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Runner's Anxiety - Just me or...?!

Hello! It's been a while since I posted so regularly... please don't expect this to be the norm ha! I just wanted to write a bit about something I think I've been experiencing recently and I'm pretty sure I won't be the only person who has felt this way. I haven't seen it mentioned before (but I also haven't specifically searched for it either so I could be wrong!) but I just want to try and normalise this feeling and also just spit out all my feelings onto paper (/blog).

So March saw the beginning of lockdown and I moved back down to Devon for a bit with my family. Lovely. As everyone was trying out new hobbies, starting businesses, writing novels and binge-watching Tiger King, I decided to try something I had never successfully done before: RUNNING!

I have been on one-off runs in my life but these were always super short and I never understood the infamous "runner's high" (to be honest I still don't!). So I decided to start the Couch to 5k programme that everyone raves on about. When I started, my brother also came along with me for the first few weeks which was nice. Then he injured himself and so it was just me. At first, I genuinely really struggled with 60-90 seconds of continuous running. I have been a regular gym-goer for a while now so I was shocked at how bad my cardio was, but it was more motivation to overcome this mini obstacle. By the end of it - supposedly 9 weeks if you are consistent, but more like 15 weeks if you are me - I was able to run 30 minutes without stopping which felt like a huge achievement.

So I completed the Couch to 5k programme about 2-3 weeks ago. And guess what? I haven't run since. I genuinely have been quite busy with work and I also moved back up to Cardiff a week ago so my routines have changed. I had all the intentions to run up in Cardiff, but I cannot bring my silly little self to do it! By nature, I am a planner. I like to know where I am going, for how long, etc etc. So I planned to go to one of the parks in the morning before I started working, maybe even grab a coffee on the way back, and set myself up for the day. However, I woke up and my mind told me no. And now, all I'm thinking about is all the "what if's" and what could go wrong and putting it further and further off. My heart races a little bit thinking about running, in a panicky sort of way. 

As a psychologist, I'm also trying to think about the underlying causes of this new anxiety about running. I think it might be a combination of things: mostly a new environment to run in (I'm used to running along the seafront or old cycle tracks with minimal people compared to city parks); and also a feeling of "what's next" now I've finished the couch to 5k programme. I would like to improve on my 5k timing and pacing so I guess that would be a good start! But it still feels a bit new and scary. 

So. Here is me, holding myself accountable, and planning for a run. There are a few things that I plan to do to help make this happen, which I'll list below because I think other people might be able to apply them too.

  • Set out running gear the night before. Everything - shoes, underwear, shorts, top, arm band, headphones. This means less faffing and procrastinating in the morning!
  • Set a decent alarm (maybe with enough time for one 10 minute snooze as well). I know some people hate a snooze and prefer just to get up straight away. I can go either way, so I'll leave a little time for either option.
  • Have a plan for the run. I like to use an app to roughly estimate where I will run and how long it will take. This just helps me to feel prepared and lessens any anxiety.
  • Have a short walk beforehand. I usually do this anyway, as a warm up, but I also feel it'll decrease my anxiety if I'm not going straight into running mode. 
  • Reward yourself afterwards. For me, this will probably be in the form of a coffee on the way home! [And support local independents if you can!!]
  • Lastly, don't beat yourself up if you don't go/don't do as well as usual/fuck up. Everyone does at times, and it will pass.

Do let me know in the comments below if you have ever felt the same! I know this is a very different type of post - more of a rambling than anything and I'm not normally one to share my feelings lol - but hey, maybe it will help someone in a similar situation to feel less alone!

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The "New Normal"

What a strange time we all live in now! "WFH" has become a well-used acronym, "social distancing" and "furlough" are used in our everyday conversations, and hugging your friends and loved ones is a thing of the past. For me, working from home instead of an office is now the norm and I've learnt to appreciate lots of small things in life that I used to take for granted. 

One thing in particular that 2020 has taught me is the value of good working-from-home attire. This has consisted mostly of leggings or soft trousers and a baggy top, or occasionally a blouse and a bit of mascara if a video call is on the cards. This extreme comfort during the day has in turn made me appreciate my nightwear even more. I was kindly sent a beautiful satin nightwear set from IDentity Lingerie which has completely upped my pyjama game. The material is perfect if, like me, you've gotten used to living in comfortable clothes or if you just fancy waking up feeling like a satin goddess. 

IDentity Lingerie sell a huge range of nightwear, lingerie and now in our new normal, they're selling a great range of handmade face masks. I've been wearing this one (in between a couple of others while it's being washed) and I can vouch for it being really comfortable and breathable. Check them out for the full range.

Despite all the bad going on in the world right now, I'm trying to see the positives and make the most during this ambiguous time. What will you take away from 2020 - good and bad? Let me know in the comments below!

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How To Personalise Your Student Dorm Room!

I've written a lot about student living, particularly for Fresher's just starting their Uni journey, and one thing I touched on in my Student Checklist (click here to read) was decorating your student digs. Let's be real, halls can often look very dull, so it can be nice to put your own spin on things - make things feel more "you". Having photos around and cute decor that you've picked out yourself can also help to ease any feelings of homesickness too. Thinking back to my halls in 2012 (eek!) one of the things I loved the most was my photo wall (apologies for the ANCIENT and TERRIBLE quality photo!).

