Ill-health can make it hard to sleep but equally poor sleep can also increase our risk of future illness.   As well as employing all the recommended ways of ensuring I get a good night's sleep, my hormone dosage has been adjusted according to my last meeting.   A month in and in terms of my sleeplessness it has been limited to maybe a handful of nights which whilst they have made me feel totally miserable, when I think back to where I was at the beginning of this  year is a big step forward.

I am as my consultant has told me still "work in progress", after all the peri-menopause can last for a number of years.  For now at least though the quality of my life is improving because fundamentally I am sleeping better and as my family can vouch the well-being of the household is dependent upon my sleep!

Do you have any tips for dealing with insomnia?  If so I would love you to share them.  

 

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Win Free Grand Designs Live Show Tickets, with CLC World Resorts & Hotels

Who doesn't love watching Channel 4's Grand Designs? For me it combines two of my favourite pastimes - indulging my fantasy for picture perfect designer rooms in my house, as well as getting a glimpse into the real agony and joy of others on their quest to make their own grand design happen.

The plus of course is Kevin McCloud,  design guru and silver fox of the interiors world.   Do I need to say more?

Based on the hugely successful TV series, this year's Grand Designs Live show runs for 9 days from 29th April - 7th May at Excel London.

The show offers visitors a unique opportunity to see all the latest trends for the home including many products never seen before.

Packed with over 500 exhibitors, across seven different sections, it promises to be a show not to be missed.

What's not to like? It ticks all my boxes and if like me, you harbour dreams of a grand design project, hopefully it will tick yours too.

The good news is to help make your dreams a reality, I  am really excited to have tickets to giveaway courtesy of CLC World Resorts & Hotels, Europe's largest independent resort operator and developer who are also providing the main prize of the show ....so if you are in the middle of planning a small or grand design of your own and are in need of some inspiration or expert advice, this is the giveaway for you.

The entry requirements are really simple and please don't forget to leave a comment on my blog letting me know about your own Grand Design plans, past or present, small or large, I would love to hear about it.

Good Luck!

 

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Terms & Conditions

  • Competition details form part of these terms and conditions.
  • Entry is open to residents of the UK except employees (and their families) of CLC World, its printers and agents, the suppliers of the prizes and any other companies associated with the competitions.
  • The entrant(s) must be aged 18 or over. Proof of identity and age may be required.
  • Use of a false name or address will result in disqualification.
  • The competition opens at 12.00am on 20th April 2017 and ends at 12.00am on 27th April 2017. Entries that are incomplete, illegible, indecipherable, duplicated or which contain profanity will not be valid and deemed void.
  • To enter, applicants must follow the rules outlined above.
  • All entries must be made directly by the person entering the competition.
  • No responsibility can be accepted for entries lost, due to computer error in transit.
  • The prizes are as stated and comprises of two tickets for Grand Designs Live (valid between the 29th April – 7th May) to be awarded to one winner. The prize is not transferable to another individual and no cash or other alternatives will be offered.
  • Prizes are subject to availability and the prize suppliers' terms and conditions.
  • Prizes will be posted to the winner within 48 hours of them providing their postage details.
  • The winner will be contacted via Twitter on 28th April.
  • Entrants must be prepared to be able to organise their own travel to Grand Designs Live on a date between the 29th April – 7th May , in the case that they are selected to win the competition.
  • The promoters reserve the right to amend or alter the terms of competitions at any time and reject entries from entrants not entering into the spirit of the competition.
  • In the event of a prize being unavailable, the promoter reserves the right to offer an alternative prize of equal or greater value.
  • The winner(s) agree(s) to the use of their name, photograph and disclosure of county of residence and will co-operate with any other reasonable requests by Mother of Teenagers and/or CLC World, relating to any post-winning publicity.
  • Unless stated otherwise the winner(s) will be drawn at random from all correct entries received by the closing date stated within the promotional material 27th April 2017.
  • Reasonable efforts will be made to contact the winner(s). If the winner(s) cannot be reached within 24 hours of being notified of their win, or they are unable to comply with these terms and conditions, the Promoter reserves the right to offer the prize to the next eligible entrant drawn at random, or in the event that the promotion is being judged, the Promoter reserves the right to offer the prize to the runner(s)-up selected by the same judges.
  • Confirmation of the prize will be made via online correspondence to the winner.
  • Failure to respond and/or provide an address for delivery, or failure to meet the eligibility requirements may result in forfeiture of the prize.
  • Where applicable, the decision of the judges is final based on the criteria set out in the promotion and no correspondence will be entered over this decision.
  • Competitions may be modified or withdrawn at any time

 

 

 

 

 

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What Is The Real Value of Sport To Our Children?

