It’s okay (not to be okay).

For a quite some time I’ve had a nagging question in the back of my mind – how much of my true-self am I happy in ‘putting out there’? I set up Mud, Chalk and Gears to keep a record of my adventures and encourage others to give things a go. It’s important to me that my writing is upbeat, trying to look at even the grimmest of days in a positive light! My posts are honest and from the heart, but I tend to remain typically British about my personal life, choosing not to pouring my heart and soul out to the world (wide web).

A particularly grim day running in the Lake District!

Whilst I enjoy writing like this and don’t plan on changing this approach, I think that something important needs acknowledging…

It’s okay not to be okay.

As you may have seen, I’ve not posted for a little while. It’s been an accumulation of reasons – initially being very busy, followed by few colds and bugs, then most recently some difficult family circumstances. But this post is not about that. It’s to point out:

  • Not every adventure you go on has to be amazing.
  • You don’t have to better yourself in every event or race.
  • Somedays you can head outside with the best intentions but just not feel up to it.
  • You can have off days, off weeks, off seasons even…

It’s normal.

Sunset at Brean Down

No one can run at full capacity 100% of the time. For me, I’ve been fine and fully functional the majority of the time, I’ve just found I’ve struggled to gain the momentum to do the more active, high energy things I love, such as a post-work run or big weekend away in the hills. At first, I was frustrated with myself, blaming it on my attitude and lack of resilience. However, I’ve taken a step back and realised when I feel like this, adventures have to be scaled back a little to fit around commitments and my focus needs to turn to trying to recuperate some energy… And that’s okay.

Post winter surf early morning tea!

It might be hard, especially with social media, but it’s important to recognise when you need to take time for yourself. I am very good at not practising what I preach, but on this occasion, I’ve made a concerted effort.

Here’s some food for thought…

Work with what you’ve got:

Swimming in Windermere! Photo credit: Gilly McArthur

Look at how much time and energy you have to give around what you have on and adapt accordingly. Over the past few months I’ve discovered I love wild swimming – especially in cold water! As an average/mediocre swimmer (read flailing baby hippo) this isn’t about the distance or fitness, it’s purely about having the lady-balls to get in and swimming a few stokes. In fact, I’m not sure I’d even call it swimming… it’s more plunging! I’m in the water a matter of minutes not hours, but that doesn’t matter, the sense of achievement from even this is immense, not to mention the adrenaline rush! This isn’t to say I’m ditching my trainers, bike or climbing shoes – it’s just a great way of fitting in adventure when my energy has been a little lower.

Cut down on filtered life:

Sunrise in Northumberland

Normally I love social media. It gives me a platform to share my adventures, meet other likeminded people and find out about amazing opportunities. But equally, on grey days it can have a negative impact on how I feel. Some days I find myself scrolling through my feed either wishing I could go on adventures as big or an exciting as the ones shining back at me, or end up using each picture as a measuring stick to my own recent activities.

When you feel like this, take a break. Turn your phone off or mute certain app notifications. If social media is part of your everyday life, it can be hard to believe it, but you won’t miss much. It will all still be there when you’re back.

Write it down:

Solo bothy adventures on Skye

For me writing is cathartic – it’s not for everyone, but I get real satisfaction from taking pen to paper and making lists. In the chaos of everyday life, it can be all the little things that build up making you feel overwhelmed. Break it down into smaller, more manageable bits. Not everything is solvable, but if you can put all your thoughts down on one page of paper at least it is contained – you can see what you’re dealing with. From here start slowly, focusing only on the things you can influence. Somethings you can’t change, the hardest thing is accepting this and trying to let go of that worry.

Put away the sticks:

Laurencefield, Peak District

Put away the magic wand and the cane… and bear with me on this loose and slightly odd metaphor! No instant fix or wand waving can be done – sometimes our mojo disappears for a bit, with or without reason. It will come back but you have to be patient, no amount of beating yourself up will help matters. It can feel hard when you’re focused on a specific goal or target but ask yourself how much that really matters. Is it more important than your mental wellbeing? What would happen if you failed? From the outset, things can feel black and white, but there is rarely only one or two options.

Finally, remember – do what you love!

Mid-ride snap by Ed Birch, @saltstreetproductions

Spending time outside in nature is incredible. The one thing I come back to is that there is rarely a time I feel worse for spending some time in the great outdoors, even if it’s just five minutes.

Speaking of which, I am pleased to announce normal service will resume shortly! I’ve got so much I’d like to share on Mud, Chalk and Gears before this year is out, and I’m happy to say I feel up to doing it. From solo scrambling in Skye to braving surfing in the North Sea in November, there is a lot to catch up on – so stay tuned for more!

Me, happy.