Websites like Funky Pigeon (spoiler: they don't just do cards!) can create personalised, unique home decor that are perfect for decorating your gaff. Funky Pigeon kindly gifted me some products from their website to share with you to help you decide what to buy. They also make perfect gifts for any siblings/friends/loved ones who are flying the nest and beginning a new chapter in a new house/halls.

Candles are a great addition to any bedroom or living room to create a cosy vibe, and these candles from Funky Pigeon are extra cute when they can be personalised with their own quote or even photo on the front. The smell is a fresh linen-type smell - perfect if you haven't washed your clothes for a week (or three). *Check with your landlord or in your tenancy agreement first before lighting any candles in your house!*

I also love their photo blocks which I think look a little more sophisticated than your average photo stuck on a wall (sorry 2012 me). You also don't have to worry about carefully pulling the blu-tack off your walls before you move out! These are just great if you don't have anywhere to hang or stick up photos around your room. I love the addition of the glitter too (snow globe-esque in that it moves as you shake it round).

Now we all know that University (particularly in your first year) involves a fair bit of drinking and what better way to drink than with personalised glasses! Although these would also make a fab gift for an engagement/wedding, I also love the idea of having a quote on it too! I went for "Prosecco is always the answer". As easy as drinking out of a mug may seem, you can feel a little bit fancier with these for sure.

Now this isn't from Funky Pigeon (although you can buy flowers and plants from them too!), but I love the addition of a plant in a room to give it a bit of something extra. I go for ones that I know I don't have to water often otherwise they WILL end up dead. I also think they complement the candle and photo block really well too!

Here are the links to the products I received:

Charli's Funky Pigeon tip: check their "Offers" tab at the bottom of the page to see what they have on offer at the time you're browsing - you can end up saving yourself some money too!

I hope you like the new additions to my flat - I'm so happy with them and even 2012 Charli in her student digs would have loved them to brighten up the place! What's your favourite item? Leave a comment below!

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Why I Choose To Travel By Coach: Travelling with National Express Part 1*

*This post was kindly sponsored by National Express*
Let's be real: travel (particularly around the UK) is expensive. A BBC news article published last month suggested that UK train tickets are some of the most expensive across all of Europe (source: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-49346642). I often travel up from Cardiff to Sheffield to see Tim, and a return train ticket can easily be £70+ (even more if you don't have a railcard) - not ideal if you're making the journey multiple times a year! This is where my appreciation for coach travel comes in. Sometimes it takes a bit longer, but for the amount you're saving (often more than 50% cheaper than the trains), it's worth it. 

So when National Express asked to work with me, how could I say no?! I use their services regularly anyway and I am more than happy to recommend them to others. So here are my top five reasons for choosing coach travel with National Express over train travel, and hopefully I can convince some of you too!:

1. I've already eluded to the price differences - and when you're a student on a seriously tight budget, every penny matters! National Express even offer students discount (20% off with an NUS Extra/Totum card: https://www.totum.com/se/student-discount/national-express/offer or 15% off with a UniDays account: https://www.myunidays.com/GB/en-GB/partners/nationalexpress/view/online). By booking in advance, you can get a coach from Cardiff University to Bristol bus and coach station from just £3 - even less with your student discount code!

2. The leather seats on the National Express coaches are actually super comfy and give you much more space and leg room than you might have previously thought. You might get lucky and have two seats to yourself (like I did on my trip recently) if you're on a less busy coach for extra privacy and snooze time.

3. Your seats and luggage storage is guaranteed - unlike on a train (unless you've reserved seats but then you have the awkward job of telling someone to move out of your place). Ever been on a train and been cramped against the door for an hour, desperately grasping your suitcase because there's nowhere else for it to go? I have on multiple occasions and it ain't fun. Travelling on a National Express coach means you're guaranteed a seat and your luggage is tucked neatly under the bus until you arrive at your destination.

4. Something new that I learnt recently is National Express' entertainment app, VUER. You can watch films and TV shows, play games or read their online magazines on your phone or tablet - for free! You just need to connect to their Wi-Fi (yes, you also get free Wi-Fi!) on the coach and you're good to go. 

5. National Express has so many convenient stops around the UK - one of which is Cardiff University, which is perfect if I'm travelling up to Sheffield after a day at Uni! And you don't have to worry about changing trains and missing connections because National Express has direct routes to all the main destinations around the UK - I can easily get from Cardiff University to Sheffield coach station direct without any hassle.

Let me know in the comments: do you prefer coach or train travel (and why)? Have I changed your mind yet?! 

Stay tuned for my next blog post (I was going to combine them as one until I realised I had too much to say) which will be more about what I got up to in Bristol on my recent trip with National Express.
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REVIEW: Hill's Pet Nutrition for Dogs*

*This post is kindly sponsored by Hill's Pet Nutrition*

Aside from family and friends of course, one thing I miss very much when I'm at Uni is spending time with my favourite furball, Alfie. He plays a huge part in our family now and is always (well, most of the time...) happy to see me when I come back. So I've been really lucky to team up with Hill's Pet Nutrition to give Alfie the treat he deserves! We were kindly sent a 3kg bag of the following (watch out, it's a mouthful!): Hill's Science Plan Canine Mature Adult 7+ Active Longevity Medium with Chicken.