With one teenager finishing last term with a hockey tour and one starting this term with a cricket tour, I am reminded of the value of sport in my teens' lives not only from the obvious perspective of benefiting from exercise, but also more universally in helping to prepare them for life beyond the playground.

Like many other parents I have stood on my fair share of pitches, but despite the sometimes untold agony of getting them up on time, the arguments about lost kit, the moaning about unfair referees and umpires plus the occasional tears at not being selected, I believe it has been worth every minute and equipped them with some valuable life lessons.

Children do not enter this world "naturally" sporty, it requires effort from us as parents to introduce them to exercise and start shaping their attitude to physical activity.   This starts as early as the toddler years with the interminable games of "catch" and trips to the playground in all weathers - albeit as an underhand means of ensuring our children are completely exhausted in time for bed.

The primary school years, however, are when it starts in earnest.  School sports days sort the wheat from the chaff on the athletics track among the children and the parents, in a bid for the unspoken but cherished title of  "most sporty family".  It is also the first time that our children are chosen for teams based on their ability and start to understand the value of healthy competition, because let's face it competitive environments are everywhere in life.

Then there is the scrum for places at local sporting clubs, some of which can involve a wait of several years for a space to come free.

Once your child has their place and has been accepted into the inner sanctum of the local sporting elite, even if they absolutely hate it, throw regular hissy fits on the field or are just down right rubbish, you stay put, resolute in the belief that as well as getting them out of the house, it is a learning ground for those all important life skills of teamwork, leadership, responsibility, discipline, coping with failure and last but not least "strategic thinking".

Yes who would have thought sport could be credited with providing our offspring with such a vast array of cognitive functions?

Surely there was an age when sport's primary purpose was enjoyment at being active, but that is certainly not the case now.  Being sporty is a badge to be worn with pride and demonstrates a prowess unattainable to any other group theatrical or musical, despite all requiring many of the same skill sets of co-operation, stamina, flexibility and dedication.

Woe betide you if are one of those parents on the sports field that dares to say the immortal words to your child that it's not about the "winning" but the "taking part". This suggests a lack of resilience and commitment and will provoke an array of reactions from eye rolling and tutting to full on ostracization.

In what other extra curricular activity does your child get exposed to such open criticism?

Despite my glibness though, I confess to being one of those parents who champions the importance of sport and fall genuinely into the camp of mums who just want my children to "take part".

As a fair weather exerciser I am not a tiger mum by any stretch of the imagination, but over the years I have carefully cajoled and manipulated my teens from an early age into sporting positions they may not naturally have gravitated towards themselves.

I signed them up for local sporting clubs before I knew if they were interested or even capable.  I offered my services when needed to serve tea and bake cakes for tournaments (admittedly under duress) and have even flown the flag of loud supporter on occasions, if sometimes for the opposing team!

Equally though I have stood and cringed on the sidelines as my children made innumerable mistakes, let down the team and themselves and of course embarrassed me!  It is all part of life's rich parenting tapestry.

But regardless of all this I gritted my teeth, rose above it and reassured them that "at least they tried their best", only to go home, drink copious glasses of wine and rant to my husband.

My husband however is the true champion, investing true blood, sweat and tears into our children's sporting lives.  He has patiently taught Teen 1 how to handle a rugby ball and coached at his local club for years. He has also spent hours of his life he will never get back teaching him how to bowl and has regularly run training sessions for Teen 2's hockey club.  This is before we even count the hours of driving,  sometimes half way across the South of England to get them to matches or to pick them up, before returning home and doing a quick turnaround to catch a plane - all whilst I just prepare lunch!

From my view on the sideline though, I think that what sport does best for children is break down barriers and open up opportunities.

Our local sports clubs are full of children from different backgrounds and with a range of abilities and the same is true at my teens' schools.  Diversity is essential to all walks of life but a love of sport unifies people in a way that nothing else can.

