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REDer Caroline shares how RED January improved her physical and mental health.
Caroline lives in Teddington. She works in publishing and is a mother of two boys.
I had never made the connection before between my mental health and my physical health until RED January found me on New Year’s Day 2016.
I had a wholly uninspiring New Year’s Eve at home, drank a tiny bit too much wine and fell asleep in front of the telly, well in advance of midnight. I was woken up pre-6 AM (my kids are early risers) and muddled through the first day of 2016 hungover, grumpy and tired, while my husband had a blissful lie-in.
I abandoned ship and went out with my boys. We ended up having a McDonalds. I berated myself on my walk home, absentmindedly answering the kids chitter chatter. It just kept running through my mind – how have you started off the New Year in such a lacklustre way?! I walked in the door and dropped the kids with my husband and impulsively went out for a run.
"The movement was all about getting active every day during this notoriously tough month, to support your mental health."
I came home and I felt so much better. Not just because of the physical effects, but my mind felt better (and at peace). Feeling smug I posted about my run on Instagram (as you do) and by happy coincidence I came across the RED January community. The movement was all about getting active every day during this notoriously tough month, to support your mental health.
A few internet searches later and I was in…. well secretly. I’d never run more than 3 days in a row, so 31 days was going to be a tall order. But if I could recreate that ‘better’ feeling that I had after my run, I knew it was going to be worth it.
After 11 days of running every day I went public with my Just Giving page, Facebook and Instagram accounts. I met so many REDers on Instagram that first year and to this day I love keeping up with them, their running journeys and their lives.
"I now have an amazing tool in my arsenal to help with my mental health for when life gets tough."
I kept running throughout the year and started to recognise the link between getting fitter and my mind feeling better - I had officially caught the running bug, but most importantly I now have an amazing tool in my arsenal to help with my mental health for when life gets tough (and boy does it).
I did RED January again in 2017, and this time roped in a group of 5 of my friends to run it with me. We were all in different locations, so we kept in touch using WhatsApp, pinging little messages of encouragement and advice to each other.
Last year, our little group grew to 11 amazing ladies, based all over the UK. We ranged from complete novices to experienced runners clocking up more than 10kms a day.
Doing RED January isn’t just another race that I have signed up for. I really see it like a movement, a movement of REDers all together going forward to help raise awareness for mental health and Mind’s vital work in this field.
"I wouldn’t have had the courage or strength to explore this version of me if it wasn’t for RED January."
Maybe, like me, you have been running on and off for years and could take or leave it. Maybe you haven’t done any physical activity since P.E. classes at school. Maybe you never thought that the small act of going for a run – or a walk, or a swim, or a cycle, or for a game of football – could improve your mental health, but it can.
I run, I race, I have joined a little running community close to my house, and all of these things are great, but I wouldn’t have had the courage or strength to explore this version of me if it wasn’t for RED January.
I can remember runs where I have tackled some pretty dark thoughts, when I’d never even intended of taking my mind there. I can remember some runs where I’ve left the house in tears after an argument with my husband, with the rain pouring down on my face, mixing with my tears and about half way through the run, my thoughts reshuffled, the tears stopped and I just kept going. I can also remember runs where I’ve felt really kick ass, bounding along like a gazelle. That’s probably not what I actually looked like but how cool to feel like that! I have all these experiences in my runs, they are all unique to me and I just want more people to have that.
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