Sport England has launched its own series of initiatives Towards An Active Nation to increase the number of people getting active in response to the Government's own Sporting Future strategy.

Its vision is that everyone in England regardless of age, background or ability feels able to take part in sport and a significant part of this is to increase the proportion of young people (11-18) who have a positive attitude to sport and being active.

At secondary school there is no doubt that it is all far more competitive as everyone jostles for a place in the 1st and 2nd team and the chance to represent their school and perhaps earn a much coveted place on a sports tour.  It is easy for children to drop out of exercise during this period.  The challenge at this stage as Sport England recognises is to keep our children doing sport and make exercise a natural part of their life to keep them active well into the future.

Watching my own children over the years I can resolutely say that they have grown from sports shy individuals to competent young players who genuinely get a buzz from being part of a team and being active. What sport does really well is give children a sense of worth, bring them together and give them a common purpose. Your prowess in the classroom or the playground is irrelevant to what happens on the sports field.

Sport encourages children to move outside their comfort zone and mix with others they would maybe not normally interact with.  In this ever changing and reactive world this is surely a good thing, irrespective of ability.

So as I drove my eldest and his mates to their first pre-season training cricket match and listened to their "bants" I was reminded of identical circumstances this time last year.  My husband away on business and a car full of jesting teenage boys with their "that's so jokes" comments,  looking forward to a season's cricket amidst the pressure of their exams.

It reminded me that actually the real value of sport to our children is not the cognitive strategic skills they come away with but the comaraderie, the genuine enjoyment, the escapism from the pressure of performing in the classroom and most importantly of all, the memories of when they got it wrong as well as right, which are truly irreplaceable.  After all life is built on memories, they stay with us forever and hold us all together.

What do you think about the role of sport for our children?  Does sport play a big part in your lives?  I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below and if you enjoyed this article please give it a share. 

 

This post was featured on #Global Blogging

My favorite for the week is written by JoMother of TeenagersWhat Is The Real Value Of Sport To Our Children. We are definitely a sporting family! I love seeing kids outdoors and releasing energy. I also have a kid that is not too sporty but they love being on the sidelines rooting the rest of them on! It sure beats sitting inside!!

 

 

 

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Guest Post – Why Does Style Change At 50?

You would think that the woman pioneering a change in attitudes towards the way women dress in midlife has herself passed that milestone.  The reality, however, is that Jacynth Bassett, is a 24 year old Cambridge law graduate, who inspired by her mother's style frustrations has made it her mission to tackle ageist attitudes in the UK fashion industry.

The first step was a blog offering women top style tips and inspiration, as well as a forum for discussion on age-prejudice in fashion. Overwhelmed by the response from women all echoing the same frustrations at the typically dowdy designs targeting the older woman, the-Bias-Cut.com was born in March 2016. It is a multi-label online boutique of limited collections, featuring modern and stylish items from a range of contemporary labels and designers for the 40+woman. Jacynth has a discerning eye and all pieces are chosen for the quality of their craftsmanship and attention to detail.

At the heart of Jacynth's business is the ethos that "Ageism is Never in Style". It is her belief that there should not be any hard and fast rules on what women can wear over a certain age.  A passion for style and a desire to wear beautiful clothes and look good in them, transcends generations and is just as important in your midlife years as your teens.  The secret in Jacynth's opinon lies in reflecting the best version of yourself today and personally speaking I couldn't agree more.

I am far from being a fashionista, but I have always loved clothes.  As I have aged my attitude to buying clothes hasn't changed extensively, I know what I like and still get a thrill from finding that must have item, but it is less about being on trend and more about evolving my style. If I see something I love I will buy it based on whether it makes me look and feel good irrespective of my age, after all who doesn't want to continue to look fabulous? But it is natural for everyone to step back and question their style choices at some stage and as I passed that all important Fabulous Fifty marker earlier this year I asked Jacynth if she would share her thoughts on style at 50.

Jacynth Bassett, the-Bias-Cut.com

“How To Look Good At 50.”  “What Women Shouldn’t Wear Over 50.”  “Ageless Style At 50.”  We’ve all seen variations of these titles – which usually end up being click bate leading to some patronising, insulting or, at best, hilarious article dictating how to dress correctly (whatever that means) at 50.

Of course the underlying message of those articles is that there is a right and a wrong way to dress at 50. Now if you are dedicated to following the latest trends, granted there are looks that are in and looks that are out. If, however, you just want to look your stylishly best, then there is no strict formula to adhere to. Ultimately you can wear whatever  you want - the key is to make sure you feel good and are comfortable in it.

So why do all these articles exist? Well, if they are to be believed, when the clock strikes midnight on your 50th birthday, suddenly your fairy tale princess life ends and you’re left with – or even looking like - a pumpkin and with that it means you suddenly need to re-evaluate your style and fashion decisions.

Now I’m not a scientist, but I’m pretty sure when you turn 50 you don’t instantly end up with 20 more wrinkles, grey hairs, hot flushes and a bigger middle. You might become more aware of the signs of aging, but they haven’t just appeared overnight. The only real potential sudden shift is psychological: hitting the 50 mile stone might make you feel different, but you won’t look any different . Yes, with time your hormones are going to change, as is your body, your appearance and your lifestyle, but that will happen gradually.

So what these “Style At 50” articles all seem to be missing is that the reason a woman’s style may change at 50 is because of the emotional differences to a woman in her 40's. It’s all very well saying ‘you should now wear this and avoid that’, but it means nothing if there’s no sensitive rationale and understanding behind it. Ultimately clothes and style are just a reflection of who you are inside.

With that in mind, I’ve come up with my own guidelines (not rules) on style over 50.

1. If you feel now is the time to broaden your style horizons – do it!

A year ago a lady said to me “when I was in my late 30's, I lost my confidence; I had kids and started taking less care in my appearance. Now in my 50's I feel I need to get back to my real self.”

Even if you haven’t felt like this, it’s quite likely you know someone who has. Whatever path your life has taken, there has probably been a point where you started to feel less confident in your appearance, but on turning 50, it’s a great point to evaluate your life so far, think about where you want it to go next, and take control. The same applies to your style. If you’re ready to change and prove that you aren’t invisible and can look gorgeous – go for it. If you want to try a particular style, do! Because it’s time to forget all that mutton dressed as lamb rubbish and remember that confidence is the true essence of style. So whatever you’re wearing, if you’re doing it with pride, then that’s the true beauty that will shine through.

2.Only give your wardrobe a total overhaul if your body is currently changing

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to buy a garment that’s too big or small and say you will eventually fit into it. It never works because we all put on and lose weight differently, so your body is unlikely to change in a way you expect. One of the most common things that happens with menopause is putting on weight around the middle. So you might go from a size 10 to a size 14 – but that doesn’t mean you’re slightly larger all over. Your boobs and middle might get bigger, whilst your hips and thighs stay the same.

This means you’ll need to start shopping for a different shape, not just general size. A new cut might suit you for the first time, whilst ones you used to always wear are no longer flattering. And you may need to find new shops too – because designers’ and high street brands’ lack of understanding and catering to different body shapes is still a huge issue. But don’t let this dampen your spirits: slowly there are more brands taking notice, and at the-Bias-Cut.com we even curate collections specifically with different bodies in mind.

3. Encourage yourself to step out of your safe zone

Having founded an online boutique where the majority of my customers are over 50, there is one comment I hear more than nearly anything else “I only wear navy as it makes me feel safe.”  Now I have nothing against the colour navy, I have a lot of it in my wardrobe and it is very flattering, even more so than black as we age because it doesn’t drain the skin as much. But if you’re wearing navy to feel safe – then there’s a problem. Yes, it’s important to feel comfortable in what you’re wearing, but as is feeling beautiful, gorgeous and sexy and dressing to feel safe is not that.

So, if next time you feel yourself drawn to navy (or any other colour that makes you feel safe), honestly consider whether you’re picking it for healthy reasons and if you’re not, then it’s time to give yourself a bit of love and care and tell yourself that you can wear something else.

It might take baby steps at first. For example, I often suggest to my most nervous customer to go for a piece that features a predominantly navy print, but also features other colours. This pushes them outside their comfort zone, without throwing them completely in at the deep end. Then when they start to receive compliments for how great they look and believe it too, they tend to come back ready to be a little more experimental.

4. If she can wear that then why can’t you?!

One of the other most common phrases I hear is “Well X can wear that but I couldn’t!”. Now that person may be a different shape, age, height or colouring to you – but that doesn’t’ mean you can only look one way to pull off an outfit. If you admire what someone else is wearing, give it a go yourself! You might need a slightly different cut or colour, but let it inspire you to try new things. Don’t shut yourself off before even giving it a go. If it doesn’t work – what’s the worst that can happen? You take it off and that’s that.

5. No trend or look is off limits – it’s all in the detail

On doing some research of articles that say ‘what not to wear after 50’ – one of the most common rules is: if you wore a look when it was trendy the first time round, then you shouldn’t wear it again.

Well, given ‘trends’ are being recycled more now than ever, that pretty much rules you out of a lot of styles. Goodbye ripped jeans, farewell pussy blouses and adios punk rock spikes.  So unless you’re willing to spend the rest of your life walking around in a sack (because that’s one look that will never be a trend), it’s time to put that rule firmly in the bin.

The trick to looking modern and current is through detail and styling. If you’re keen to wear a style that’s very ‘on-trend’, try to find a variation that includes subtle modern aspects, rather than one that could have come directly from the past. Or keep it subtle with a piece that nods to a trend, but isn’t a full out extreme version of it.

Alternatively, if you want to go full retro with one piece, make sure to pair it with accessories or clothes that are clean, crisp and clearly from a different era. In other words, don’t pair it with the same pieces that you did in the past. That way, rather than looking like you’ve just stepped out of a time machine, you look fresh, cool and effortless.

So remember: if you start to listen to your feelings and your body, rather than those stupid articles, then you will find the right style for you and continue to be the best version of yourself today. Your style will change over the next 10 years, but it should only do so when the time is right for you.

Jacynth's approach to fashion and championing style at every age is inspirational and refreshing and she truly does practice what she preaches, featuring real life "non-models" of various shapes, ages and sizes (including her mum) to show off her carefully curated clothing ranges which can all be seen at https://the-bias-cut.com/.

But it's not just about curating beautiful collections, it is fundamentally about changing attitudes and Jacynth has many strings to her bow. She regularly speaks on panels and podcasts, is a contributor to the Huffington Post and most recently she has been appointed as Fashion Advisor for one of the UK's largest women's forums, the Menopause Room https://www.facebook.com/themenopauseroom/.

Blazing a trail through the heart of the UK fashion industry, Jacynth is unquestionably a young woman on a mission and something tells me that we will be hearing a lot more about her in the future.

Did you find Jacynth's guidelines useful? What is your approach to fashion?  I would love to hear your views.

 

 

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Fitness At Fifty & Beyond

A "fair weather" exerciser is the term used by a friend recently to describe my attitude to my fitness regime.  In my defence I have to say she was recalling my university years more than three decades ago when a hangover or a piece of chocolate cake would normally be sufficient excuse not to join her for a game of female rugby or a wet and windy run around campus.

Exercise like everything else you develop a passion for in life is generally something that is nurtured.  As children my parents always took my sister and I on long walks and encouraged us to pursue a variety of sports, which we did, some with more success than others.  To be honest though I am not sure that I actually really "enjoyed" them in the sense that I would wake with a burning passion to go and exercise. I loathed hockey and netball in equal measure, however, I did excel at swimming and as a teenager competed at county level.  I do however, think I fell into it by accident rather than intent.

Then on starting work I decided I needed a stress release and took up running with my flat mate at the time and that was my first proper foray into something I loved.  I enjoyed the escapism, the euphoria of pushing my body to the limit and ultimately the way it made me feel and look.  It became an addiction.   Every day, morning or night.

After children I fell out of love with exercise again, simply because time was more pressured.  Also I noticed my needs had changed.  My knees were really suffering from pounding the streets and I wanted something calmer that focused more on toning and strengthening. After an unsuccessful encounter with Yoga I fell in with Pilates and more recently Barrecore.   But what about my heart and my aerobic fitness?  I consider myself relatively active.  I walk a lot and can run for a bus in an emergency but I don't push myself aerobically beyond those boundaries.

  • Live In Fitness Boutique Retreat

As I approached my 50th birthday I took stock of my exercise regime as part of my Fabulous Fifty resolutions and decided to revisit it.  A newcomer to Instagram over Christmas I searched #fitnessat50 and came across the feed for Clare La Terriere aka @liveinfitnessretreat.  Six weeks away from my 50th I was determined to hit the ground running to be the best 50 year old I could be so there was no time like the present, I contacted Clare and we booked in some sessions at her London flat.

Clare is a woman in her fifties and a mother of three grown up children, but looking at her posts she puts the majority of the younger fitness instagrammers to shame with her energy and her incredible abs and I can confirm having since met her that she is just as awe-inspiring in real life!

IMG_7810_web

Clare started her fitness journey aged 28, tired, depressed, plump and pregnant and apart from a period due to injury has never looked back, "I did it for my head, not my heart and I still do, everything else is a bonus" says Clare.

A fully qualified Personal Trainer and Pilates teacher, the turning point for Clare was discovering HIIT, a way of exercising that doesn't take a lot of time and requires minimal space and equipment.  HIIT involves short bursts of hard intense exercise followed by rest which forces your body to work anaerobically and thus burn fat and not muscle.  Clare's fitness levels went through the roof after taking it up and she now boasts a resting heart rate of 52, which for the uneducated is on a par to most Olympic athletes. Not bad for a woman in her fifties!

Age is not a barrier for fitness in Clare's opinion,  she says the biggest challenge facing women in their 50's is actually starting if you have never done it before.  Most of the women she sees want to shed a few pounds but haven't a clue how to start and quite simply don't want to go to the gym and be intimidated, so she teaches them how to exercise and reach their goals at home.  This provided the inspiration for Live in Fitness, a boutique residential fitness retreat, Clare runs from her home in North Norfolk providing clients with a bespoke exercise regime and advice on a healthy eating programme.

  • Working Out With Clare

The morning of my first meeting with Clare I was nervous.  I am guilty of using my age as an excuse for those things which are outside of my comfort zone and HIIT is definitely in that category.  I shouldn't have worried, Clare is a bundle of energy and was quick to put me at my ease as we chatted about all things fitness and 50 related.

Clare firmly believes that "Being 50 doesn't define us anymore, 50 is the new 40"  and her mantra is that nothing is impossible as long as you have the confidence and that is why she is there to say "Yes, you can actually do this, go for it!" 

After the warm-up, Clare took me through a sequence of 4 different exercises repeated 3 times so that the total routine only took 12 minutes.  I say "only".  It is hard, there are no two ways about it, but with Clare's natural exuberance and passion for exercise and gentle words of support  I made it to the end with maybe just a few co-ordination and balance issues.  This routine was then followed by some Pilates exercises and some stretching.

Despite having practised Pilates for more than 10 years, Clare also gave me some top tips for ensuring my core is always fully engaged (ribs down) and introduced me to a truly effective plank hold that knocks socks off the fully extended version.IMG_7795_web

The day after my first session I am not exaggerating when I say couldn't walk, bend or sit.  Barrecore involves a lot of focus on strengthening and toning the legs so I was genuinely surprised to wake the next day feeling like I had run the London marathon without any training.  Clare texted me to see how I was feeling, literally as unbeknown to her I was trying with great difficulty to pour myself into a David Bowie style jumpsuit for a party.  Needless to say I didn't manage much dancing that night!

The next week Clare was less forgiving and pushed me harder with another set of exercises, reminding me that it was me not her that was supposed to be out of breath and sweating but all in her naturally good-humoured way of course.

Clare's devotion to fitness and client satisfaction is unquestionable.  She was careful to make sure that I knew how to correctly carry out all the exercises she had shown me over the two sessions, making sure I recorded her on my phone at the end for my future reference.  Clare has kept in touch since and encourages her clients to contact her if they ever need further advice and support.

Since seeing Clare the biggest battle for me has been motivation which as my dear friend would say is evidence of my fair weather approach.  I also thrive on having people around me experiencing the same pain I am,  BUT to keep me focused at home I switch on Clare's recordings either from our session or on instagram and immediately am transported back to her flat and her warm words of encouragement to get my heart rate up.  Clare is full of wise words but on discussing tackling fitness as a 50 year old the words that ring truer than most are "Being 50 is not an issue.  It's the not taking responsibility for your own body that is the problem."   

Details of Clare's courses can be found on her website www.liveinfitnessretreat.co.uk.  You can also follow her on youtube and Instagram @liveinfitnessretreat.

 

NB: This is NOT a sponsored post.  The article was instigated by me and all views are my own, if you do contact Clare please let her know you read about her here.  Thanks. 

 

 

 

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